To explain the synchronicity of events leading up to this would demand too much time, so lemme sum up. Long story short, through one of my Sanghas I have been very fortunate to become acquainted with the director of a local non profit group that offers many services to the underprivileged in my community. One of the programs they have is for ex offender re-entry, the first in the state of Virginia. This man has started a mindfulness meditation program in one of our jails, and has been planning one for those going through the re entry program as well. Because I am a more recent offender, I cannot participate in any jail programs for some time, possibly for life (depending on the jail); however, after expressing my interest through our Sangha's founder, and meeting my new friend for coffee after Sangha yesterday, he has asked for my help and input in putting together this meditation program for ex offenders.
What they already have going on is something based on or similar to the MBSR techniques, per Jon Kabat-Zinn. But since I have absolutely no experience with anything like this, outside of sitting on a cushion, I thought I would propose the question (and situation) to the PDN Sangha, who has experience with these things.
So what I'm asking, in a pretty time sensitive manner, is what has worked for programs that any of you guys may be familiar with, or even have been a part of, in one way or another. Mind you, this is taking the Buddhist wrapping off, as is necessary I think. But there's little in Buddhism that cannot be explained without the label "Buddhism." So, guys/gals, any ideas? I'm pretty sure it's going to be similar or identical to what's going on in the jail, and I don't know specifically what "ideas" of mine he wants. I can talk from the subjective perspective till ears numb, but outside of that, I'm having to do some research. (I've ordered Dhamma Brothers, both dvd and book, and greatly look forward to learning more about vipassana in regards to ex offenders.)
Thanks so much, at least for taking the time to read my babble.
Sorry to hijack this thread a bit, but while we're discussing inmate re-entry and substance abuse, I'm curious: how does mindfulness fit into your recovery program? Does it affect your feeling about booze/drugs, your feeling about recovery generally, etc?
Hi Chris,I read your comments above. Very pertinent and I share alot of what you have experienced with meditation in 12 step groups. I actually took a mindfulness based relapse prevention course, which is the Kabat Zinn MBSR adapted for addiction, etc. I also taught Mindfulness for 2 yrs at a local treatment center- very challenging to do this work in early recovery.
With that, meditation is a huge part of my recovery. MBSR taught me to be mindful all day long, like practicing the principles in all our affairs.
And to answer the question of 'mindfulness affect my feeling about booze/drugs'--not so much affect my feelings, but lets me see they are just feelings (and Thoughts), and with the practice,a space devolpes to respond mindfully/responsibly/healthy, rather than to react/use/drink. I can also, can 'sit with' the fears, worries, anxieties, anger and resentments and pride, fantasies, etc, without acting on them now!
But, its progress not perfection-- though I have not yet relapsed (6.5yrs), I still have issues, rough times and such.
Thanks for your experience. I've been considering starting a mindfulness meditation meeting. I know that a lot of folks don't regularly practice the meditation part of Step Eleven, mostly because (and I quote) "I can't stop my thoughts." I want to strip vipassana of its Buddhist background as possible and present it as a systematic way to watch feelings and reactions so that what comes up can be seen more clearly. Then start the meeting and see if it's useful to others.
I recently relapsed after 6 years of sobriety, so I've been able to watch the urges to drink or use more mindfully. It was interesting to see that the urges had less to do with the substance in question than wanting to deal with overblown anxiety I wanted to escape.
Wow, Chris, this is right on. Watching the urges, and coming to the insight that you wanted to escape the 'overblown anxiety' is really a great pracitce, not only for relapse prevention, but for the other things that arise in life--this is what helps me deal with 'life on life terms'.
I started a 11th Step meeting, AA, a few months ago with a friend who pracitces mostly Tibetan Buddhist meditations. I led for the first month, using the MBSR/mindfulness practices, but the others that have led (we decided to have a new leader evey month), go more to guided imagery, 'new-agey' techniques and such. These are not my preferences, so I practice my mindfulness during the meeting (and pracitce tolerance--lol), but the others seem to like these!
For me -- insight, vipassana, mindfulness & paying attention to this moment -- is really what its all about!!!
And when I am told "I can't stop my thoughts" I respond, "I can't stop you thoughts either!! But I don't want to! Why do you????"
Chris, I can relate to those feelings of anxiety. In the past, every time I "quit" drinking, there seemed to be two main internal things that brought me back: boredom and anxiety.
I am glad to know you didn't let a lapse or relapse keep you down, that's the important part! I think it's too easy for people, once they have some sober time, to get discouraged after a bump in the road, during a good, long run of it.