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One Breath at a Time

Un libro in lingua di Kevin Griffin edito da Rodale Pr, 2004

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Introduction

I knew when I started writing this book that I wanted it to follow the Twelve Steps, exploring them one by one in a linear way. As it unfolds, nothing else is linear about the book. I write about the distant past, the near past, and the present whenever they serve to illustrate the ideas I want to talk about. My driving questions were, How does this Step relate to Buddhism and its practices, and what practical use can be made of these connections? Some of the connections surprised even me; the book is a true exploration in this way-I didn't follow a map and I didn't know how I would get to my destination. So, for instance, I find myself talking about the first Twelve Step gathering I ever attended in Step Five because Step Five involves sharing.

One of the things that I explore is the language in the Steps. Most of the chapters do this in one way or another, trying to take apart the meaning of terms like powerlessness or defects of character and put them back together again from a Buddhist perspective.

Anticipating that many of my readers are new to Buddhism, I have tried to cover many of the foundation elements of the teachings as I understand them. Again, because I'm following the Steps and not the Buddhist teachings as a framework, this isn't linear either.
In the spirit of nonlinearity, I start near the end of the story . . .
* * *
Two weddings
July 3, 1997
I'm rushing down the flagstone path, straightening my yellow-striped tie, when James comes out from behind the tall hedge to catch me.
"Are you okay?" he asks. He puts his hands on my shoulders and looks me in the eye.
"Fine," I say, although I'm actually in something of a daze.
"Okay, take a breath," he says.
I do as he suggests. My heart starts to slow, my shoulders un-hunch.
James leads me around the hedge onto the patio of the Brazil Building. We're in Tilden Park, in the wooded hills above Berkeley. We're here for a wedding. Mine. And I'm late.
Beyond us is a lawn, which falls away down a hill to the botanical garden. I turn around to look at the crowd and smile broadly. There are the faces of my family, the old one and the new one: two of my brothers, their families, and my soon-to-be in-laws; a group of Buddhist friends who attend the local meditation group with me; and lots of friends from Twelve Step programs who have come to support me on this remarkable day.

James, who has been my meditation teacher and mentor and has fostered my own development as a teacher, is to my right, ready to perform the ceremony. My best man, to my left, is Stephen, my sponsor, who has seen me through the last twelve years of recovery, guiding me through the Steps and through the building of a new life, a life which, on this sunny early July afternoon, includes an event I'd doubted could ever happen.

The piano begins the Pachelbel Canon, and Rosemary and her father emerge. I remember James' admonition to breathe. This is a moment I want to be present for; I feel my heart beating rapidly, the glow of joy in my chest, the sun above the building warming my face. I see the crowd following Rosemary's steps toward me. She looks as giddy as I feel, and as beautiful as a bride could ever look.

With all the preparation for this day, I didn't expect the sheer happiness that's overtaken me. It's happening; it's happening now, this brave, crazy, inevitable, surprising moment.
We recite our vows- "To hold you dear and to be worthy of your love"-and James leads a Buddhist meditation on lovingkindness, asking everyone to focus kind thoughts on us. "May Rosemary and Kevin be joyful, filled with peace. May their joy touch all beings." And then he asks people to spread this joy outward to all beings, just as the Buddhist sutras suggest. He rings a small Tibetan cymbal and the sound vibrates in the stillness.

Everyone moves inside for the reception, a whirl of food and conversation. There's chick

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