Buddhist Recovery

“When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways— either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength.”- His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso

Buddhism and Mindfulness in Recovery

The practice of becoming mindful focuses on fully experiencing what is going on in the moment. It requires using all of the senses to evaluate thoughts and emotions. With intention, there isn’t room for dwelling on the past or projecting about the future. One must be fully focused on what is happening in the here and now.

Mindfulness requires slowing down to allow the sensations one is experiencing to register. These include both the pleasant and unpleasant ones. It’s possible to eat a meal, drink a cup of coffee, brush one’s teeth, take a bath or shower or simply sit in a chair mindfully.

Meditation in Recovery

Meditation is one of the core principles in Buddhism. It is used as a method for identifying and dealing with troublesome feelings. When meditating, the person focuses on their breath and lets go of their thoughts.

This requires practice, since random thoughts tend to come up during a meditation session. When they arise, they are welcomed without judgment and gently sent on their way. Over time, meditation can help those with substance use and process addictions to be more self accepting. They learn not to judge themselves over past events, which are finished and can no longer be controlled.

Buddhism and Stress Relief

Buddhism’s teachings can help those in recovery by relieving stress. One of its Noble Truths is that the key to ending suffering is to remove desire. Stress is often an indication of the desire to control one’s environment or future events.

Many events that occur are out of an individual’s control. Trying to keep all of the proverbial “balls in the air” and maintain control of everything in one’s life is not going to work out well for anyone. It’s going to end up being a source of stress for anyone who tries to be in perfect control of their life, their environment and the people around them all the time.

Through mindfulness and regular meditation, a person with substance and process addictions on the path of sobriety and renunciation can learn to relax and live more in the moment. The idea of living “one day at a time” works well for people who are in recovery. If they are in the early stages and are finding it challenging to deal with cravings, clinging, attachment, and disorganized thinking, breaking down a day into even smaller intervals (an hour, a few minutes) can be helpful.

How does Buddhism define addiction?

In Buddhism, the concept of suffering is a central theme, and it is addressed in the Four Noble Truths, which are foundational to Buddhist teachings. The Four Noble Truths were articulated by Siddhartha Gautama, who later became known as the Buddha. 

It's important to note that while the term "suffering" is commonly used in translations, it may not fully capture the depth and nuance of the concept of dukkha in Buddhism. Dukkha is a multifaceted term that encompasses a wide range of experiences and conditions that fall under the umbrella of unsatisfactoriness, aversion or discontent. The Four Noble Truths provide a framework for understanding the nature of dukkha and the path to its cessation in the pursuit of liberation and enlightenment.