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Nov 29
Dharma Teachings
Bravery and Basic Goodness

An excerpt from the book Basic Sobriety: Shambhala Buddhism and the Twelve Steps

by Eric Rainbeau

Sitting with ourselves is the beginning of learning bravery, of learning to be with ourselves and the world without deception. This is the same bravery as learning to be in the world clean and sober. It is this bravery that begins the path of the Warrior. Here we are calling on the qualities of the warrior, of someone who is not afraid of who they are or of the world around them. In those first few shaky days and weeks of sobriety, this idea of someone who is unafraid may seem impossible, so we simply set our aim in that direction. This will be a journey of “progress not perfection” (Big Book of AA).

Ultimately, a warrior is not defined by his armor or his weapons, but by his lack of armor, his exposure to the world with an open and tender hear, the tender heart of sadness. This tender heart is opened fearlessly so that it may embrace all things. The sadness is not the depression type of sadness we felt in our addiction, but from experiencing a joyful open heart. We are so tender and alive that we wish we could share this feeling with everyone. But it’s not as simple as passing the joint to the next person, and we know it. We can’t just make them feel as joyful as we feel, thus we have a sense of sadness. It is quite a journey, and it would be incredible to just throw off our armor and rush out into the world, but most of us will make this journey slowly. Little by little, we need to knock the rust off our armor before we can even begin to think of taking it off.     

To expose your true nature takes great bravery, dignity, and discipline. This is warriorship, to be present with our own mind. The first thing we learn when we sit down to meditate is to let go of our thoughts–to let them come and go. We are not trying to stop the thoughts. We do not have to fight them at all. When we can do that, we become “all victorious” because we did not even have to battle; we have won before we even needed to step into the ring. That is the fruition, if we can get there, but every tree must start as a seed. We are planting that seed now.

Each step along the way is a step to becoming a warrior without armor. It will be a great journey of self discovery. We have hidden ourselves away deep inside, pretending to be someone or something we are not. We may feel that our own true person is completely lost, that because of our addictions we are no longer worth anything, rotten to the core. Many of us did and experienced things that would make a priest blush. We are full of fears, and that is a wonderful place to be, because it is through fear that we will discover fearlessness down the road. Each time we can sit and open our heart just a little more allows us to ease into all of the things that frightened us. When we sit, returning to the breath, letting go of our thoughts, we begin to connect with our basic goodness,  which is beyond hope and fear.

The first time a friend discovered he could connect with this idea of basic goodness, this inner luminosity, was when he looked at his daughter. They were sitting at a roadside cafe eating some ice cream and there it was, in her and all around her. She was so innocent and completely engrossed in the experience and taste of the chocolate ice cream. Swirling her spoon in the air, drops of chocolate landing in her hair and on her shirt, but there it was–he could see the light inside her. She had what he had lost so long ago.

If no one has said it yet, getting and/or staying sober is the bravest thing you can do today. What once seemed like the toughest thing imaginable will in fact become “the easier, softer way.” You already are that brave, luminous, tender-hearted warrior. You just need to uncover it.

Eric Rainbeau is a recovering alcoholic, Buddhist practitioner, facilitator of a weekly Heart of Recovery program at the Shambhala St. Petersburg Center, and the author of Basic Sobriety: Shambhala Buddhism and the Twelve Steps. Through the Twelve Steps, the fellowship of AA, and the Shambhala teachings, he has “recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body” to live a life greater than he ever imagined.

Editor’s note: Eric’s book is available for purchase from BookDepository, from Amazon, and as an ebook from Lulu Marketplace.

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