Monday, October 30, 2017

Zen Recovery Path :: Art Therapy :: Halloween

Author: Sifu Matt Carver

Expressive Pumpkins.
The Use of Art Therapy in the Addiction Treatment Process

Art therapy is a form of experiential therapy, an approach to recovery that addresses emotional and spiritual needs through creative or physical activity. It is not necessary to have a background in the arts or artistic talent to participate; individuals only need to be open to the experience and to engage actively to benefit from these sessions. Many clients find that art therapy is a relaxing and enjoyable way to address some of the more complex aspects of treatment. Creative activity provides a way to process some of the stressful emotions and anxieties that can emerge during treatment. Post treatment, activities like painting or drawing, can be used throughout the individual’s life as a way to express feelings, explore creativity, and reduce stress.

According to Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, clients can use artistic activities to uncover the feelings of guilt, unmanageability, or shame that led them to treatment. Zen Recovery Path therapists often use fluid media, like paint, to help clients experience the sensation of being out of control, which in turn helps them admit their need for sobriety.

In our most recent Art Therapy group session, the clients participated in a seasonal project to carve and paint a pumpkin that best suits their personality. Enjoy the gallery of photos.

weekly theme :: MEDITATION

Author: Sifu Matt Carver

This week we will explore meditation more deeply. 

If there is one skill we hope to pass on to those we treat, it is the meditation skill. This silent time with one's self is pivotal. It sets the stage for all other discoveries, epiphanies, and successes we strive towards. How can we navigate cravings, obsessions and destructive thought patterns if we cannot endure our own company in silence for 5 minutes? How do we build a new life free from the bondage of addiction if we do not know who we are or what we want?

Meditation is, in the beginning, time set aside and devoted to listening to that soft, still voice inside ourselves. Meditation is an act of revolt against distraction and delusion. It is time spent honestly. As we progress, the meditative state of mind encompasses all we do. No need to set time aside to meditate, because we will have achieved a perpetual "nowness" quality to our conscious lives.

We were born with two brains. One is obvious; your mind. The other is you gut. Our guts, namely our digestive system takes up a lot of real estate. And for good reason, its job is to fuel our bodies. Without it, all is lost. This constant supply of energy, however, needs guidance. This leadership comes from our minds. It guides the energy to where it is needed. Thoughts, dreams, hair, skin cells, bone, bone marrow, laughter and love all require energy. Our gut supply it and our mind guides it. But what happens when our mind fails to do its job? Energies begin to be misappropriated. Thoughts and obsessions run wild. Neurosis set in. Only through mindful meditation practice can we attune these two brains and have them working in harmony.

This week we will explore various meditation techniques: from simple breathing patterns, to active awareness practice, to “nowness” integration. Even listening to others is a form of meditative practice. Groups will be centered around the idea of self-mastery through non-action or wu wei (Chinese for no-mind) which is just a clever way to say spontaneous free actions and thoughts void of worry, second guessing and hesitation. Saddled with this newfound skill, our clients will have a huge advantage when dealing with daily struggles and challenges.

Monday, October 23, 2017

weekly theme :: PERSONAL IDENTITY

You are an individual, uniquely created with a soul and spirit that has emotions, intellect and will, all residing in a human body.  

This week at Zen Recovery we will explore the concepts of what is Personal Identity —
Personal Identity is a mixed bag.  Genetics plays a small part.  Gives us some basic patterns and boundaries. We then borrow heavily from our immediate family and caregivers, making those first few neural connections hardwired.  Environment plays a factor.  As do role models, movies, characters in books we read, t.v. shows, etc.  All of these outlets we pull personality details from and apply to our own patchwork personality or identity.  But is this the real you? 

Certainly, there must be more to it.  If our personalities are a gumbo medley of odds and ends then we should be able to change our recipes at will.  Just find new ingredients and source material?  Maybe so.  Always seems harder in practice, to try to change who we are.  If we pretend to be someone or an aspect of someone long enough, will be become what we pretend to be?  Kurt Vonnegut would likely agree. 

Finally, are we our egos?  Are we multiple egos wrapped up in wads of skin and bone?  Or is there more to who we are? Who is the essential “I”?  Where did it come from?  And where is it going?

We would like for you to join our discussion, Call us at (800) 759-1930

Monday, October 16, 2017

weekly theme :: Difficulties in the BEGINNING

Warp and woof together form fabric; similar to how yin and yang together create tai chi. 

The expression is often used as a metaphor for the underlying structure on which something is built or started.  The warp and woof entangle, forming a web.  A web entangles yet something else. And so on.  Warp/woof had their beginnings among weavers of various stripes. Puns aside, the warp are the row of vertical strings on a loom that weavers weave first.  The warp fibers are the original framework fibers. Simply put, warp is the structure.  “Warp” in Chinese is written “Ching” as in the “I Ching” or the “Tao Te Ching”. Warp is what you tie all other parts to. 

Which brings us to woof.  The woof makes it all sing.  They are the notes between the bars.  The dancer on the stage.  All shapes and colors and hallelujahs.  The woof holds all the magic and chaos as it weaves and swerves through the warp. 

However, the important first step of framework (warp) cannot be stressed here enough.  Rare is the artist/creator who paints right off her canvas onto her frame and onto the wall and onwards across the room into the hallway.  No.  The boundary of the creative act is clearly demarcated in the beginning.  Without that boundary, unbridled and stunted growth is the result.  Think about the bass line in a piece of music.  That bass line usually carries the song.  It is what the rest of the players start from and return to.  The bass line is the pulse of the song.  Same goes for the warp.  It is the pulse of things.  It sets a beat.  With a steady rhythm, we can start riffing on and exploring and creating harmonies and expressing who we are.  Without the warp?  Just a lot of lovely noise.  Constant aimless noise with no end and no frame. 

Without the woof the warp would just be rules, rules, rules. 

Things would get boring real, real fast.  The two work together in an exquisite existential harmony.  Providing exactly what the other cannot even imagine.
Last thought. Warp means “that which is thrown away” from an Old English word.  Meaning, we do not need the structure once we have completed the weaving.  The warp is only useful in the beginning.  Like the soft pencil lines an artist sets down first and then erases once the piece is finished. Thrown aside.

With that said, this week’s theme is about “Beginnings”.  Starting a new life in recovery is not easy.  Where do we start?  Where do we begin?  The desire to not drink is certainly not enough.  Last thing we tried not to do we accomplished with ease.  All kidding aside, we cannot start fresh in a life with a goal of “Not” doing something.  We want to DO things. Not not do things. Doesn’t even sound right.  But what do we do?  What happens first?

Beginnings are rocky.  

In fact, beginnings are beset by difficulties.  Easy beginnings are not beginnings at all by our definition.  No beginning is easy.  Want proof?  From the ordeal of birth to those first unsteady steps, to taking off the training wheels.  There is nothing easy or amusing at birth.  It’s bloody serious business entering the world.  Not for the squeamish at all.  Learning to walk ends in a high-speed bumbling face-plant most attempt (graceful and lovely are not adjectives that spring to mind).  Riding a bike for the first time free is as amazing of a feeling as one could ask for.  Followed by a very abrupt and high-friction situation no one asked for.  Riding a bike in the beginning is about as unsafe as you can be perched up off the ground on two shaky wheels downhill...then the rock you never saw becomes starkly noticeable as you face-plant (remember walking?) into the pavement.  A familiar feeling the face-plant. 

The Chinese have a word we do not have. 

It’s called “Chun.”   Chun means Difficulties in the Beginning.  Make special note to the fact that “difficulties” has an “s” at the end.  There is not just one difficulty lurking ominously for the beginner, but many.  So many. Makes a fellow not want to try new things, that’s for certain.  However, by setting principles first, like the warp, we can weave the life we wish. 

Chun has a few secret meanings too. Chun is the image of a tiny green sprout popping up from the ground.  This sprout, that was a seed just a few days ago, had to undergo the daunting task of being born and then racing toward the sun and simultaneously grow roots to attach itself down and get water and also dodge any obstructions that may be in their way as they push upward.  But the sprout won’t know about the obstacle part until he gets there and that’s just way the cookie crumbles.  All that effort to get born could be all for nuttin’.  Blam, obstacle.  However, chun is not deterred by these obstacles.  Chun just grows slowly and keeps moving around, over, or through the obstacle.  One way or another.  This is an old word with lots of secrets. 

In closing, in the beginning of things, basic principles (warp) come before specific goals (woof).  We cannot head off in a direction before we establish our principles for heading off in the first place.  Our principles are what we believe and practice.  Once we have established our principles then we discuss goals and plans.  So, the beginning is about setting up what we practice.  Who we are. Which is never easy.  Then goals.  Then freedom.  Otherwise we put the woof before the warp and we all know what happens then...

Try to focus this week’s theme around how we Begin new things and new lives.  Try to present ideas and topics in group that give concrete ways people can start anew and be prepared for the setbacks that always haunt new beginnings.
“Beginnings are sudden, but also insidious. They creep up on you sideways, they keep to the shadows, they lurk unrecognized. Then, later, they spring.” 
Margaret AtwoodThe Blind Assassin

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

weekly theme :: CONTEMPLATION

Author: Sifu Matt Carver

The contemplative state of mind is elusive.

The mind does what it does without ceasing.  It is a seemingly endless narrative of thoughts and ideas that materialize into actions and effects.  The contemplative state of mind is a mind that is content with just viewing or watching the cerebrations (workings) of the mind itself.  We reach this state of contemplation when all other attempts at grasping, and understanding, and making sense of, and ponderings, and musings, and unravelings, and thinking is exhausted.  When we arrive at the conclusion that thinking and not thinking will resolve anything.  When action and non-action bring about no change.  This “stumped” feeling where all you have left is to just sit and watch and wait, is contemplation.  

Kuan is the Chinese word for Contemplation.  

It also means view.  The old Chinese character for this idea is a tower.  From the tower, we command a view of all that surrounds us.  By sitting and watching from a height, we gain direct understanding of the innate order and laws of nature.  Allying with this force is a skill we hope to cultivate in the people we have committed to help. 

It is important to be aware of the effects we create in the world.  The right sort of self-examination consists not in idle brooding over oneself but in examining the effects one produces.  In other words, what is our offering to the world?  What do our actions and non-actions create in the world around us?  What do we produce?   Only by watching ourselves closely can we discover the end results of our actions and thoughts.  And adjust them accordingly.

“You do not need to leave your room.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
Do not even listen, simply wait, be quite still and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked,
it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
- Franz Kafka

Monday, October 2, 2017

weekly theme :: DISCOVER the Well Before You are Thirsty

Author: Sifu Matt Carver

Nourishing our bodies with viands (food) is an obvious way to sustain life and improve the quality of our lives.  What we put on our plates and eventually into our mouths determines the quantity and quality of what that nourishment fuels: production of skin cells, bone, blood, thoughts, emotions and life itself. 

In the exact same way, how we nourish our minds is of equal importance.  The people we choose to be with, the thoughts we choose to entertain, the things we seek out to watch, the “input” we receive on a daily basis, the patterns we establish on a daily basis.  The quality of these things affects our mental health and ultimate wellbeing more than anything else.  It’s always about getting the preverbal ball rolling — once you get motivated, you’ll notice it makes for a big difference.

This week we will learn different ways to nourish mind and body.  From basic nutrition to how we receive the outside world, we will break down and explore what we allow into our sphere of being and how we manifest that sphere and expand its reach and influence. 

In the I Ching there is a hexagram called “Ching”, which means The Well.  The Well is a vital resource in every culture on the planet.  Buildings change, dynasties change, governments change, but the Well remains a lasting fixture on the human cultural landscape. It is a limitless source of nourishment for all.  The Well supplies water, the cornerstone of life.  The Well is also extended as a metaphor for our Minds and suggests ways in which we can draw upon those flowing resources and manifest the life we choose to grow and live. 

You can spend a lifetime 
and still never come anywhere close 
to exhausting the resources
that are inside of you.

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.
Who looks outside, dreams; who looks within, awakes. – Carl Jung