The path to uncovering our heart’s positive qualities is a radical one. It is fraught with the demons of the heart/mind that in Buddhism we call Mara. Mara is the aspect of heart/mind that creates roadblocks, gives excuses, procrastinates, and urges us to avoid all the unpleasant mind states that accompany the healing of awakening. Mara is the inner experience of all forms of addiction, greed, hatred, and delusion. Mara will attack with vengeance at times, for by committing to the heart’s liberation, we are committing to facing Mara directly.

The Buddha spoke of his battle with Mara, and victory over Mara was won with the weapons of love, compassion, equanimity, and appreciation. After the Buddha’s initial victory, Mara did not give up, however. Mara continued to live with the Buddha throughout his whole life. The Buddha was constantly vigilant, always meeting Mara with a loving awareness, always disarming him with the heart’s wisest responses. We too can live a life of responding wisely to Mara, to our addictive patterns, to the pain of our past.

From Refuge Recovery: A Buddhist Path to Recovering from Addiction, by Noah Levine. © 2014 HarperOne. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.