Mindfulness in Recovery Community Launches

Mindfulness in Recovery Community Launches in January 

We are very excited to announce the launch of our new Mindfulness in Recovery Community. We are currently fine tuning all of the components and it will become fully active in January of 2017.

The Mindfulness in Recovery Community is an inclusive recovery support program, open to anyone with a sincere desire for recovery. Our goal is to provide daily mindfulness activities and support to enhance our members’ current 12 Step program and to provide mindfulness tools and resources for those not in 12 Step programs.

It is our firm conviction that everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender or orientation deserves to live a meaningful and happy life in recovery. It is our belief that this can best be accomplished when people have the resources and tolls to live a life they find meaningful, a life that is in alignment with their own values and allows them to flourish. We will share an announcement as soon as we are ready to accept members.


Empathetic Joy for Today’s Times

News headlines of late do actually contain good news, but the balance is certainly heavily tilted towards one devastating or at least discouraging event after another. We tend to be drawn in by these reports, and can easily be under the delusion that they represent an accurate account of what goes on in the world. In truth, they represent a small portion of the daily events, activities and interactions between individuals and groups throughout the world. This is not to minimize the harm that does take place or avoid in any way dealing with it. But to succumb to the delusion that this is a full picture of humanity today or to be drawn in by their seductive messages can lead many of us to a place that fosters both thoughts and emotions that are neither healthy nor beneficial. For every account in the news of a business scandal, how many businesses are involved in truly working to make the world a better place, serve their customers with honesty and conduct their business dealings with virtue? For every account of child abuse, how many parents and adults every day show children generous kindness and heartfelt support for their well-being and growth? To be able see and remember and even rejoice in the goodness found in our world is an essential part of living mindfully. As William James said so astutely, “Our view of the world is truly shaped by what we decide to hear.” Or as others have said, what we attend to becomes your reality.

We all experience thoughts and mental and emotional states like an ongoing flow of water in a river throughout our day. Much if not most of these arise unintentionally, and occur out of habit and conditioning and in response to our environment, seen clearly or with delusion. As John Bruna writes in his book “The Wisdom of a Meaningful Life: The Essence of Mindfulness,” “the good news is that we can change our conditioning. We can develop and strengthen the mental and emotional states we find beneficial. There are specific mental states that are extremely healthy and are direct antidotes to harmful ones. They include: equanimity, loving kindness, compassion and empathetic joy. In Buddhism these healthy states are referred to as the four immeasurable attitudes.”

Choosing, with wisdom and intention, to cultivate these attitudes supports us in watering healthy thoughts and emotions, leaving much less room for harmful or unhealthy ones. As in your garden, when the lettuce and carrots are thriving, the weeds are not able to take hold as easily. When we tend to the vegetables, fertilizing and watering them, we have less need to fuss with the weeds.  

Empathetic joy is the attitude of rejoicing in the virtuous activities and rewards of others. When we are able to first mindfully notice the kindnesses going on around us, the care of parents for their children, the virtuous actions of businesses, the wonderful successes of groups creating positive changes in our community, country or internationally, we take the first step. When we rejoice with appreciation, whether quiet and inward or by offering gratitude or sharing the good news, we water the seeds of empathetic joy. Practicing this daily, noting the good, the kind, the virtuous and generous, we create the habit of seeing more clearly and rejoicing more often. When others do well, and do good, we all benefit. The more love, kindness, compassion and joy there is in others, the better off we all are. The emphasis here is virtuous, not just hollow success or worldly activities. Empathetic joy is the antidote to jealousy and envy, but also serves to counter the hopelessness, the gloom, the weight of seeing the world only through skewed headlines. Discernment is key, as empathetic joy can be misconstrued as advice to put on rose colored glasses. The illusory facsimile of empathetic joy is the Pollyanna syndrome, a superficial kind of positive thinking that is not discerning. Empathetic joy helps us recognize and rejoice in those things that are truly beneficial, and the practice of empathetic joy starts with seeing the good in our world.

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” Henry David Thoreau

Taking Action, Practicing Change

“An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.” – Mahatma Gandhi

At times, we can find ourselves absorbed in thinking about making change in our lives. This can be particularly true at certain times such as the new year or a significant birthday. Events such as a sudden loss or news can also cause us to consider change. We may be influenced by a book or article, seeing an inspiring example in another, or just by hearing a good idea. However, how many times in our lives have we set good intentions and not been able to follow through, or had great epiphanies and decided to implement them in our lives only to see them fall to the wayside? There is an old piece of wisdom that says that you cannot think yourself into right living, but you can live yourself into right thinking. Living mindfully, we learn to live with attention and intention, guided by our values, and develop the ability to consciously bring awareness into our daily activities. As we do this, we also become aware of habits, tendencies and beliefs within ourselves that prevent us from doing so. This is the beginning of true wisdom, identifying within ourselves that which prevents us from being who we really want to be. What are the habits, tendencies and misperceptions that, in the guise of finding pleasure and acceptance, actually bring about suffering and isolation? The only way to remove these is to recognize and understand them. In order to recognize and understand them, we need to be conscious of how they arise and prevent us from living the life we find valuable and meaningful. By practicing intentional living through transformative action, we can discover some of the habits and tendencies that support us as well as the ones that hinder us.

One of the most fascinating aspects of life is the difficulty that most of us have actually putting into action the things we know will improve our lives. All of us are capable of taking a little time and identifying habits, tendencies, and attitudes that we know would significantly improve our lives. Yet, even after identifying them, we are frequently unable to integrate them into our lives. I’m sure we have all had this experience. We may start off with the best of intentions and be highly motivated, only to find that we gradually fall back into our old patterns. Of course, there are also many things that we know would be beneficial in our lives that we don’t even attempt to implement. We tell ourselves that when our lives are less busy, then we will find some balance and take up those healthy activities. We also, upon reflection, may find that we are able to give wonderful advice to others that we ourselves are unable to take. In all such cases, the essential question is, why do we resist the very things we know will improve our lives?

When we look deeply, we will find different reasons for the resistance that arises in us when we try to adopt healthier habits and activities into our lives. Across the board though, one of the most common reasons is that we simply don’t take the time to reflect upon how beneficial they would be for our lives and notice how many of our old habits prevent us from fully engaging in our lives. Our lives can be busy and full without much time built in for reflection and wise intentional living. Unless we consciously make the time to observe and evaluate our habitual patterns and tendencies, it will be very difficult to let go of the ones that no longer serve us and adopt new ones that will help us cultivate our highest potentials. If we do take some time and identify the ideals we would like our lives to embody, the quote from Gandhi reminds us that it is critical to try to put them into practice, even if only small bits of the time. Talking about change in our lives doesn’t change our lives. Deep, interesting philosophical conversations do not change our lives. We can only make the changes we find meaningful in our lives through action. Imagine how much better our lives would be if we only practiced what we preached.

We invite you to put into practice something that you feel will be beneficial in your life. Whether it’s a habit, an attitude, an ideal, or some good advice you give frequently, it doesn’t matter. Pick something meaningful and each day do your best to put it into practice.



Five Tools for Living Mindfully – John Bruna

“Our habitual patterns are, of course, well established, seductive, and comforting. Just wishing for them to be ventilated isn’t enough. Mindfulness and awareness are key. Do we see the stories that we’re telling ourselves and question their validity? When we are distracted by a strong emotion, do we remember that it is part of our path? Can we feel the emotion and breathe it into our hearts for ourselves and everyone else? If we can remember to experiment like this even occasionally, we are training as a warrior. And when we can’t practice when distracted but know that we can’t, we are still training well. Never underestimate the power of compassionately recognizing what’s going on.” – Pema Chodron

“Change only takes place through action, not through meditation and prayer alone.” -14th Dalai Lama

It is inspiring to know that by living mindfully we can make the changes in our lives that allow us to engage in our lives more skillfully, with wisdom and purpose, eliminating unhealthy habits and tendencies that prevent us from being fully present and attentive in our lives. However, it is also important to remember that these changes take time and require a steady, consistent practice of living mindfully.

While it is critical to develop a meditation practice to develop our attention and mindfulness, our practice will be limited if we leave it on our meditation cushion when we start our day. Meditation is but one aspect of mindfulness, one method to help us cultivate it. Mindfulness is much more than present moment awareness as mindfulness includes and facilitates the cultivation of concentration, wisdom, and the ability to make healthy choices that foster genuine happiness and a meaningful life. 

Drawing from my book, The Wisdom of a Meaningful Life, these five tools can help you become successful in developing a consistent practice throughout your day to complement your meditation. You will find that each on its own is beneficial. Together, they are transformative. Developing and strengthening these tools in your life will significantly increase your ability to establish and sustain a mindful, and in turn, meaningful life.

Resolve: Develop a firm resolution to live a meaningful life. This is done by continually calling to mind the incredible opportunities and resources you have and remembering that you won’t have them forever. Your life, like all things, is impermanent. This day is truly precious for it will never come again. Every day brings you opportunity and brings you closer to your inevitable death. Remembering this, resolve to live each day with attention and intention, for it will never come again. You are worth it. Don’t allow another day, yet alone another year, go by without resolving to do your best to become the person you want to be.

Habit: Develop supportive rituals and routines. What we water grows. Whatever we do consistently becomes easier and more natural to us. You can develop healthy habits that support and sustain the life you want. This does not happen quickly, as our old habits are often well entrenched. We need to make a conscious effort to create and sustain new habits. Over time, with sustained effort, they can become as effortless as the habits we already have. Creating the habit of a structured daily meditation and mindfulness practice will truly transform your life.

Develop Positive Potentials: Learn how to transform every event and interaction in your life into a cause for genuine happiness. Every moment of our lives, especially the difficult ones, are meaningful, offering us the opportunity to grow, learn, and develop our highest potentials. In all things that happen, we can continually ask this most important question: What is the most beneficial thing I can do? How can I respond in a way that is in alignment with my values and serves the greater good? Whether you break your leg, win an award, get married, get a flat tire, have a flight delay, or lose a dear friend, you have the opportunity to cultivate happiness.

Selflessness: Abandon the misperception of being the center of the universe. In truth, we are but one among many trying to find their way and have some happiness. Let go of the persistent delusion that you are an independent being and that the world should bend to our will. In fact, let go of the myth that your life would be wonderful if it did. Remember that your genuine happiness comes from how you live your life and that all life, including yours, is interdependent. Everything we have, know, and are able to do is dependent on others, as are all of the causes and conditions that gave rise to the life we have. Also remember that, however you perceive yourself, you are changing all the time. You can continually grow and cultivate the qualities in your life that you find beneficial and meaningful.

Meaningful Attitudes: Consciously cultivate your values, motivation, and beneficial mental states such as the four immeasurable attitudes. Instead of allowing your mind to unconsciously drag you from one thought to another, consciously bring to mind the person you want to be and the life you want to live. Set reminders around the house and at work to help you. Engage in meditations and envision aspirations that you find meaningful and that help you bring your mind to healthy and altruistic states. When your mind is on virtuous thoughts, it is not on unhealthy ones such as anger, resentments, worries, or jealousy. By continuously bringing your mind to such meaningful attitudes, you develop them and they eventually become present on their own.

I hope that you find these tools helpful and are able to integrate them, either individually or together, in part or in whole, into your mindfulness practice. I have found them to be essential and empowering in my personal practice.