My Life in a Bottle 4

I am a firm believer in coincidence bringing you things or advice you need. Give me a thick book and let me open to any page with my eyes closed, and whatever word my finger lands on, I will do my best to figure out its meaning for my life...even if it is simply "a," "an," or "the."

So, on Monday, when I was picking up magazines on the Reference floor, I found a copy of the latest Tricyle: The Buddhist Review magazine that someone had been reading. I remember thinking that it was left for me.

On the cover, listed with the other articles was one titled, "Breaking the Cycle of Addiction." The article is an interview with Robert Chodo Campbell, Executive Director for New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care.

(I'm not linking to the online version of this article. It costs over $25 to access Tricycle online.)

Q: Did Buddhism play a role in your recovery?

A: Not in the beginning. I was five years sober before I found my Buddhist path and met my first Zen teacher, Dai En Friedman. I was in supervisory training at an analytic institute on Long Island, and every when when leaving supervision I would see this woman coming into the office. She was really amazing-looking - bald with piercing blue eyes - and I thought, "Wow. She's someone I'd like to know." The next time I saw her, I said, "Hi. I'd love to introduce myself to you," and she said, "OK." And I said, "My name's Bob. I'm living out here, training in this institute, and I hear you're a Buddhist monk." She said, "Yes," and I said, "Well, I'd love to learn a little bit about that." Then for some reason I just blurted it all out: "I've been sober for five years, and I'm having a really hard time with it. I'm so depressed, and my childhood was terrible with incest and drugs and this and that. And I come from this long line of alcoholics and violence." Basically, I just vomited all over this woman. Her response was the catalyst for my shift in consciousness: "You know what you need to do? You need to shut up. You need to shut up, and shut up long enough to hear your story, because it's just a story, and you've been carrying it around now for what, 35 years, 40 years? And that's what you are living out of, so how about rather than acting out of it, listen to it and take a look at it?"

This really struck me. I think about the things I've told myself on my road to AA: unhappy in love, unhappy in relationship, living with someone who took advantage, living with someone who made me feel like my only worth was working two jobs and giving him the money and the freedom to screw whomever he wanted in my apartment. Unhappy with my HIV. Unhappy with my family. And it becomes just a story to hold onto. A story that doesn't need to be held, no matter how familiar and therefore comfortable it is.

It also reflects some of my reticence on going to AA, where the main bulk of the meeting is listening to people's stories. Stories like they're life rafts but in this case they do nothing but pull you down.


becca said…
sometimes it takes someone else telling to be quiet and listening before we do. someone once told me that if you just look at things from a different point of view you may find things aren't so bad. i hope you find your happy ending
JamTheCat said…
Putting your story on paper frees it from you and you from it. You become the God of its existence, and the devil, and Mother Nature, and Fate. And when you begin to see how easy it is to manipulate, you begin to see how easy it can be to control the story in your soul.

I've leveled myself out a lot by writing. Spitting nails onto the page...then painting dreamy find you change from whining about you life to whining about how sometimes the words don't come together, and they keep your focus too tightly for you to worry about much else in your life.
SEAN said…
So do you have an idea of what you're going to do with this...I can relate to holding on to my story to.
Tamayn Irraniah said…
Wow, I really like how you've put it here. The stories that we tell ourselves do really serve two purposes. On one side, they give us some level of reference and in a way justification for where we are now. But in those stories, how much are we using them as a crutch.

On the other hand, these stories limit us, and in some ways tell us that's all that we'll ever be. I think in realizing that a story is just a collection of words that evokes a response of some kind, we understand that it isn't what we are.

I am a big fan of the Buddhist mindset of living in the present moment as much as possible. Lord knows I could stand to be a better practitioner of this method, but I'll be damned if I don't try.

In any case, it seems like you had a realization here. I hope it serves you well!

(P.S. Stealing the quote at the end of the conscious shifting article for this week's assignment. Just too good!)
Writer said…
becca, to some degree that is what I'm finding in the meetings: I hear stories of people who've lost children, jobs, homes, livelihood, and though I don't think I'm better than them, I just don't think I belong. But I also know how lonely I feel. :\
Writer said…
Kyle, that is exactly what I am doing. Trying to start a regimen of daily writing - to get it all out on paper: regrets and wishes, dreams and reality, strengths and weaknesses. :)
Writer said…
Sean, I think write now I'm just accumulating, trying to figure out how all the puzzle pieces will fit. :)
Writer said…
Tamayn, I feel like anything in which we boil things down to words can be limiting...which may be why writing is rather difficult lately for me. Steal away my friend. :)
Kyle Leach said…
JP, take you time in figuring things out. You have a lot on your plate. The loneliness part bothers me most about what you are experiencing.(It is also the part I probably understand most) That leads most to dark places. Try to keep it in check. The writing may help, but there may be other things that will work better for getting all of the baggage out and eventuality allowing you to deal with it all. The important thing is that you are trying. Keep trying to find what works.
Writer said…
Thank you, Kyle. I called the person who is supposed to be my sponsor (maybe) and we talked for a bit. He told me to that I needed to start calling people everyday.
Writer said…
Kyle (JamTheCat), no, no. He was fairly helpful: giving me suggestions of what to do. I told him I felt I didn't belong - have never felt I belonged anywhere - and so he suggested that I start calling people and making that connection. Hopefully, it'll help.
Dean Grey said…
Keep up with the meetings, Jonathan, even if you don't feel you belong there.

At least you're headed in the right direction.

One day at a time, sir.

Writer said…
Will do. One day, one hour, one minute, one moment.

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