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This is an invitation and announcement of a new meditation series beginning Monday, June 2, 2014 in the garden office of Dr. Walt Jessen, meditator and psychologist.
During these weekly meetings you will learn how to become aware of how a meditation practice, which includes heart, mind and body impacts other people. The series will explore the experience of connection with yourself and others.
Through meditation practice, prescribed behavioral interaction and reflective writing activities, we will experience the roots and behavioral manifestations of loving kindness. Also, we will examine which kinds of connection are optimal for growing happiness, resourcefulness and attunement to others.
The course is open to meditators, therapists and others. The training will be conducted in a small group (up to 10) format. This format potentiates the learning process through acquiring information and insights from each other that deepens awareness and sharpens one’s skills. The bond amongst members brings personal support and enjoyment to the learning process.
We will meet consecutive Monday nights from 7 to 9pm (PDT) in Los Gatos, California. The fee is $40.00 per meeting. Please call 408 358 0777 for more information.
Dr.Victor Frankl was one of those guys who really endured more than most humans can imagine. As a holocaust survivor, he must have had many opportunities to move from resentment to acceptance as he found a way to survive in the harshest of environments. I admire his famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning. And his quote, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In that response lies our growth and our freedom”, is a favorite of mine, encompasses the priceless gift of his efforts and really speaks to the heart of addiction recovery.
Resentment Gives Rise to Resignation
You know the old adage attributed to Carrie Fisher, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
Resentment is a well known and understood way for people with addictions to remain in active addiction. It is a way to stay in a negative feedback loop that delivers the gift that keeps on taking…whatever the drug or behavior one is addicted to. A way to minimize or close down Dr. Frankl’s above mentioned “space” for growth and freedom.
Once the drug or behavior is successfully removed from the equation, the challenge remains how to deal with the nasty habit of harboring resentment. Hell, (yes, Hell) resentment is toxic enough without the additional poison we turn to, to try to deal with it. Resentment begets a closed down state called resignation…If you had my life…
What I find particularly interesting is that when we begin to deconstruct the meaning of resentment, none of it makes any real sense when it comes to continuing the practice of resentment. Here, check out this definition of resentment:
Not coming to terms with what we cannot change, (other people, places and circumstances).
Often resentment becomes a mood or a strategy for moving through life and it can be remarkably corrosive to all involved. And so it behoves all involved to find ways to dissolve it if possible. Resentment can also be largely unconscious and why continuing to “work a program” including wellness interventions and psychological/spiritual depth work is important in addiction recovery. Nothing more frightening than to wake up or to become conscious of a life lived fueled by resentments without strategies to re-set the course.
Good news; we have the brain science and technology to teach people how to create new brain maps for…coming to terms with what we cannot change.
Acceptance Gives Rise to Ambition
Acceptance is the key
Wisdom traditions all around the world speak to acceptance truly being the key to freedom. It’s in our human lore from the Old Testament’s Book of Job to the literature of AA. Story after story like the man who has a string of terrible things happen to him as he practices acceptance all along the way when he’s finally delivered to a wonderful conclusion–only possible by virtue of the former terrible events occurring; first.
Acceptance is quite the opposite of resentment and defined as:
Coming to terms with what we cannot change (other people, places and circumstances).
Rafael Eccheveria, Ph.D. elaborates by writing, “When we are in acceptance we find ourselves having peace with what we consider unchangeable, including all those possibilities that may have been open to us at a certain moment in life and were lost afterwards.”
What a concept, not only letting go of the poison, but also all of the caveats of why to continue holding on. Peace of mind comes when I stop trying to modify the past and by simply coming to terms with it. Acceptance is a miracle grow potion for Frankl’s growth and freedom “space” and what leads to the expansive state of mind of ambition in all good things. Truth is, I can modify the future…
Now as we all know, there are many ways of moving from resentment and its resignation to acceptance and ambition. Some resentment challenges are more difficult than others, and in my experience, all of which require diligence and ongoing practice. The more we move toward acceptance, the more ways become known. The Dialectical Behavior Therapy practitioners talk about, “radical acceptance” in their Buddhist centered approach to addiction recovery. From forgiveness practices of self and others to actually leaving relationships that remain toxic–may be on the menu of choices, but moving from resentment to acceptance we must, if we’re interested in long-term addiction recovery.
If there ever was a universal way to move from resentment to acceptance, it is to engage in and remain in a learning curve. For example, “12 Steppers” will often inquire, “What step are you on?” in their rhetoric as that ongoing deep and wide domain of learning remains an ambition.
I’ll leave you with yet another way of looking at it. Admittedly a bit of a stretch, but something that really moves me from Zen philosopher, Alan Watts who ironically died of the disease of addiction at the young age of 58. It is a relatively short clip, (12 minutes) created 44 years ago! In the context of this post, I interpret Alan describing the movement from a very controlling, ego driven resentful place to a very liberated place of acceptance and ambition in the attractive and holistic way he does:
The central, powerful implication for me is that if we’ll focus on this personal journey of moving from resentment to acceptance, recovering from addiction or not, the whole world will benefit. Thank you, Alan Watts for helping others in that great big way you always did and continue to do.
“We are reaching a critical milestone in the history of recovery in America. We are approaching a crossroads that will dictate the fate of hundreds of thousands of individuals and families and thousands of communities. Recovering people know the deep truth in the adage that it is darkest just before the dawn. That darkened horizon is clearly evident across America today, but there IS a dawn arising. Emerging from that dawn are not government agencies or treatment professionals but a new generation of wounded healers. Recovering people and their families and friends are once again on the move–once again coming together not just for mutual support, but to widen the doors of entry into recovery through education and advocacy. A New Recovery Advocacy Movement is being born in this country. From Wall Street to Bourbon Street, from South Carolina to South Central, from Indian Country to the barrio to the wealthiest suburb, people are coming together to challenge the restigmatization, demedicalization and recriminalization of addiction in America. They are coming together to publicly reaffirm the hope for recovery from addiction…When a vanguard of recovering people and their families step forward to pay this debt and accept this mantle of service, that new day will have arrived.” – William White, M.A.
The light at the end of a long, dark tunnel
As the burgeoning Recovery Advocacy movement continues to gain momentum much in the same way the HIV/AIDS epidemic, (thank you, Dr. Chris Harrison) harnessed the resources necessary to turn its tide, we see some light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel.
Something happened to me on the way to my own recovery advocacy. The something that happened was the insidious realization that I can–I must–take responsibility for my own well being. Addiction happened, but not altogether apart from my activities initiating and promoting it. Just the same way, wellness happens–in large part because of my activities initiating and promoting it. As a result, I have become my own best health advocate and what addiction recovery is all about.
The Recovery Advocacy movement is coming into full articulation and practice all around our nation. Legions of people led by folks like the above quoted, William White, (listen to his interview with me here) and his film producing and talented protégé, Greg Williams who released the critically acclaimed, The Anonymous People are showing up and telling the truth about recovery in increasingly more effective ways.
The light at the end of the tunnel is revealing the connection between just how important it is to align addiction recovery with a wellness lifestyle. The days of the old-timer at AA admonishing the newcomer to just, “Don’t drink and go to meetings” as he chews on a glazed doughnut between cigarette breaks and has nearly gnawed through the arm of his chair in repressed anger, are somewhere back in that dark tunnel. Addiction treatment is slowly but surely becoming a crystal clear mirror for health advocacy and an exemplary model for what healthcare is becoming.
Recovery Advocacy | Health Advocacy
Recovery advocacy comes into its fullness when people learn how to be their own best health advocate.
Here is another quote before its time from the father of the New Recovery Advocacy Movement, William White, written 10 years ago in 2004:
“Recovery management will shift the focus of treatment from acute stabilization to support for long-term recovery maintenance. Professionally-directed recovery management, like management of other chronic health disorders, shifts the focus of care from one of admit, treat, and discharge to a sustained health management partnership. This means that the traditional discharge process will be replaced with post-stabilization monitoring (recovery check-ups), stage appropriate recovery education, recovery coaching, active linkage to communities of recovery, recovery community resource development, and, when needed, early re-intervention. Rather than cycling individuals through multiple self-contained episodes of acute treatment, recovery management provides an expanded array of recovery support services for a much greater length of time but at a much lower level of intensity and cost per service episode.”
An Idea Whose Time Has Arrived
Long-term recovery equals long-term wellness. Teaching people how…is how
Just substitute the word “health” for the word “recovery” in the above paragraph and it’s pretty clear we in the recovery community are blazing a much needed trail for the direction of healthcare’s bright future.
To me, there is no difference between people getting recycled back and forth, admitted and discharged, in and out of this nation’s current sick care system and the old guard way we approached addiction treatment. In a culture that is just now learning and teaching people how to become their own, best health advocates, addiction treatment is poised to champion the leadership as each of us give the nod to be the change we want to see in the world.
Now, when focusing on recovery/robust health and not just symptom suppression, we’ve learned what’s necessary to sustain it. And truly, just one day at a time.
People will ask me, “Herby, do I need to stop drinking for the rest of my life?” My answer is always the same, “I have no idea, because we cannot possibly have the rest of our lives…today. What we can have is today.” The same holds true for getting and staying well. Will I need to take care of myself for the rest of my life? Again, I’ll just focus on today.
Here’s to that, “sustained health management partnership” and enjoying sustained sobriety and good health through sustained, “wellbriety.”
If addiction recovery is anything, it’s about finding new, better and healthier habits to replace the old ones. From brain science to the nuts and bolts of life–that’s the bottom line and practice makes progress.
Truth is–and for me–all practices have a spiritual component to them from the spirituality of food to walking meditations. If I bring in mind, body and spirit into any single practice, it has proven to be one that I’ll keep and do “religiously” because the healthy payoff is so very renewable, sustainable and satisfying.
Baptism into the Church of the Pacific
One of the many gifts and resources my family has bestowed upon my life in terms of these robust kinds of addiction recovery practices, is bringing to my awareness the healing power of what I call my, “Church of the Pacific.” Dad baptised me into the Pacific Ocean as a two year old toddler and I have been a devout parishioner for 58 years and counting.
There is nothing I am more proud of in terms of personal goals and accomplishments than parlaying my Dad’s gift into becoming a surfer. And in doing so, my surfing practice informs my recovery practice and vice-versa.
My relationship with surfing has evolved into a kind of platonic-romantic combo when, as Richard Tarnas describes in his Cosmos and Psyche, and I paraphrase, “The observer’s act is one of love and intelligence combined, of wonder as well as discernment, opening to a process of mutual discovery.” Becoming a better observer of my life while surfing is every bit analogous to the journey of recovery.
So from here on out, don’t hesitate to go-with-the-flow and read recovery practice and surfing practice as two sides of the same coin.
Move Well | Think Well | Eat Well
Surfing has never been a sport or anything quite so mechanical for me. Invariably, every time I step into the ocean with the intention of feeling, playing and dancing with Her mysteries, I am transformed from whatever I was to pure gratitude and joy. I bring all of what I am only to be humbled and welcomed by relentless surprises which never cease to amaze me. A functional movement practice? You bet and much, much more.
It has come to my attention that the frame of mind or mood I bring affects each experience I have in my surfing sessions. If this is true for me it is certainly true for each and every one of us in the lineup, (pack of surfers). Our individual and collective ways of being profoundly affect the lineup and our surfing experiences. In this way, surfing is also a magnificent cognitive behavioral–thinking well–therapy.
And if I’m not honoring the eating well part of the synergistic wellness practice equation, none of the above is likely to happen.
Surfing is not a casual thing. The learning curve and playing field are much too long and full of the unknown to produce anything predictable or ordinary. Each session offers a full spectrum of possibilities and lessons. Every surfing lineup has its own inimitable personality. It is palpable when paddling out. The lineup, like a swarming flock of entrained birds or school of synchronized fish, moves and morphs as a collective consciousness. There is a sixth sense in the water. The lead–or more experienced surfers are beckoned toward an incoming set of waves just as homing pigeons know how to get home. There is something else by which we are informed…something else.
Next best thing: Watching
As the lineup follows the beckoning relationship with nature obediently, trillions of neuro-physiological events occur in the “mind” of the collective for one or two surfers to meet the wave at its most optimal shape and place for taking off and riding. There is an honored and unspoken “rotation”, IE, everybody in the water knows whose turn is next. The remainder of the group watches from myriad angles and perspectives, learning and knowing that their moments of ecstasy are not only riding, but observing and enhancing the experience while doing so.
Being submerged in the Earth, playing and diving into the very mantle of where we live, speaks to the magic and ineffable longing that surfers have to return again and again. Author, Steven Levine writes, “This living is the densest part of our being.” Surfing offers holy instants of temporal transcendence. Momentary feelings of being in the weightlessness Light for us Beings of Light are why you can take surfers out of the ocean but you cannot take the ocean out of surfers.
Welcome to our home
Like experiencing a Picasso exhibit a surfer can walk upon the water and rise above the mess on a wet and wild canvas so dynamic and thrilling that just being in the water next to such an artist is tantamount to a holy communion. In between these breath taking nuggets of joy we surfers can be met with the nonchalant presence of an otter having breakfast on her chest or a pod of dolphins arriving to show us how it’s really done. If that is not enough, just look over your shoulder, because a synchronized cascade of pelicans is approaching on a cushion of air as the wave proudly offers up the ancient aviators their liquid reef.
An ancient aviator on her liquid reef
Any surfer will tell you that just stepping into the benevolent and powerful sea is enough. The gift that just keeps giving seems to revel in allowing human intention to move Her molecules as desired. But as human complacency washes over the potential hyper-lucid zone that She offers, our Mother Ocean can be a terrific and stern disciplinarian. Like any magnificent work of art, the request for paying close and abiding attention to the work, is why it was created. Looking at the ocean from a distance can be awe-inspiring and spectacular, but getting into it–is nothing short of divine.
Addiction recovery and surfing are two very good practices of living life on life’s terms. While living and loving both ways of life, I have learned to, “fall down seven times and get up eight times” and to go for waves and visions I never thought possible. I have learned to paddle out and paddle backout into the unknown while being reassured by that “something else”, all will be well every stroke of the way. I have learned to trust Life in a healthy and measured way even when I am scared-to-death.
Surfing and addiction recovery are ways to be in relationship with the world that have been gifts of a lifetime. They are cherished ways of being that offer up the bottom line of what I always wanted; to see and to be seen, and to love and be loved.
I spent the first 40 years of my life practicing strategies to cover up, push away or otherwise keep deeper feelings “at bay” because…well because I didn’t know how to deal with them. The feelings, (that is, the ones I could actually name) seemed irreconcilable, useless really. And if I was going to “get ahead”, I’d better buckle down and deny permission to that kind of self-sabotage. What am I–gonna be one of those guys, “still trying to find himself” as the message goes? Baggage, dude. Lose it, or at the very least, keep it in one of those public rental spaces away from the mainstream, Okay?
About 180 degrees from where I needed to be, but “getting ahead” and “doing well” were at the helm for the master plan in the first 40 and hey, isn’t that what life is all about? A grown man with a beautiful family and everything anyone could ever ask for–without a clue. Now and in retrospect, I give myself a break because active addiction was onboard my mind, body and spirit and in fact, an intergenerational legacy in my family. Emotional intelligence and active addiction do not go hand-in-hand.
On the water’s edge asking, “What am I doing here?”
But as authentic good fortune would have it, at the age of 40, in a burning bush kind of experience, I found myself on the water’s edge saturated with anger, disappointment and shame and asked out loud, “What am I doing here?!” Without skipping a beat another voice as clear as mine responded by saying, “You’re here to feel.” “Feel what?” I asked. The voice said, “You’re here to feel everything.” “I’ll need some help with that”, I admonished and then and finally heard, “You got it, and remember, you are part of the help.”
I Can Feel It
At age 40 I gave up some of the emotional repression practices I had including the use of drugs and alcohol. And over the course of the last two decades, I’ve been learning to feel better–to feeleverything better in a process of progress and certainly not perfection. Early on, the practices inspired me to create this video clip, I Can Feel It.
So now, soon to be a part of the 60-something crowd, I frame my quest for emotional intelligence in an even larger context. Having not anesthetized myself with drugs or alcohol for two decades, I’m frequently startled by just how much I do feel–and feel better. Because oh yeah, I can feel it…”Coming back again, like rolling thunder chasing the wind, like forces pulling from the center of the Earth again, I Can Feel It”…with amazing, unadulterated and often raw gratitude.
With all of the reasons to stay armored and, “I’m Okay!” becoming no longer valuable, I revel in the emotional domain in a way I never knew was available–and I really am Okay, right now…today. I’ve learned that no matter what feelings are passing through, to be hospitable to them as Rumi’s ancient poem, The Guest House suggests, “Be grateful for whatever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
Emotional Intelligence? Yes, Thank You
Emotional intelligence is foundational for brain health and addiction recovery
Daniel Goleman wrote the seminal, Emotional Intelligenceback in the day and now has co-authored a sequel, Primal Leadershipdescribing the emotional intelligence core competencies that are now gaining the attention of corporate America. In the development of the book, the authors describe the “neuroanatomy of leadership” and the paramount importance of emotional intelligence in the leadership of any successful organization. It’s a great read and maps seamlessly with the importance of including an ongoing emotional intelligence practice in addiction recovery.
Addiction is a brain disorder and disease having to do in large part with the center of the brain dealing with memory, motivation, learning, emotion and reward. The neuroanatomy of leadership in my life includes reinforcing memory by staying motivated and well invested in an ongoing learning curve about my ever evolving emotional intelligence practice. The healthy reward has been immense.
Emotional intelligence along with working on our core human competencies of intellectual, moral and spiritual intelligences brings deep empathy for self and others and the sense of unity for more joy, productivity and peace of mind.
I am very grateful for having listened to and acted upon that emotionally intelligent voice I heard in my mind–all those years ago.