Still Waters: Sobriety, Atonement, and Unfolding Enlightenment

Still Waters: Sobriety, Atonement, and Unfolding Enlightenment
Published: 2006
ISBN: 1-59285-348-X
Format: Paperrback

School/perspective: “deeply influenced by the old Ch’an masters of ancient China and their cranky, frumpy Taoist cohorts, such as Chuang Tzu and Lieh-Tzu…”

Chapter headings:

  • 1. Atonement
  • 2. Life out of balance
  • 3. Just sit there
  • 4. In the realm of the wraiths
  • 5. Something’s happening here
  • 6. Shrink to fit
  • 7. Bringing it all back home
  • 8. Breakthrough
  • 9. Coming to life
  • 10. A will to love
  • 11. Moving past zero
  • 12. The return
  • 13. Learning to dance
  • Epilogue: Coincidence and atonement
  • Appendix 1 The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Appendix 2 How to meditate
  • About the author

Selected excerpts:

“Ten years ago I was a practicing Zen Buddhist. I still meditate daily but my practice has been deeply influenced by the old Ch’an masters of ancient China and their cranky, frumpy Taoist cohorts, such as Chuang Tzu and Lieh-Tzu, along with the poets T’ao Ch’ien, Li Po, and others. Those masters and the hermit poets of China and Japan have, dangerously, taken the place of contemporary Zen teachers in my internal hierarchy. Zydeco dancing is central to my spiritual life now, while then I would never have imagined that, at my age, I would be able to take on such an activity. As you will see in the pages ahead, my spiritual practice has become more catholic, small “c”, emphasis on the second syllable…”
“I don’t live in my past and those who do are welcome to it. There’s more room since I moved out. Then I was an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous and, to my chagrin, I wrote about that membership in ways that I now wish I had not. I still have a “desire to stop drinking”, the sole requirement for membership in that miraculous fellowship, but I am no longer a member of anything that separates me from the larger community of my fellows. I am not “a” anything. I am not defined by my neuroses, my congenital conditions, my spiritual practice, my club memberships, or my social standing. I am an “earth person”, a term used in the community of recovery, which creates a “them and us” division that I find deeply troublesome. I stake my claim on the earth, as you will see in the pages to come.” (pp. 2-3)

“We are on the cusp of personal and ecological disaster. In the techno-madness of the first world, the entire culture is behaving addictively. We consumer more and more and get less and less satisfaction. There is no probative difference between substance addiction and the constant and escalating desire for status, wealth, prominence, or, the most banal of all, fame. There is no probative difference between the individual denial of substance abuse and the social denial of the destruction of the earth. Both are a movement toward death and both are fed by endless appetites and obdurate denial…” (pp. 106-107)

© 2006 Hazelden Foundation

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Reviews posted:

Paul –

Nearly ten years on from Cool Water, Bill Alexander’s new book Still Waters does run deep. His writing style is a joy to read, and the book meanders through many subtle and interesting areas. What’s new? Well, it is far more socially and environmentally ‘engaged’. The heightened environmental consciousness is timely and welcome, and he draws parallels between addiction and environmental destruction similar to those made in the Hooked! anthology. He also commits to spending more time in the future helping families come to terms with addiction related suffering. If you are after a poetic, gentle, thoughtful read, then I highly recommend it. For those of us who read the earlier book it is also interesting to see what has happened in his life over the past decade, and not surprisingly it is full of change. It certainly illustrates the ups and downs of sobriety, even for an author writing about the art of recovery. In those years he experienced a “crushing divorce” and many other changes (he was 21 years sober at the time of writing). There are some echoes of Cool Water in the lovely writing style and pasta sauce recipes, but it is quite a different book. I would actually recommend Cool Water ahead of Still Waters to most people, particularly those in early recovery, but Still Waters is still well worth reading. The only negative for me was that I found the book a trifle indulgent in places (eg passages involving his son Will – but this is very human!). He now “divides his time between his home in north Florida and his bit of the jungle on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica.” Nice.