When I first got sober ( in all the ways that means to me now )  I used simple, repetitive tools and behavior to stay afloat.  I’d commit to a day at most, often an hour or even just a moment.  Sometimes a moment was the best I could hope for as I gripped reality and stared my crazy down until it retreated.  I’d read the same simple thing over and over again, write quotes on my hands, repeat stuff silently.. whatever it took.  I would change what the repetition was, the serenity prayer probably lasted more than a decade.

In 12-step programs we use a mantra to navigate what we learn and hear; “take what you need and leave the rest”.  I love that concept and have used it a billion times or more.  Then someone asked me, “How do you know what you need? Isn’t what you “leave” what you might need most?”


Since then, I’ve made sure I test my discernment on a regular basis and work to stay uncomfortable, to keep growing and listening and carefully examining what I “leave” to make sure it’s not what I need.

In between the serenity prayer and a million other things, the Kalma Sutta became a constant lifeline and just again today, in the midst of our world on fire, I again realize it’s simple, profound dharma… It’s powerful ability to move me beyond opinion and belief:

1. Do not simply believe what you hear just because you have heard it for a long time.

2. Do not follow tradition blindly merely because it has been practiced in that way for many generations.

3. Do not be quick to listen to rumors.

4. Do not confirm anything just because it agrees with your scriptures.

5. Do not foolishly make assumptions.

6. Do not abruptly draw conclusions by what you see and hear.

7. Do not be fooled by outward appearances.

8. Do not hold tightly to any view of idea just because you are comfortable with it. 

9. Do not accept as fact anything that you yourself find to be not logical.

10. Do not be convinced of anything out of respect and reference to your spiritual teachers.

Kalma Sutta