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Between the Lines

The Recovery Dharma Newsletter Book Review

Thanks to Bee S. for this review of Recovering Joy: A Mindful Life After Addiction by Kevin Griffin

So about the Land of Oz.

My favorite scene is when Dorothy is stuck in the witch’s castle. She’s on one side of the door, staring aghast at the sand running out of the hourglass. Her companions, led by her gallant little dog Toto, have snuck into the castle in an against-all-odds rescue mission. The Tin Woodman shouts, “Stand back!” and frees her by attacking the door with his axe to the strains of Night on Bald Mountain. The witch almost catches them, but Dorothy melts her by accident in an act of compassion, saving her friend the Straw Man from burning up.

I always thought of Dorothy’s companions as parts of herself that she has lost somehow, and then gets back. Her strong self, the Tin Woodman, who starts crying when he sees the castle, “I hate thinking of her in there! We’ve got to get her out!” and then is the hero who bashes down the door. Her critical thinking self, the Straw Man who reminds everybody that they don’t have time to jump up and down and hug, they have to get the heck out of there. And her courageous self, the Cowardly Lion, who manages to help his friends despite his fears. And Glinda, the Tough Love Mama, who does eventually send her home but only after reminding her that she, Dorothy, helped herself–by having courage, compassion and insight.

And whatever you might think about Depression-era Kansas as a place to make your home, the fact is that Dorothy wanted to be home more than anything else, and she cried with relief when she got there. She recovers herself. She recovers joy.

So maybe you’ve been sober a while and you’ve done some work and you’ve been recovering lost pieces of yourself, and you’re wondering, is there more? Have you started to experience some equanimity and ease, and feel ready to move on to happiness?

Kevin Griffin, in Recovering Joy: A Mindful Life After Addiction, has a Yellow Brick Road for you.

Recovering Joy was published in 2014, just as Buddhist recovery was getting some traction on the West Coast. In it, Griffin provides a road map that skillfully blends 12-Step practice with the Eightfold Path, getting us past the hindrances of craving, resentment, apathy, anxiety, and doubt that obstruct us from creating a truly joyful life.

The first half of the book deals with understanding that happiness doesn’t come from acquiring more things, but from letting go of the conditioning and beliefs that hold us down. He then goes through each of the 12 Steps from a Buddhist perspective, and then follows it with a great explanation of the Eightfold Path and how to use it to create a peaceful life.

The last half of the book is a practical set of exercises to create happiness, starting with the question, “Do you want to be happy?” Choosing happiness comes first. Then, you can set your intention to find joy in each day.

These exercises walk you through setting intentions in the foundations of happiness: integrity, relationships, work, fun, money, health, identity and values, inner life, and spiritual growth. Once your intentions are set, he has ways to create accountability, allowing you to bring these intentions into reality–taking action, making these actions central to your life, and finally, learning to appreciate the gifts that come to you.

I found this book to be an extremely helpful, practical guide, and a good companion to Buddhist recovery meetings, inventories/inquiries, and book study. It’s not as easy as clicking your heels three times and waking up at home in Kansas with yourself, but it works.

May you be happy!

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