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From ABC, this is the 10 percent happier podcast. I'm Dan Harris. Hello, this is an episode about our craving, grasping minds, whether you have struggled with a classic addiction or not, we all have addictive tendencies. We all wrestle with desire. I often think about a provocative question I once heard posed by my friend, Dr. Judd Brewer, who's a Buddhist practitioner and addiction specialist. The question is, are we all addicted? The implied answer, of course, is yes.


My guest today thinks about addiction in a similarly broad and compelling way, he talks about not only addictions to substances such as drugs and alcohol, but also addiction to the self and even addiction to racism. Kevin Griffin is a long time Buddhist practitioner and a 12 step participant. He's one of the founders of the Buddhist Recovery Network. He has trained with many of the legendary teachers we've interviewed many times on this show, including Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. He's also written many books, including One Breath at a Time Buddhism and the 12 Steps, I should say, before we dove in here, that this is the first in a two part series we're doing this week on addiction.


As you may know, during the pandemic, we've seen alcohol use go up significantly and drug overdose deaths rise as well. So on Wednesday, we're going to talk to someone named Annie Grace, who has come up with what she believes is a powerful alternative to AA, especially for those excessive drinkers who don't meet the definition of alcoholism or who don't consider themselves to be alcoholics. But today, it's Kevin Griffin. And in this conversation, we cover a lot of ground, including how he connects the Dharma to the 12 steps.


And we also talk about a Buddhist list called the Three Refuge's. But we start with what he calls the foundational addiction, which I mentioned earlier, addiction to the self. One other thing, before we get to the episode, we would really appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to help us out by answering a survey about your experience with this show. We take the show really seriously. We care a lot about our listeners and we are always looking for ways to improve.


So please go to 10 percent dot com forward slash survey to do us a solid thank you. All right, here we go with Kevin Griffin. OK, Kevin Griffin, great to meet you. Thanks for doing this. Nice to meet you, Dan. So I would love to hear your. Overall, thoughts on the addictive nature of mind. I know is a big, big opening question, but if I could just get you to hold forth on any little piece of that big topic, let's start there.


Yeah, well, when we sit down to meditate, this is what we encounter. And I think that what's so hard for people when they start to meditate and we hear this all the time and I know you hear this all the time, that people say, I can't meditate because I think too much now, which I always sort of take as an insult. Like, I can meditate because I don't think that much.


Are you implying that I'm not thoughtful, but we encounter that just extreme deluge of thoughts, and we we immediately try to work with that.


Just keep coming back to the breath. And if we watch that process and kind of put it in the framework of the Buddhist teaching on suffering, which is, you know, the suffering is caused by clinging, and we start to realize, oh, what's happening here isn't just that I'm thinking, it's that I'm clinging to something. And so then comes this question. What is it that I'm clinging to? Am I really clinging to what I'm going to have for lunch or whatever it is that I'm thinking about?


Is the content of the thought really the thing that's holding me that I'm trapped in?


And then as we go deeper into this, we start to see that it's not that that there's broader, deeper implications of what's going on in that process.


The end point being, if I can cut to the end of the story that we're clinging to self because it's the thought that turns out as we get deep into this, that the thoughts are what define us, what create this idea of a self. And letting go of thoughts is a threat to that existence of ego. So that's the ultimate addiction, is the addiction to self. So I think I got in deeper than I was expecting to with your first question.


That was perfect. There's no such thing as too deep.


I struggle a little bit with understanding the notion of addiction to self. Can you say more about it? Because I it feels right directionally for me, but I am not quite sure I've crystallized it in my own mind. What you mean by it.


Yeah. Well, I'm not sure if this is an answer, but, you know, Agent Amaro, I don't know if you know him, great English monk in the Tai Forest tradition, loves to quote a study that showed that people were more afraid of public speaking than they were of physical death. And his conclusion being that people are more afraid of ego death, of making a fool of yourself in public than they are of actually dying. And you know, from your studies as well, that this becomes a kind of mushy territory somewhat because the Buddha says that there's nothing we can point to that is self.


I have to be very careful how we talk about this. Right, because people will say the Buddha says there's no self. Well, the scholars say that's not accurate and it's an important distinction. Right. But there's nothing we can point to that self.


However, the way we relate to AI is through thought. I think about myself, all my thoughts are about me.


One of the reasons it's hard for people to stop thinking is that there's a fear and you can feel it when you get to that edge. Usually that you only get to that deeper place on a retreat, but you kind of get to this edge. It's like you're looking into a chasm like what is my self? Who am I? And that perennial spiritual question. The thoughts then just provide us with this stream of commentary that just keeps telling me, I am here, I'm here, I'm here, you know, and ending that stopping that is just like a dependance, like a dependance on a drug.


Because when you're dependent on a drug or alcohol or any addiction, there's this fear that if you stop, you're going to die. I mean, that's kind of the fear. It's not that it doesn't manifest in those clear terms, but that's what the fear is.


You're going to lose yourself. If I stop drinking, who am I going to be? And so it's very similar in that regard that there's just this sense that I need this I need these thoughts. So if I'm hearing you correctly, it's this addiction to self isn't what we would commonly think of as self-centered ness or egocentrism, you know, so awesome I am of addicted that it's the sense of solidity. It's this continuous, solid reality in which we live.


The fear is that that disintegrates. And when it does, I mean, that's when you get like a bad trip on acid, for example, or a bad trip on psychedelics. It's this idea that all of reality falls apart if you can't if you're not getting continual bumps of self.


Well, this is why I like listening to you, because you're very smart and you captured that much better than I did. And you should maybe interview yourself sometime. You make that distinction really well. It's not self-centered. And yes, this term we have ego. Ego in our sort of psychological language. And Freudian language means something different from what it means in Buddhist terms. And so it gets very confusing. But I think you described it really well.


So I'm going to leave it at that because I don't need to say anything more about it. But.


Well, thank you for that. But the interesting thing here, and I'm stealing this from somebody I think I'm stealing this from Dr. Marc Epstein, who's probably stealing it for somebody else.


So just noting the provenance we seem to be of and I'm going to be a little cute here of two minds about the self, because on the one hand, it's terrifying to have our sense of solidity threatened. On the other hand, we're looking for experiences where we are, quote unquote, blown away or transcended, where the self where the chatter drops away. We that's why people do rock climbing. That sort of existential risk can quiet the voice in the head.


We were blown away by a rock concert or we get so carried away by a movie or a dancing we're doing, we look for it in love merging. So it's a complicated addiction.


Yeah. Yeah, that's right. It sounds like we intuitively know. That letting go is freeing, but we also have like an unconscious fear of it, so it may maybe just another of those paradoxes that we run into with this practice. It's not as simple. There's not a simple answer to that question.


Yeah, we've been talking in rather highfalutin terms. But let me just kind of bring it back down to where the rubber hits the road. How can we work with this addiction in our day to day meditation practice or in our moment to moment lives?


Yeah. Well, it takes vigilance, it's why we practice I think there's a process the Buddha's Eightfold Path kind of describes this process that starts with right view. That is, we we need to start with some kind of understanding of the problem and to realize. Oh, yeah. This really doesn't work like just being on this train of thoughts all the time, it's not that helpful. So I'm going to set an intention, the second aspect of the Eightfold Path to act differently.


And then there's the behavioral elements of the path. But then we get into the meditative ones, the meditative aspects of the path, then help us to first see. That stream of thought and see how they impact us. So one of the things that I try to point out to people in meditation that I kind of wish we'd had been pointed out to me, maybe I wasn't paying attention when I was first taught, but that the experience of meditation actually tracks the four noble truths.


The first noble truth is the truth of suffering. So that's what you experience when you're meditating and your thoughts are just out of control. And then even when you realize, oh, I'm thinking I need to come back to the breath, you see that the thoughts are driven by some kind of craving. And sometimes it is a very specific craving, but sometimes it is this more sort of generic craving to just fill up your head and you see the discomfort of it.


Right. And that's why we come back to the breath. We see, oh, like, I started out and I was relaxed, took a few deep breaths. I settled in and then five minutes later, two minutes later, I just realized, oh, I'm totally spaced out. And then I realized my shoulders were tight. My stomach is tight. I see the duck, I see the suffering. All right. When I come back, I say, oh, wow, just in that moment, there's a moment of release.


That's the third noble truth that when I let go. There will be freedom. Let's go and then the fourth truth is the process by which I got there, that understanding of how that happened and and seeing that that's possible to recreate that. So this is what we have to engage in persistently vigilantly, because most of us don't become enlightened. And then to stop being attached. You know, we meditate, we have this experience, we start to see it.


And then because of the power of conditioning, we're constantly falling back, constantly falling back into these, if you will, addictive thought patterns. And so we have to keep interrupting them. And yeah, over time, they become less powerful, particularly that element of identifying the irrationality, the cruelty. So we start to bring in sanity and self compassion. We start to see, oh, you know, I'm just. Telling myself this story, it's not true, right, that undermining the belief system, discrediting the belief system, that then is really helpful because then we can have the thought and go, oh, hi, thanks for sharing, you know, and move on.




So there's the developmental process. We start out having to kind of very manually interrupt everything and kind of just identify it, put it aside. But after a while, just it starts to lose some of its power. So that to me is the process. It just as you know, it just takes a lot of time and work and persistence. There are some kinds of patterns that we will actually let go of in ways that we can really change. And then there are some that are just so deeply embedded that they seem to be intractable.


And so with those, we have to really change our relationship to them. There has to be kind of an acceptance of, oh, these are the tendencies that I've got that I live with in this lifetime. I mean, I'm a depressive. So, you know, by February, I'm just treading water right now. I'm just trying to get because it's like, oh, it's the middle of winter. Of course, I feel like crap and oh, yeah, there's a pandemic.


And, you know, we almost lost our government. A few other unpleasant things, and that's external. So that stuff I can't change anyway. So there's that just the way I relate to them or what do I do? OK, well, I'm carrying that thing today. I guess that means I'm going to go take a walk, you know, I'm going to meditate. I'm going to do something for myself that self care.


You described it as taking a lot of work and persistence and yeah, that all kind of sucks. But the only thing that sucks worse is not doing it.


Yeah. Because then you're just you're carried away by the addiction all the time. Yeah, yeah, I mean, I can as a depressive, you know, I started to experience depression even before I started to drink and use when I was 14. I mean, I started to drink and use when I was 16. So I first got depressed, at least what I identified as depression when I was 14. And what it told me was, there's no point.


Just lie down. Just give up. So I dropped out of high school and I just became really passive in a lot of ways. And that's the message that that feeling gives you. So it's such a. Tricky thing, interacting with your feelings is kind of what am I believing your feelings are telling you, as you said, they're feeling you are telling you like, well, don't bother. I mean, you get it'd be easier to just have another drink or whatever the self-destructive behavior is.


You have another cupcake. I don't want to trigger people talking about addictions, but and yeah, it's work and I mean the whole spiritual path. I mean, I think about this at the end of my sets and each morning I go through the refuges, I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, the sangha, meaning that I'm trying to live by the principles that I understand from Buddhism. And when I do that, I also recognize that I'm not doing that 100 percent, that that's my ideal.


But if I were fully taking refuge, I'd be wearing orange robes, you know. And so there's also that piece of acceptance. What am I willing to do to change? The willingness is, you know, considered a really critical thing in the in the recovery world. Part of the the twelve step world is like they talk about honesty, open mindedness and willingness. And there's a couple of steps that ask you to check your willingness. It's so interesting how we can have these ideas.


This is who I want to be. This is how I want my life to be. But then when confronted with the tasks involved in doing that, we're like, well, but not that, you know. You know.


But Joseph Goldstein likes to quote, I don't know what some saint who says, you know, Lord make me chaste, but not yet. Yeah. I want to talk about 12 step and addictions, all sorts of worldly addictions, because I think this is an area where you and I have some things in common.


But I just let me just go back to one thing you said there that just just kind of you put your finger on something that I've been wrestling with a little bit in my own mind, which is that if you were really willing to commit here, you would be wearing robes.


Yeah. And, you know, I had a conversation about this recently.


We had a guest on recently a monk who is wearing robes, brother FOP, young guy. I was born in Vietnam, but raised here in the United States and in L.A. and kind of returned to the faith of his ancestors. And although I don't know if he would call it a faith so much as a practice and now as a monk in the order founded by TEQ, not Hohn.


And, you know, we were talking about the fact that the Buddha wasn't, at least to my knowledge, saying that, you know, in order to be a real follower, you need to ordain, you know, he had kings and merchants and all sorts of lay people in his community, the sangha.


So do those of us who are laypeople, like those of us who are like working on our 401. KS and maybe saving up to buy a thing or go on vacation. Do we need to consider ourselves insufficiently committed?


Hmm. Well, you know, I try to be really honest with myself and also not beat myself up for who I am and what I'm willing to do.


My view is, yeah, I'm not fully committed, I'm pretty committed, more committed than most, you know, I heard someone ask Joseph once why he never became a monk permanently, because I know he temporarily ordained, but and his answer was not enough merit, which is typical. Joseph answers. Like what? Like not what you were expecting him to say. Right. Meaning that his karma didn't allow for it. Yeah. I mean, it's true that the Buddha taught all kinds of people and he was very welcoming.


And he even did say that it was possible to become enlightened without being ordained. Nonetheless, the way I've heard it put is it's easier to become enlightened if you're a monastic because you know it's your full time job. Right? I think that we're not fully committed and I think that's OK. You know, I mean, I teach in secular settings for people who are just going to learn to do a little bit of mindfulness.


And that's valuable. I mean, I'm part of the whole teacher training that Jack Kornfield and Tara Brock are doing.


And, you know, it's very secular and it's valuable and there's debate about it. Are we watering down the teachings by just offering mindfulness? And I don't think it's a matter of watering down. I think it's just a matter of giving people what they're willing to do, you know, and to say you have to be all in or we're not going to give you anything. Well, that's pretty harsh and it's not very compassionate. So I try to bring the same attitude to myself of compassion for my own capacity.


I mean, for me, the fact that I have the life I have and and have the spiritual life I have is somewhat miraculous, given where I started out, you know, so we all do what we can to. There are monks that I mean, Ajinomoto is a great example. I mean, he was like 20 or something and wandered into a giant Chinese monastery in Thailand and was like, oh, this is perfect. I love this is just the way I want to live, you know?


Yeah. I don't want to have sex or like money or anything. I just want to meditate with these monks. It's like 20 years old. I mean, how many of us are twenty, you know, are like, oh yeah, no, I don't want any of that stuff. So it just you really see that maybe Joseph was onto something when he suggested that he didn't have the karmic sort of circumstances or her background, you know, wasn't meant to be.


I'll tell you what I think is important about refuge, though. Not so much. Oh, am I, you know, a fully a Buddhist or not or whatever. I don't even like to call myself a Buddhist, but I'd rather call myself an alcoholic than a Buddhist. There's less baggage in our culture today. You know, I went the night of the election when things were not looking great for my team, I. Really sunk into a funk, and I couldn't even watch TV and watch the news, I just I went upstairs and lay on my bed.


And I thought. My only refuge is the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha, the spiritual principles that I live by, all the rest of it is impermanent, it's suffering. So as I lay there, I just thought, you know, basically I thought, well, what do I have? And America is not my refuge. The Democratic Party isn't my refuge. Joe Biden isn't my refuge. You know, my refuge is the truth, the dharma.


And the truth is everything is impermanent. And so if America falls the dharma. It will still be there. That's the only thing I trust ultimately is Dharma and so and that's why I have to keep reminding myself that's one of the reasons why I take refuge each day just to remind myself this is what's really important. I mean, I get caught up in how many books am I going to sell? And, you know, the people love me.


And, you know, my personal obsession is golf. So what's my handicap right now? But, boy, that's Doka. You know, I don't know if you use that word a lot. Doka the word in Buddhism that we translate is suffering, but it's it's a complicated word that's much more subtle than that. And the idea that I like about Doka is things are unsatisfactory. Nothing ever is fully satisfactory. The greatest meal in the world. A couple hours later, you're hungry again.


You know, after perfect sex, you smoke a cigaret. It's like, well, that the sex wasn't enough. Not that I don't do that anymore. Well, smoke cigarets anyway.


Just again, to be real, yeah, I mean, if I could be fully engaged in the Buddhist path, I think I would be a monk, but I think I'm doing pretty well, you know, I'm doing OK. So. The Buddhists take refuge in the Buddha, the teacher, the Dharma, the teachings and the sangha, the community of adherence to the aforementioned teachings.


It sounds like this is a way for you to. Manage the addiction to self, so, yes, your handicap comes up in your mind. Yes, your book sales come up in your mind and sometimes you get carried away because of course. But then sometimes you remember. Oh, yeah. Does this really matter? Yes, that's exactly it. And it's just like coming back to the breath. Right. Coming back to the breath is in some ways kind of a metaphor for what we do in our broader practice, coming back to the refuge, coming back to the Dharma, coming back to the truth and remembering what's really important.


I mean, you always hear this from people when that's like they get the cancer diagnosis or some big thing happens. Oh, I realize now what was really important to me was my family. It's like, yeah, but you were ignoring them for the last 20 years when you became a billionaire and now all of a sudden you care about them. And to me, this practice is very much about remembering every day that I have a cancer diagnosis, that I'm dying.


That's the other reflection. That's the daily reflection on aging, sickness and death and loss. And what reminds us that this is how precious this is.


So would it be correct to say that we can create new and healthy addictions, like I notice in my own practice that now you describe this earlier, but I'm just kind of saying what you already said, but that I'll be carried away in some ridiculous thought pattern. Yeah. Like, ah, what are my book sales or how is this podcast doing or who's getting jobs that I want in the TV industry or blah blah blah. Just embarrassing stuff. And then I'll remember.


Oh yeah. You know, it feels much better if I just kind of float along on whatever. Sounds are coming up in my mind, physical sensations are rising, even if they're unpleasant, but it feels much better if I'm just with whatever's happening right now, is that a new and healthier addiction or is that an inappropriate way to view this?


Well. I have my own ideas about what addiction is. I mean, to me, for it to be a useful term, it needs to be referring to something that's harmful either to you or to others or to the world. So to say that we're addicted to oil, as I believe George W. Bush said, I think is fair. But I'm not going to say that I'm addicted to meditation, you know, because it just kind of like, yeah, I think it it kind of it misses the point.


That's a different kind of relationship. Because it's not harmful, I think, of healthy habits, not as being addiction's. Much more of my conversation with Kevin Griffin coming up right after this. Staying informed has never been more important, information is coming at us faster than ever. So how do you make sense of it all? Start here. Hey, I'm Brad Milkie from ABC News. And every weekday we will break down the latest headlines in just 20 minutes.


Straightforward reporting, dynamic interviews and analysis from experts you can trust. Always credible, always solid. Start here from ABC News 20 minutes every weekday on your smart speaker or your favorite podcast app. So let's dove in a little bit on this sort of classic addictions that most people think of when when the word addiction is uttered, you've invoked a few lists, the Four Noble Truths, which is sort of the Buddha's foundational list.


The the first speech he gave after he was enlightened, he unveiled these four noble truths, the fourth of which is another list, the Eightfold Path, which you've also talked about. And then you made one brief reference. And now I'm going to ask you to go deeper on this to a third list, not from the Buddha, the 12 steps.


Much of your work has focused on merging these lists. As I understand it. You'll correct me if I put a foot wrong here in my description of your work. So when you try to bring Buddhism to bear on the 12 steps, what does that look like? How would you describe it?


Well, I guess I have to talk a little bit about my history with them to make sense of that, that I started as a Buddhist practitioner before I got sober. When I got sober, I didn't really see how the 12 steps could fit with Buddhism. So I kept them separate in my mind because I really very quickly realized that sobriety and and everything I was getting from it, which is not just the 12 steps, but the sort of that world was repairing my life in a way that nothing had done that in a way that Buddhism had not done.


And I can say that that's largely because I didn't approach Buddhism with the wholeheartedness that I might have, because there is a precept in Buddhism that you're not supposed to use intoxicants or, you know, there's debate about how that's written.


But eventually, five or six years into my sobriety, I kind of was hitting a spiritual wall around the language of the steps around God, particularly, and my discomfort with that. And I was getting back into Buddhism more. And so I started to really ask, is there some way these can go together? And what would that mean? Because I can't it doesn't feel like I'm living an integrated spiritual life. And so I just started to go kind of look at certain steps were more obvious, but I would kind of going through the steps in the first step says we're powerless over alcohol and drugs or whatever your addiction is.


But that seemed pretty apparent to me that I could connect that with my meditation, sit down to meditate. It's like, oh, I'm kind of powerless over my mind. And if I sit for a while, I actually discover I'm powerless over my body too. So. Oh, OK. Which doesn't mean, of course, when I say I'm powerless over alcohol doesn't mean I have to drink. So if I'm powerless over my thoughts, it doesn't mean I have to think.


It just means that I have to change my relationship to that stuff, you know? And so that's sort of the starting point. Then this idea of step two is about coming to believe that a power can restore you to sanity. Well, yeah, my meditation practice really served that function. It serves that function on a daily basis. In fact, often I sit down and my mind is just like crazy and not in a literal sense, but seems crazy.


And when I meditate, it kind of like calms down. So I realized, oh, mindfulness itself is a power. So maybe that could be a higher power. And as you investigate Dharma more fully, you realize that the Dharma is full of powers loving kindness, one of the key meditation practices and viewpoints of. Dharma practice is powerful fact. I remember seeing a billboard when I was a kid, God is love. Oh, OK. Well, does that mean that?


The third steps, as I turn my well in my life over, could I say I turn my well in my life over to the care of love, I turn my well in my life over to the care of mindfulness. So that started to make sense. And in fact, it made more sense to me than turning things over to God that I didn't really believe in. And I realized, oh, yeah, right. This whole, like relationship to my practice is kind of a trust process and a letting go process and acceptance process.


And that's all of what those opening steps are about. Then you go through the whole inventory process. Step four is taking a searching, fearless moral inventory. You take an inventory, you share it with someone, you try to let go of the negative things you discover in there. You make amends, all of that very much in harmony with Dharma because it's investigating the inventory. Is this investigation now when you do it in the steps, it's investigating the harm you did in the past.


But as a meditator, investigating my mind and the harm that's happening in my mind right now is a lot of what I'm doing a lot of the time and letting go of that. Right. So that all made sense for me as well. Step 11 is the one that says you're supposed to meditate. So that was a fit. And then step 12 says having had a spiritual awakening as the result of the steps, we tried to carry this message and practice these principles in all our affairs.


That's a beautiful step. And it's talking about awakening. Well, OK, that sounds very familiar. And it's saying that once you have that awakening, what you do with that is you try to be of service. Well, that's exactly what the Buddha did. You know, the story of his awakening when he sort of was questioning whether he should go teach and then supposedly a God out of the Brahma realm comes and says, you know, there are some with a little dust in their eyes.


So this is all spiritual traditions have this element of service. But Buddhism and the 12 steps both share that very clearly, that once you have a spiritual awakening, your job is then to go into spiritual retirement or to rest on your spiritual laurels. Your job then is to carry that and to be of service to people exactly what you do in your work. You know, and it's a spontaneous response, right? It's not like, oh, now you're supposed to do this because you had this.


It's like, no, you have this awakening. It's like, oh, I want to share. This is so beautiful. And the last line in the steps practice these principles in all our affairs. Well, if you read the society put on a suit of the teachings on the four foundations of mindfulness, the Buddha says you should be mindful in all your affairs so that that fits, too. So that's my quick shortcut to the Buddhism and 12 steps.


I love it. It's really interesting. And actually, I'll admit I didn't know much and still don't know much about the 12 steps, notwithstanding the fact that I have struggled with substance abuse in my past, I, I just I have never gotten involved in the 12 step community.


You're one of those people who was able to kind of resolve that through your own spiritual practice and through your own personal growth.


And some people can do that. You know, and you're fortunate in that regard. I mean, I remember reading that in 10 percent happier and thinking, oh, this guy is an addict. Like, you know, you work in a program.


But but clearly and a lot of it, I think, has to do with kind of other developmental aspects, like for me, I was so underdeveloped as a human being when I got sober that I really needed this whole lengthy rebuild process. I was a high school dropout, you know. I mean, I went back to school at the age of thirty eight. You know, I had to start my life over, you know, and I think you were a little further along in that regard.


So the work you've done has been enough to keep you out of that behavior again? I think that's right.


I, I think for me. Also, my. Drug use career was not very spectacular, it was pretty short lived and intermittent and, you know, I went to see a psychiatrist after I had a panic attack that was caused by drug use.


And the psychiatrist did not think I needed to go to rehab, per say, but he did think I needed to go see him. And I don't think he was saying that out of some mercenary impulse. I think he just thought you need therapy once or twice a week for a long time, which I did do. And I still see a therapist. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that in part, I think this is due to the fact that I not only was a little older and well resourced when my bottom, if you will, came, the other thing is that I hadn't been using that longer that much.


That being said, I don't want to pretend that somehow like everything's hunky dory. I mean, I it's very possible for me to be watching a really good TV show where the young people are partying and to feel like, oh, yes, I would like to do that. And not in theory, like right now I try to be quite aware that complacency is not helpful.


Yeah, well, I guess part of what I was wanting to say is that there was a time when I thought anybody who's got any kind of addiction problem has to get in a 12 step program. And I don't see it that way anymore. That's what worked for me. But I see that they're particularly in the last really probably the last decade, maybe a little longer than the more workable approaches to recovery, because there's no doubt a lot of people really struggle with the language of the 12 steps and maybe other aspects of it, as well as maybe the communities, whatever.


But I think it's important for people to realize that, yeah, there are different ways for different people. Everybody's not the same. The people who started Alcoholics Anonymous were very similar in many ways, and particularly besides being white male Protestants, they were also all really hardcore drunks.


And so their view of what you had to do to recover was driven by that experience. And then as people come along who are not hardcore drunks or drug addicts, they don't necessarily need the same intensity or the same exact tools for recovery.


We are, as everybody knows, in the middle of a pandemic and many of us are struggling with mental health issues, including addiction while we're on lockdown.


Do you have any thoughts about how meditation, mindfulness, the Dharma can help in this current context?


I can't imagine not having it. I mean. Particularly now, I mean, there's like that just every day when we wake up, I don't think I'm reading people's minds when I say every day when people wake up, they kind of go groan a little bit another day. And just the power of the calming that comes from sitting. And I have to sit for a while to get there.


Like, I often sit down and for ten minutes, 15 minutes, I'm like just the head is just spinning and, you know, and I'm kind of like doing the little dance, like maybe maybe I'll do a little of this maybe to a level that most of the time I just give up and just go just sit here, come back when you can. But at some point, 20 minutes, 30 minutes in, this cooling happens. And it's really just such a relief.


And it's exactly the kind of relief that you want that people get from that first glass of wine after work. Now I feel that now I feel normal or now I feel like myself. And so I mean just meditation. I mean, what can I say? You know, it's incredibly powerful. And I'm not really a technique guy. I mean, one of the things I notice about your shows and I think it makes sense, you're trying to give people tools and I know you like to focus on, well, do you have a practice for that?


You know, and in my practice, in some ways has devolved over the years into just sit down and wait. You know, I just sit and wait for calm to come. What I've come to believe is that what we think of as the tools of meditation are not really the ones that do the work, even the breath itself or counting the breaths or coming back to the breaths or any kind of contemplative practice that I've come to believe. And I could be wrong and not putting this out as this is the way it is.


But kind of my experience is that what really seems to do the work is just sitting still with my eyes closed or, you know, not looking at anything and being quiet for a while. And right now, for each of us to be quiet and still for a little while, just to let it all calm down. I mean, it's so hard, you know, when you're alone or just with a couple of people to turn off the phone and to get away from the distractions and just be still.


But I really believe that that's a very powerful thing. I think it's a very ancient thing, that very ancient human thing to just be quiet. And still, that meditation arose, I think, out of people just being quiet and still and then discovering, oh, there's this state that arises if I'm quiet and still for a while. And oh, and then they partly kind of came up with things to keep people busy long enough for the actual work.


So, OK, do this, count your breath or do this mantra. This is the magic word, this is the magic practice that will bring you to this state. But it's not really that method. It's really just the time and the stillness and the quiet. I mean, you've been on a bunch of retreats and, you know, like you show up and like you're doing everything. I mean, you're following the schedule. You're you know, you're doing you're noting every thought that comes up.


You know, you're eating every grain of rice mindfully, but your mind is still going and going and going and then at a certain point. For me, it often happens in kind of a moment, it's just like, poof! Oh, all right, I'm here. OK, all that work, all that tension, all that effort I made, that's what made this happen. Or was it just that you were there for a few days being quiet and still and extending the time to do it?


I've had that experience many times. That's the moment of surrender, and then once you sort of surrender, give up what you've been chasing so hard comes to you. It's annoying. It is annoying. Very annoying.


I wonder, though, this on this point, let me gently challenge you, because I don't know whether you're right or wrong about this, but I mean, I really don't.


I wonder, you know, this devolution of your practice, you described where actually if I just said forget doing a thing like counting the breasts or having a mantra or lovingkindness or whatever, noting I forget the technique, I'm just going to sit here and at some point the calm will come.


I wonder if it's a little bit like modern art that you. Yeah, I could go through a bunch of paint at the wall, but it's not going to look like Jackson Pollock because I don't know if Jackson Pollock was classically trained, but most of these modern artists doing things that it looks like my six year old could do have been classically trained. And then they can they're bringing a certain something, a lot of something to the table when they do this.


No rules, Art. And so I wonder if your many, many decades of practice allow you to sit, jettison the technique and the calm will come, whereas the beginners listening to this show actually might really benefit from a formal training. I don't know. But I wonder what you think.


I think that's a really legitimate question. You know, Herbie Hancock said something like to become a jazz musician, you have to practice all your scales, learn all the music theory, put in hours and hours, years of study. And then when you get up on stage, forget everything you learned and just play. And so, yeah, I will say the first time I had kind of a breakthrough through what felt like a real breakthrough in my practice was where I was working really hard and noticing I was doing the noting practice, you know, noting every thought, every sensation, every sound.


And it just started to feel so stressful. And I just got frustrated. And a certain point I stopped and yeah, it felt like everything opened up. And when I teach meditation now, I try to guide people to that place of just. Being aware of the kind of big picture body sound.


Mind mood, I often really try to let people, like, notice your mood because it's affecting your thinking and then to just hold that as an open space, because I felt like my own effort got in the way of the development of my practice. But as you say, cause and effect in this case is really hard to distinguish. And for sure, I had some time under my belt.


It's you know, again, it's a question I ask myself because. You know how tricky effort is, the fundamental question of all of our meditation practice is what is right effort? And I point out to people and they point this out also to people in mentoring as teachers. Most of the questions you get from someone are questions of effort, and people typically ask, how can I stop thinking, how can I not fall asleep? How can I not have pain?


And we can try to give them answers to those questions, but we always have to remember, and I was forced to remember this by both Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein early in my practice, when every time I would ask these kind of questions, they would always come back with just be aware of it. Right. And so we know that effort in trying to make something happen, trying to stop my thoughts.


Is counter to the process. Of letting your thoughts stop because of the trial itself creates an agitation that's driving, it's the central paradox of practice.


Well, I need to do something. How does this happen? Nothing's going to happen if I don't do anything. Which actually is an interesting way to run that back, nothing is going to happen if I don't do anything. Oh, maybe that might be good, but how can you convince somebody to just sit there and do nothing? Because in the meantime, they're going crazy. So then you say, oh, well, while you're doing that. Make a mental note, you know, pay attention to your breath, but you're probably right that you have to lay down a certain amount of effort before you can just not make an effort.


And I spend a whole lot of time spacing out when I meditate to I just if I fight with that, it just it's like you have to look for the little wedges, you know, in.


You're sitting with it and you're like, OK, I'm not going to try to make myself stop thinking, but then you realize, wait, there's an opportunity here, you know, if I just cut ten breaths. That'll be enough. And those are those moments when just enough now I can effort it's liberating to hear actually, because I've had plenty of meditation sessions where, you know, I'm tired or whatever, I'm spacing out. And then I beat myself up for the spacing out.


But that doesn't actually help to kind of sometimes know when strategically when to just kind of sit back a little bit. That's something I want to play with and a little story of along these lines of right effort. I was on a retreat recently with a teacher named Alexa Santos, and he was telling a story about how there was one teacher he knew who would ring the bell in the middle of the meditation session.


Everybody would all of a sudden exhale.


It's over. And he would say it's not over. But that exhale that that you just now, that's the real meditation.


So keep going. And I think there's something to that. There's and the thing to look for or one thing to look for in that striving is to see that it's when you're trying hard and meditation is it's locked up with desire. You know, you're trying to get to a place instead of just patiently allowing things to be as they are. So, yeah, it is a paradox.


Yeah. So one of the things I suggest to people when they begin a sit is to really check in, like, where am I at right now? Am I relaxed or am I agitated? Am I sleepy? Am I depressed? I just have a fight with my boss or whatever. Just check in because it's like we think that when we meditate, we're just stepping into some other world. And I should just be able to do I'm just doing meditation now.


As soon as I do that, then everything changes. I know you're bringing all that energy with you. And if you recognize oh, like, I'm really in a difficult space right now, so I don't have to have a lot of expectation about this meditation, then I am going to be easier on myself because that beating ourselves up about our practice, talk about it. Unproductive thing. Right. I'm going to sit down and meditate and then I'm going to think about what a bad meditator I what was I doing?


What was I thinking? Like, you know, it's kind of like people who throw their golf clubs because it's like, dude, you're playing golf. Like what? What's your problem? This should be relaxing. It's the idea. Yeah. There's a book about golf called A Nice Walk Ruined or something.


Yeah, yeah, yeah. Right. There was something Mark Twain supposedly said, but supposedly Mark Twain said pretty much everything. Or Yogi Berra. Yeah.


Before I let you go, let me ask about one last form of addiction that I've that I understand that you've been thinking and talking about a little bit recently, which is an addiction to racism.


What's on your mind when you talk about that? What are you talking about?


Well. And I started to think about that last summer in the midst of all the painful stuff around George Freud's murder. I'd thought about American history, first of all, as this kind of attempt at recovery followed by relapse, you know, starting with, you know, reconstruction being this attempt to let go of our addiction to slavery, which we were economically addicted to. Slavery and economics is one of the ways that addiction happens. That's certainly the addiction to oil is also an economic addiction.


So we could say we thought we were in recovery and then we relapsed in 1876 with the end of reconstruction. And then in the civil rights era, we thought we were in recovery again.


And then, you know, we relapsed with the Southern Strategy, essentially, and then we elected a black president. So now we're definitely solve that addiction. No problem anymore. But then, of course, we had our worst relapse with the next president we elected. So that was one kind of strange way of talking about it.


But of course, it's internally over talking about the just conditioning, the deep conditioning and what it does for us. You know, white people have been supported. They've had this sense of power and not just a sense of power. They have had power through this relationship of claiming a superiority and to let go of that. First of all, to see it is very painful, just like seeing an addiction, particularly for liberal white folks to see our racist conditioning, very painful.


So that's like coming out of denial and then letting go of it, seeing its persistence. It was easy for me. I was born in the north. You know, I knew it was Southerners who were racist, you know, and I've played in bands where I was the only white person in the band and, well, that means I couldn't be a racist. So that whole story and being attached to. Yeah. I mean, it's almost that's like the flip side of it, of being attached to not being a racist and recognizing the racism.


The racist within me is very much like that pain of seeing an addiction and and having to really do work around it. Not enough to just see it, but to do the work is a lot like doing 12 step work because there's an inventory process that's ongoing that exploration, one of the addictions that I see come up in my mind.


One of the hardest parts of working on my own biases, whether it's race or sex or body image or hierarchical biases around senior versus junior employees with all sorts of biases that I've wrestle with in my own life, is the addiction to viewing myself as a good person and that when my biases are pointed out, it really threatens my sense of it. Then I fall into this abyss of being a monster and I think that I'm not alone on this one.


Yeah, that's good. That's very interesting. Definitely. It's really a threat to our self-image. And yeah, being able to say, oh, I am a racist is not unlike saying I am an addict. It's something that nobody wants to admit. And so there's a. A real resistance to it, and just like when you go to an AA meeting, go, my name is Kevin, I'm an alcoholic. It's incredibly freeing because it's like, oh, I don't have to pretend that that stuff's not there anymore and I don't have to demonize it.


And for me, what what was really helpful was reading stamped from the beginning, Abraham Kennedy's book on the history of racism and to see, oh, this is like way bigger than me, you know, and my story about me, this is a historical phenomenon that I'm just a victim of. I'm not suffering in any serious way. I don't mean to imply at all true victimhood, but it's just to say that I've been caught up in that like everyone else, and to demonize myself doesn't help because it just winds up being another kind of ego, you know?


Oh, I'm such a bad oh, it's so terrible that I have these rich thoughts now. It's like, oh, get over yourself. You're just another person who's been conditioned in this destructive, awful way. And your work is to heal it and to get over it and to be an ally and to do everything you can do, you know, and that's exciting. You know, like many liberal white people, I've been immersing myself in this literature over the last nine months and trying to really understand.


And I'm also in a couple of trainings, diversity, equity and inclusion. And it's really, really freeing, just like an addiction.


Those things that we repress, right. Are the things that cause us the most pain. And they become, like you said, monsters, that they grow far larger than they really are. Once we face them, once we face our demons, they're much less threatening and dangerous than we imagine them to be. Hey, that's a pretty nice place to leave it before I let you go, go can I could roll you into plugging your books and your website and tell us for people want to learn more about you, how can we in a healthy way binge on your content?


Yeah, on my website is Kevin Griffin Dot Net. So if you Google Kevin Griffin, you'll get either me or the lead guitar player for better than Ezra. And even though I am a guitar player, you know, I'm not him. And yeah, my best known book is One Breath at a Time Buddhism and the 12 Steps, which is also I did an audible version of that. My newest book is Daily Reflections book for Buddhism, The 12 Steps, Daily Reflections, kind of my brand as Buddhism in the 12 Steps.


And I'm doing, as I said, a couple of Zen classes each week. People can just drop in there, own you get the link on my website. And, you know, I have a YouTube channel where I've posted a lot of those zoom classes. So I have six books. Actually, I won't name them all, but there's one that's about higher power and one that's called recovering joy. The one that's not in recovery is called living kindness, which is kind of an exploration that sort of somewhat of a critique of the lovingkindness movement, trying to bring out what I view as a more traditional, more what the Buddha was really talking about with that.


So, yeah, a lot of stuff out there that can binge on great dupatta.


Bunch of links in the show notes for people who want to dove in, but this has been a pleasure. I really appreciate you taking the time to do it. Thank you. Great job.


Yeah, I've been looking forward to it. I really enjoyed talking to you. Dance a lot of fun right back at you.


Thanks again to Kevin, really appreciate it, talking to him. This show is made by Samuel Johns, Cashmere, Maria Wartell and Jen Point with audio engineering by Ultraviolet Audio. And as always, big. Thank you. And shout out to Ryan Kessler and Josh Cohen from ABC News. And as a reminder, we're going to continue our series on addiction coming up on Wednesday with the aforementioned Annie Grace. Very interesting stuff. We'll see you all on Wednesday for that.


Coming Tuesday, this march to ABC, a show by black people for all people about the black experience in America, and there will be news so full of a soul loving nation.


We're ready for this.