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Kosmo[ Dr Valerie Mason John interview

What is MBAR?

MBAR is a secular mindfulness-based promoting recovery from addiction, while acknowledging relapse as part of the process, but not a given. I co-founded the Mindfulness-Based Addiction Recovery (MBAR) program in 2005, with Dr. Paramabandhu Groves.

Endorsed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society, he writes in the new expanded edition of our book Eight Step Recovery: Using the Buddha’s Teachings to Overcome Addiction:

May this MBAR program prove to be just the door you need to open, and if so, then enter, enter, enter, and give yourself over day by day, thought by thought, moment by moment to this reliable and profound form of nurturance and healing.

How this approach helps in focusing more on recovery rather than emphasizing relapse?

We called it Mindfulness Based Addiction Recovery MBAR because we wanted to focus on recovery, rather than emphasize relapse. Although preventing relapse is often a key part of addiction treatment, the shift to promoting recovery was partly in response to feedback from clients, who found the emphasis on relapse disempowering.

Moreover, mindfulness seemed to lend itself well to a broader well-being and recovery approach, which was also consonant with wider treatment trends within the UK at that time.

Nevertheless, we found that some clients would still assume that they would relapse and were often highly self-critical when they did relapse. In revising the course, we therefore decided to include a strong aspect of loving kindness, for example, introducing the Four Basic Needs of the Heart practice.

The MBAR program while grounded in MBCT and MBRP, as well as emphasizing loving kindness, includes interactive exercises to explore feelings, thoughts and behaviors.

We found this helps to bring to life the processes involved in addictive patterns and recovery from them, as well as fostering participation and a supportive community atmosphere within the group of participants.


Mindfulness-Based Addiction Recovery (MBAR)

Date and Time

Mon, Aug 5, 2019, 1:00 PM –

Sun, Sep 1, 2019, 4:00 PM EDT

What prevents many people from thinking “I am good enough”? What is it that prevents people from believing in themselves?

Life sentences like I’m not good enough, alerts me to the fact that there was an early trauma in childhood, where the child had nobody to talk to, and had a disconnection inside themselves, and started blaming themselves to try and make sense of a traumatic experience.

It could have been parents separated, and no one spoke to the child about it, and so they made sense of this trauma by saying I’m not good enough for daddy or mummy to stay.

Similarly, when a person does not believe in themselves, it alerts me to the fact that there was a trauma in early childhood.

It could be that the person who does not believe in themselves, may think they are invalid, and this could be triggered by the fact that the child was put up for adoption, or perhaps was born into a family where they were unwanted, or the parents tried to abort the child, or grew up being differently abled.

Some people come into the world stressed out, and traumatized from being in the womb, because their parents were fighting, taking drugs, or perhaps their parent experienced a bereavement in the family.

All of this and much more can be the source of what I call stinking thinking. The problem is that all of this happens in the past, but it keeps on occurring in the present. When people begin to have some recovery, they begin to see all the stuff of the past that they have been anesthetizing, avoiding and trying to soothe.

Because the past keeps on appearing in the present every time we are activated by something, like a conflict with someone, it prevents us from thinking I am good enough and believing in ourselves.

Listening at one of your amazing speeches, you mention the following:

“My biggest addiction was thinking…”

This was a huge revelation. I had let go of the eating disorder, the recreational substances and alcohol, and I became aware of mantras like I hate myself, I’m unlovable, something is wrong with me.  I literally woke up in my bed and called out aloud:

“Oh my God, my biggest addiction is my stinking thinking.”

I had to learn that every time something upsetting, uncomfortable or even pleasurable arose, when I couldn’t be with it, I fled to the familiar, my ego that insulted and berated me. In a strange way it was easier to be with the self hatred, than with the anger of others, or the upset, or the dark mental states.

My mantras gave me energy, sitting with the upset comatosed me and that was scary. Not being able to move.

It seems to be a common addiction for individuals. Why are people so addicted to their thoughts?

How can individuals escape their addiction?

We can not avoid thoughts.

It’s just what the mind does it will produce thoughts.

One of the six senses (mind is the 6th sense) will have contact with an external stimulus like the smell of smoke or alcohol, and a sensation will arise in the body, which could be butterflies or salivating. And thoughts begin to kick in I want it.

Similarly, one of the six sense can have contact with an internal stimulus like an irritated mental state, and discomfort will arise in the body, and thoughts, then thinking and emotions arise taking us away from the unpleasant feeling.

Our thoughts become our best friends, they protect us, we believe them, and they shape our life. The problem is that our thoughts are not facts, and they’re often not true, and berate us.

We have to learn to have thoughts without a thinker, in fact thoughts without a stinker, if we are going to work with our addictions. One does not escape their addiction. Our addictions go into remission like any debilitating and life-threatening illness.

We are what we think: Valerie Mason-John at TEDxRenfrewCollingwood

We have to learn that our addictions were away of taking care of us, when there was nobody to soothe us, our addictions are what Dr. Gabor Mate says an ‘adaptation’ to an environment, so we can cope.

One must do the inner child work, the work of the past, if we are to let go of our addictions. In letting go something new will emerge.

During one of your speeches, you also mention that Loving kindness saved your life.

Our society seems to be far from developing loving kindness living in a world where achievement at the expense of others is the most advertised behavior.

It depends which world we live in.

Our thoughts shape our world. A famous quote from the Buddha, says:

This being that becomes, from the arising of this that arises. That being that does not become from the cessation of that ceases.

The Buddha also said something like, that if we cling onto and harbor such thoughts that they beat me, they robbed me, they assaulted me, they belittled me, only hatred will stir in our hearts.

If we act with a mind of hatred, negativity with follow us like our shadow. If we act with a heart of kindness and compassion, happiness will stay with us like the in and out breath.

We can change our world, but to do that we must release the wounds and the trauma of our past. We all experience trauma. It is inescapable, but we can be free of it too.

Why did people lose the concept of loving kindness? How is this going to develop for the next generations?

I don’t believe people have lost the concept of loving kindness or compassion as a matter of fact. There is a lot of kindness and compassion in the world.

Mindfulness conquered high popularity over the last decades. Nowadays, you can hear this word on a daily basis and several corporations are starting to introduce mindfulness for their employees.

What is it that made this society moving toward mindfulness?  

Many corporates love mindfulness because they can see that mindfulness contributes to happier employees, less sick days, more production values and more money. 

There is an emphasis on concentration and awareness.

But mindfulness in it’s full gamut, includes ethics and kindness. Ethics is the underpinning of mindfulness, and when that happens the fruits of this practice is unbounded loving kindness and wisdom. 

Mindfulness has the capacity to change the world, but not if we only focus on mindfulness for our personal gain. Sadly, we have seen people take the aspect of concentration, and train people to be snipers.

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

This is not mindfulness, it is just extracting something from the teaching to intimidate and achieve horrific personal gains. If you are Mindful you would not be able to kill another human being.

When we become more sensitive to the world, we begin to feel pain and sadness for accidentally killing an insect.

We become more mindful of body, speech and mind, and feel remorse when we blow a gasket, or loose our cool. We become aware of the impact of dwelling in negative mental states. Many of us get caught up in greed, hatred and delusion.

Mindfulness has the capacity to dissipate these mental states, and cultivate an inner peace, stillness and contentment.

I’m happy with main streaming mindfulness because it is a finger pointing to the moon, and the more people begin to practice it the better. But we must be aware that there are dangers when we only teach awareness and concentration as Mindfulness.

One of the biggest issue individuals encounter is the practice of creating a habit. Mindfulness practice requires goodwill to be pursued on a daily basis to generate a positive impact.

What are your thoughts about habits? Why do people find that difficult to generate positive habits?

We all have positive habits we just need to recognize them.

  • Waking up in the morning
  • cleaning our teeth
  • making the bed
  • stopping at traffic lights
  • lining up at a bus stop or a bank teller
  • feeding the children, the pets
  • taking a dog for a walk

These are some of the positive habits we have. And it’s good to remind ourselves that we do have habits that can be limiting or detrimental to our lives.

My teacher the late Sangharakshita says:

we are a collection of habits, and it’s important to begin to recognize our habits, and where they come from.

It seems that as humans we have an inbuilt tendency to habitually turn away from things we don’t like and habitually turn towards things we like. Which gets us into trouble, because we are constantly swinging from preferences of like, dislike.

When we like something, and it disappears we are in dislike, and when the dislike disappears we are clinging to the thing we like hoping it will last forever.

Rather than thinking about generating habits, we need to be thinking about becoming less of our habits.

If you look at the elderly many of them not all, have become more of their habits, and we complain.

Do we want to grow old with all our habits? 

Imagine the freedom of becoming less of our habits?

And yes, there is fear of letting go of things like our identities that create a whole host of habits so we can cling on to being the wounded son or daughter or non binary, or trans child, the parent, the person who has a great job, the person who lives on the streets. Everything we do habitually reinforces an identity.

What are you planning for the near future?

Great question. I have eight books, but all of them have been published by well respected small publishers, and three of them have won awards. With my next book, Addiction an Invitation – Unknow Yourself through Mindfulness, I’m wanting a wider market, so people can benefit from my life of service.

So, I’m actively looking for a bigger publisher.  I love collaboration and I have joined forces with Con Plena Conciencia, to take my mindfulness work to the Spanish Speaking World.

Closer to home in North America I’m working with great women like Cali Estes, author and founder of the recovery academy, and with Holly Glenn Whittaker founder of Tempest (formerly known as Hip Sobriety).

This past few years we’ve seen women take a strident and assertive place in the recovery world, and I hope to see more People of Color claiming this space too.

I continue to do Public Speaking, Lead Retreats, Train people in the Mindfulness Approaches for Addiction. But all plans are provisional.

So, I’m learning not to plan, and see what unfolds, rather than habitually trying to control things, and when they don’t happen tell myself Oh I’m not good enough, nobody believes in me, something is wrong with me. I’m open!


Valerie Mason John

Dr Valerie (Vimalasara) Mason-John M.A (hon.doc) is an inspirational public speaker and master trainer in the field of addiction and recovery, conflict transformation, leadership, and mindfulness. She is the award-winning author of 8 books, and is the co-founder of Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teaching to Overcome Addiction, an alternative to the 12 steps programs for addiction. Since the publication of the book by Windhorse Publications in 2013, it has won the Best USA Book awards 2014 and Best International book Award 2015 in the self-motivational and self-help category. Eight Step Meetings are now taking place in the UK, USA, Canada, Mexico, India, and Finland.

President of Buddhist Recovery Network and senior teacher in the Triratna Buddhist Community. She also is the co-creator of Mindfulness-Based Addiction Recovery (MBAR). More about this life-changing program here. Valerie is one of the leading African Descent voices in the field of Mindfulness approaches for Addiction, and trains professionals to work in the field of addiction all over the world. She is a facilitator of Compassionate Inquiry as taught by Dr. Gabor Mate – author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghost – Close Encounters with Addiction an accredited Life Coach, Recovery Coach and Mindfulness Teacher.





Simone Santarelli

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