Effortless Mindfulness with Loch Kelly

Overcoming Addiction with Valerie (Vimalasara) Mason-John

February 08, 2023 Loch Kelly Episode 7
Effortless Mindfulness with Loch Kelly
Overcoming Addiction with Valerie (Vimalasara) Mason-John
Show Notes Transcript

Loch and Valerie (Vimalasara) Mason-John, a leading voice in mindfulness and addiction recovery, dive deep into a discussion about relieving "perpetual dissatisfaction" through Buddhist teachings and the expansive ground of awake consciousness. 

Dr. Valerie (Vimalasara) Mason-John, M.A (hon.doc) has been practicing mindfulness for over 30 years and is one of the leading African-descent voices in the field of mindfulness and addiction. They is the award-winning author of 10 books, and the co-author and co-founder of Eight Step Recovery: Using The Buddha’s Teaching to Overcome Addiction. Valerie — also known as Vimalasara — was ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Community and is a senior teacher in this tradition. They is the co-creator of Mindfulness Based Addiction Recovery (MBAR) and is a certified professional Mindfulness Teacher, Recovery Coach, Life Coach, and a Compassionate Inquiry Facilitator and Practitioner. She trains professionals working in the field of addiction all over the world. To view a recording of this episode and other guided meditations visit: https://www.youtube.com/@LochKelly For Valerie's website: https://www.valeriemason-john.com/ To reach the Buddhist Recovery Network: https://www.buddhistrecovery.org/ For more info about Loch, visit: https://lochkelly.org/ For additional information about this podcast, visit: https://podcast.effortlessmindfulness.com/ For the Loch Kelly App, visit: https://effortlessmindfulness.com and to donate, visit: https://lochkelly.org/donate.

Vimalasara: I think, for me, how this all resonates is how we begin to let go. So many of us who have struggled with addiction have so much anger, and that anger is often made up of stories that we hold onto. And really what we're looking at is letting go. It's a surrender. Letting go into the emptiness.

Loch: Effortless Mindfulness with Loch Kelly. Experience support for awakening as the next stage of human development through micro-meditations, and conversations about non-duality, neuroscience and contemporary psychology.

Today I talk with Vimalasara Valerie Mason-John, about addiction recovery and Buddhism. Vimalasara is a leading voice in this field and has written the book, "Eight Step Recovery", that has helped many people. In the dialogue, we talk about the roots of craving and addiction, different ways to understand emptiness, how to let go into something greater than ourself, and the ground of love and compassion that we are letting go into. At the end, I offer a glimpse practice called "Loving Kindness and Compassion Are Already Here. I hope you enjoy.

So would you like to begin maybe just to say a little about yourself and a little about Eight Step Recovery, how it relates to Buddhism [and] meditation?

Vimalasara: Yeah. I've got my hand on my heart. I think having this conversation around recovery is to really remind myself to come back to the heart. And so I co-wrote the book Eight Step Recovery: Using the Buddhist Teachings to Overcome Addiction with somebody called Dr. Paramabandhu Groves, who was a top psychiatrist in the National Health Service specializing in addictions and alcohol.

And we are both in the same Buddhist lineage. We are both ordained into the Triratna Buddhist community. And how I came to the book is really quite interesting because I never had an identity of being an addict, or being in recovery. And yet, Loch, many of us, when we first came along to Buddhism, we quietly got our recovery in the rooms of meditation.

That's where I got my recovery. In the rooms of meditation. I did try the 12 step program, but 30, 35 years back, walking into those rooms was terrifying. Terrifying because I couldn't see any black people. I couldn't see any women and it was just white men. And not that there was anything wrong with white men, it just wasn't my experience.

And so it was so terrifying. And the other thing was as well, is that you'd go to these meetings and there would be donuts and cakes and you name the sugar, it was there. I always say alcoholics move from liquid sugar to solid sugar. And one of the addictions that I was working with back then was disordered eating.

So you could imagine it was like, if you're an alcoholic and you go into a meeting and bottles of alcohol in the meeting, that's what it's like when somebody's got disordered eating. But anyway, my publisher wrote to me and said, do I have another book to write? And I was just in that place.

I just thought, I'd like to write a book on recovery using the Buddhas teachings to overcome addiction because that was my life and Paramabandhu and I had worked together and I invited Paramabandhu to write with me, which was a beautiful gift to the world. It was a beautiful piece of collaboration.

In fact, I would say we only had one difficult moment, and I wouldn't call it difficult. We agreed that whatever went into the book, we both had to agree on. And one of the things I was very clear about is that stinking thinking is an addiction. And I know for me that when I got my recovery, when I was let go of what I call my "gross" addictions, I became aware of my biggest addiction was thinking. And Pam Bandage just said, I can't put that in, my colleagues were thinking I'm crazy. They won't take me seriously. And I looked him in the eye and I said, "Paramabandhu, Stinking thinking is the cause of road rage, the cause of murder, it's a cause of abuse -- and before I could roll out the list, it was like okay, I hear you. I hear you.

Loch: Yeah. Beautiful. So yeah, so that stinking thinking is something that as we talk a little bit, is not just about liquid addiction or drug addiction. It starts to come into not only Buddhism as recovery, but Buddhism's understanding of craving and desire and aversion and attachment, right?

So we start to look at how, in some ways, the attempt to live a life from our small self. We're looking for a release and we're looking for something greater than ourselves that we often find some habit of, whether it's addiction or just escape or losing ourselves in a way that has consequences after.

Vimalasara: It's interesting. A couple of things that come up for me as you were speaking. The first one is when you spoke about craving, and I really see that stinking thinking is the self-mortification. If we remember that the Buddha's first discourse where the Buddha says that there is addiction to hedonism, which is a lowly course and unprofitable.

And the addiction to self mortification, which is a lowly course and unprofitable, and I really do see that the stinking thinking is part of that self mortification. If you heard what some people say to themselves it's, yeah. I mean it's like beating themselves over with a bat.

And then the other thing that I want to say as you were speaking is that, I do think that there are people who are looking for something and those people are looking for the enlightenment, and we know that actually that's the wrong place to be looking. Because as, again, if we think of the trajectory of the prince, the story of the prince.

The prince didn't vow to find enlightenment. The prince vowed to find an end of suffering and to find the end of suffering was the face of suffering. But what I wanted to say is that actually I think initially, a lot of people get caught in this vicious cycle of addiction because they are trying to dampen the pain.

They're trying to get rid of the pain. You know it's a form of self-medication.

Loch: That's right. And there's different levels of pain. Certainly, there's physical pain, emotional pain, mental pain. But I know as you mentioned, that Buddhism is the relief of suffering, and suffering - the word "dukkha" - is often translated as perpetual dissatisfaction.

So perpetual dissatisfaction, not just on an everyday level of oh, I don't like this, I don't like that. But existential dissatisfaction that is rooted in ignorance of who we are, that cause we're identified with this sense of small self, we tend to feel that we're disconnected from this true nature which is available if we can find that resource.

Vimalasara: Let's talk about this small self. Firstly, this perpetual dissatisfaction. I love the way that Ken McLeod defines dukkha. Ken McLeod defines it as struggle. And I think like especially those people who are new on the path, that perpetual dissatisfaction is something that they're not necessarily gonna resonate with.

I really resonate with that perpetual dissatisfaction, and I really think there's something about struggle and even coming from that place of wanting to have less struggle in one's life. I can really see how dukkha is about struggle. I was just saying to a friend recently, looking at ethics and I said, it's an ethical practice really to see things as they really are because often we struggle with wanting something different. And that's a dissatisfaction, isn't it? We want it to be different. We really want it to be different.

I think sometimes. People just aren't even aware that they're dissatisfied. I just wasn't aware of anything because I was just so caught in my addictive behaviors.

Loch: Yes, absolutely. Yeah, and certainly as you say in the beginning, it does feel like you can only be in touch with the struggle or wanting to get out of the pain, but as you start to root in what could be recovery, it's like, what is motivating the struggle? What is it that you're struggling with? Who's struggling, and what pain are you trying to get rid of?

Even when you're sitting on a beach, with or without a pina colada, like even then, what's that? That just low level ignorance, which leads to craving in aversion.

Vimalasara: I know that too. I live somewhere beautiful and I can be out walking through the woods and the sun is coming through the trees and I see this waterfall and I stand by the sound of the waterfall and a thought pops into my head: wouldn't it be great to have such and such and such? And I laugh, it's okay, why can't you just stay with this? That's part of the practice. One of the steps in the eight step recovery is making every effort to stay on the path of recovery. And some people say I don't have to make effort anymore. I'm on that path of recovery. I just looked at them and I said, the effort is to do nothing when something arises. Yeah. If you can tell me you can do nothing when something arises in your experience, then Hallelujah. Okay. Maybe you've woken up to the truth and that is the effort. And I wanted to talk about this small self because I think it'd be really interesting to look at that.

Because as you were saying, this small self, I tend to think my problem has been, and I think the problem of many people in the world is big self, these strong identifications. And really it's like the whole practice of the half of the dharma is to become less of ourselves, isn't it? Is to become less, is to let go of these identities, which are so inflated.

If we look at some of the prime ministers or presidents like, Boris Johnson in England, look at that big self, look at Trump. Trump blows his own trumpet. Look at how huge that self is and that's why he couldn't cope with losing, because it was a dent to his identity, a dent to his ego.

Loch: Yes. And it is almost like the two you talked about, that stinking thinking self that says you're no good, you're worthless, you're the other small self that thinks it's big, which says I'm better than everyone. So they often go in polarities of less than and better than. And there's really, in some ways, not any self, but our experience often is there's multiple minds craving mind, the doubting mind, the judging mind, the less than mind.

The question is what is here? So we can start with this kind of discussion from Carl Jung which is quoted in the 12 step recovery is that addiction is a low level search for God. In other words, that understanding for him, which as a psychologist wasn't religious, was talking about a low level search to get out of the pain and find that which feels that we're interdependent.

So in Theravada Buddhism, the word emptiness is often interdependence, which means there's no independent, separate thing, but that doesn't mean there's nothing which a lot of people get confused with. The experience is, oh it's interdependent - the freedom from all those small selves feels interconnected, or interdependent, or life just happening by itself.

And that I think is what Jung was referring to God and what we, talk about, everyone talks about in different langauge.

Vimalasara: Yeah, I'm just resonating with a lot of that and there's a lot that I could respond to. I love the analogy that the late Thich Nhat Hanh gives of emptiness. He says there's a balloon and it's empty. And I love that. And also I really love going back to the opening stanza of the heart suture, the bodhisattva of compassion when they meditated deeply, saw the emptiness of all five scandals and saunder the bonds that caused them suffering. And the reason why I love that is because if I think of, are you aware of The Forum, is people who think they can wake up in a weekend, [inaudible].

They have a great message because the message is that we are meaning making machines. And in a way I can really see the liberation in seeing the emptiness in this body because we make so much meaning about this body. And yet, if we let go of the meaning, the body would just become empty. We make so much meaning around feelings. And if we were to let go of the meaning, the feelings would be empty. And it's the same with perception, the same withvolition, with consciousness that we're constantly making, meaning. Filling in the dots and there are no dots, there doesn't have to be dots, and the message that The Forum give at the end is 'life is meaningless' and you should hear people being completely thrown out of the pram. To think, how can you say life is meaningless? But yet, if we lived with emptiness, if we lived with life as meaningless, we would have so much more freedom.

Loch: Yeah. Although the next key that I feel that is realizing that life is meaningless. Even that belief that life is meaningless is meaningless.


Loch: So that's the big next move, rather than staying with the new belief or the new meaning about meaninglessness, because that's where that kind of nihilism will catch hold as if it's the opposite. And as you say, that sense of us having these feelings of pleasant and unpleasant feelings.

It's interesting that Thich Nhat Hanh used a balloon because the two of the root words for emptiness, "svi", s-v-i. The Mettaphor that's used is actually an empty womb. So that's a little different than a balloon. And then the other root Mettaphor is the invisible life force within a seed that helps it grow into a tree.

So there you go. So the key is interdependence is an absence as we often feel in the West. We think here emptiness and we go right to empty cup, but it's the dynamic life, true nature or the unborn, as they say in Zen, even in Theravada, Buddha and the Sutra says there, there is an unborn and unmade. If there weren't, there'd be no liberation from the born. So whatever that is, that feels like the freedom from isn't just nihilism or a lack, it's actually a fullness. The emptiness is a fullness.

Vimalasara: As I'm sitting here listening and I'm thinking, okay, how does this resonate for people in recovery?

And definitely if you think of nihilism, eternalism, we're all on that spectrum. And I think for me, how this all resonates is how we begin to let go. So many of us who have struggled with addiction have so much anger, and that anger is often made up of stories that we hold onto, and really what we're looking at is letting go.

It's a surrender, letting go into the emptiness. What I love is this image of the pie and there's a small section of the pie that we know. And then there's another small section of the pilot that we don't know, and we buy it from each, we, we buy it from the pie, the part slice of the pie we know.

And when we don't know, we buy it from the piw that we don't know. And we go looking at professor Google, we go to the library to find out what we know, and then we end up biting again from the pie that we do know. But the bigger part of the pie is what we don't know, that we don't know. And I think this is what the terrain that we're really looking at is what we don't know that we don't know.

And often I think what keeps people in that vicious cycle of addiction is because they're wanting to hold onto what they know. They're too scared to surrender to the part that they don't know that they don't know.

Loch: Yeah. I know for me, having had the good fortune of the particular tradition. I was introduced into more of the Mahamudra Dzogche  tradition from a teacher Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, who I had been understanding emptiness as absence.

And when it was pointed out to me that there is a kind of intelligent awareness that is interdependent with all things, and that didn't come and go while everything else came and went. That experience led to what are often called dharma feeling. So some of the things that cause us to use substances are the feelings and Buddhism feeling is pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral feelings in the world.

So things are unpleasant. We want to get rid of 'em. Things are pleasant. We crave them neutral. We look, we become perpetually dissatisfied. But the four Brahmaviharas, called The Immeasurables. It's so interesting that they're called immeasurable, meaning that their ultimate reality - that's what's found on some level when you let go, and that Brahma means "divine abode."

So they're these structures of consciousness when it's not caught in delusion. So that sense of not going beyond all feeling, but finding these Dharma feelings they call them, of these immeasurables. And then when you find this, there's such a relief of the struggle for me. I don't have to struggle because something is here that is me, and greater than me, and not me. And yet is the fabric of the Dharma, is the fabric of what is. It has a feeling, not like feeling like bliss in its small sense, but in the sense of equanimity, in its immeasurable relief of suffering.

Vimalasara: It's talking with you, you really make me practice to just be really present because there's so much you speak.

I think I wanna respond to that, I wanna respond to that. And it's just let it go, and see where it [ends]. So yeah, the four sublime abodes. So I would say that actually that the one that underpins them all the Metta is the thing that transformed my life. I know that if I am struggling with somebody, I just know that if I put them in my fourth stage of that practice, something shifts and things become empty. Yeah. There's so [much] less struggle. What I would say is that it was a very strong practice for me because the Anapanasati, the mindfulness of greiving, I hated it when I first started. And I think many people who come into recovery too, what you've gotta sit still and watch your breath, that's all what's going on?

Whereas with it the Metta, there's a lot more drama in it. What I found though was it was incredibly difficult for me to learn to love myself. I came along hating myself with an vengeance, and I actually developed a practice to crack open that first stage of loving kindness. Because the whole thing is it's yeah, you can give it to the friend, give them some warmth and kindness, and give a little bit to the neutral person, and then to the enemy of the mind. If you're in a good mood, you can give them a bit, when it came to yourself, just forget it. And we know that at some point you've got to, it begins with you.

And so I developed this practice of five basic needs of the heart. They're not my needs. I just developed a meditation around them. There are books called Four Basic Needs of the Heart, Five Basic Needs of the Heart, so attention, affection, appreciation, acceptance, and allowing, and just really just learning to just give myself attention, some affection, appreciation, acceptance and just allowing, and it's just amazing how people have said, I didn't even know that I could love myself. I didn't even know that I could give myself some kind of affection.

Loch: Yeah, that's a beautiful one. I think helping people, with different doorways to Metta and different doorways. I think equanimity is one that isn't a neutral, one that equanimity has love in it. When people feel that, it's actually quite extraordinary because it's this kind of okayness and wellbeing and it flows into the more stronger ones, love and kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, but that equanimity isn't neutrality.

And then to say that for me, this is where I add psychology, so I'm a psychotherapist as well. So I always had both here and this was where it became clear to me the nature of Dharma and Western psychology. Because if there is no self, there's Anatta, then who's loving who? So then what I realized, it's the natural loving kindness itself of the true nature or awake consciousness that loves parts of me like my hand is part of me. My judging mind is part of me. My shame-based feeling of being worthless is part of me. So this which is greater than me and essentially includes all of me independently empty, has an essential awake quality that is inherent even within the parts of me. So there's not two things happening.

It's this whole ocean and wave. So each of the parts of me, then there's a feeling of love from the ocean to the waves that feels even like the universe is starting that and loving this empty arising field that then patterns into these thinking mind, judging mind, doubting mind, or parts of me, shame-based part whatever psychology you want to use.

Vimalasara: It's pressing that you say that. I mean I love that bigger container. Because I think for me, I got to a point in my life thinking, why do I still say I hate myself? I would hear, I love myself I would match it. That's what I did. So I would match it. I love myself. But I was still hearing, I hate myself. And I really needed to investigate this. And when I went into the investigation, and so we I love the Honeyball Sutta on this. And so what was happening is the mindsense was having contact with a thought that vulnerability would arise, and with vulnerability arising, I would move away from it because vulnerability in me was unpleasant.

So I would move away from it by saying I hate myself because that was familiar. And then it was like, okay, so I've worked this out. I've unraveled that and still I could still cure this. I hate myself. One day. I said, there's no self to hate. What is it that I'm hating? And again, what I'm hating really was the part, the thoughts, the thinking mind that I was hating. And really that to me really - apologies for using your great title of one of your books - Shift into Freedom, I think it is. But definitely it was a shift into freedom when I could just see so clearly that there was nothing to hate. And I love this teaching of the Honeyball Sutta of just contact. That one or more of the six sage stores is gonna have contact.

It's gonna have contact. That's just what's gonna happen. And based on contact there is gonna be feeling. Vedana is going to arise. To me, what I find really fascinating is neutral. I find it fascinating because I think neutral can be the most activating nothing much going on.

Loch: Yes. That's why in some ways equanimity is the solution to that. It treats neutrality from boredom and from perpetual dissatisfaction so that you can be with what is without entertaining yourself so much. And just to continue the Honeyball Sutta, contact, and then the feeling arises, pleasant or unpleasant, Vedana. And then the key is for Papancha-Sanna-Sankha.

So the Honeyball Sutta is about self-referencing thought, turning into a self. So that stinking thinking isn't just stinking thinking. It now wraps around itself and then it's an I.

Vimalasara: Yeah. It becomes concretized. We become it. And just again, I really do, it's a thought thinking. I really think that there is a place where this pleasant, unpleasant, neutral are fingers pointing to the moon, they are [inaudible] because at some point why would one need to label pleasant, unpleasant, neutral? All it would be would just be flow arising. That's all it would be. Because I know for my myself, it's like when I label, if I'm not careful labeling pleasant, I can make it mean something.

And I know that there are times where. It just is. That's all it is. I don't have to label it. I don't have to label anything.

Loch: Yeah. And the addiction becomes, starts to become more and more physical, more and more primal, more and more taking every aspect in all the multidimensional levels of ourself.

And it seems on some level, the original input of external stimuli coming to the body has to have pleasant and unpleasant and neutral because if you step on a sharp object, it's gotta stay unpleasant. And if you taste food that's not poison, you want to say it's pleasant and that you'll go back to it.

But then, that's what I call ego function. So that's in other words, the function of the individual human person. On some level there's a precious human body, but then that stays the identity and that perpetually starts to say, okay, if there's pleasant and pleasant to survive as a physical body, that must be ultimately who I am.

So get more pleasure, take away more unpleasure. Whereas it's an upgrade with meditation to discover, oh, there's another dimension that isn't pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. It has equanimity. It has emptiness, and it is the view from which... My experience is that shift into that view that could experience pleasant and unpleasant and as you say, not do anything about it.

That's the liberation to respond rather than react.

Vimalasara: Yeah. And what's coming up for me right now is the modality that I work in, because I also work as a counselor, I say in inverted commas. And I have had, I've done level one IFS training, but I'm one of the founding facilitators of Compassionate Inquiry, Dr. Gabor's Compassionate Inquiry. And what I love about that is that it digs into the spiritual bypassing. Because I think so often we're wanting to be in those blissful states, and especially those of us who've got addictive minds. We want the big experience, nothing much going on. If it's a big experience then we're okay.

And I've seen it time and time again, and even in my own life, that's spiritual bypassing. And what that compassionate inquiry does is going into what Thich Nhat Hanh says "the storehouse." And really beginning to empty that out. And then I would say that when we talk about lineage, you say Theravada. My teacher, the late venerable [Bhante Urgyen] Sangharakshita put a practice together for us. And one of the things that he brought back central to the Buddhist teachings, because he claims that actually the centrality of going for refuge was lost. It was lost. And I would say that was the thing that really brought equanimity into my life when I started to explore going for refuge and the centrality of going for refuge, because I could really see at the center of my life was my politics, was my sexuality, was my gender, and was my black identity.

Not that there was anything wrong with that. It just wasn't enough. It wasn't given me the freedom that I needed and basically that the centrality of going for refuge or placing the three jewels at the center of my life created a whole 360 reorientation brought about equanimity.

Loch: That's beautiful. Yeah, thank you for sharing that. I think that's important to different people. I think need to hear that because it isn't as primary in today's mindfulness movement. So some people, I think, will resonate because it's very much core to, and some people's best way in, necause they've tried everything else, right?

Vimalasara: If you are still habitually drinking, you're still habitually picking up the drugs, or you're still habitually gambling or still habitually looking at porn, still habitually in that codependent behavior, what's at the center of your thoughts? Whatever is at the center of your thoughts, you're gonna act out of... and it means that actually that one's addiction is at the center of your thoughts, at the center of your life.

And so it means that you orient your life around that one thing. When we look at the [inaudible] and bring in The Buddha, not the human being itself, but the freedom, emancipation, waking up to the truth. Even in lay people's speak, if we just say, if you put at the center of your life of wanting freedom, and place the teachings, the truth, the dharma, and it doesn't have to be the Buddhist teachings because there are truth in many spiritual traditions. Okay? It's which one resonates for you And for me, the dharma resonates for me and I, for me, those teachings point to the truth. And of course, in a way, it's that higher power we know in the rooms of 12 step people talk about the meeting being higher power. Definitely when Sangha is together, the Bodhicitta can arise.

Loch: And also another thing you were talking about is that you do have to put the substance down, that there is some effort about stopping the behavior, whether whatever comes first. However you get to that, there's gotta be a pause in that. Maybe for stinking thinking it's don't pick up the first think, but I know a lot of people listening are probably have somebody in their life or themselves that have, maybe it, they think of, oh, addiction is heroin and alcoholism that leads to living on the streets. But we're talking about like addiction to phones, things like that. So the addiction to, I think for most people, to entertainment to some having to do something with your mind to go to the next thing. There's so much visual, phones, computers.

Vimalasara: Oh, the phone has become the new cigarette.

Loch: Yes. That's good. I like that. The new cigarette...

Vimalasara: And I love in internal family systems when they talk about the protectors, that's very beautiful for people to actually see that their addictive behavior is protecting them. It's a shield. There's a function in compassionate inquiry where you look at what's the function of this, not to go into a version towards it. Because I think often when people step onto that path of recovery and they wanna put it down, it's so easy to go into aversion. If we go into aversion, we're just gonna spiral back in that cycle.

And we have to thank it. We have to realize that actually it did something for, but for many people it kept them alive.

Loch: Yes, that's right. Yeah. So that protective part, you know that it's not a bad part. It actually is to really start with one of those A's of appreciation, appreciate, which is a strange thing for an addict that's trying to white knuckle it. For somebody who I know trying to stop, okay, I'm gonna stop. I won't drink during the week and I'll do, do this and that, but it's recognizing the part that is compulsive as a protective part, and then asking it if it would step aside for the good of all the parts and for your essential self.

And then to get help of other, a group, a Sangha, or a meeting. Some others who are on the same journey and then to find some tools. Meditation is certainly one of them, but there's many other tools that just help contact with other people in recovery, or being willing to change your habit for a period of time and then find this new positive habit of something like meditation or other ways to learn how to let go and be.

Vimalasara: I'm smiling because when you talk about the parts, what came was the prince when the Prince vows to find an end of suffering. He comes into relationship with all those parts. That was Mara. Coming face to face with all these different parts. And what I always remind people of is that that strongest part was doubt.

You know? Who gives you the right to the seat of enlightenment? And many of us, when we are new into recovery, have that doubt, who gives us the right to walk back into the family, who give us this right? And it's at that point when the Prince asks for help. And I just think, to me, as you say, meditation helps. Asking for help...

It really does. And as we know, there's that shameful part, how can I ask for help? I know that I stayed sick for so long. I was a chronic relapser for so long because I wasn't able to ask for help. I had to do it on my own.

Loch: Yeah, that's right. That part that tried to, like the doubters, the other side of the polarity right, is the one who's, I've gotta do it by myself so that - some kind of surrender of realizing that we've bottomed out. I know that for me, that was important. And then just taking the action of showing up for a day at time is so important. And, finding the ground back to that story of the Buddha, that the final resource was, while the doubting mine was raging, is putting his hand on the earth and finding the ground as a witness.

So whether it's the actual earth for us, which is interesting, it isn't a spiritual bypass it's the physical earth, which is, but whatever your ground is, right? To find your ground, which includes community and other resources, but to find that essential, for me it, it was that feeling in meditation of that which was coming and going.

I saw the "Oh my God, this thinker is made of thoughts." It's coming and going. There isn't any solid thing of worry and shame and anger and then to realize what doesn't come and go, that was the ground, which is like awake consciousness, or what's called Rigpa or the, or the Bramaviharas that are not coming and going. They're the dimension of where ultimate reality and relative meet. And that's what the spiritual quest or the consciousness meditation is. It's not a feeling small "f" feeling of spiritual bypass or bliss. It's literally ah, freedom relief. But there's a ground quality of "ah", rather than freedom spacey, freedom of "whoa."

It's good to dive in with you who have helped so many and been clear about your own process and what you don't know and what you know and have both of us have fun with words, but not get too attached to them, but to go deep together because we're of inner astronauts who have dedicated ourselves to service really.

Vimalasara: Exactly. I really do think that actually when there's a little waking up, how can you not be of service? It has to be that Bodhisattva vow. I know that there is the Arahant model and I get that. but really for me, where I'm at I have to be of service. and I just wanted to come back to this thing of picking up because I was just really thinking of contact and, it it's yeah, we can see our choice of substance, we pick it up, but in the next moment we can put it back down again. We really, just because we've picked it up, we don't have to hold onto it and identify with it. And that's what happens, isn't it? Pick it up. It becomes me. It becomes I. It becomes mine. Again, one of these things we say, "meditation helps."

I think saying the words of the Buddha, "this is not me, this is not mine, this is not I," can help, because I always say that sometimes when you are activated and you are triggered, you're not gonna meditate, you aren't going to go to a Sangha space, they just lift your head up or whatever. Or just get up and walk and get out of there.

But actually just saying, this is not me, this is not mine, this is not I, can really be helpful. And one of the actions to put those last two things together is doing an act of service like a random act of kindness just is one way to get out of yourself and actually to find your true self.

When your mind is spinning and you can't sit down and meditate and you're really jonesing for something to go to the distraction or relieve the pain, and then actually not only doing Metta, taking an action of service. In whatever way works for you. And I think that for me is what I recognized in you right away.

I felt oh, here's a fellow, it wasn't like a fellow meditation teacher. It was like, oh, we're both doing service. And that was like heart to heart. I was like, okay, yeah we're doing, it's the same lineage.

Vimalasara: Yeah. Yeah.

Loch: [It's] really a pleasure to have you here and we'll look forward to introducing you to my friends and community and hope they will look you up and find what you're doing these days. Anything particular you wanna mention?

Vimalasara: I always have the MBAR, the mindfulness-based Addiction Recovery course. So do look on my website, which is www.valeriemason-john.com and it will let you know when the next mindfulness-based addiction recovery course happens. And it's online as, as well, I normally run it at least three times a year, and in both English and Spanish.

And then of course, look on Buddhist Recovery Network. There's a lot of stuff there. It's a great resource. And check out my book, Eigth Step Recovery: Using The Buddhist Teachings Toi Overcome Addiction or Detox Your Heart - Meditations for Emotional Trauma.

Loch: Thank you so much. Really wonderful to be with you and connect with you today and always.

Vimalasara: Thank you, Loch.

Loch: And now here's a short, mindful glimpse called "Loving kindness, and Compassion Are Already Here." I hope you enjoy.

Loving kindness, and compassion are already here.

Take a few minutes now to experience how you can discover that loving kindness and compassion are already here. Sit comfortably, eyes open or closed, and be aware of all your senses. Notice the activity of thinking in your head.

Begin by unhooking local awareness from thoughts in your head. Let local awareness move down to know your jaw from within your jaw.

Then feel local awareness, move down below your neck. Sense the awareness, aliveness, and space directly from within your body.

Become familiar with this direct knowing, using local awareness, which is neither looking down from your head, nor going back up to your thoughts to know.

Feel awareness and aliveness together as awareness energy. Rest without going to sleep, and stay aware without going to thought. No.

Feel that awareness can know both the awareness and aliveness from within your body.

Notice a feeling of open-hearted awareness, from within the space in the center of your body,

Feel as if you have relocated knowing from thinking in your head to this embodied heart-mind within you, which you are now aware from.

Notice that you can invite and welcome any thoughts and emotions into the space of your heart mind, so that you can remain at home in your open-hearted awareness and have all information from the office of your head come to you. As if by Wi-fi.

Feel the sense of effortless ease, wellbeing, and okayness when you're here now.

Notice if there's a subtle sense of joy, tenderness, loving kindness, bliss, or compassion naturally arising from here.

Sense this natural, loving kindness nourishing every cell of your body and beginning to open outward to everyone and everything all around.

Be here now. Having dropped your center from head to heart so you can look out of the eyes of your heart-mind. And see how everything looks and feels. Join with the natural, loving kindness and allow it to radiate outward. Feel how your deepest intention has always been for all beings to be well and happy.

May all beings be free of suffering and experience naturally interconnected love.


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