Buddhist recovery, lovingkindness, and feeling comfortable in your own skin, with Buddhist teacher Gary Sanders

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As Ram Dass once said, “If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family.” I’m thinking about this quote as many of us are grappling with the Omicron variant and trying to make the most of this winter break. This time of year can be hard for everyone, and I’m also thinking about all of us in recovery who have difficult family histories, for whom the holiday season might bring up difficult or outright traumatic memories. During this challenging time, I wanted to have an episode that was hopeful and full of practical teachings about both meditative and recovery practices. So I’m very grateful that I had the chance to sit down with Gary Sanders.
Gary is a Buddhist teacher, person in recovery, and a joyful and energizing presence. As we discuss, he has had to practice deeply to get there. After an emotionally and physically abusive childhood, Gary was caught up in addiction, then embarked on a long road of exploring different mutual help approaches to recovery. From AA, to secular groups, to multiple Buddhist mutual help groups, Gary has explored several pathways to recovery. We discuss his path, his meditation practice, psychedelics, and how he needed more than extraordinary states of consciousness as part of his recovery. We also talk at length about metta (lovingkindness), and how lovingkindness practices were a central part of his recovery from addiction and trauma. I found our conversation calming and inspiring, and I hope you do too.
Gary Sanders is a teacher at Portland Insight Meditation Community in the lineage of Ruth Denison, in the Burmese lineage of Vipassana Buddhism. For more information, check out the PIMC website and their Facebook page. He can also be found as a regular contributor to The Tattooed Buddha, and Gary's website (though under construction at the moment) has a great repository of some guided meditations and teachings: Boundless Heart Dharma.
In this episode:
- The Buddhist Recovery Network
- 8-step Recovery, an alternative recovery program using Buddhist teachings.
- Secular Organizations for Sobriety , "a nonprofit network of autonomous, non-professional local groups, dedicated solely to helping individuals achieve and maintain sobriety/abstinence from alcohol and drug addiction, food addiction and more."
- Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, the classic book by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
- Spirit Rock Statement on allegations of rape, sexual harassment and other misconduct we discussed.
- The Jhanas: “mental or meditative absorption,” “a set of states of deep and subtle concentration focused on a single object.”
- Lovingkindness: the classic book by Sharon Salzberg
- A Zen translation of the Metta sutra
- My interview with Kevin Griffin, episode 3 of this podcast.
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