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Mindfulness Meditation, Recovery, and “Against the Stream”

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August 16, 2013 by Dr. Bob Weathers

I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of “Against the Stream,” a Buddhist-oriented recovery group, earlier this summer. The meeting was held in Santa Monica. (For more details, see http://www.againstthestream.org/). I want to discuss highlights from my experience that summer evening.

I was initially quite moved to see so many individuals (upwards of 50) in a single place, dedicated to mindfulness meditation practice (which we did) and recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs (which they all are). The psychiatrist Carl Jung observed that the personal desire to grow, transform, and evolve necessitates an “opus contra naturam.” Literally, this means a “work against nature,” or as in the name of this recovery-based organization, going “against the stream.” Thus to sit in the midst of a group spanning the entire age range (from 16 to 70), each member of which is willing to engage weekly in silent, collective meditation for 20-30 minutes, much less practice regularly on one’s own at home — all in hopes of moving into a new life beyond addiction — was deeply impressive and emotionally moving.

The format of this meeting was a beginning meditation (this night’s focus was on following one’s own breath), succeeded by a leader’s sharing her personal story of addiction and recovery. What came next was, for me, another highlight. Here the entire group was invited to share (in a “tag-pass” method, with the first person picked sharing, then selecting the next person to share, and so on). To put it most directly: I found the transition from shared, extended silence (reminiscent of my early days sitting in unprogrammed, silent Quaker meetings) into highly vulnerable storytelling, based on each individual’s own journey to sobriety, to be immensely uplifting and inspiring.

 

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