When I first got into recovery I thought “ah, this is it! Now I can get my shit in order and be good to go!”  Slowly I recognized the ongoingness of true recovery, how one healing leads to another and then another and we just keep going. Over time my recovery moved from food and external substances to things like my thoughts and my words and practicing right speech.  It’s so fucking hard to not judge people and things.

I am absolutely convinced the reason twelve step recovery works so well is because of the policy of no cross talk in meetings.  When we share our experience, strength and hope to the people in the meeting we are doing it in a profoundly safe way.  At the end of the meeting, in a chant-like rhythm, we all say “what you see here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here.”  and we all rigorously commit to not commenting on what others are sharing, i.e “no crosstalk”.  I’ve sat next to people who begin to share and something comes up for them and they might be grieving in a profound way. Rather than commenting or trying to “fix” things, this collective group of us simply listen. Over and over again I’ve watched the incredible power of deep listening.  It’s a love far more powerful than the more common ways we rescue people and offer guidance and suggestions and our flawed human opinions..  Having someone simply listen and hold you and let you experience whatever you are experiencing is one of the most profound offerings of love you can give, for me it’s the clearest definition of noble friendship.

Often in meetings things go the other way- a person will share and really be in a bad place.  Their words and stories might be hurtful to others and they might be spewing judgment and disdain, ranting on the world.  With the same love and respect the circle of us simply listen and allow the release and never comment.

The self-awareness of hearing yourself talk and realizing what’s coming up in you is a profound and, as it turns out, rare experience. So often other people’s judgments and opinions, even when based in good intention, drown out our internal voices.

When I began studying the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva the thirty-second practice hit me hard.  I knew immediately the deep wisdom of it because I’d been watching it work for all my years in recovery.

You undermine yourself when you react emotionally and

Grumble about the imperfections of other bodhisattvas.

Of the imperfections of those who have entered the Great Way,

Don’t say anything — this is the practice of a bodhisattva

I have re-read this a thousand times.  I have an image of this on my screen saver on all my devices.  This intense reminder to not work on others, to not try and fix or judge or manage other people is life altering and insanly hard.  This practice of “don’t say anything” is perhaps one of the greatest changes I’ve experienced.  Allowing others simply to be. Respecting and honoring the fact that each and every one of us has flaws and basic human qualities that lead to shit shows and the truth. It’s so beautiful.