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Cultivating Mindfulness & Meditation In 12 Step Recovery

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Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
Founder 1904-1971
"Moment after moment you should completely devote yourself to listening to your inner voice"

In the dedication of her book, Mindfulness and the 12 Steps, Jacobs-Stewart states, “We were inspired by the Meditation in Recovery group at the San Francisco Zen Center.”  As you will see from the introduction below, the Meditation in Recovery group Jacobs-Stewart mentions in her dedication as an inspiration for her book, is responsible for a work titled 9 Essays, Buddhism and the 12 Step Model of Recovery.  These nine essays provide the content of the Mindfulness Talks that go with each of the Steps in our meeting format.  Below is the Introduction to the 9 Essays, Buddhism and the 12 Step Model of Recovery:

“These essays have grown from the Meditation in Recovery group which began meeting weekly at the San Francisco Zen Center in 2000. As we have studied the Steps and Buddhism together, sometimes from one perspective, sometimes from the other, our collective experience and wisdom has grown. Each time we have read and discussed the Steps---or the Four Noble Truths or the precepts or the concept of no-self---a bit has been added to our understanding. Although these essays have been written by one person, they represent the experience, strength and hope of many.

The structure of the group has changed as well. As of this writing, we begin with a short reading on some aspect of meditation. These writings come from a variety of Buddhist teachers in many of the traditions. There is then a short meditation instruction, followed by twenty minutes of silent sitting. We introduce ourselves and the speaker of the week shares for about 20 minutes. The floor is then opened for discussion for another twenty or twenty-five minutes and we end with a final five minute meditation and offering of merit. The meeting lasts for an hour and a half.


This information is included for those who may wish to start their own groups. The format is, of course, flexible and should be responsive to the needs of the members. It is also for this reason that we have decided to make these essays available---as a beginning text for those wishing to explore the connection between practice and recovery.


In accord with the traditions of anonymity in Twelve Step programs, the author remains unnamed. And in the spirit of gratitude which marks both paths, these essays are offered to anyone who has use for them, without copyright. They may be distributed free of charge. Our only requests are that the attribution to the San Francisco Zen Center remain, that this introduction be included and that copies not be sold for profit.”


May All Beings Be Happy, San Francisco Zen Center, August 2006 


The Mindfulness Meditation practices that are part of this meeting format when taken together are intended to be a very basic beginner’s manual for how to meditate in the Plum Village tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. There are literally thousands of books, web-based instructional materials and professional instructor-led classes regarding meditation that are available. Any, or probably all, of these alternative resources will certainly be far more comprehensive on meditation than the materials you will read on this site. And we strongly encourage you to seek out these types of resources and to use them.  What these meetings will attempt to do is provide a “How To” manual for recovering alcoholics and addicts, or any other 12 steppers, who want to get started meditating - now. Please keep in mind that anyone who starts meditating in these meetings and intends to be an accomplished meditator eventually will need to receive instruction from a qualified meditation teacher and to practice meditation diligently on a daily basis for the rest of their lives, or until they become enlightened, whatever comes first. As the oft quoted Buddhist koan states: 


"Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water." 

Step One


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