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One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps [Kindle Edition]

Kevin Griffin
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)

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Book Description

What would the Buddha say to an alcoholic or addict? What could those in recovery offer to the Buddhist path? Kevin Griffin has immersed himself in the Buddhist and Twelve Step traditions, and in One Breath at a Time he gives some surprising and inspiring answers to these questions.

The author, a Buddhist meditation teacher and longtime Twelve Step practitioner, weaves his personal story of recovery with traditional Buddhist teachings. The book takes us on a journey through the Steps, examining critical Twelve Step ideas like Powerlessness, Higher Power, and Moral Inventory through the lens of Buddhism. One Breath at a Time presents potent ancient techniques for finding calm and clarity and offers a vision of a Higher Power not tied to traditional Western Judeo-Christian concepts. One Breath at a Time, describes the convergence of two vital traditions, one ancient, the other contemporary, and shows how they are working together to create a rich spiritual path for our times.

Certain to resonate with both meditators and those whose mantra is "One day at a time," One Breath at a Time should find a large, welcoming audience.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Meditation teacher and author Griffin discovered that his Buddhist practice deepened as a result of the 12-step program that freed him from addiction. In examining the relationship of Buddhism and the steps, he learned to escape spiritual traps endemic to the culture of addiction, namely, instant gratification and nihilism. He writes that many addicts are dissuaded from attending 12-step meetings because of the Christian tenor exemplified by faith in a Higher Power. Buddhists in particular are encouraged to wordlessly contemplate Buddha Nature, yet for addicts, retreat-style meditation without sponsorship may become another alcoholic behavior: in the last days of his drinking, "walking around smashed saying, 'I'm just a drunken Buddha' " exemplified Griffin's deeply nihilisticversion of the concepts of No-Self and the Mahayana principle that everything is a manifestation of Buddha Nature. Intermediary steps that call for personal inventory and interpersonal sharing of past transgressions may seem at odds with the solitary meditation-based practice of letting thoughts dissolve into a reality of "right here, right now," but Griffin says such sharing is part of the Buddhist principle of Right Speech. One theme in this valuable book is that for some, 12-step meetings offer a cohesive sangha when Western Buddhism does not meet the need for honest group support. In the final steps, Griffin learns to let go of the "I," to resist belief in a single transcendent experience and to instead rely on the gentle vigilance exacted by regular meditation, sponsorship and meeting participation.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


A Buddhist goes through the Twelve Steps to find God within. A book of compassioon and grace. -- -Ondrea and Stephen Levine, authors of One Year to Live

"In a wise, honest and personal way, Kevin Griffin has written a book that will be truly helpful to Buddhist practitioners and the Twelve Step community alike." --Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart, psychotherapist, and co-founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center."A Buddhist goes through the Twelve Steps to find God within. A book of compassion and grace." --Ondrea and Stephen Levine, authors of One Year to Live and Embracing the Beloved.

In a wise, honest and personal way, Kevin Griffin has written a book that will be truly helpful to Buddhist practitioners and the Twelve Step community alike. (Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart )

A Buddhist goes through the Twelve Steps to find God within. A book of compassion and grace. (-Ondrea and Stephen Levine, authors of One Year to Live )

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
165 of 171 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartfelt, personal, moving and helpful September 15, 2004
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
While I've never been through a 12-step program, I have been meditating for 8 years. During that time I've read many wonderful books about Buddhism and meditation. But this book is special in two ways.

First, by writing with honesty, courage and humor about his own difficult path in life - Mr. Griffin creates a connection with the reader that goes way beyond the 'conceptual' focus of many books on the subject. Yet at the same time, it never devolves into a confessional. It's still a book that teaches, not rants. It's full of excellent practical advice, insight, and some very useful exercises. But it teaches from an unusually personal and vulnerable place.

It's other great strength is Mr. Griffin's ability to make difficult and exotic concepts accessible. Although I've read a lot, attended retreats, etc., there are some ideas - for example 'no-self' - that always have been too foreign and 'other-worldly' for me to really connect to emotionally. At best I'd get a vague intellectual understanding of what was being discussed. But this book made many of these ideas simple and clear. Quite a few times, while reading it, I found myself going 'oh THAT'S what they've all been talking about.'

Unlike many of our best and most revered Buddhist teachers, Mr. Griffin hasn't spent years living in Asia. He's slogged through life in Western society, and has had to find his peace and insights while simultaneously dealing with the same day-to-day problems of career, love, marriage, parenthood, etc. as the rest of us. To me that relieves his work of a subtle disconnect I sometimes feel with other Buddhist writers and teachers. There's no sense of: 'yes, they can be calm and happy - they spent 5 years in a rainforest.
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88 of 90 people found the following review helpful
The first question to come to my mind with this title was what is the relationship between Buddhism and the twelve step program? Author Kevin Griffin answers this question succinctly when he points out that the Buddha said the cause of suffering is desire and the twelve steps program tries to heal people from the most extreme of desires - addiction.
This book is about Mr. Griffin's personal path to addiction recovery and how integrating Buddhism and the twelve steps allowed him to become at peace with himself. He explains Buddhist meditation and the Buddhist eight-fold path as it parallels the twelve step path. While the twelve step program allows for a lot of flexibility in terms of the "Higher Power" you reach out to, many groups have a Christian focus. Kevin Griffin provides an alternative for those who are uncomfortable with a Christian focus but want to overcome alcoholism and co-dependency. "One Breath at a Time" is a deeply personal story of one man's journey and he invites you to travel his path from realization that he had a problem to freedom and shares how you can take the same path.
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68 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spiritual Practice in the real life of a real person December 3, 2004
By Babh
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
One can be sure there are more "definitive" guides to Buddhism and the 12 Steps out there, but what I found most useful in this straightforward, and deceptively simple book, were the accounts of the author's own experience - written in the first person - the application of his understanding of the principles of Buddhism and the 12 steps, in his own life. The voice is that of one who has been there, and actually applied the spiritual principles of the two traditions to real problems in a real life. Unlike many texts that purport to lay out spiritual teachings for the general reader, there was no hint of condescension here - the writer bases his authority on the lessons he has personally learned through failure. For those struggling along their own paths, this is book is a mighty gift.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended September 29, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is well written and easy to read. I relapsed with 13+ years in a 12 step program and having a difficult time getting reconnected. As someone with Buddhist leanings who never quite bridged the gap between the steps and Buddhism I found this book to be of great help. If you are even remotely interested in working the 12 steps from a Buddhist perspective I highly recommend this book.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deepen our spiritual life in recovery September 17, 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Parallels between Buddhist traditions and the Twelve-steps are drawn by an author who practices both paths to enlightenment. For those who struggle with the concept of a Higher Power it becomes clear the the struggle is counterproductive. We learn that it is simply a surrender to the peace and joy of a spiritual connection. This book deftly addresses the similar feelings and behaviors that surface in people who have all kinds of dysfunctional behaviors. Kevin Griffin focuses on deepening our spiritual life in recovery.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written and valuable March 20, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this book to be a well written integration of the principles of Buddhism with the 12 Steps of AA. I learned a lot about both topics from reading it... and a fair amount about myself as well.

There are many who find the 12 Steps' notion of "a Higher Power" to be a huge obstacle when trying to adopt that successful program as a means of battling their addictions. This book can help you achieve a personal defintion of "a Higher Power" that is independent of the notion of a "supreme being," yet is believable, humbling, and empowering at the same time.

I recommend this book for anyone who struggles with alcoholism--or knows someone with that struggle--and especially those who struggle with the notion of creating a personal meaning for the "Higher Power" that is so pervasive in the 12 Steps.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars and what he's like now through combining Buddhism and the 12 steps
This book should be required reading for anyone in a 12 step program. the author tells his personal story through his personal experiences of where he was, what happened, and what... Read more
Published 2 days ago by Mean Ween
5.0 out of 5 stars On time
On time, well packaged. New as promised. I will definitely use again if I need more books. Reliable!! Dependable! Will recommend
Published 23 days ago by Therese Shalo
5.0 out of 5 stars Snuck up on me
Funny thing is I bought this book from a friend, but realized there are so many ways that the many branches of Buddhism can be translated into our everyday understandings.
Published 1 month ago by Jason Andrews
5.0 out of 5 stars A manuscript for Life
Eyeopening "soulbuster" packed with valuable insights on every page...
Impossible to speadread and an injection for a continuos process of change.
Published 2 months ago by Anders Alm
5.0 out of 5 stars Rich with Combined Buddhist and 12 Step Wisdom
Kevin Griffin shines the light of 12 Step Understanding onto Buddhist thought and meditation rationale, and vice versa. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Walt Massey
5.0 out of 5 stars Friend wanted this book
Would suggest this book to anyone looking for an additive to twelve step program. Easy to read and very enlightening
Published 4 months ago by Jane Ash
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Started reading this after initially reading a little bit of another old classic AA book. I found this much more easy to relate to and it actually helped my start my sobriety. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Adrienne Milam
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathe in, live - breathe out, love.
great refreshing mix of a bio, spirit, and humor with simply stated honesty. can now access it at anytime, any chapter, works well.
Published 5 months ago by bradley burke
5.0 out of 5 stars Buddhism and the 12 steps
This was a very prudent choice for a loved one who is going through the 12 steps, but is not as influenced by all the "prayer" and "God speak. Read more
Published 6 months ago by PAMom
5.0 out of 5 stars Buddhism and the 12 Steps
It's helpful toward seeing how difficult it is to quit using drugs, and I love the Buddhistic interpretation of the 12 Steps.
Published 6 months ago by Donna VanStraten Remmert
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More About the Author

Kevin Griffin is the author of "One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps" (Rodale Press 2004) and the forthcoming "A Burning Desire: Dharma God and the Path of Recovery" (Hay House 2009). A longtime Buddhist practitioner and 12 Step participant, he is a leader in the mindful recovery movement and one of the founders of the Buddhist Recovery Network. Kevin has trained with the leading Western Vipassana teachers, among them Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, and Ajahn Amaro. His teacher training was as a Community Dharma Leader at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin County, CA.

Kevin teaches nationally in Buddhist centers, treatment centers, professional conferences, and academic settings. He specializes in helping people in recovery connect with meditation and a progressive understanding of the 12 Steps. His events range from evening classes, to daylong workshops, and long weekend silent retreats. For information on his schedule click here.

Kevin was raised Catholic in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the youngest of five brothers. He dropped out of high school in the late sixties to pursue a career as a rock guitarist. In his twenties he lived in New England and played the club circuit until moving to LA in 1979 with an Afrobeat band called Zzebra. When the band crashed and burned, Kevin found Buddhism and began to explore the spiritual life. After getting sober in 1985, he returned to school, earning his BA from UC Berkeley and MFA in Creative Writing from UC Irvine. He began teaching meditation in 1996 while working as a technical writer. He now divides his time between writing, teaching, and family time with his wife and daughter. He still plays and writes music and is currently recording a CD of dharma-related rock songs.


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