The Buddha Within

A Gay Man Journey Through Sobriety

The Road of Contentment

It took me almost three months to break free from the phenomenon of craving. By the time I received my first 90 days chip, I had collected a fair amount of tools to rebuild my life — A life of meaning, purpose and happiness. This was the time when my life began to start making sense. Most of these changes centered on how I perceived and interacted with the world around me. Love and passion happened to be two of the main forces that lead me down the road of happiness and contentment.

Love
My perception about love was totally skewed from the very beginning. I was convinced from an early age that my dad didn’t love me. Even when we reunited years later in the States I still didn’t think that he was capable of loving me as his son. I didn’t really know how to love myself since I didn’t acquire that skill early on. When you add HIV and drug abuse on top of it, I became desperate for love, intimacy and human interaction. I thought that if I had all of the above, my life would be a lot better. For many years, my mission in life was to find someone to love me so that I didn’t have to do the loving myself.

In order to cultivate the love that I desperately wanted, I needed to understand what love was. As stated by Alan Downs, the author of “The Velvet Rage”, love by definition is a meta-emotion and is the second essential component of finding contentment in life. Love is felt only after noticing the ongoing experience of joy.

Cultivating love through meditation was one of the most impactful practices that I have ever done. I was convinced that love was lost within me forever. However, through exploration I was able to find traces through the love from my mom and kindness and compassion from friends and colleagues. Another method I used to generate self-love was that I imagined myself as the benefactor of my love. I knew how I wanted another man to love me. Instead of finding someone else to love, I started to channel that love towards myself. This is an extremely powerful meditation that generates empathy, compassion and love towards one self.

I knew exactly the kind of love that I would obtain from myself if I were my own lover. When I finally embraced this felling of love, I was completely overwhelmed with joy.

I used all of that love I cultivated as a fuel to generate more love. I acknowledged the fact that I had been neglecting my emotional needs and I learned to work with them one emotion at a time. Instead of beating myself up over the failures, disappointments, shame, guilt and inadequacies, I introduced self-compassion into my life. I acknowledging the present of those feelings I was feeling. I had neglected them long enough that it was time to learn to sit with those feelings and process them as they came.

My deeper understanding of the meaning of impermanence also played a big role in cultivating love, extending love and maintaining love through daily affirmation through meditation and practices. Some days are better than others. On the days when my bad karma manifests itself, all I needed to do is to give it time.

Passion
I have a gift of fast learning and to excel at things if I put my heart and soul in it. When I become curious about a specific subject matter, I will spend a lot of time doing research until I have collected a vast knowledge and turned them into wisdom and apply it into my daily living. During this time, I develop an abundance of joy through active learning. I didn’t know it was called passion until recently.

Passion is a meta-emotion of the repeated experience of joy in doing something. When one discovers passion, it is usually because an activity seems to produce joy each time it is performed. Normally, there is a diminishing return on the joy associated with an activity. Not so when passion is present. The activity produces a surprising and satisfying amount of joy, again and again.

When I decided to walk down the road of recovery with the quest for spiritual awakening and enlightenment as part of my new mission in life, my vision was focused and I was driven to succeed. I wanted to learn everything on how to stay sober and to live a happier, healthier life. Instead of thinking drugs were still an option, I learned how to remove that thought completely and close the chapter on that part of my life. Of course there is no certainty that I won’t use again one day but at least that’s not an option for me today.

I also reintroduced Buddhism back into my life and started meditating. I go to meetings, stay in contact with my sponsor share with my therapist and friends about the challenges and hardships I face daily and practice the 12-steps on a daily basis. I need a lot of discipline and a set routine to keep me grounded. I also know deep down inside that I can handle just about anything as long as I see it as a challenge rather than an obstacle. Years of training and resiliency with Buddhism before my addiction took a strong hold of me have finally paid off. I continuously study the Alcoholic Anonymous Big Book, the Twelve and Twelve along with other great Buddhist books to keep my mind stimulated with knowledge and information.

My passion to learn and to excel helps me put my sober life in context and perspective. Whenever there is a conflict in my mind, I will refer to the Sutras or my friends for answers. By understanding the Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Paths, Twelve Dependent Arising combined with the Five Aggregates, The Middle Way with the ultimate understanding of Emptiness have helped me resolve many of my conflicts. I have written some of these topics in my previous entries and will go more in depth later. Doing 12-step work, coming up with a definition of a Higher Power and being able to connect to my Higher Power also play a major role in my recovery. The mind will always trick me to do the things that will destroy me due to old habits. The mind is an egocentric system that serves only by me. By learning to listen to my Higher Power and establish a connection by observing through meditation, I am able to make better decisions in life.

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