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Zen Meditation Benefits In Recovery

Zen meditation benefits people all over the world, but it can be especially helpful for individuals in recovery. Addiction to drugs and alcohol doesn’t just damage your body, it wreaks havoc on your mind and spirit. Individuals that fall victim to addiction often begin using recreationally. The sense of euphoria is attractive to some, while others are drawn in by the opportunity of escapism.

However, as your body develops tolerances to the chemicals, your mind develops emotional dependencies. To achieve the same effects over and over, you need large doses and harder drugs.

By the time you realize what’s happening, it’s usually too late to stop. Your body would go through intense chemical needs for the drug while your mind longs for the connection it provided.

Addiction is a disease. It robs you of your physical health and creates an unnatural dependence on a foreign chemical. But it doesn’t stop there. Addiction stunts your ability for spiritual growth and erodes a healthy psychology. That means people suffering from addiction are prevented from forging meaningful relationships, forming healthy connections, and finding peace and fulfillment, all on top of the physical toll addiction takes.

Because of all this, addicts entering recovery have a lot of healing to do and some programs don’t rise to the challenge. For a long time, rehab was something strict, harsh, and even isolating. Fortunately, many of today’s addiction recovery programs offer comprehensive treatments that target and address many of the symptoms of chemical dependency and the cognitive effects of cutting off that sense of euphoria.

Based on the tenets of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a large portion of addiction recovery requires the addict to identify thoughts and behaviors that are destructive and harm the recovery process. Then, therapists work on helping recovering individuals learn and implement healthier alternatives.

However, there are also some mindset shifts that you can take the initiative on as you are going through recovery that is not expressly covered in your program. One of them is the ideas and benefits of Zen meditation in recovery.


 An artist named Dustin Kensrue write a song that ends with the poignant line, “Though all would bow to me ‘till I could drink my fill of fear and love, it’s not enough.” It’s an intense verse but the singer is trying to convey that seeking pleasure ultimately leads to disappointment. Even if he had everything he could possibly acquire, it’s human nature to want more.

This is called the pleasure paradox. The idea that trying to find fulfillment in pleasure ultimately leads to pain. When pleasure can’t be achieved, you are disappointed and when it is achieved and it’s not enough, you are disappointed still.

This point is crystallized in drug abuse and addiction. Many people are drawn into addiction seeking pleasure, escape, and fulfillment only to become enslaved to a chemical.

In order to combat the negative effects addiction has on your mind as you go through recovery, many programs will have an emphasis on spirituality. Alcoholics Anonymous started as a faith-based program with the second point in the twelve traditions being to submit to the authority of God.

Individuals may also employ the tenets of Zen in their recovery in order to live in the moment instead of dwelling on past regrets and future stressors.


Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism coming from the Tang Dynasty of China and the word “Zen” means meditation. The central ideas Zen meditation has to offer has impacted the world, even helping athletes and martial artists like Chuck Norris approach their sports with focus and discipline.

Most people have heard of Zen meditation as a general concept of peace and clarity. You may even have a mini Zen garden in your home, with the idea that the soothing peacefulness of trickling waterfalls and soft sand will help you center yourself.

Those little slices of Zen are fun. However, while mastering a Zen lifestyle is much more difficult than raking through a small patch of sand, the basic idea remains simple: live in the present.  In fact, Zen Buddhism often views the present as the only time matters, the past being obscured by vague recollection and false memories and the future being unknown.

The principles of Zen teach that each moment in life is a peak experience that’s full of depth. If you are dwelling on the past or worried about the future you are deluding your understanding and experience of the present. Zen is also about training your mind to process sensory experiences more quickly. The faster your brain can process what is in front of you, the better you are able to experience the present.

The idea of living in the moment sounds pretty simple but it can be difficult for anyone, let alone someone going through recovery. Our past failures shake our confidence. It’s easy to think, “I’ve failed so much in the past, I can’t hope to be successful in recovery.” Or maybe your focus is on the future. “What if I complete a recovery program only to relapse later.” Those thoughts are automatic and it takes an effort to refocus on the challenge at hand.


It sounds counterintuitive, but when an addict first becomes sober, he may feel as though his life lacks meaning. It’s fairly common with people who take on difficult tasks and go down long and challenging roads. While having an active addiction is not recommended at all, having something to fixate upon and strive toward gives the false sense of having a purpose. Then recovery becomes your life’s primary endeavor. In that case, you’ve focused on a singular goal for so long, you never thought about what you would do with success.

Of course, recovery is never really over. Individuals in recovery may complete a program but recovery continues and the urge to relapse may come and go throughout your life. That’s all the more reason to find fulfillment apart from whatever goal you are chasing. Zen meditation in recovery can offer a way for individuals to extract meaning from life by living in the now. Focus on completing your program. Focus on helping others through their programs.

Discipline your mind to give full attention to the present so you are able to do your current task to the best of your ability.


Since Zen meditation has no supreme deity and doesn’t place an emphasis on following strict moral codes as other faiths, Zen is considered a philosophy rather than a religion, which means it can be applied to a number of belief systems.

As a whole, the principles of Zen are used to help individuals become aware, present, mindful, and virtuous. In order to achieve this, individuals often participate in mindfulness exercises, which include seated meditation, guided breathing, clearing the mind, and being conscious of the sounds, smells, sights, and sensations all around. These practices can fit into anyone’s daily routine and aren’t necessarily exclusive to any one culture, worldview, belief, or geographical location.

In terms of addiction recovery, Zen helps addicts understand the extreme attachment that they have developed to substances to which they’ve been addicted and that clearing your mind and practicing mental discipline can help ease any feelings of stress and self-consciousness.


If you or someone you love suffers from chemical dependency and would like to learn more about recovery and addiction treatment options, Pathway to Hope is here to help. Our team of recovery specialists has guided countless individuals in finding their way to sobriety through addiction treatment. Don’t wait—call us at (855) 757-2128 or contact us online, so we can discuss recovery programs and treatment options today.


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