The quote “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, is from Lao Tzu the founder of Taoism. What I love about Taoism is that it represents a tremendous wealth of wisdom for life yet does not suffuse any religiosity with that knowledge.
When I was getting sober, I was told a similar analogy — “If you know where Sydney is and head in that direction, you’ll get there”.
So I began my journey, but I knew where I DIDN’T want to be, rather than having a firm idea of where to go next! Thirty years of getting drunk had polished the gloss off that genie bottle, and where I had found myself was in a hellish prison of addiction, unemployment and depression.
In other words, I could not feel, I could not work, and I didn’t want to know anyone. I was alone in my own putrid bodily fluids.
There is a story often told around Buddhist circles. If you must travel over rocky and thorny ground you could cover the whole ground with leather, or more conveniently, you could just cover your feet in leather.
The analogy is that similarly, we could try and change all our external circumstances to ease our suffering or change our mind.
I fell in love with an English translation of Langri Tangpa’s ‘Eight Verses of Training the Mind’ which helped immensely in calming my mind in the early year or two of sobriety.
In particular, this book helped me with the Spiritual component of the 12 Steps, when handing my will and my life over to a Higher Power seemed nearly impossible. I was able to imagine that there was more Power in the spirit of all the enlightened being of all the previous eons.
There was more practical use in trusting that these teaching would serve me then in not believing. And there were people around me in the sangha and in the rooms that supported me in my awkward, fumbling first steps. My meditation practice flourished and I got slowly better.
Whatever tradition you are attracted to I sincerely urge meditation for calming the mind. Buddhists believe that a peaceful mind is a happy mind, so if you are seeking happiness you need look no further.