The subtitle of One Breath at a Time is “Buddhism and the Twelve Steps.” It’s always irked me that Kevin Griffin broke his anonymity to author this book, but on the other hand, it’s really good information and I and so many people I’ve talked to have gotten so much out of it.
I go back and forth on publicizing one’s 12 Step affiliations–it so often helps people, and in these times, most people understand that it is not the program’s fault if someone slips or is not the 100% 24/7/365 poster child for Alcoholics Anonymous or the other 12 Step programs. It’s helped millions, people get that, and get that a person can help someone even if they themselves are not perfect. Still, taking suggestions and following the traditions is part of the surrender that makes the program work. So personally, if I wrote a book about using the 12 Steps, I would either publish anonymously or somehow keep it generic. I think. Am I jealous that Griffin makes money from the book and his lectures? Maybe.
But 12 step programs also stress “principles before personalities.” I spent a decent sum of money traveling to Denver to attend a retreat let by Griffin one snowy winter. I didn’t love his personality, but the retreat (based on his principles) was good and the discussions with fellow meditators and attendees was energizing.
It’s March 2020 and this book, which I put on pause around Step 6, is still on my night table. I thought, “Am I ever going to fucking finish this book and get back to my Selfish Book Club??” My divorce was final January 16, my home refinance will be completed next week and my new life is underway for the most part, so it’s fish or cut bait with this book. Flipping through it, I came across some great stuff right where I left off in December on Step Seven.
Step Six is “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” I find this step impossible and have to resign myself to the fact that it is a bit like peeling an onion, one of my favorite, extremely tired, metaphors. I am so not willing or ready to have God remove all my defects. I’m so attached to so many of them and was even thinking the other day that I’ve been basically dealing with the same four character defects since my teens: overeating/drinking, fear of not enough money, isolating from other people and sabotaging good relationships, and judgment of myself and others. One goes down and the others pop up like whack-a-mole.
Step Seven is “Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings.” In the chapter on this step, Griffin talks about the fact that indulging our vices makes us crave more of the substance or behavior. What we think will satisfy us makes us want more. Yet another pair of jeans. Yet another cup of coffee. Yet another yogurt.
A few pages later Griffin talks about the three P’s: perfectionism, which leads to procrastination, which leads to paralysis. An extra yogurt can lead to putting off your good eating plan until the next day, procrastination, which could lead to putting it off longer and eventually paralysis.