Monday, May 21, 2018

weekly theme :: Chinese Element WOOD - Practicing Forgiveness

wood forgiveness

This week, we explore one of the 5 Chinese Elements: "WOOD".  

We do this by discussing and practicing Forgiveness.

Author: Sifu Matthew Carver based on Ryan Thompson's take on "Forgiveness"

Forgiveness is not giving up nor is it admitting defeat

Forgiveness is about taking power back and making a conscious decision to let go of resentments, pain, and anger. Some people are not ready to forgive and rightly so, what about victims of sexual assault and violence as well as people who have suffered physical, emotional abuse, and unearned shame? Is it not appropriate to feel rage or become victimized due to events that have happened directly or indirectly to us? 

We can become consumed by our suffering and have our whole worldview including our biases and attitude be controlled by our suffering and resentments. When we look objectively at how our resentments have power over us we can see how we engage in belittling ourselves and in turn increase our own self-loathing and even convince ourselves we deserve it, or we act upon anger and allow it to dominate our actions and perceptions of the world.

It is about making a personal statement

Forgiveness can begin the process of emotionally disconnecting ourselves from the events and pain that we have used to define us. Forgiveness is not about forgetting or even making a statement that what happened to create the resentment is acceptable, it is about making a personal statement that one does not want to be emotionally controlled by the events, memories, and perception of self that resentments create.

There are many ways to forgive

Some clients are ready to forgive, and we can foster that by asking the question and helping the client find the answer to; how. There are many ways to forgive and the least of all is giving the terrible advice of “Just let this go.” Well, How? How do people “let go” how do people forgive? For some it is a mere acknowledging that the incident(s) occurred, facing the emotions that arise and stating forgiveness. 

Others need rituals or prayer to assist in maintaining the intention of forgiveness. Forgiveness can act like the tide of the ocean or the changing moon and our resentments can creep back in, even after we have made the conscious decision to forgive. In this case, one needs to repeat the action of forgiveness and take a little more power back until the resentment has eventually been drained and the individual is free from that resentment.

It is our job to help foster forgiveness...

...and more importantly to help the client answer the question of how to forgive. It is also not our job to push someone to forgive when they are not ready as those individuals may still need to be further defined or come to a better understanding or acknowledge lessons to be learned from the experience before they become willing and ready to forgive. Even if that lesson is to realize how much damage and influence these resentments have had in our lives, and then we can pose the question

“Are you ready to let this go?”

Call or contact Zen Recovery Path. Our community welcomes a fresh start. Recovery will be inspired by Clinical and Holistic Therapies such as; Art Projects, Kung Fu Classes, Tai Chi, Music group, EMDR and Movie with Meaning therapies.
126 E. 16th St., Costa Mesa, CA 92627

(800) 759-1930

Monday, May 7, 2018

weekly theme :: BOUNDARIES

earth 5 elements

Author: Sifu Matthew Carver

EARTH - We are bound to it

This week, we will focus on the 1 OF THE 5 CHINESE ELEMENTS: EARTH. Let's think of the most challenging situations and the best way to establish boundaries. Let's identify patterns of what boundaries you feel are often crossed, the consequences that follow, and how to establish healthy boundaries in all areas of your life.

Imaginary lines are virtual guardrails

Personal boundaries are imaginary lines similar in formlessness and function as the invisible lines that separate countries, states and other masses of land and sea. Knowing where New York ends and Pennsylvania starts is useful and imaginary boundary lines are a convenient convention to that end. Knowing when you have entered into another country, with a whole new set of rules and language, is good to know. So mapmakers and gerrymandering politicians were kind enough to let us know with signs and signals when boundary lines are neared.

Establish mutual respect between two groups

Setting and practicing good boundaries can strengthen relationships and establish mutual respect between two groups. For example, if an old friend with pockets full addictive substances shows up, I need clear boundaries. I need to make that person aware that I walk a new path and my pockets are empty. This leads us to another important skill: communication. I need to explain clearly what my expectations are and what my corrective actions will entail. If I am interested in someone, I need to communicate that to the person of interest. Otherwise, they may just think we are friends and slap you when you make an advance out of the blue.

Spoken limitations and nonverbal clues

Personal boundaries are rules or limits that a person creates to identify permissible ways for other people to behave towards them. These personal boundaries may be spoken but are more often a combination of spoken limitations and nonverbal clues.

Nina Brown proposed four personal boundary types:

1. Soft - A person with soft boundaries merges with other people's boundaries. Someone with a soft boundary is easily a victim of psychological manipulation. 

2. Spongy - A person with spongy boundaries is like a combination of having soft and rigid boundaries. They permit less emotional contagion than soft boundaries but more than those with rigid. People with spongy boundaries are unsure of what to let in and what to keep out.

3. Rigid - A person with rigid boundaries is closed or walled off so nobody can get close either physically or emotionally. This is often the case if someone has been the victim of physical, psychological, or sexual abuse. Rigid boundaries are usually based on a bad previous experience in a similar situation.

4. Flexible - This person decides what to let in and what to keep out and is resistant to emotional and psychological techniques aimed at manipulating them. They are difficult to exploit.

Much of boundary setting practice involves knowing yourself well enough to know what is and is not allowed. This week we will explore concrete examples of boundary making successes and errors. We will practice and role-play various situations and explore together how healthy boundaries can aid us in transforming and outlining

Call or contact Zen Recovery Path. Our community welcomes a fresh start. Recovery will be inspired by Clinical and Holistic Therapies such as; Art Projects, Kung Fu Classes, Tai Chi, Music group, EMDR and Movie with Meaning therapies.
126 E. 16th St., Costa Mesa, CA 92627

(800) 759-1930

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

weekly theme :: MANIPULATION


Manipulation is Motivation

Author: Sifu Matthew Carver

The original definition of manipulating translates as “handful”

The idea of getting your hands on something so that you may influence it in some way or another. What is even more interesting is the antonym of manipulating. The opposite is “to leave alone.” To not touch something. To not affect it, whether it be an object or a human life. Hands off.

Bringing it together

When you explore it, what is life but manipulation? Getting your hands on people and things.
Connecting. If you knock on my treatment center door and I say “I'm busy!” I just manipulated you into leaving me alone, assuming you leave. However, if they say “come in” and you do, you have also been manipulated. If I ask you to go to dinner with me and you say “not in a million years” then you just refused my manipulation. If I ask you to join me to dance and you accept, I manipulated
you. Teaching a child how to learn the alphabet is strongly encouraged in school. Strongly
encouraging someone is manipulation.

Fact is, manipulation is not a “bad” word. It gets a very bad rap these days, but it needn’t.

Most, if not all, addicts and alcoholics are blue-ribbon, first prize manipulators. Just like the
knowledge of where pressure points on the body are located is not bad, in and of itself.
However, if you use that knowledge to dim mak (google death-touch) someone causing them
great harm, then yes it is bad. If we use that same knowledge to apply acupuncture to a patient
to heal, then it is good.

Positive “handful”

Manipulation is the same way. It can be used in a way that generates life-affirming principles and positive regard for people and life. Or, it can be used to terrorize, harm and force people into unwanted scenarios.

Not every tool is a hammer

A manipulation is a tool that many addicts have in abundance. Often times, it is wielded as a tool
for fulfilling our desires. A grasping sort of manipulation. Narrowly self-focused. Conversely,
with guidance, practice, and repetition, this ability to manipulate can become a vehicle for life-
affirming principles and generalized goodness. This is sort of manipulation is like an invitation.
An invitation to another person to join us in the spirit of play and personal growth.

Call or contact Zen Recovery Path. Our community welcomes a fresh start. Recovery will be inspired by Clinical and Holistic Therapies such as; Art Projects, Kung Fu Classes, Tai Chi, Music group, EMDR and Movie with Meaning therapies.
126 E. 16th St., Costa Mesa, CA 92627

(800) 759-1930

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


Unintended consequences are unforeseen outcomes that result from a particular and purposeful action or choice. 

For example, in India, government decision makers offered anyone a cash reward for a dead cobra. Apparently, live cobras are rather prolific in India and causing a public hazard. As a result of this incentive program, Indians were killing cobras by the knot full.

This serpentcide led to the near extinction of the dangerous snake in Delhi. Now we can all wander around safely. Barefoot in the tall grass along the Ganges with not a worry in the world, right? Wrong, once enterprising Indians made the connection that a male cobra and a female cobra get together to make pits of baby cobras…ch-ching! Let’s breed cobras! Well, eventually the Man caught wind of this little scheme and declared that they would no longer pay bounties for dead snakes. As a result of this pendulum shift, cobra breeders all throughout India dumped their nests of cobras into the nearest dusty ditch and went off in search of greener pastures. The end result? A lot more damn venomous cobras then we started with! Haha says the tiny anarchist who lives in my heart.

This is an unintended consequence. 

What we planned to achieve from our master plan does not pan out masterfully. We planted a redwood seed and nothing but weeds grew up. Our ability to make choices and plans comes with a very comical backlash: the unforeseen outcomes. 

Learning how to adapt and recover from these unwelcomed results can be the difference between giving up and moving forward. Choices generate the need for more choices. I hate to quote rap royalty but Biggie said it best. Mo’ choices mo’ problems. Or was that mo’ money? We digress…

Forgiving ourself for their choices

Most people in addiction recovery are suffering from a very precise kind of suffering. Many addicts cannot forgive themselves for their choices. We regret going out one more time. We lament the loss of a friend we could have saved but instead hastened to the grave. We wish we could take back so many things we did and said. Or worse, the things we did not do or say. Alcoholism is unforgiving. It holds grudges. But there is hope. The ability to see the unintended consequence for what it truly is, gives us an advantage when dealing with addiction, and in a much wider scope, our lives.

Unforeseen results

Listen, put simply, we do and say things and as a result, stuff happens. Some we intended and a lot more we did not. However, these unforeseen results themselves have unforeseen results, good and bad. As long as we are moving forward and learning from each choice and each word, we then walk an enlightened path. We have to make choices. 

Even when we refuse to choose, we chose. No decision is a decision. And with these choices, we feel the comfort and the sting. Really the weekly theme runs deeper than unintended consequences. Making brave and compassionate choices might be a better title. Or don’t give up ten feet from the finish line. Or, maybe, forgive yourself first, and then we can move on to forgiving the rest.

I know, this week’s theme is “How Can We Practice Having the Courage to Make Better Choices and the Wisdom to Learn the Double-Edged Lessons in Each Choice.”

Monday, April 9, 2018

weekly theme :: What is Wholistic Treatment?

Wholistic treatment

Author: Sifu Matthew Carver

Holistic Origins

The word holistic is misused by wholistic treatment centers, and for that matter, the world at large.  This week at Zen we are going to bring it all back home.  Bring it back down to the grassroots, to its intended meaning and purpose.  Note, holistic can also be written as wholistic even though your spell checker may not agree.  The alternative spelling gives us a much better clue as to the meaning of this misunderstood word.

Holism Philosophy

Holism is where the idea of holistic comes from in the first place.  It is a philosophy that states that the parts that make up a whole are interdependent and contribute to the whole in a way that is more valuable than the individual parts.  “How” the parts connect becomes the important question.  The relationship between the parts.

Keep in mind, each part cannot be understood separately from the whole.  All parts are interrelated thus all parts must be considered.  For example, a person reports they have a shortness of breath.  They are sent to a pulmonary specialist.  The lung doctor only looks at the lungs.  However, he sees that the lungs are being pushed on by an inflamed liver.  Since he is not a liver doctor refers his patient to a liver specialist.  The liver specialist then discovers that the liver is inflamed due to excessive alcohol consumption.  He then refers the patient to a substance abuse specialist who discovers that the reason the patient drinks alcohol excessively is that he is severely depressed.  So, he refers him to a depression specialist.  And so on and so on the drudgery lumbers forward…

A Wholistic Treatment Approach

A wholistic treatment approach to this issue would consider all these factors and contributing forces simultaneously.  See, each issue created a chain reaction that created another series of chain reactions.  How these chain reactions communicate and relate to one another is what wholistic care is all about.  If we isolate a component and only fixate on that singular component it is like giving a free house to a homeless person.  As you wash your hands and pat yourself on the back for “fixing” the issue of homelessness, you cannot help but realize that there is still a potential learning disability, trauma, mental illness, addiction and or a host of other issues that contribute and overlap to the overall identified problem, which is homelessness.  Buying them a house does not remedy the issue.  Only looking at each issue and how it relates to the next can we gain the insight that necessitates and supports true healing and change.    

This week I am going to focus on Chinese Herbal Medicine as a holistic science aimed at treating people for a myriad of health issues. 

I would encourage all staff to think about what special skill or area of expertise you most enjoy and represent and offer that as your contribution to the whole.  Each staff member is a master at a particular group of things.  Present this to the group.  Maybe cognitive therapy is of interest to you.  Or perhaps gestalt therapy is your bag.  Maybe you use music as a way to heal and connect.  Whatever shape this takes please consider how your specialty connects, blends and compliments many others.  Find the connections.

Call or contact Zen Recovery Path. Our community welcomes a fresh start. Recovery will be inspired by Clinical and Holistic Therapies such as; Art Projects, Kung Fu Classes, Tai Chi, Music group, EMDR and Movie with Meaning therapies.
126 E. 16th St., Costa Mesa, CA 92627

(800) 759-1930

Monday, April 2, 2018

weekly theme :: NAMING

Author: Sifu Matthew Carver

In my heart and on my mind, love without condition is a truistic sensibility at the onset. It's when variables like definitions, expectations, control or naming adjust our sensibility. For this week's theme, I prefer to go to the proverbial source, David Whyte's book Consolations

"Love too early is a beautiful but harrowing human difficulty. Most of our heartbreak comes from attempting to name who or what we love and the way we love, too early in the vulnerable journey of discovery. We can never know at the beginning, in giving ourselves to a person, to a work, to a marriage or to a cause, exactly what kind of love we are involved with. When we demand a certain specific kind of reciprocation, before the revelation has flowered completely, we find ourselves disappointed and bereaved and in that grief, may miss the particular form of love that is actually possible but that did not meet our initial and too specific expectations. Feeling bereaved, we take our identity as one who is disappointed in love, our almost proud disappointed preventing us from seeing the lack of reciprocation from the person or the situation as simply a difficult invitation into a deeper and as yet unrecognizable form of affection.

The act of loving itself, always becomes a path of humble apprenticeship, not only in following its difficult way and discovering its different forms of humility and beautiful abasement but strangely, through its fierce introduction to all its many astonishing and different forms, where we are asked continually and against our will to give in so many different ways, without knowing exactly, or in what way, when or how, the mysterious gift will be returned.

We name mostly in order to control but what is worth loving does not want to be held within the bounds of two narrow a calling. In many ways, love. has already named us before we can even begin to speak back to it, before we can utter the right words or understand what has happened to us or is continuing to happen to us: an invitation to the most difficult part of all, to love without naming at all."

Call or contact Zen Recovery Path. Our community welcomes a fresh start. Recovery will be inspired by Clinical and Holistic Therapies such as; Art Projects, Kung Fu Classes, Tai Chi, Music group, EMDR and Movie with Meaning therapies.
126 E. 16th St., Costa Mesa, CA 92627

(800) 759-1930

Monday, February 5, 2018

weekly theme :: THE JOURNEY OF A HERO, PART II


“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. 
I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or 
I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have—life itself.” 
~Walter Anderson

Now that clients have explored and defined what a hero means to them, it is time to become the hero in their own lives.

This week's task is to help clients take the positive characteristics and traits they identified and assist them in strengthening their own internal resources, or more specifically, the hero within.

Call or contact Zen Recovery PathOur community welcomes a fresh start. Recovery will be inspired with Art Projects, Kung Fu Classes, Tai Chi, Music group and Movie with Meaning therapies.

126 E. 16th St., Costa Mesa, CA 92627

(800) 759-1930

Monday, January 29, 2018

weekly theme :: HERO'S JOURNEY PART 1

hero Journey

Author: Sifu Matthew Carver


In narratology and comparative mythology, the monomyth, or the hero's journey, is the common template of a broad category of tales that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed.

HERO ˈhirō/

noun a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. synonyms: brave person, brave man/woman, man/woman of courage, man/woman of the hour, lionheart, warrior, knight

There is no greater tragedy than a hero split apart from himself. 
 Torn between self and this darker, other self. Fighting to subdue what is within and make things whole again. Awakening to an enlightenment. 
 - Sifu Mathew Carver

The idea of heroes runs deep throughout every culture throughout the ages. 

Certain people stand out amongst the rest and accomplish deeds that far exceed the reach of more pedestrian folks. What makes a hero? Is it what heroes say that makes them different or what they do? Are heroes defined by their actions? What aspects or characteristics do most heroes share? Is there a way to cultivate heroic qualities in ourselves?

Joseph Campbell is a good place to start when talking about the significance of heroes. Also exploring the world of Marvel and DC comics, who have created many of the modern day archetypes for superheroes, is a good place to explore.

Who were your first heroes? 

This week’s theme will lead into a follow up theme the following week which will explore how we deconstruct these hero archetypes and create the hero within ourselves. We can also tap into the mythic cycles in Norse, Greek and Egyptian Mythologies and notice the common themes and issues.

Call or contact Zen Recovery PathOur community welcomes a fresh start. Recovery will be inspired with Art Projects, Kung Fu Classes, Tai Chi, Music group and Movie with Meaning therapies.

126 E. 16th St., Costa Mesa, CA 92627

(800) 759-1930

Monday, January 15, 2018

weekly theme :: The Value of Life Experiences

“Not Bad Meaning Bad
 But BAD Meaning GOOD”
 Run DMC

Knock, Knock.
Who’s There?
Bad Experiences...
No Problem Come On In!

There is always a good message in something wrong. 

Rotten, Horrible, Bad, and No Good experiences happen to everyone, everywhere, all the time.  Plans go south.  You get fired.  Your best friend sleeps with your girl “Oh hi Mark” (see The Room).  People you thought were here to help you, in fact hinder you.  Leaving you stepping in dog shit.  Bad stuff all around up and down.  We all get our fair share.  However, instead of avoiding these catastrophes, pull them closer.  Like seashells on the beach, put them to your ear.  Pull them close because they offer so much more.  On the other hand, success sucks.  And good times? Great googlymoogly (see Howlin’ Wolf).  Far worse than worse they are.  We learn very little from successes and victories.  Hubris and pride mostly.  And fear of slipping back down.  Easy street and predicable things are really way, way worse than worse.

This week’s theme revolves around how we can welcome and encourage misfortune.  

How can we embrace our failures and missteps?  The trick here is to alter the way we have trained ourselves to look at these situations.  Instead of viewing our misfires as unwelcomed outcomes, view them as steps toward success.  We were trained at an early age to fear errors and failure.  We were trained to keep away from anything risky that could lead to bad experiences of loss.  But why?  Does this attitude of only wanting to engage in good and positive outcomes helping anyone?  Better to learn how to do deal with adversity and sorrow.  As a bonus, this skill trains you to enjoy the simplest of good times as well.    
126 E. 16th St., Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Call or contact Zen Recovery Path. Our community welcomes a fresh start. Recovery will be inspired with Art Projects, Kung Fu Classes, Tai Chi, Music group and Movie with Meaning therapies.

(800) 759-1930

Monday, January 8, 2018


Craving, Desire, and Addiction from Dharamsala

Are cravings and desires synonyms? 

Desires seem to be more manageable.  Cravings lend themselves to a more insidious and desperate appearance. 

The original quote of the first Buddha was “Stop desiring what will not be obtained.”  

To put it another way, are they two words for the same thing?  Instead, maybe they are degrees of the same thing?  Many times in life a simple desire like wanting to eat lunch can become more and more serious as the hours tick by and by.  That same simple desire to eat can evolve into a craving for nourishment that is all together physical, mental and emotional.  Perhaps I desire a small drink to take the edge off, only to succumb gradually to the constant craving of alcohol that the alcoholic knows all too well. 

Cravings seem to create more frustration in us than simple desires.  That which we crave, frustrates us.  Desires seem to be more easily satisfied whereas cravings never seem to be satisfied. 

This is a highly intellectualized, yet painfully simple, approach to the problem of craving and addiction.  If we continue to desire that which we cannot obtain, cravings begin to take root.  So where does that leave us in dealing with cravings?  The fact is we cannot be perpetually high.  Even if by some miracle of science we could create a medication that would allow us to feel a constant undeterred state of joy and pleasure with every breath and step, it would backfire.  Perpetual joy without sorrow would become a living hell.  Always feeling good would become a blank feeling because we would have no variance.  As we see in nature countless times over, peaks accompany valleys, highs come with lows, waves are followed by troughs.  A perpetual mountain would be absurd.  However, the nature of an addict, in the midst of craving, is akin to this insurmountable obstacle of mountains after mountains. 

This week let’s look at the nature of cravings and how cravings lead to relapse.  Let’s also explore how practicing mindfulness, “nowness” and present-mindedness combats feelings of craving. 

Call or contact Zen Recovery Path. Our community welcomes a fresh start. Recovery will be inspired with Art Projects, Kung Fu Classes, Tai Chi, Music group and Movie with Meaning therapies.

126 E. 16th St., Costa Mesa, CA 92627
(800) 759-1930