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Zen and the Art of Recovery

Henry David Thoreau once said, “When any real progress is made, we unlearn and learn anew what we thought we knew before.” In recovery, we often come in with many preconceived notions about sobriety and what he think we must do to recover. One of the best things we can do is allow ourselves to open our hearts and minds to what we can learn about ourselves, our addictions, and our newfound sobriety. There is an old zen story, referred to as the “teacup story”, that deals with this topic:

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Our cup is filled with all of our ideas about what we feel is the best thing to do for our recovery. We may not entirely understand why we cannot drink if our problem was heroin, or why should turn our will over to a higher power, but when we open ourselves up to learning from others, we will find that we can take their advice to heart and improve our own recovery.

It is easy to let our pride and ego get in the way of our ability to learn new things. Our cups are overflowing with ideas about why we became addicted or how we can overcome it. We continue to want to run our lives based on the same self-will that exacerbated our addiction. It can certainly be difficult to lay aside our prejudices and accept that perhaps we do not have all the answers.

This is no more evident than in the question of spirituality in recovery. The main text of Alcoholics Anonymous, referred to as the “Big Book”, explains that many people get excited about the prospect of recovery, but “his face falls when we speak of spiritual matters, especially when we mention God, for we have reopened a subject which our man thought he had neatly evaded or entirely ignored.” Our cups are often full of prejudices against all spiritual matters. However, when we empty our cup, we find that our conception of a higher power is entirely our own and can be entirely non-religious.

Many people, when hearing the word “God” in the rooms of 12-step recovery meetings immediately shut themselves out and are unwilling to consider the prospect of spirituality as a means of recovery. The “Big Book” asks that you “do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what they mean to you. At the start, this was all we needed to commence spiritual growth…”

This is but one example of a preconceived idea or prejudice that we must empty from our cup. There may be many more to varying degrees. However, once we empty our cup and are willing to learn from others, we can commence to recover from addiction and begin living a life of happiness, joyousness, and freedom.

Your life can become one of peace and serenity in sobriety. You can make the courageous decision to seek help now and begin building a brighter future. Resilient House, located in beautiful Shreveport, Louisiana, offers a partial hospitalization program with unique therapies and programs that are tailored to each client’s specific needs. The PHP program offers physical activities at the gym and fitness facility, yoga studio, or scenic nature trails, as well as encourages guests to meet other members of the Resilient House family and accompany them to outside 12-step meetings. For information about PHP and other treatment options, please call today: (833) 242-6431