When the bright lights of London City went out, I was in my late 20s struggling with an addiction, and a chronic eating disorder, and having to admit I was no longer sweet 16. It became apparent that the lure of big cities, 5-star restaurants, a fat wallet, fame and the rave scene was not going to make me happy or get me well.
I had to learn to love myself and not the external trappings that I had deemed as my goal in life. Loving Kindness and forgiveness became my new currency. It became a way of living that began to give me real meaning to this mysterious life.
Today loving kindness has become the language of my body, speech, and heart. The fruits of this practice have meant that I have no choice but to be of service to anyone who crosses my path. To be open to serving the person sleeping on the park bench, to the people in my family. Because everyone is family, we are all interconnected, we are not separate.
I ask myself daily, what does it mean to be in recovery? The answer never changes from; I must be the recovery I want to see in the world. It’s easy to write books, to give talks and teach, but the true meaning is not on the page, or in my words, it has to be in my actions. The biggest gift I can offer in this life, is to model kindness, loving kindness, non reactivity, non judgement, receptivity, non dual thinking. A lifetime practice that has become the cutting edge which gives meaning to this life.
Fundamentally, at the core of this life, that I live today, is about liberating myself from the prison of my mind, and by seeing through the illusion of self-view. By waking up to the fact that every identity I cling onto, and every identity that society has shackled me with, be it my name, gender, race, sexuality, ability, is a fabrication and concoction of the mind. Is a dualistic convention to keep society under control.
The story of I, Me, Mine and I, is the biggest genocide ever made by people who have assumed the power to create slavery, casteism, sexism, racism and much more, by labeling us as separate, different and inferior. This societal genocide has separated us from the Divine, the place where only unconditional loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity can flow.
Yes, we are born and we die, and in-between is our opportunity to connect to the Divine, the place where nothing is born and nothing is destroyed.
We must live and die in each moment. And ask ourselves when is a flower dead or alive? Accept that we are aging, and decaying in each moment. And discover the true beauty and meaning of life.
I’m aware this ramble has been written from a place of privilege. As I write many people in the world do not know where their next meal is coming from, many people in the world live with a war on their doorstep, many people in the world can’t walk the streets alone at night through fear of attack. Baring the rest of the world in mind allows me to remember the meaning in life must be about the liberation, and happiness of all beings. It’s not enough for me to be free. All beings must be free from suffering. This is of course the teaching of the Buddha, there is suffering, suffering arising from craving, an end of suffering and path that leads away from suffering. In his teaching of the four noble truths, the meaning of life is crystal clear. It is possible, for everyone can liberate and find freedom.
~Dr. Valerie (Vimalasara) Mason-John M.A (hon.doc) is the award winning author, and is one of the new leading African Descent voices in the field of Mindfulness Approaches for Addiction. Co-founder of Mindfulness Based Addiction Recovery MBAR an 8 week secular course for people with addictions and compulsive behaviours, and co-founder of 8 Step Recovery, Using the Buddha’s Teachings to overcome addiction. She tours internationally giving keynote talks, and training professionals in Mindfulness approaches for addiction. She is the President of the international organization Buddhist Recovery Network, BRN, and the chair of Triratna Vancouver Buddhist Centre.
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