Levine knows the depths of pain and depravity as well as anyone, but instead of resigning himself to a life of drug use, he pulled himself out of prison with the help of meditation and the Buddhism that was so special to his father, the famous author Stephen Levine.
Buddhism and punk rock obviously have some huge differences. But for me they are both part of a single thread that has been stitched through every aspect of my life. My search for happiness, which first led me to drugs and punk rock, is the same search that eventually brought me to spiritual practice. The truth is, going against the internal stream of ignorance is way more rebellious than trying to start some sort of cultural revolution, Levine says in his book Dharma Punx.
In 2003 Levine released a memoir Dharma Punx in which he traces his life from his roots in punk rock, anarchy and violence to his newfound peace. Dharma Punx is my story and its a story about my generation: the punks, the kids all around the world who searched for meaning and liberation in the age of Reagan, Thatcher, and the Cold Wars constant threat of total nuclear annihilation, Levine says in the preface to the text.
Levine was brought to his sobriety through a combination of meditation tips from his father and the help of a 12-step program to stop addiction.
The 12-step programs are known for their success and other famous punk rockers have been through this type of therapy and come out with a heightened sense of spirituality as evidenced by the life of John Maurer. Maurer played bass guitar for Social Distortion in the late 80s and 90s and became a Christian after going through a similar program. Levine says,
I think that, mostly, 12-step programs offer a spiritual solution to addiction and how one chooses to interpret that thought is personal. I turned to Buddhism partially because I was raised with more of an Eastern perspective. I think that part of my punk ethic with an anti-religion thought made it easier to go toward Buddhist thought, since it is less of a blind faith. It is not a faith-based tradition, but it is a verified experience tradition. Buddhism fit much better for me. I felt like it was more realistic. I think it just comes down to what resonates as true.
He has spent time studying under some of the foremost minds in Buddhist thought, including the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Ram Dass, Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg, Norman Fischer and Sylvia Boorstein. Kornfield states, Noah makes us feel the painful alienation and suffering of modern youth, and discover as he did the liberation of spiritual practice that can ultimately heal.
Even the punk rockers are intrigued by what Levine has to say as Mike Ness from Social Distortion says that Levines book is, . . . a great success story that shows that violence, negativity and self-destruction dont accomplish anything. Sothira of California puck rock outfits Crucifix and Proudflesh, says that the book inspired him to reflect on the impact that his life has had. Dharma Punx inspired me to look back at my own life and to see where I might be able to grow spiritually, Sothira comments.
Since the release of his book, Levine has been keeping busy. In the last year I have been traveling and teaching meditations and doing workshops. I also finished a masters in psychology. I am integrating meditation and psychology, he says.
Levine is also the co-founder of an organization in San Francisco called the Mind Body Awareness Project. The MBA is a group that teaches at-risk youth meditation and yoga in order to help them curb tendencies toward drugs and violence. The goal is to show young people how to reduce stress, manage anger and avoid violent situations.
He has also done quite a bit of traveling throughout the world, including a trip to Asia. I was five years into my spiritual practice and recovery: very into the intensive stage of my own growth and healing. I took a vow of celibacy. I was on my way to Asia for a few months; that turned into a couple of years and ended in about 1997 or 98. Since then I finished grad school and wrote the book and have transitioned into the teaching practice.
Levine says that his goal is to remove certain biases from Eastern thought and to take it into the world. There is another aspect [to meditation] which is cultivating loving kindness, forgiveness, and compassion while learning to relate differently to pain and suffering in ourselves and in others. This is not a selfish thing but is about using it in the world to bring about positive change. Were trying to take away the Hippie stigma that comes with Eastern thought.
A style of insight meditation referred to as Vipassama is what Levine teaches mostly. There are a lot of levels to meditation. There is basic stress reduction that is universal. There is also introspection that helps with anger management. [The main goal is] seeing the truth within ones own mind-body process. The foundational practice is present-time awareness; feeling emotion and thought patterns. This is not just mindless awareness but is using the critical aspect of the mind to analyze existence, Levine says.
Levine will be at the Leelanau Center for Contemplative Arts on Friday, July 9 from 4-7:30 p.m. He will be speaking about his lifes journey and will be leading a meditation practice on the art of just sitting. For more information contact Sandy Carden at UNION/YOGA by calling 231-256-2100 or visit www.unionyoga.com. For information on Levines current book tour, visit his web site at