About “desire chips”, mindfulness, and starting over in the recovery journey – by Tyler Dawn

As you may know, a “desire chip” is a token given in 12 step programs, to anyone who makes a personal commitment to stay sober for the next 24 hours. How many desire chips can one acquire?  As many as it takes!  As we are reminded by Sharon Salzberg, “we have the ability to begin again, without blaming or judging ourselves, without thinking we have failed, without losing heart, we can, and need to, constantly be beginning again.”  That’s why the rooms of 12 step programs are meant to be safe havens where there is no judgment, blame or failure.

My own recovery journey has taken me from 12 step rooms to the Himalayan mountains and many places in between. My interest and curiosity about all things spiritual has lead the way.  As with all recovery stories, mine has also been filled with guilt, shame, remorse and many personal struggles.  However, community and the 12 step path gotten me through.

It was in these rooms that I have learned some of the most valuable lessons in my life today: living one day at a time, keep it simple and keep coming back, to name a few.  I’m convinced that every spiritual path and practice all contain similar sentiments and suggestions.  One of my favorite lines in The Big Book says, “We are not saints. The point is that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. We claim spiritual progress, not perfection.”

I don’t believe there is only one way to recovery. I like to think of recovery as a buffet where we are invited to pick and choose what works best for us.  Eventually, we begin to pick the “food” or tools that work on a consistent basis and stay open to other tools along the way.  For me, the practice of yoga, meditation, prayer, gratitude and self-examination have proven to be my daily go-tos.  I also enjoy weekly community gatherings/meetings, taking extended breaks in nature, live music performances and crafting.

Yet, if I had to choose only one tool to take with me for the rest of my journey, it would be meditation!

I have practiced almost every form of meditation over the past eight years and today, my formal practice is Centering Prayer and my supplemental practices are mindfulness and yoga nidra.  I have studied the eight fold path of Buddhism and love going to local temples to practice with groups.

In almost all meditative practices there are commonalities: keep it simple, keep coming back and find an anchor to the present moment.  Present moment awareness is key in any meditation and also in spiritual practices.  Any time I am able to be fully present in the present moment, I consider this spiritual.

You see, just as Sharron Salzberg describes in her quote, we have the ability to begin again and again. To begin again is a key component in any practice, from meditating, to playing piano or football! All it requires is willingness, a little bit of humility and desire.  What’s ironic is that once we have developed a practice of mindfulness and meditation, these attributes come much more easily.

Our equanimity expands,

Self judgment and fear begin to fall away.

Before I became a Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention certified trainer, I had to take the course myself.  Throughout, I learned to identify the thoughts, emotions and physical sensations I was experiencing as a result of triggering events. It helped me to understand while all of these things are part of who I am, they are not who I am. And, I was able to create an observable space between the two. This space gave me the option of responding rather than reacting.

Spending time in present moment awareness strengthens that place in ourselves that is pure essence.  Mindfulness does not change the world, only how we react to it. And, we can always begin again!


If you’re in rcovery and want to explore the concept of mindfulness as a relapse repvention technique, learn more about our course here.

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