136: Spiritual Bypassing and Exploring Your Dark Side (Sort Of)

We are talking about spiritual bypassing and what it’s like to explore our dark sides. We have on Dave and Jenny to help us explore what spiritual bypassing is, how it is used, and what the drawback to it is. In spiritual bypassing, we try to move into the solution, or some positive frame of being, too quickly. We go around the feelings of the current struggle instead of actual dealing with them. In order to deal with them, we have to look at our dark side, or shadow self. Listen in to learn about the process of being present with where you are. Join the conversation by leaving a message, emailing us at RecoverySortOf@gmail.com,  or find us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, or find us on our website at www.recoverysortof.com.

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recovery sort of is a podcast where we discuss recovery topics from the perspective of people living in long-term recovery this podcast does not intend to represent the views of any particular group organization or fellowship the attitudes expressed are solely the opinion of its contributors be advised there may be strong language or topics of an adult nature

welcome back it’s recovery sort of i am jason and today i think i’m a jedi and i’m billy i’m a person in long-term recovery i’m jenny i’m also a person in long-term recovery i’m dave i am a person in long-term recovery and a novice sun priest dave’s been with us before when we did an episode about meditation uh so if you enjoy this episode maybe go back and listen to dave today we’re going to talk about the dark side you know not darth vader but the dark side of life and i don’t exactly completely know where we’re going so dave’s here to teach us and i’m gonna let him go well for me to teach i think that everybody in this room you know being in recovery we’ve had to take a look at the dark side that’s one of the things i love about a 12-step program and one of the things i love about zen too is they both have a big focus on looking at the [  ] if we don’t address the problems look at our disease you know and look at our delusion look at our pain then we’re not going to grow so there’s a concept called spiritual bypassing coined by john wellwood who was a clinical psychologist he wrote a bunch of books they’re all great i haven’t read them all but a couple of them and one of his most famous ones called uh towards a psychology of awakening by john wellwood and that’s where he i believe that’s the first place he coined the term term spiritual bypassing in the 80s so spiritual bypassing is something that we can all do we have all done i’m sure of it and some people may do it more than others some people may get wrapped up in it more than others i get wrapped up in it spiritual bypassing is a way to use spirituality incorrectly i suppose it’s a way to to not look at the mess to not sit there and be with the darkness with the pain it’s a way to use spirituality as a form of premature transcendence now that i’m doing the spiritual practice i can attach to a sort of spiritual way of being think about a surface spiritual way of being think about i don’t know i don’t want to call any stereotypes out i suppose you can think about you know certain maybe teachers certain communities where you know folks will get really attached to this idea of being spiritual and ignore looking at the [  ] and i i was asked to come up with a topic for this and i was like you know let’s let’s talk about the dark side so i’m a zen buddhist priest and my teacher is susan roshi from soji zen center and i also host a meditation group locally in cecil county called empty circle meditation my teacher one of the things that really attracted me to my zen teacher is he really wants to push us to look at the dark side of ourselves to look at the shadow self you know the jungian thing where um this this is the part of ourselves that we want to get rid of we don’t want to look at because it’s really hard and it causes pain to look at this so my teacher is kind of famous in our sangha sangha is a group um it’s a zen group i suppose and for saying we need to go to the dark side folks he says things also like you uh if you want to if you don’t come to zen to feel good if you want to feel good go exercise more get a pet go get a massage if you want to feel good we’re here to to seek the truth we’re here to see the truth in ourselves and we can’t see the truth in ourselves unless we look at our whole self and that includes the really dark hard painful things what i love about 12-step programs is that is built into it of course we start with step one we’re starting to identify our disease look at our disease the different parts of our disease how it manifests through denial and substitution and the rest of it and we you know especially in step four obviously we’re really making that list we’re facing that it’s pretty classic to hear everybody share about at some point their experience was step four step four was this grueling process and it hurt and you can hear some oftentimes like newer folks who are going through things the first time and they’re like oh i’m just going i’m writing on step four right now and they’re saying that a lot and people kind of give them a break they’re like oh we get it we get it just keep going you know it’s okay um just keep going through it and we get to step five where we share and examine the exact nature of our wrongs and that one was really special to me because that was i’m gonna say it is a spiritual [  ] slap you know it’s uh it’s i made a list of all these things in step four a lot like of detail or just going through it going through it and then step five is like no it’s not okay all those details or what it is but that’s just being dishonest that’s just uh being self-centered so it just kind of slaps it out of you right so you can write pages and pages on this dark stuff but what is it nature i think one of the fascinating things for me as you’ve been talking just now is that like i’ve always looked at spiritual bypassing as a way around a thing you know you talk about bypass that’s what i think of and yet the first thing i thought of when you were saying it was like half of the cliches that we have in in 12-step groups i was like oh yeah they all sound like spiritual bypassing but then what i was thinking about like there is kind of a deeper truth and wisdom to a lot of them at the same time so it’s almost like the spiritual bypassing is not so much what is said or what is done but it’s not the whole picture right does does god got this if that’s your belief sure yeah god’s got this but there’s also another piece in there of like this [  ] hurts and i don’t like it right or you know does time take time sure time takes time that’s a real thing but right now it [  ] hurts you know and it’s almost just ignoring half of the picture it’s not so much that we’re i guess we’re going around that half of the picture the the darker half like you’re saying i think that’s important i think too i think it depends who’s wielding the expression like some people will say god’s got this and it’s totally dismissive but then some people say god’s got this let’s go deeper you know it depends who’s wielding and how they’re wielding the phrase yeah if you come to me jenny and you’re like i just i’m really feeling like [  ] about myself and i really just don’t like myself and i’m like well god don’t make no junk jenny you’re fine obviously

okay but what about jenny’s problem right now yeah okay and and that is a form of running from it that is aversion and one of the things about 12-step program we look at our we look at addiction attachment to things and do we look at aversion to things we might we look at a version of responsibility running from that i think we do a pretty good job of that sometimes i think people can get just wrapped up into you know being attached and dealing with attachment or addiction whereas aversion is just as bad well and you know part of this i think is societally stigmatized into us right because when we’re using people are like oh you just need to clean your act up you just need to stop the drugs you just need to get a job and you just need to do these things and so when i came in it was really more about let me do these outside looking right things that people have been telling me for years as opposed to let me really look at what’s going on inside of me right i didn’t want the reality and i and i find that a lot in my work today people hold on to this idea that they’re good people and they’re afraid to look at their thoughts and feelings about things because that might not translate into this idea that they are good people uh which is it’s hard to convince them sometimes that like the whole good and bad things made up very good for me it seems like the spiritual bypassing is like people that worked maybe a fourth and fifth step like they’re willing to say like oh this bad things happen but then they don’t take the like corrective action or responsibility involved in like six seven eight nine where you actually look at all right why am i doing what i’m doing why is this behavior keep repeating in my life you know what harms have i caused how do i take ownership of that stuff i mean for some of us it’s real easy for me to look at like the carnage of my life you know and be like oh i did that but then if i just excuse it or make rational explanations for it and don’t take ownership and corrective action then it’s kind of pointless you know to just to acknowledge harm without being willing to do anything about it is pretty dismissive of someone else’s pain you know like like blaming it on the the fact you’re an addict almost yeah like i did this harm but it’s because i’m an addict there’s nothing else i could have done about it is that spiritual bypassing or some other bypass i think that’s spiritual bible bypass that’s spiritual bypassing in my opinion i think that’s a good point you brought up about the cliches too we can definitely use those in an insensitive way this too shall pass and we just if we just leave it there then what we’re trying to do is just focus on the end right when the pain goes away and what’s going to happen is our response to that pain in that moment is going to we’re going to reinforce that response it’s going to get stronger we’re not going to learn how to respond or just be with the pain simply just being with whatever’s happening truly not trying to change it not trying to embellish it not trying to run from it really sitting there and just feel it and see what happens it’s meeting the pain right there that’s one of the things i love about zen is you just sit on a cushion stare at the freaking floor stare at a wall do it all day do it for half an hour do it for 10 minutes or whatever and you look at it and okay this this too shall pass but what am i going to do with it now it’s interesting i’m always fascinated and i’m always like man did i not get what i was supposed to get out of these steps when people say oh this step work guides us into doing work like this and i feel like it’s been some outside of 12 step practices that have really helped me to be more comfortable with the idea that i’m not a good person all the time or that i have these other pieces of me like even going through the steps i still felt like i spent a lot of time trying to be this good person right like uh and and doing the running from right there might be that feeling inside that i would much rather be doing whatever the [  ] it is i wanted to we talked about last episode where i made a good decision where i turned off my video game and played with my two-year-old outside right that’s not always the decision i make but i i run from this idea right i give excuses or justifications or i rationalize why i’m owed this video game time and she’s children are resilient she’ll be fine right now but i don’t want to look at the fact that you know what sometimes i don’t want to [  ] deal with being a dad that’s part of me just as much as a part of me as the part that says i love being a father and i really can’t wait to go play with my kids and have a hug with them and it’s like i have been much more through other practices outside of 12-step more comfortable which is owning what is real for me right you know i like to escape in the female form right i dum it down and say i like boobies but whatever like i don’t have to walk around living in shame or running from this idea that this is part of me whether this is a biological male part whether this is just something i do i don’t know but it doesn’t matter it’s okay and i have actually felt way more growth towards being who i want to be allowing me to be where i’m at than i ever have when i ran from it and everybody stopped talking no that’s a great point that’s not that’s a way to not spiritual bypass i think that’s really important i like that you brought up things out outside of i guess recovery is that right i mean yeah it’s all kind of recovery yes right outside of our typical and i think that that’s good i think that it’s good to so for me i have found through uh i’ve been in recovery consistently for 12 years i have found that and at times it waxes and wanes never used been cleaned for 12 years but of course sometimes we’re more involved sometimes we’re less involved sometimes life piles up and less involved in recovery and what happens it starts the ickiness starts to creep in you know some bad habits start to come back things like that and we go back into recovery more get back and okay this feels good again and it can wax in wayne i think that’s pretty natural process for most of us could be wrong maybe you three never experienced that and you’re just pure in recovery constantly i’m just wholesome all right but there’s also to me there’s more to it than that there’s more to explore here’s how i look at it for me i i use this analogy a lot when i share when i’m asked to share in meetings but it really works for me this image that kind of my life is like this tree and on all the branches there are there’ll be flowers and fruits and leaves and and all this wonderful things that come up and that’s all things that maybe a great job opportunity where i get to go serve people and my meditation group and my you know my family and their growth seeing my little girl yesterday take on her new big girl bike taking on the big hill that she was so afraid to go down this is the time she’s gonna do it she’s like i got this daddy and she does it these are all like wonderful things on the tree fruits and flowers and leaves and beauty and and so but at the root of the tree is my recovery that’s that’s the roots it’s sort of it can kind of be underground a little bit we go to these rooms and the rooms are i wouldn’t say private but not everybody in the community is going to the room right this is us going to the rooms so and if i don’t take care of those roots then the tree starts to starts to be affected and everything in my life the ground starts to be affected if i don’t take care so recovery for me is a real practical way to approach life and if i don’t have that practical tools and path working in my life everything’s going to suffer because i got to operate in this world i need to eat i need to be responsible to whatever extent i’m responsible and and i need to treat people a certain way i need to not go on a spree you know a shooting spree i need to not go to jail not that i’ve done these things but i need to not do those as well so recover is a real practical way to operate in life and once we kind of have that more down then for me it’s giving me the opportunity to look deeper into things so i do this therapy called ifs which is internal family systems and you mentioned a part of yourself that’s interested in certain forms um you said that it rang a bell i so i decided that i wanted to look deeper at some some things in my life that the steps have looked at and have helped me with and have gotten me pretty much okay with dealing with at the same time they keep coming back up so let’s look deeper this ifs therapy is amazing for this you close your eyes for me this is how it works for me and i go in really really deep inside myself with a guide therapist who’s also a buddhist and i meet these parts of myself i literally go in there and meet them and i see them and i’m with them and i work with them and i see i see these painful parts and i see these protector parts there’ll be a hurt child image of myself that i need to interact with and i need to work with this part and unburden so we can unburden together because this pain has been there since that age of whatever was happening in my life as a child so i’m literally interacting with this all in here and and there’s these protector parts i want to protect the child and those are the parts that can like be like a marine or you know i was in the marines and so there’s like this marine part in there who’s like the warrior he’s going to protect and he can be aggressive and sometimes that’s really appropriate but a lot of times it’s not you know like in a work meeting or something like the marine should just chill out a little bit there um so working with these parts and really facing them has been so transformative for me then there’s zen so that’s kind of like beneath the roots in the ground for me it’s like it’s gotta i’m using that for to gain a little more depth into what i started with my recovery and then below that the infiniteness of the void in the sky and everything around everything else that’s zen to me it that is bottomless it just there is no that is infinite so that’s kind of my spiritual organization these days the recovery my life is coming up recovery is the roots i need to take care of those because if i don’t take care of those i cannot operate in this world and then i’m looking deeper with ifs and then zen is just infinite so ifs is like a change in the nutrient makeup of the soil it’s like making your soil yeah fertile i like that i like that it is because there’s there are these things that can it’s the shadows they keep coming up i found it’s a good way for me to look more at the pain and be there with it and just being there with it just acknowledging it and being there a lot of times what happens when i am just able to be there with it i i kind of mentally give it a little bow just saying i acknowledge this pain is here right now i’m just going to be with it it’s oftentimes not every time this is not a quick fix or anything but oftentimes it subsides a lot faster i feel like it feeds off of our aversion and our attachment if i’m sad about something i can play a bunch of sad songs from the 90s over and over again i can play the cure straight for like three days you know and like embellish it be so sad about it let’s just make it even worse is that looking at it i don’t know that’s messing with it it’s giving energy to it or i can spiritual bypass and just be like well the universe has got it this too shall pass so i’m just going to sit here and just do other things until it does or i can just be with it and both ends of averting from it and attaching to it is feeding it but just being with it something about that is just this kind of mutual neutrality and oftentimes it resolves a lot faster and a lot better than if i ran from it or if i embellished it you make me wonder uh talking about ifs theory if you know so you come in here i and this is my natural here’s another dark part of me let’s share all the dark parts of me today let’s do it uh that’s good so when you said you know you come in here with this idea of spiritual bypass and i’m like yeah that’s some [  ] clowns out there judgment instantly right that’s some people that ain’t really doing work they just blah blah but then you bring up ifs and i’m like well you know ifs gives this idea that there’s the the hurt child part that was hurt at some point in time and then this protector piece stepped up to allow it to never have to be hurt again right i’m not gonna let that happen again this manager part and then there’s the firefighters which is a whole other piece that comes in in times of crisis but anyway it made me think oh people who spiritual bypass that’s just their protective part that is not letting you have access to the hurt piece beneath it right that’s stepped up to protect them in a time when they were defenseless and so it’s less about like me judging them for being the clown that doesn’t go into his dark side it’s more like man how do we help you heal and and make peace with that protector and let it understand that it doesn’t need to do that anymore like this is a safe space for you to move forward and look at that dark stuff you don’t have to stay stuck in the because the the patterns we adopt as kids we needed them then right we that was the only way to survive but it’s like now we need to find that safe secure environment where we can address them because they’re not producing quality outcomes anymore they’re not they’re still doing the job they were doing that isn’t as useful as it used to be maladaptive yeah but they’re still good if i’m walking down the street and somebody like just mess with my kid guess who’s coming out right because it’s this the marines time to shine you know protector apart is here take over take me right so what’s behind all of those parts though that’s the thing that we need to tap into so i guess what is a little i don’t know i’ll say confusing for me as my understanding of recovery and i haven’t done formal training outside of and everything other than personal reading and research and some meditation stuff that i’ve done but don’t don’t disqualify yourself though but i’ve always thought like i am the whole me like all my bad thoughts and all that that’s who i am it’s not a like i never have i just i haven’t ever phrased it in this way of there’s this dark side and then there’s a light side and all that is like no this is all of me like i am all of this i am these bad thoughts i am these bad ideas i am these bad behaviors and it’s i’ll say my responsibility my duty to recognize all of that and then the goal for me in recovery is to like realize which situations and circumstances does this i guess dark side come out what triggers these parts of me and then how do i do something different in place of that but i’ve never looked at it as like a separate part it’s just all of who i am you’re ahead of the game yeah yeah i was gonna say good job i think that might be different for a lot of people in our society that don’t necessarily have that kind of awareness but but i also think something you said in there is where we tend to go ask you and i don’t think you’re doing it in in a not helpful way so to speak but you were saying like it’s my job to recognize these and then do something different but i i find that a lot of people go as far as the recognition but from there it turns to shame and judgment of themself instead of an acceptance of oh okay it’s all right to have that it’s all right to have that negative view of my co-worker who is a dick like i can want to like [  ] in his lunchbox that’s okay to want to do that right it might not be okay to do it but they don’t go that far they’re just like oh god why am i like that that’s so awful of me and then run away from it i’m just gonna be better i’m just gonna be different and for me it’s always been just like oh yeah i know i’m [ __ ] up

so i’m curious uh one of the things that came to my mind and i don’t know if this is real or not so i feel like you’re the the test subject here to ask dave had mentioned that the steps kind of help us in this uh version of looking at the dark side of ourselves and i don’t feel like again maybe i did the steps wrong or didn’t get what i hoped to get or just wasn’t time to get it i don’t know but i haven’t felt that way but one of the things that came up today maybe the steps helped me address the old dark side of me right like i was willing to go to oh yeah this is what drugs made me do this is the kind of person i can be when i use drugs but not necessarily the current dark side so it was more like i’m willing to acknowledge what drugs can turn me into yeah that’s the real thing but i’m not really necessarily willing to own that uh you know at different points in my recovery that i would sleep with newcomers or that i would act on these behaviors that weren’t necessarily positive maybe i was really gossipy or [  ] on somebody that was supposed to be my friend or whatever it may be so what do you think about that do you feel like the steps really helped you get current with your dark side or it was more like oh yeah i was allowed to be that then but i’m clear now because there’s no drugs and this is interesting because i never really thought about this until you’re putting into this context so part of the reason was i didn’t get to a six and seven step until i had six years clean so i had already been not doing drugs for a long time and then really aware or became painfully aware of all these other behaviors that were manifesting in my life without using drugs so now i’m gonna uh advocate for the slowness of workings now i don’t know that that’s a great idea but it’s like that was the thing by the time i got to a six step i’d been clean for six years i had a job and a career and a family and a relationship and was still doing a lot of dumb painful [  ] you know so when i got to a six step and started looking at character defects it wasn’t about what i did six and seven years ago it’s about what behaviors am i doing now in my life regardless of using drugs you know i’m still doing some of this dumb selfish and self-serving and manipulative behaviors when i was more active in aaa it wasn’t uncommon for people with five plus years to do the 12 steps again do they do that in n a around here

but yeah you should keep going through them and maybe that’s part of why i never i didn’t do it twice the first time i did it was a doozy and um it’s after um i kind of segued to like a buddhist recovery program now not that i’m not friends with people in aaa still but i if i had practiced meditation before i did step four how much calmer i would have been like you were talking about sitting with stuff like i had no idea in step four how to sit with any of this stuff but now i have a little bit of like sitting muscle i guess you know and i probably wouldn’t have like literally sweat so much doing step four but um i kind of wish 12 steps maybe they could like slip in like that step 3.5 here’s how you meditate here’s how you can sit with some of this stuff and then see how much better i wonder if i did the 12 steps again jenny wants to reorder the steps it sounds like

i don’t even think in 12-step i feel like 11 the whole idea of prayer meditation i feel like the meditation just gets so [ __ ] glossed over yes definitely my experience here it’s like you must seek you know through prayer and meditation and then everybody just talks about the prayer part and they’re like oh meditation that’s you know that’s just when god talks to you whatever i’m like i’m the opposite i don’t do the prayer part i do mostly the meditation so that is a an issue that i do have with the current format of say n a uh and not just me one little old me what does it matter but many people who come to me as a zen priest because they’re not they don’t connect with the uh get a god

and that word is all over it capital g god and and i respect that a lot of people don’t connect with a certain idea of that and i think that needs to be addressed and i think it needs to be more welcoming to our atheistic folks to our non-christian folks honestly yeah great christian christianity’s working with somebody wonderful buddhism working for somebody but right now it is still uh very it i know a lot of people that just really have that are new and have like you know one foot out the door or half a foot out the door because they just don’t that’s not what they connect with it can be triggering too the capital g god i think triggers a lot of folks like because of the the trauma they experienced from that part of their family well and that’s i think one of the biggest issues at least for me to deal with in early recovery was shame and guilt and i feel like society had a lot to do with that and so did religion right religion for me my experience and i i hope it’s not everybody’s but seems to be pretty prevalent it’s a big place of shame and guilt inspiring feelings i mean it’s all about like sinning and what we do wrong and how terrible i am and how i got to be better and i’m like this all just makes me trying to live up to any code of anybody else’s deciding has never helped me feel good about me not once that’s uh living up to a code yeah glad you brought that up um jean-paul satra the existentialist philosopher talked about how we are condemned to be free being free to have these choices and things can be a condemnation at times it is easier for us to have rules to have to be told what to do to have a code and oftentimes people need to go find this code somewhere else i mean i’m finding this code a lot of it through recovery and buddhism at the same time what does what code do we find do we find a like a monarchy type of a code where there’s a lot of judgment involved so for me as a buddhist judge as soon as their judgment involved that’s spiritual bypassing as soon as i’m judging somebody else i mean i can judge a situation like oh this is not going to be beneficial my house is burning down this is not good that you know that in buddhism right the house is burning you don’t know about that you’re natural it’s from an important sutra in buddhism um and it is we our houses we’re living in a house and it’s burning around us right now what are we gonna do about it um but anyway that’s a whole nother thing

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so you know we’re condemned to be free and that that that concept really

hits me like a truck when i think about that and addiction um because it’s it is in many ways i know being an addiction is really hard but in many ways it’s not it’s easier it’s easier than than getting up every day going to the job putting the video game down to be with your two-year-old they haven’t given you a break for three days straight it’s saturday yesterday my wife had to go to work which is rare on a saturday but she had to go to work i’m about to finish my graduate degree i have infinitely more things that i need to get done than i could possibly get done it’s like that type of and i got my two little ones at home daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy did you look at the window i’m like did you really need to interrupt me for that one you’re just interrupting to interrupt me right now well you know all this stuff and that’s that stuff is hard because that’s like i need to make myself focus to handle that situation right with my daughters and not be a dick about it and and know that they’re just being little kids and they want to be with their daddy at the same time i’ve got this monumental task that i took on i mean that’s hard and so it’d be easier to go back into active addiction and of course you’re in a hellish landscape but at the same time it’s easy what do you do you use drugs you go get drugs you use drugs you go get drugs you use drugs you go get it’s like a religion it’s the code is there very simple sucks a lot of times a lot of times this might be fun feels good um so that’s a that is a way for us to escape the condemnation of freedom freedom is more challenging it’s hard to take the high road make the right choices it really is it really is so do we so we need to manufacture a code and that’s what the existentialists talk about um who’s a camus that said

the meaning of life is anything that keeps me from killing myself like so like so we’re looking at the dark side now um so we’re gonna manufacture a code and according to existentialists like ever all these codes are manufactured religion everything is manufactured by us to to be able to process and deal with this freedom and recovery completely helps with that i mean we’re looking at these spiritual principles if i follow spiritual principles it stuff usually works out better even if it doesn’t i feel good about myself because i know that i i did my best to do the right thing so it is important jenny it was interesting when you said it’s hard to take the high road like that just why do we have to take the high road why does why does our value seem to depend on whether we took the high road or not right like and this is one of those things that i try to do in my work is like who would you be if what you were didn’t change your value as a human right because then we get that that freedom that i think dave is talking about right this freedom to be whatever it is i want and that doesn’t always have to be the high road i knew high road was like probably the wrong choice in words because it’s like loaded it’s kind of like loaded but what i mean is like no harm to others and yourself like it’s impossible is it i think am i too dreamy i think people rightly or wrongly if we want to use right and wrong terms that people understand are going to be harmed by my decisions that are the best absolute righteous decision for me no matter what i can’t change that but i guess for me a lot of times the question becomes is it okay for me to harm people like is that okay well you do whether it’s okay or not well yeah but there’s a difference between like a direct harm is it well i’m just gonna do what i want and not care about how it affects others well what if you just do what you want and you care that it hurts them but it’s still what you need to do in this situation you’re still hurting them directly and you know it that would hurt me though because then i would have regret but i mean this is i think this happens way more often than we realize but it’s definitely there’s even situations i’m sure if you think about it for a few minutes that you can point out where you had to make a choice to do what was right for your life maybe that was a a busy saturday afternoon where you couldn’t make your friend’s kid’s birthday party because your life just did not call for that that day your family needed a rest and their feelings were hurt by it and you knew they were gonna be it’s not [ __ ] you can do about that except over extend your own family and harm you like somebody’s taking harmony but that’s true and i get that but i don’t think that justifies all right well i’m just gonna go do drugs and spend all my money on drugs and my kids are gonna starve like those two aren’t you know extreme right but that’s what i mean he’s picking an extreme on one side and i’m going to take an extreme on the other and the one on the good side doesn’t justify the one on the harm you know the more harmful side like i don’t know how to say it but just because this situation exists doesn’t mean this other situation is okay everything is equal and opposite so anything you do that is quote unquote good for your life is quote unquote bad for somebody in the world everything you do is harming someone i don’t believe just the nature of the world i don’t believe that i do i ate a hamburger last night

like if you say oh after this podcast today i need to go you know run this errand and grab some groceries or something you are harming other people by you know more congestion and traffic or more people in the grocery line or maybe now they’re late to get home for something they told their kid they you know ever there’s always a harm if we want to look at harm in that sense there’s always a harm to every decision you make i think i don’t know that they’re equal i don’t i don’t know if equal is the right thing at least for me to to ponder too much i think that there’s an effect for everything we do yeah everything is dependent on everything else and everything i do has an effect um and even those things that appear harmful to others might be really good for them those things that appear good for others might be harmful for them yeah you’re on some you know like my my zen teacher ah it’s one of the things that it’s like this double-edged sword it’s one of the reasons i’m there and it’s also causes a lot of uh you know pain is part of what my understanding of the zen teacher’s job is to do is to pull the rug out of under you constantly so if i’m feeling proud of myself guess what i’m gonna get i’m gonna get shot down in a sense i’m not like insulted or anything but i’m getting knocked down off my horse like that very skillfully um you know and if i am feeling down on myself maybe i’ll get i’ll get the rug pulled out under that so constantly having the rug pulled out of under you is very uncomfortable very good and i went through a long phase of just struggling with that and resisting it resisting resisting resisting and all the stuff that that brought up and insecurities and my need for validation to talk about darkness talk about something that’s dark to face as a need for validation i mean because who needs the validation for me the one that needs validation is very hurt is very uh fearful and alone uh in that feeling so that’s a part of me that needs that validation and so to be inoculated from that to be kind of treated for that um you know has taken a lot of getting the rug pulled out of under me and so i don’t attach to that anymore so i can have the rug pulled out under me instead of going back and sitting on my cushion and then beating myself up over it for three four days 14 days or whatever i can go sit on my cushion and in 10 minutes on a good day now in 10 minutes okay i know what we’re doing here it’s gone it’s all right um cause i sat here and i faced it rather than trying to fix it how many harmful things in my life and i invite you to think about this for yourself have turned out to be way better than the alternative of those things not being harmful at that moment in time right harm is another concept of good and bad right we’re putting a value judgment on it for someone else so i i don’t know i just i don’t buy into the whole do no harm thing i think there’s harms being done no matter what i do so the best thing i can do is just do what’s right for me and then let everything else figure itself out that’s a big thing too especially there’s a concept that i i’m very interested in and as a marine to sad experiences and been part of a machine that is built to cause harm and hopefully for good reasons but sometimes that’s questionable and and people in addiction too and some of the decisions people make feel like they have to make and maybe they do have to make at the time an addiction or even medical personnel who have to make choose between two shitty decisions and which one’s the right one but they both suck both suck but one of them is better than the other one i only have these two choices that there’s something called moral injury which can happen and that that is a really i see that a lot in veterans especially it’s it’s most obvious i feel like in veterans um in some medical personnel but i also see it in recovery and addicts too because think about the things the positions we put ourselves in in active addiction i mean you hear the stories you know people may have sold their bodies and and things like that robbed people or just just emotionally destroyed their their family and their parents et cetera et cetera the harm um and and and some of these decisions it’s it’s like well um do i i can’t suffer this pain right now so how do i how do i minimize this pain what decision do i make so there’s moral injury involved in that because it can cause a it causes a paradigm shift when you see how like shitty the world can be especially an act of addiction i mean if like if you’re an action active addiction in baltimore maybe not in baltimore cecil county and you’re seeing how people can be when they’re the animal self and i’m not using that in a derogatory way i’m using it as a buddhist way um you know filled with fear and um this intuitive not intuitive living but very uh kind of primitive way of living seek get seek get seek get seek get um that causes a paradigm shift when you see people a lot of times acting at their worst and it can make people feel like so this is what the world really is this is what so this is what the world is and that can change somebody for a long time or forever probably forever so what do we do with that we need to have another paradigm shift so we can encompass that knowledge and that experience but not be owned by that and not just see the world as this like terrible frightening place filled with pain so there’s also the light side of things too if we’re gonna look at it as in a dualistic way like that but i think that’s the trick though too and uh before we end i i’d like to do a little meditation i don’t know how much more time we have just putting that out there so we can kind of look at these things in a less dualistic way yeah i mean i think it’s fascinating you made me think of uh in the realm of hungry ghosts you know that book explores the idea that addiction and the reason we’re so or society seems so against it is because addiction is like this dark mirror it’s a reflection of like ourselves in some way shape or form right whereas it looks a lot different on the surface like really what are we doing that’s different than addiction but chasing money or faith or esteem or prestige right all these things and uh you know those people in addiction it talks about being kind of brave in a way because they’re like renouncing the ridiculousness and irony of the [  ] stupid-ass world we live in and saying i ain’t doing that dumb-ass [  ] right um so i think that’s kind of fascinating too when we talk about this i don’t know if it ties in to do no harm or not but but along these lines of like okay did i harm my parents when i was using absolutely but i did it in service of life for me like i felt in a state of internal pain that would not allow me to keep going so wouldn’t that have been more harmful to take my own life right do i know that would have been the outcome without drugs no i can’t obviously possibly know that but i believe it would have been right i didn’t feel the need to the ability to exist with that type of pain inside and so unfortunately i robbed from them i stole from them i i robbed their peace but that was the lesser harm in my mind in that scenario looking at it now obviously that’s not what i was thinking then then i was thinking i want to get high right and for some of this i think it for me the application of the idea of do no harm almost ties in with the what you talked about with your teacher pulling the rug out from under you like there’s always going to be exceptions to every rule or every situation in life and there’s obviously going to be situations where i go and cause harm intentionally or unintentionally but when i say like my goal is to do no harm it’s not necessarily meant in a like a mathematical application of i will never cause harm in any action that i ever take it means i’m gonna try to actively take responsibility for my decisions and how the decisions in the way that i interact with people in my life how that affects those around me does that mean sometimes people are going to be harmed eh probably but i’m going to take ownership and responsibility and try to like be considerate in how my actions and decisions affect the world around me karma i think the tricky part of that though is like to me and maybe i you know this could just be a personal view that’s different from yours or maybe it’s a something else i look at that and i say well if i start taking responsibility for the way other people feel about my actions i am now putting myself in a place of either shaming myself or changing my decision making right i’m gonna do something different than what i truly would have done or what i truly believe i need to be doing in that moment based on this idea that someone else might take something a certain way so i don’t want to own somebody else’s take on what i do right that starts putting me back into the the code of society or a code of morality that i don’t want to be a part of i want to be a part of my own code i got to step up and really consider the situation and do what’s right for me regardless of how that affects people now does how it affects people fit into my code some absolutely i don’t want to hurt people but in the end i’m i can’t take it on i do however care i care if they’re hurt but i’m not taking it on that that i you know it’s my responsibility to keep them from being harmed i guess i flip mine back to the recovery teaching or whatever that’s stuck in my brain is like well i can’t trust my own decision-making consistently because i’m selfish and self-serving and all those dark parts of ourselves that we try to hide from i’m fully aware that they are there and most of the time motivating my decisions and how i run my life so i need to have a code there which in this case for me becomes spiritual principles and what i’ve learned through the steps and trying to take those and i need to just try to live by these principles and trust that the outcome is going to be better than the decisions that i tend to make for myself but that’s because i’m an idiot

i don’t know dave’s take on like processing through this to a healthier version of us but i think i was kind of alluding to it earlier it’s been in allowing myself to be whatever it is i think i am in this moment and and to seek and go for whatever it is i want or feel i need right it’s been in allowing that to be that has helped me to be more fully what i believe i want to be right so it’s not like the denial of uh oh i can’t do this because it’ll hurt somebody it’s letting myself well i really don’t want to hurt him but this is what i feel like i really need to do here and after that then i get to evaluate in my body is that really who who it feels like i am did that work for me do i want to do that next time or no right was that the right but it’s it’s always been the i can’t that has kept me running from those pieces of me it’s like i gotta allow myself and once i allow me now i’m actually choosing the part that i want instead of just canting myself yeah i had a previous sponsor that talked very much like that exactly what you’re saying is what he yeah i worked with him on exactly that which is interesting that’s kind of exactly the way that he said it too what’s your take dave what do you think about the how do you do you deny yourself so to speak i mean i can’t deny myself well kind of like me and billy were just reflecting on like how do you get through to that dark side or being healthier what works for you what first off i want to respond a little bit what i’m hearing a lot of is you know some karma which karma means action karma is not this judgmental force that’s a western take on it because western mind has you know adapted to due to western religions of having this monarchy of judgment so if i do something bad some judge will up there up there will make some bad thing happen to me i don’t subscribe to that um karma just means action and what i’m what i appreciate about how ideas in eastern philosophy and religion and um western psychology and their program and a 12-step program line up is especially with step three so step three what i learned from step three is that i make the best decision i can and then i leave it alone and i stop trying to control the outcome i i believe that’s a big part of working with karma in hinduism too is not being so concerned about the what happens the results of my action just making the best decision i can make right now and and letting go of what happens with it so and that’s what i was hearing a lot with what you guys were saying as well especially if i’ve got to pull the rug out of somebody you’ve got a sponsee you know sometimes my sponsor tells me some hard [  ] and you know like i want to react but i know that i put my trust in this man um i put a great deal of trust i trust him with my life and i better just kind of shut up and be with that shitty feeling in my gut and my jaw all tensed up and just like like oh why am i not right all the time and trust and and that it feels harmful but in the long run it’s not in the wrong one it’s helpful so how do i work with what how do you work with the idea of uh becoming your healthier self or or growth or like do you tend to feel that you’re supposed to or have to be a certain way in any given situation or do you that is a good thing to bring up so you can see me pausing this because this is i think this is a huge moving target and i think that it’s always moving for me and i dare say us as people um i think that it’s it’s a balance and as soon as i think i’ve found balance then the thing things change and then i’ve got a rebalance and i’m re constantly rebalancing and i know i’m out of balance when there’s starts to be some pain involved um there starts to be some things that aren’t going right and oh okay well maybe i’m exercising too much and not taking care of not taking the trash out enough you know i’m doing this thing that’s really good for me but i’m do i did i really need to lift weights for two and a half hours today i could have like shaved off like 45 minutes of that and gone and like helped out in other ways you know this is a real basic example but it’s really important too so how do i work with that so for one thing realizing that everything is always changing except for one thing and that that is this inner self this we call it in ifs we call it self energy you go by many names um it could be emptiness it could be a lot it goes by many different names true self wiser self yeah but it’s it’s this self that is not changing so much uh some people say it doesn’t change i’m not sure about that but it has it hasn’t changed as long as i can remember um it’s all the other things that are constantly changing and realizing that and realizing the impermanence of everything except for that oneself who may be impermanent but it seems to be going on for a while here um and that’s that that’s stuff that you can really observe from it doesn’t have any um hang-ups it doesn’t have any good it doesn’t have any bad it’s the one that when you’re really clear you can take a step back from all this dualistic stuff and just see it for what it is is something that is transient and is not going to it’s not going to be here it doesn’t have to own me another thing that i i try to do and i like this i like stories i like analogies and things um is to try to check myself with spiritual bypassing aspect you can look at it like this you can maybe climb a mountain do this work and get to the top of the mountain whether it’s finishing your step work or even just finishing a step or whatever it is with you where you’re working on finish get to a mountain maybe it’s a year clean for whatever we have these mountain tops and you get there and it feels so good when you earned it right it just feels good it feels solid like i earned this this is great and when you get there you may notice that oh i’m at the top of this but well there’s another peak there and it’s a lot taller if i really look past the clouds there’s even another one there you know what i’m just going to hang out here i’m going to not face that i’m going to turn my back to that i’m just going to sit on top of this peak and start giving a bunch of advice start you know just sharing in meetings a bunch and start acting like a spiritual giant and and all these things by repeating cliches um by not really looking at the [  ] the darkness shots fired he’s talking about me

i’m just looking in your direction or maybe i am he was looking right at you through me so but one thing i’ve got to realize when i’m at this mountain top is i can you know look i got to go down again first like i go down into the [ __ ] and i gotta climb a higher one and so it’s good to take a little break once you reach an accomplishment just for a minute you know take a breath but keep going and that’s the thing that’s it’s spiritual bypassing to stop there and you can also spiritual bypass by taking a helicopter at the top right i could take a helicopter at the top of a peak by just giving one word answers to a whole step you know some people do that and i’m like oh okay how’s this working for you unless you’re one unless your one sentence answer is just so profound it’s like the earth moves

wonderful though i’d like to see that thank you you must arrive at my step forward like buddha touching the ground and the earth shakes so you could take a helicopter at the top and then you don’t even have that sense of accomplishment so i think that’s the thing is being willing to go back down into those valleys and and go climb up and one of the beautiful things about service to others whether it’s through sponsorship teaching hosting say a meditation group helping people out is you know voices of hope i mean this is all service of others um is to really do that i believe we’ve got to we’ve got to really connect to our darkness to these to these difficult parts if we don’t connect to that what we’re doing is we’re coming from a place of being kind of patronizing we’re coming from the top saying come on i’ll get you up here i’ll help you get up here and that’s not effective that’s not because that is that’s not compassion that is being patronizing so we need to connect with we need to go down because we can only help people by by helping them from the bottom up by getting down there with them and that’s what i love about n a um specifically is that i think we do for the most part a nice job of connecting to our own [  ] and getting down there with somebody and be like i understand i too have been in that hell maybe some of your details are different but oh boy do i know that ravenous just this just apocalyptic pain i know that apocalyptic pain i do completely that utter just every cell in your body right and it doesn’t just have to be a physical pain from a withdrawal even though that’s bad just the cause the harm that we’ve caused the way you find yourself and being at the bottom like that and working to get out of that you’ve got to remember to be able to go back down to that and that’s where we help other people from down there we help other people from beneath them we don’t help other people from above it’s a little graphic i guess but i can remember sometimes particularly towards the end of my using really being just desperate right and and and the the uh if you’re not a person who’s used heroin like it can gel up sometimes and harden and it doesn’t want to like work right to go into your body and and like having struggling to find a vein that i can actually hit where or blood comes back i’m not trying to make any anyway a lot of poke holes there’s blood all over my arm and i’m like [  ] crying i’m literally in tears trying to make this work and it never felt like just oh i need to go get another one because this is this one isn’t working it was more like what you just talked about that that immense pain it was like every shameful act i’d ever done and every way i ever thought about myself as a piece of [  ] was like hitting me at once because i didn’t have the medicine that i used to to avoid it right and so it was like i had been avoiding it for years and it was all stockpiled there and it just like came through like a dagger in that [  ] moment that just too shall pass yeah yeah just give it over turn it over give it to your higher power right you’re done you’re okay now yeah i’m all right what’s up no that’s not it what’s it is i i meet you and say i understand that pain right through experience and here’s how i got out of it uh i’m gonna share you with you my experience lived experience and that’s one of the things that zen and recovery go so nicely together for me is they’re both about direct experience um and the value of that if i go into zen i use a bunch of words i get i get cut down you might as well have a sword just cut my legs off in front of me now i’m just laying there you know a bunch of words are not going to fly direct experience and what does that mean well it seems like that’s a good benefit of acknowledging our awareness of this dark side of ourselves is we can use that as a tool or as a power to like help others and and connect with other human beings i had a i got an audio book because it was free and it was about i don’t know if it was zen in recovery or buddhism and recovery i think it might have been buddhism in recovery but i’m listening to it and and the guy who’s reading it was not the author and i didn’t like his voice anyway which was bad enough but he kept calling it the sangha and i was like have i been mispronouncing this forever and then come to find out like you know through some research i was like how the [ __ ] do you sign up to read an audio book and not look into how the words are pronounced it was maybe that’s like the midwestern like what

i know that that might be legitimate judgment like you sign up to do a job let’s do your job i came up with a cohen the other day i’m sure somebody’s came up with it before but it was fascinating to me that it like i don’t wanna say i came up with it it came to me i’ll say that so i always think a lot of times when i’m meditating you know meditate with what’s going on and one of the first implications of that for me was don’t scratch the itch right sit with the itch and so the other day i was sitting there and i was like what is the feeling of my skin that doesn’t itch and it just blew my mind what happened i just sat there with trying to figure out what the [ __ ] that was which is nothing which is exactly what i’m supposed to be last night with my my daughter my seven-year-old she’s into meditating with daddy she’d been rolling around the grass earlier that day she’s all itchy i’m so itchy you know but that’s an important practice to sit there with it and it’s a great practice it’s such a foundational just clear-cut practice is to not scratch the itch because the more i sit there in meditation and try to like find ways to like move myself like you know to get rid of it the more i try to okay i’m just gonna ignore it okay if i just take it even though you know whatever maybe my shirt if i go like that you know it gets so much worse it gets so much and that’s exactly like so many things in life but if i just sit there and if i’m with that itch and i just focused all my attention on it not to change it i just like last night with my daughter we’re in in a bedroom meditating and i was just told her uh just make that it’s your whole body your whole body is that itch now that it is even bigger than your body it’s just the size of this room now it’s even bigger that’s the size of our yard just everything is this itch and she’s like well daddy it’s gone now you know like good good that’s what i was hoping was going to happen a lot of times if you just give it all your energy just not to change it it just and that’s kind of being with the stuff and i don’t mean give it all the like you should go give all your pain all the energy in the world but you should really give it the attention it deserves full attention and then let it go and then full attention and then let it go work it out or maybe not let it go full attention until you’ve worked through the process so i’m always uh still even at my place in the world there’s still a piece of me that wants to compete or compare right like i still recognize that and it just came up you were talking about the itch and like look 95 of my itches go away while i meditate before i finish right but every once in a while there’s one that after i finish meditating i just gotta scratch it like it never went away completely okay i was just checking i was like better than me all your itches always go

because that’s the that i don’t want to say the insanity but that’s that piece of me still that’s still there that dark side that’s the piece that wants to be enough still it’s still lurking so right and you know that piece to me lately has seemed like this you do you remember i don’t know who you ever think everybody here might be old enough the old cartoons where they had the you could buy from acme a hole

you can lay on the ground and like make somebody fall into it

you literally buy a hole i love that

it makes me think of so like that com competition thing is part of that like i think that we carry this hole around with us and because you hear about people who say i’m empty and i’m trying to fill it and that’s part of my addiction and you know the competitive there’s this validation i’m carrying this whole like i’m chained this hole somehow or i believe i’m chained to this hole and i’m trying to fill it if i could just fill it and sometimes it feels like it’s filled enough say if somebody’s using and they get some really good [  ] and they feel great for a few hours and they feel like the hole is filled um but then it’s empty again and so i’m trying to fill this hole trying to fill this hole try to fill this hole and i think that’s learning to meditate and learning to see the hole for what it is is not a problem just as just as it’s okay it’s okay to actually realize that i am the whole i don’t need to be filled there’s no reason for me to fill this hole there’s nothing wrong with emptiness in fact emptiness is the fundamental nature of me therefore why am i going to try to change that but we’re obsessed with this trying to change that that obsession is where i don’t know what percentage maybe most maybe all the suffering comes from so much suffering comes from trying to change that just be empty be the whole that’s a beautiful place to be jump in that [  ] what happens if you go in there you know maybe it’s cool in there maybe it’s rad i don’t know but instead of trying to like lug this thing around like it’s a it’s a problem who is lugging it around who is trying to change it that’s not even you i mean it’s part of you like i think billy was saying all these are parts of me it’s not good or bad it’s parts of me right but who who’s the me that all these are parts of there’s a real world application where they sell holes too but it’s generally illegal outside of nevada

yes so we uh yeah that’s a great place to end uh on that terrible good funny joke uh do you want to do a meditation sure we can just do a quick one so anybody who is driving or working or you know around heavy machinery you did pause this and come back to it later when you’re sitting quietly in a safe environment and then proceed yeah this is just to be a real quick little way to to we’ll see i won’t explain it let’s do it good so always starts with breathing you know nice deep breath from our belly when i breathe in belly comes out i breathe out the belly goes in which is often different than the way we’re breathing throughout the day when we get tense we often reverse that so take just a couple breaths to breathe from your belly

it’s helpful to put feet flat on the floor

what we’re doing is we’re we’re i’m not going to go through every part like a mindfulness exercise i think i think i did that last talk what we’re doing is we’re observing our body

observing our breath

and listening to the sounds around us

just observing all of these things observe with your ears observe with your eyes observe mostly with your mind

notice what it feels like to have legs have feet inside of shoes or not inside of shoes

notice the air on your skin

try not to put any judgment on hot cold

if you have an itch

just notice it it’s okay

make sure we’re noticing our breath coming in and out of our nose and or mouth whatever’s more comfortable for you

okay so now with this

place of observation we’re coming from

close your eyes if they’re not closed already

please don’t do this if you’re driving it’s bad to drive with your eyes closed focus your attention on your eyelids really look at that field behind your eyelids

now before a bunch of thoughts start to come in and distract us

notice what’s behind your eyelids light dark one thing i think you’ll notice though is the little specks of darkness and light infinite specks of darkness and light

that are moving coming into existence popping out of existence

maybe they are grouping together at times to form almost a living thing and then they dissipate

but really notice how they are all changing

none of those little specks of light or darkness are just static and staying there they are constantly moving constantly changing constantly coming in and out of existence


the empty self that is not changing that is observing this

you can look at all these specs as the different moments of time throughout the day the things that come into existence a breath that comes in and goes

a sandwich that’s now eaten and gone a breeze words somebody said this show

our bodies constantly changing ourselves are being born and dying everything our thoughts

little thought comes in and it goes

everything is changing constantly but there’s one thing that seems constant throughout this who is that

is that the hole that we were describing maybe you’re the hole right now empty attached to nothing just observing

okay so when you’re ready to take a breath or not come back to the room

that’s why we do it at the end i have that song he’s got the whole world in his hands in my head now okay it’s a different hole that’s a donut that’s well i was thinking maybe he’s got like the world of people who are holes in his hands instead that’s a beautiful sight love that just be the whole

i know your mind’s going places now

all right so go out there uh explore the dark side don’t be afraid of the emperor or darth vader um and just see what you make of it and share your thoughts with us about what you do and how you grow through this dark and light idea and we’ll see you next week

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