Guest Post: Meditation on the Path of Recovery

Here’s a guest post from fellow blogger, Buddhist, meditator and compatriot in recovery Lizzie Critton. Check out her and her partner, Matt’s wonderful website and recovery resource, The Easier Softer Way.

I first came across meditation in grade school. My fifth grade teacher hosted a yoga and meditation class. If you attended the class you were excused from gym for that day, so of course I went every day it was offered. This type of meditation wasn’t really Buddhist meditation but visualization and relaxation. Over the next couple years this was the only type of meditation I had any real exposure to. I didn’t practice regularly but I was definitely open to the possibility of exploring meditation.

Buddha Moon - Buddha Stones

While in rehab I explored more relaxation meditation and also was introduced to concentration meditation. Although it was not presented as Buddhist, it was a basic listening concentration Buddhist meditation. I enjoyed this practice and found that it was easy to clear my mind and deal with anxiety while meditating in this capacity. I told my therapist at the treatment center how much I enjoyed it and she suggested that I go to a meeting at a Buddhist meditation society called Against the Stream.

Shortly after I left treatment I decided to try the meeting at Against the Stream. I accidentally arrived late, and sat by the door because the room was packed. I was shocked to see over a hundred people crammed into this tiny space. Everyone was seated and the speaker was standing. I heard the end of the talk in which he discussed one of the Buddhist precepts. He was talking specifically about not killing any other living beings. Although I had no knowledge of the precepts, this seemed like a pretty standard rule to me, and I related to the talk. What I was not prepared for were the shares and questions that followed.  One man said something to this effect: “I have fully undertaken this precept, but I have a lot of trouble with other people killing living beings. I don’t know if it’s my place to say ‘no don’t kill that fly, it has just as much value as you or I have.’”.

This astounded me, mostly because I was newly sober and I thought it was ridiculous. I thought of course its ok to kill a fly if its really bothering you! A few more shares went on in this manner and I couldn’t hold my tongue anymore, so I raised my hand to share. I said something like this: “I understand that we shouldn’t kill other living beings, but at some point, isn’t it just a fly!”. What I meant was we weren’t killing other animals or even larger bugs, we were talking about a fly! A pest! The teacher responded by essentially saying that that view was ignorant. This was before I had any understanding of what ignorance meant in Buddhism so I was pretty personally offended. I decided that probably wasn’t the right meeting for me.

About a year after I went to that meeting, I met my boyfriend Matt whom practices Buddhist meditation. Shortly after I met him I ended up once again at Against the Stream (although it took me a while to realize it was the same place). I attended a dharma talk with him and I loved it. I enjoyed the meditation, the community and the talk, it all felt completely right. I didn’t start going regularly immediately; it took me some time to get into a routine. But I did go every once and while with Matt and every time I did I enjoyed it. During this time I went on my first meditation retreat. It was up in northern California and it was a daylong retreat on Metta, or loving-kindness. On the retread I had a very visceral experience with self-love. During a walking meditation I went off and could see the mountains around me, the birds above me, and I felt the sun shining on me. It all suddenly seemed so wonderful and beautiful. As I walked I repeated some phrases to myself, may I be loved, may I be happy, may I be safe, and may I be at ease. I felt deeply connected with these phrases and as cliché as it sounds, my heart was filled with contentment. This was when I really decided to make meditation a regular part of my life.

About six months ago Matt and I took a commitment hosting a group called Dharma Den on Sunday nights. Attending Dharma Den every week is what got me into a regular Buddhist practice. The group is small and intimate, with a very strong community of people who regularly attend. In this group we have gone through the heart practices, the foundations of mindfulness, and the eightfold path. I have learned about Buddhism from listening to the talks and discussions in the group. This has been a great way for me to learn since I absorb information more easily through practice rather than just reading about a topic. Hosting the group has really given me a sense of accountability in my practice. I enjoy showing up every week, seeing familiar faces, and sharing an intimate meditation practice among friends.

photo by: h.koppdelaney

About Chris Lemig

In 2007 I finally came out to family and friends as being gay. After twenty-three years of drug and alcohol addiction, I got sober, picked up a book on Buddhism then promptly bought a plane ticket to India. The Narrow Way is the story of how all that came to be.
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3 Responses to Guest Post: Meditation on the Path of Recovery

  1. Jamie Orock says:

    GREAT article.i wish ther were buddhist meditation meetings around here! Ty

  2. Clare says:

    What an inspiring story. I always think it’s so important to constantly question everything you’re being taught, especially when it comes to meditation and spirituality. You learn more this way and you’re notjust walking blindly into something or allowing others to brainwash you.

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