What does mindfulness mean to you?

Mindfulness, to me, is the practice of looking inward as a way to find peace. This peace provides us with a sense of well being that isn't reliant on getting our way or being comfortable. This peace can be unconditional if properly cultivated and cared for. In this practice we find a grounded place to rest in a present time awareness through spending time with the breathing body. When we rest in the present moment we get some space. We gain space from our natural reactive tendencies to either fight or cling on to experiences. With this space we get some freedom. This is a freedom of choice. Freedom to choose a health response to life that isn’t impulsively reactive. So, we find a way to sit in the middle of both the beautiful and the terrible aspects of our lives with out hating of clinging. So rather than withholding our happiness until things work out for us, we find an internal peace. This peace is the higher happiness. 

How do you incorporate mindfulness in your recovery work?

Addiction is just a crappy substitute for self love. I’ll admit it, for awhile drinking helped me out a lot. It helped me shut out some of the parts of myself I couldn’t make space for. Alcohol helped shut my anxiety, depression, and thoughts of isolation up so I could get through the day. Unfortunately, I also created a big mess and a lot of harm with my addiction. Addiction is just a repetitive, reactive attempt to manage some of our internal aspects of ourselves that we may be too scared to love. Through mindfulness we create a container to approach our inner demons with care and compassion. That is true self love. For me, love is just a synonym for connection. Through mindfulness we find a way to not only connect with the parts of ourselves that we like, but we also learn to connect with the parts that we’ve been shutting out. Once we start to know the parts of ourselves we’ve been avoiding, we don’t need our addictions to cover them up anymore. So through sitting mindfully as well as being in community with like minded folks, we start to live more fully by experiencing life directly. 

What initially led you to begin your practice? 

A lot of suffering and dissatisfaction led me to this practice. I’ve tried to find lasting satisfaction in things that don’t last. I honestly feel like I’ve been lied to. Somewhere along the line I received the message that if I lived my life properly then I’d never be disappointed. If I went to school and studied hard, got the right job, made the right friends, and so on, I’d be good to go. Unfortunately even when I acted “right” I still experienced the loss and let down that is natural in life. It wasn’t until I started studying with my first Buddhist meditation teacher that I got the bitter sweet news. No matter how you live your life you’re going to have a hard time. This is bitter sweet because now I have permission to admit that sometimes life is hard. Mindfulness meditation helps me find a space to care for myself when I’m having a hard time. Mindfulness also helps me appreciate when I’m having a pretty solid time too! So I’ve go that going for me.