Wisdom in Substance Abuse Rehab

Once there was a disciple of a Greek philosopher who was commanded by his master for three years to give money to everyone who insulted him.

When this period of trial was over, the master said to him “Now you can go to Athens and learn wisdom.

When the disciple was entering Athens he met a certain wise man who sat at the gate insulting everybody who came and went. He also insulted the disciple who immediately burst out laughing. “Why do you laugh when I insult you?” said the wise man. “Because,” said the disciple, “for three years I have been paying for this kind of thing and now you give it to me for nothing.” “Enter the city,” said the wise man, it is all yours.”

Calming the Hurricane in Drug Addiction & Alcohol Addiction Recovery

“My mind is burning
It starts to shout

Desire is coming

It breaks out loud…

Here I am, Rock you like a hurricane”

The Scorpions

Any one, who has ever tried to quiet the mind in a sustained fashion, whether through formal meditation, yoga, exercise, hobbies or whatever, has surely had the experience of what is often refered to, among other things, as monkey mind or puppy mind.

In the meditation component of my program I often hear myself referring to it as hurricane mind, which The Scorpions well depicted in their famous song; a deluge of fragmented thoughts, emotions, sensations, memories, fantasies, day dreams, images, desires, aversions and so on.

What I like about the image of a hurricane is that it always contains the calm center, referred to as the “eye.”

In his brilliant book, “The Wisdom of Yoga,” author, Stephen Cope refers to this “eye,” as “The seer,” the pure awareness that can abide in its very nature. In modern psychological terms it is referred to as the observing ego.

After their first few experiences with formal meditation, the brave participants in the program often say “I can’t do it,” which Mr. Cope refers to as “The Noble failure.”

He goes on to say that:

“All attentional training starts with this failure. In order to learn, we must simply be willing to continually bring attention back to the object of awareness (i.e. the breath), however infrequently it seems we can do so. This repeated action provides a new point of view for the observing self, to which we can return again and again, giving us an entirely new observational base for what is called in yoga “The witness.”

“The Noble failure teaches us many interesting lessons. Among them is this: through watching the flow of our thoughts, we see, perhaps for the first time, how very identified we are with those drive, primitive, grasping thoughts. Lacking any other perspective, we have naturally assumed until now that our thoughts are who we are… In this way we can “see through our thoughts,” that is to say, dis-identify with them.

While the first confrontations with the stream of thoughts can create some anxiety, there may arise, even quite early in meditation practice, a sense of the spaciousness that comes from this dis-identification, a sense of relief in not having to react to thoughts. We begin to react less frequently on the promptings of the mind.

Through this Noble failure, we begin to build upon one of the central foundations of meditation, the fact that even a few mind-altering seconds of stillness can change our entire relationship to our mind.

We can literally choose to live in the eye of the hurricane, and in this stillness be restful, genuinely happy.

This practice gives us personal experience with the saying “Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amidst the storm.”

So, in the spirit of trying to normalize this experience for beginners; I have decided to transcribe, as best I can, a small sample of the stream of thoughts that go through my mind during a short period of sitting meditation in which I glimpse the eye of the hurricane all too infrequently.

I sit, take a few deep breaths and set my intention to be in the present moment. Here’s an approximation of what it sounds like in my head at this moment, on this day, between the fleeting moments of true presence and equanimity:

“Is this appropriate to do? Everyone will know I’m a fraud if I report my personal experience. Man, am I tired; I should just take a nap instead. Do I really have time for this? Am I caught up on every thing? My arm hurts. I’m hungry; I can’t wait for dinner time. My jaw is so tense. Fantasy about winning the lottery. I have to prepare for the work week after this. That was a great movie I saw yesterday. I have to clean this house. I wonder what I should get my girlfriend for Christmas. I hope Snow bowl gets enough snow this year. I wish it were quieter. I hope I sleep well tonight. I wonder if I’m being a good enough friend to R. I wonder what time it is. I wonder if its time to feed the puppies? I shouldn’t have said that to S. yesterday…”

So between all these disjointed thoughts, sensations etc. all I do is gently, compassionately, kindly re-direct my attention back to my breathing. The distractions slow down after awhile and I enter into the calm eye of my hurricane. I realize that there are no thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, emotions etc. that are wiser than the present moment.

If you decide to try this at home, remember it’s safe and like anything gets easier with practice. But even fifteen plus years into it, I still have a wide spectrum of experience with hurricane mind. Some days it’s easier to live in the eye, some days I never even get close to it.

What’s more important than achieving some imagined state of bliss, is the quality with which you treat yourself when you discover you’ve become distracted yet again and re-direct your attention back to your breathing.


Homecoming | Poetry for Substance Abuse Recovery

I will no longer abandon myself

to prevent someone else

from leaving me.

I am an amazing kaleidoscope;


and dynamically rich;

with myriad colors, shapes and textures,

tints and hues tumbling about,

defying description,

holding projections,

and reflecting them back.

I gladly reside

In Rumi’s field

beyond judgment; ideas of right and wrong,

basking in the substance of my soul.

I inhabit

the sacred and profane wilderness

of my own belonging,

because that’s just how it is.

And if by chance

I stand alone;

solitude will befriend me,

as my whole and true self,

embracing all my joy and pain

In the beauty of the truth that is me.

And in the end

I will count my original sin,

simply as missing the mark

of seeing my own glory.

One Day at a Time or One Breath at a Time | Inspiration in Substance Abuse Recovery

I live my life in growing orbits

that move out over the things of this world.

Perhaps I can never achieve the last,

but that will be my attempt.

I am circling around God,

around the ancient tower,

I have been circling for a thousand years

and I still do not know

if I am a falcon,

or a storm,

or a great song.



If Rilke has taught me anything, it is that I am a falcon, a storm and a great song. Hopefully we are all living our lives in growing orbits, as he is. This is one of the central points in life.

It’s been said many times, in many ways, by many people. And it’s always the same message – keep growing. But, of course, the most important and most difficult part of Rilke’s message is living this truth in the ordinary moments of our daily lives.

And there’s a trick to it; we have to paradoxically accept ourselves exactly as we are right now in order to change and grow. Self judgment and criticism leads only to temporary change, if that. Genuine, lasting change comes not from the struggle of force, but from the gentle nature of true power, which is kind and compassionate.

And the only time we have to grow and change is in the present moment. Let’s here Thoreau’s take on the matter: “The life of a wise man is most of all extemporaneous, for he lives out of an eternity which includes all time. All questions rely on the present for their solution. Time measures nothing but itself.”

In Alcoholic Anonymous they say “One day at a time.” In the world of yoga and meditation they say “one breath, one moment at a time.” The minds of the Eastern traditions recognize the impermanence of all people, places, things and situations. But so do we here in the west. Robert Frost says it so eloquently: “Nature’s first green is gold, (referring to the early golden willows of the spring) her harvest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; but only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, so dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.”

My current orbit of growth is steeped in the eight limbed path of yoga, referred to as Ashtanga yoga. This tradition has much in common with the 12-step program. But whatever path you may embrace for your journey, take advantage of the intersection of here and now to keep drawing wider and wider circles of acceptance around yourself as you continue to change and grow.


The obstacles in our paths are our paths – substance abuse treatment

Keep walking

Though there’s no place to get to.

Don’t try to see through the distances.

That’s not for human beings.

Move within,

but don’t move

The way that fear makes you move.


Nearly at the “end” of over a three year process (and a six figure budget) of totally remodeling my home, I have been diagnosed with – TERMITES!

Within thirty seconds of the first phone call, the exterminator said “There are two kinds of homes; those who have termites and those who will have termites.” “What a relief,” I said sarcastically to the non-empathic stranger on the phone.

I went through all the stages; Denial, anger, blah, blah, blah…

For those of you who have gone through it, I am sincerely sorry for your troubles. For those of you who haven’t, I strongly encourage you to be proactive with regular preventive inspections; kind of like flossing for your 2 X 4‘s.

I will spare you the many details, but It’s quite an expensive and invasive ordeal to prepare for the treatment process. And the further I got into the preparation phase for exterminating these creatures, who were literally eating me out of house and home, the more I had to take a look at what was also eating me up inside.

Apart from the normal frustration I was feeling about the timing of all this, I spiraled into a bout of sourness that now seems disproportionate to the problem.

So as these “pests” were moving within my physical home, I had to stop and take a look at the overall situation to begin to get a grip on what was moving within my psychological home.

After the dust settled (literally and metaphorically,) I realized it was my old friend, fear, who insidiously began to take up residence in my mind; to start running the show of my life again.

By the time I had a clue about this termite in my mind, he had snowballed into something of mammoth proportions.

“You’re not going to make it,” he hissed at me at 3:00 a.m. from a sound sleep. “You can’t win, can you?” he snickered. On and on he went in this way for about a week until it was time to throw down.

But alas, instead of fighting with him the way I tend to, I decided to invite him in for a cup of coffee instead. To my surprise, he accepted my invitation and we began to chat.

“What’s up with all this banter about not making it?” I began.

“Well,” he said “the economy is tanking, business is slow, you just got slammed with yet another big veterinarian bill and now this.”

“True enough,” I responded “but I still don’t know what you mean by ‘I’m not going to make it.”

“Financially.” he said “Don’t you get it; you’re not going to make it financially!”

Once again I played dumb; “Well, what does it really mean to not make it financially?”

In growing frustration, he replied “You’re going to tank, too, just like the economy; every year costs are going up, income is going down and you’re headed for inevitable bankruptcy. If not that, you are at least grossly ill prepared for retirement.”

“How do you know I‘m not going to make it?” I asked.

“I just know these things,” he said, “I‘m good at it.”

“Is that right,” I replied, “and just what is it that you’re so good at?”

“I have a lot of experience at Scar” – and then he suddenly stopped himself.

“At what?” I inquired. “You have a lot of experience at what?”

“At scarring people,” he admitted, exhaling in shame.

“Well why do you want to scare people?” I asked.

“It’s the only thing I’m good at; It’s the only thing I know how to do. Just like the termites; I creep up from dark places and slowly devour the structure of your temple.”

“O.K.,” I bargained “I get it; you have your job, and I have mine.”

“Oh yea, what’s your job in all this?” he said feeling less powerful all the time.

“My job is to keep my faith through this challenge; which is but one of hundreds of others I have triumphed over in the past.”

“Faith!” he blurted, “What do you know about faith?”

“It’s not what I know about faith that matters,” I humbled myself, realizing how I had lost my way once again. “It’s how I practice faith that counts.”

“O.K., then how do you practice faith?” he said with obviously decreasing intimidation.

“Oh, that’s simple” I said. “All I have to do is be willing to do the next right thing and I‘ll be just fine. What I just learned about treating termites; the real ones that live in the dirt, is a lot like dealing with termites in the mind, bullies like you.”

“Yea,” I continued. “The exterminator said this will be a long-term process involving periodic inspections and further treatments. At first I felt overwhelmed by it, but now I realize It’s just like everything else in life. Whether it’s treatment and recovery from addiction, termites or anything else, it’s an on-going practice of continually putting in the effort and letting go of the results.”

Our conversation went on for a long while; until I realized that I had actually invited fear into my temple with my pesty attitude. And just like the real termites in my walls, I couldn’t control it until I was aware of it and willing to do the next right thing.

These things do happen.

The “obstacles” in our paths are our paths. The only thing we can control is our attitude by stretching beyond our fear and resistance.

So as Rumi suggests, move within, but don’t move the way fear makes you move.

Self-Discovery Questions

What’s buggin’ you? Can you name some of the “termites” (attitudes) currently devouring your temple? What are they?

How can you skillfully dialogue with them?

Can you understand that the so called “obstacles” in your path are your path? If you can, you will enjoy the journey of your life a lot more.

How can you move from within in a way that’s not driven by fear?

How can you stretch beyond your fear and resistance? What’s the next right thing for you to do in your life today? (Hint: It’s usually small and ordinary.)


Yoga Inspiration for Drug and Alcohol Rehab

This section of my blog, entitled “Thoughts For The Day” was inspired by an interview with the poet, William Stafford, who asserted that we should all write a poem everyday as part of our process of growth; to which the interviewer asked how that was possible in such a busy day and age. William responded simply, “lower your standards.”

While this section of my blog may not be a daily entry; poetry, prose or otherwise; I am certainly willing to follow the sage advice of lowing my standards to simply enjoy the process of writing.

So here we go with the first entry:

“I recognize my mind as an organ of action and my thoughts as acts.”

We are responsible to work skilfully with our thoughts, which fuel our emotions and behaviors. Today we can choose to think of five (or more) things we are grateful for and experience contentment, “not as resignation, but as a vibrant experience of all of life,” and as a form of reverence for our individual place in it.

Contentment is most applicable to our everyday responsibilities.

What could be more important than the manner in which we approach our daily life?

Excerpts and adaptations from “Meditations from the Mat”    by Rolf Gates

Beginners Mind in Substance Abuse Recovery |Phoenix Arizona

“Choking on Feel-Good”

Line from the movie “White Squall”

It happened last night, as it often does in program; after an evening of people taking risks, making themselves emotionally vulnerable, exposing their bare-naked souls to each other, it culminated into a crescendo of powerful human connection.

After group ended, I was in my office overhearing the group members still conversing in “the meeting after the meeting,” as they often do because they just don’t want the experience to end yet.

There were two graduation ceremonies last night, which usually intensifies an already intimate level of communication. There were tears of joy, and even expressions of social love for one another.

Another word for “graduation” is commencement, which means to begin. And this is certainly what completing a program is all about; beginning the rest of our lives. We start over every day, even every moment if we’re aware. In meditative disciple, this is referred to as “beginner’s mind.”

Even though we were all choking on feel-good from the sentiments shared last night, we all know there are plenty of challenges that lay ahead.

But that’s more than o.k., because all we have to be willing to do to successfully meet our challenges, is to keep allowing ourselves to be vulnerable with safe people in safe places; employing humility, acceptance and other powerful tools to stay strong through the power of relationship.

Breathe into this Moment | Addiction Recovery

“Too much information running through my brain”

The Police

True or not, I recently heard that the average 21st century person is exposed to more information in a single day than someone from the late 19th century was in a full year.

If this even approximates the reality of the situation, it helps me understand why we are all so stressed out all the time.

I don’t even watch television or the news in any form, but information is so excessive, that there is no way of avoiding it sometimes. In a single phone conversation today, I heard more than I could possibly process about the exponential social network of face book, in which I don’t even participate.

In order to truly share my gifts with the world and help those I have direct access to, I generally have to avoid the vast majority of the information that is presented as so necessary for survival on a “up to the minute” basis.

Just for today I will breathe into this moment, do the next right thing, be of service to someone and practice balance as best I can.

What do you need to do to take care of yourself today?

Spiritual Inspiration for Addiction Recovery


We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

T.S. Elliot

Today is the next segment in the journey of our life. What will we do with it? Where will we go? Is there really any place to get to? Will we know it when we’re “there.”

Fifty years into my journey; my personal experience resonates strongly with Elliot’s wisdom. Though I certainly plan on continued world travel, I realize more and more over time that my passion for sublime outward exploration has at least as much to do with my quest to continually discover the beauty of my inner landscape; and perhaps, like Elliot, know it for the first time.

Rumi, the twelfth century mystical poet said it this way:

Keep walking, though there’s no place to get to.
Don’t try to see through the distances.
That’s not for human beings.
Move within, but don’t move the way fear makes you move.

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty & frightened.
Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Whether or not he means literally only a musical instrument, I choose writing as my way of “letting the beauty I love be what I do.” And it certainly feels like one of the “hundreds of ways of kneeling and kissing the ground” as I write; not for the “product,” but rather for the process itself.

Self-Discovery Questions

What “place” in your inner landscape might you “know for the first time” today?

How can you “let the beauty you love be what you do” today?

On this very day, how can you “kneel and kiss the ground?”


Spirituality in Addiction Recovery | Phoenix Substance Abuse Treatment



By Krishna Das

In a Bill Moyers interview entitled “Love’s Confusing Joy” about the ecstatic poetry of the twelfth-century mystic, Rumi; contemporary Scholar, Coleman Barks said:

“If you think there is an important difference between a Muslim and a Jew, and a Christian and a Buddhist, and a Hindu, and a Shamanist; if you think there is an important difference between those categories, you are making a division between your heart, what you love with, and your ability to act in the world. Because the heart is the same, it leaps beyond those categories. There is some impulse to worship and to love that is common in everyone.”

“Chants of a Lifetime – Searching for a heart of gold”is just such a book to transcend these categories and transport us into the beauty of spiritual unity.

Talk about not judging a book by its cover! I might just as easily have passed on this book thinking it too esoteric for my taste, if a complimentary copy from Hay House publishers hadn’t literally shown up on my front door step recently. Now I am very glad it did.

So don’t be subdued by the title or the cultural diversity of such a masterpiece. Definitely take a chance on this universal story of human development. You will be thrilled you did. You may also be surprised by how much you relate to it even if you’ve never left this country.

Jeff Kagel, Donned Krishna Das by his Indian Guru, grew up in a Jewish family on long Island in the 1960‘s. He attributes The Blues and Rock and Roll as the roots of the evolution of his Kirtan music career.

Like many of us, he was dissatisfied with life, lacking a sense of meaning and purpose in his ordinary, daily life. So he answered his calling beyond the confines of the safety of his familiar, if painful origins, gave up a promising career in Rock and Roll and stepped into the fear and excitement of the unknown.

Through his writing and music (C.D. included with the book) he generously shares with us the fruits of his experiences traveling to India over many years in this beautiful account of his spiritual pilgrimage.

And what better gift to share than love; which is the bottom line of his message. But it’s not just the conventional form of “love” that he learned about.

He speaks candidly and from the heart about his hard-earned, personal experience with the most unique form of love there is; self-love, from which all other love flows. A love that always exists within us and can only discovered through our unique path. Krishna Das’ self-disclosure of his personal vulnerability throughout his life is one of the many beautiful facets of this gemstone.

My experience reading “Chants of a Lifetime” felt as deeply personal as his relationship with his guru; what we would translate as a mentor.

Of all the forms of spiritual practice, he chose chanting as his path. Or perhaps, chanting chose him. But, as he readily points out, we can choose any path for spiritual practice, as long as we pursue it with pure intention.

The writing is so vivid (like watching the movie “Avatar” wearing 3-D glasses) that I felt like I was accompanying him through his adventures.

I listened to the C.D. of his chanting as I read which augmented the already rich experience of his mystical journey.

I have continued to listen to his chanting as part of my formal meditation practice. But hearing the chants in my heart and soul as I negotiate the challenges of my ordinary daily life is the truly liberating gift of his music; allowing them to guide me through my day, as he says, “like a leaf floating on top of a stream of water.

I could go on longer than the book itself, but I will defer you now to the search for the not-so-hidden “gold” in this work of art, as well as in your own heart.