Inventory and Insight: Recovery Dharma

Achieving a recovered state requires doing the messy, painful and scary work of self-examination. Have we achieved the stability and clarity of mind, as well as the self-compassion to begin this crucial phase of our liberation journey?

This year in CONNECT we have been following the natural shifts happening in the 12-month cycle as well as exploring recovery from a Buddhist perspective. We have also linked into 12-step principles as they correspond to the 4 Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. 

If we have set the foundational attitude of renunciation, accepting we are sick and tired of being sick and tired, and committed to a proven program that will bring relief and healing, we are ready for the necessary insight work. 

All recovery communities, centres, and fellowships understand the essential need to feel safe as we begin this practice. It is up to us to develop and nurture the attitude of honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness. Also, be curious! Look at the liberated people around you. Are you interested in attaining the same freedom?

Mindfully recognizing our habitual patterns of avoidance, over-indulgence, blame, and our tendency to project our fears externally, the investigation begins. We inventory our past actions and the cause and effect realities (karma) that have held us in bondage.

In 12-step recovery, this stage is called a moral inventory. In Buddhist practice, a commitment to moral actions and attitudes is part of the initial decision to commit. 

If we are dishonest or transgressing boundaries, we are left with an agitated mind that makes it impossible to sense the authentic nature of experience. We do our best and, as the renewal unfolds, we gain more understanding and commit more whole-heartedly. Easy does it—but do it!

Here, we should mention the goal of practicing meditation on a regular basis. In Buddhist practice, we start with a concentration meditation called Shamatha.  After a period of dedicated practice, an undistracted state of mind manifests. 

Then we are trained in Vipassana, or insight meditation. This is an internal exploration that leads to peace and freedom.

Please, please begin to be kind and gentle with yourself. People in recovery share one thing: shame about our unmindful and irresponsible actions that are universal realities in active addiction. You are not alone in this. We must nurture an attitude of compassion towards ourselves, and be open to the loving presence of our recovery brothers and sisters. This is why our spiritual connection comes prior to inventory.

This is a good time to recommend some homework. Log in to Youtube and listen to metta (lovingkindness) and self-compassion meditations by Kristin Neff, Christopher Germer or Tara Brach.

Next month, we will present some specific inventory techniques. Until then, may we all be happy, safe, at ease, and at peace.

By Tim Dickson