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Overcoming Alcoholism and Introducing a Healthy Lifestyle in Mongolia
By Ven. Thubten Gyalmo
In January and February 2013, FPMT Mongolia implemented an alcohol treatment program in cooperation with the Ulaanbaatar Police Department, five district police departments in Ulaanbaatar City, the Association Against Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, and the Maanit Compulsory Alcohol Treatment Center in Bayan soum, Tuv province. This program was financed by the Mongolian Ministry of Justice.
During the transition of the Mongolian society from socialism to democracy, people’s lifestyles underwent significant changes, resulting in both positive and negative long-term influences on the society. Abusing alcohol, smoking and drugs became popular as a way of dealing with the challenges of this transition. Statistics in Mongolia show that 72 percent of violent crime is a result of alcohol consumption and that 52 percent of the population regularly consume more alcohol than they should.
Today, due to the rapid increase of alcohol addiction in Mongolia, the society is experiencing a very noticeable increase in premature deaths, theft, violent crime, accidents, domestic violence and other destructive behaviors. These are the harsh consequences of people trying to solve issues arising from stress, pain, frustration, anger, other negative mental states and lack of effective communication through the use of alcohol. Thus, there is a growing and urgent need to teach people how to solve their life problems using safe and healthy methods.
Our project’s purpose is to educate, inspire and support the participants to implement a healthy lifestyle in order to be free from dependency on alcohol and other damaging substances. An important focus for us was to develop a training program that addresses both the prevention of and release from alcohol addiction and that include strategies drawn from the disciplines of meditation and hatha yoga.
These are the key points of focus for our program:
- To raise general awareness on the nature and effects of alcohol addiction;
- Explain the dysfunction of family co-dependency;
- Give a clear definition of alcohol addiction – how it develops and influences our behavior in a destructive way;
- Assist participants to identify stress and unhealthy behaviors that can lead to addiction;
- Share healthy alternatives for overcoming stress and negative emotions, especially anger;
- Find meaning and purpose in one’s life and introduce aspects of a healthy lifestyle.
Each of the participants received this information so that they could become more responsible for their own actions.
Over a period of three weeks, we offered six one-day workshops with more than 20 participants at each workshop, reaching in total 140 people. The morning sessions were facilitated by a guest speaker from the Mongolian Association Against Alcoholism and Drug Abuse and these provided valuable information on the definition of alcoholism, addiction, family co-dependency and their harmful impacts. Video resources created here in Mongolia were shown highlighting how the family and friends suffer because of alcohol addiction. There was also time allocated for participants to ask questions and generally discuss the content of the session among themselves.
Afternoon sessions were guided by FPMTM teacher Ven. Thubten Gyalmo. The main focus in these sessions was on the mental roots of addiction, the nature of mind and its potential, transforming bad habits, improving the health of the whole and helping to find the real purpose of life. The participants learned about the keys to a healthy lifestyle and practiced meditation, yoga breathing and simple movements as an alternative for dealing with stress and negative emotional states.
The participants completed a health questionnaire, which provided them with an opportunity to honestly evaluate different aspects of their life (physical and mental health, emotional balance, finances, etc.) and identify their weaknesses and strengths. They were offered suggestions on ways to address their weaknesses.
At the conclusion of each session, all were requested to complete a course evaluation form and the majority of the general comments were that they attended the training out of concern of their addiction and were inspired to effect some lasting change in their life. In response to a question as to how the training could be improved, the participants suggested that FPMT Mongolia conducts similar trainings on a regular basis for people with addiction and provide special sessions for family members of alcoholics to empower them to deal more effectively with the dysfunctional behavior of the addicted person. To make every effort to reach a larger number of people, some even suggested broadcasting sessions on TV and radio.
Ven. Thubten Gyalmo has been a student of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche since meeting them at Manjushri Institute in 1977. In 1990, she founded and directed for 12-1/2 years Hospice of Mother Tara in Western Australia and also supported Liberation Prison Project students there. Since the end of 2008, Ven. Gyalmo has been serving FPMT Mongolia in various roles, currently working as director of Ganden Do Ngag Shedrup Ling while teaching yoga classes to help fund the programs at the center and training a Mongolian to become the center’s spiritual program coordinator. She continues to do Liberation Prison Project work at a high-security prison, one hour’s drive from Ulaanbaatar.
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- Buddhist Business Lessons to Share: Creating Right Livelihood
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- Planting Seeds of Peace in Mexico City: Universal Education for Compassion and Wisdom in Action
- In Praise of the Universal Mother
- Overcoming Alcoholism and Introducing a Healthy Lifestyle in Mongolia
- Cherishing Life and a Recipe for Mushroom and Kale Pâté
- Understanding Lam-rim: An Interview with Ven. Sangye Khadro on the Masters Program
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About Mandala Publications
Mandala Publications is the official publication of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), an international charitable organization founded by two Tibetan Buddhist masters, Lama Thubten Yeshe (1935-1984) and Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche. FPMT is a vibrant international community, with a network of 160 affiliate centers, projects and services, and members in more than 30 countries.
Mandala print magazine is published in January, April, July and October. Mandala is available via the Friends of FPMT program.