Beyond Mindfulness: Integrating Buddhism and Recovery, with Buddhist teacher Kevin Griffin
This episode’s interview is with Kevin Griffin, a Buddhist teacher who has trained with some of the leading Western Vipassana teachers—including Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, and Ajahn Amaro—and who himself is a leader in the mindful recovery movement.
Kevin is one of the founders of the Buddhist Recovery Network, an organization that promotes the use of Buddhist teachings and practices for recovery and is respectful of all recovery paths.
As we discuss, Kevin’s own path includes 12-step recovery, and for him, recovery is something that demands a spiritual life. A great deal of his teaching and writing is focused on integrating Buddhism and recovery, so I was eager to talk to him about what those teachings have to say not just about addiction recovery but also about flourishing in general. We talk about the notion of addiction as a fundamental human quality, from the perspective of Buddhist teachings, and how in Kevin's view the spiritual path of that recovery—from addiction or just from general human grasping and clinging—demands much more than mindfulness and meditation.
Kevin has been in recovery for 36 years and practicing Buddhist meditation since 1980; he is the author of One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps and several other books on Buddhism and recovery. He offers weekly classes on Zoom, has an extensive YouTube channel of his recorded teachings, and hosts a Facebook page on Buddhism and recovery. More information is at his website: www.kevingriffin.net
In this episode:
- How his own spiritual search became warped, and how he needed to face his drug and alcohol use more directly rather than use spiritual practices to escape his pain.
- Recovery as “much more than lifestyle—it becomes a life, a foundational way of living your life. We are trying to cultivate spiritual qualities which will become part of our entire life, and infiltrate every aspect of our lives".
- Mindfulness and meditation, not to “solve” one’s own pain, but to face pain more effectively.
- How he makes sense of 12-step ideas like “higher power” and faith in a non-theistic way.
- The role of ethical and moral training as a practical set of spiritual tools on the way to flourishing. The law of karma as the power of cause and effect and his conviction that there is a moral fabric in the universe.
- His reflections on working with despair and doubt during troubled times.
- The need for justice work as a part of recovery: "in order to heal and grow, we have to take in the pain of our past." (see also Bhikkhu Bodhi’s essay, A Challenge to Buddhists, which Kevin mentions: “The special challenge facing Buddhism in our age is to stand up as an advocate for justice in the world, a voice of conscience for those victims of social, economic, and political injustice who cannot stand up and speak for themselves.”)
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