Ten Doorways to Mindful Recovery

Each week, I facilitate groups for people in recovery from opioid dependence. While most have at least some familiarity with 12-Step programs like AA or NA, many haven’t heard of the Ten Doorways to Mindful Recovery. These doorways guide much of what is offered in these groups. While these groups are focused on recovery from opioid dependence, these doorways apply to anyone seeking to face addictive behaviors to live a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Why mindfulness? From my perspective, mindfulness is the opposite of addiction. Addiction is about grasping for anything to quell discomfort in the moment. Mindfulness is about cultivating a vast, open heart able to sit with discomfort and know that it will eventually crash just as waves do upon the shore.

Ten Doorways to Mindful Recovery
From Mindful Recovery: A Spiritual Path to Healing from Addiction
by Thomas Bien, Ph.D. and Beverly Bien, M.Ed.

  1. Doorway One: Seeing the magic of the ordinary and returning to the present moment. You can get overwhelmed by memories of the past, worries about the future, and other distractions. When that happens, you may be in danger of relapse. By bringing a gentle, compassionate awareness to your surroundings, your thoughts, and your feelings, you will discover that your need to engage in addictive behavior diminishes.
  2. Doorway Two: Consider your life as a story you are still writing. Many people hold on to life scripts connected to their addiction, which perpetuate negative life stories as well as continued attraction to drugs and alcohol. You don’t have to get stuck there. You can write a new story.
  3. Doorway Three: Use journaling to deepen awareness of your life story and open the door to spiritual awakening.Regular journaling brings the power of mindfulness to bear on repetitive patterns and aids in contacting your inner wisdom.
  4. Doorway Four: Practice meditation to become more accepting of yourself and your life. When you become more accepting of what hurts as well as more aware of life’s many positive aspects, you establish a firm spiritual foundation for recovery.
  5. Doorway Five: Find ways to connect to the natural world. Addicted people are often alienated from the natural world. A return to nature is incompatible with addiction. Conscious, mindful choices about your recreational time prevent you from squandering it on passive pursuits that do not employ your higher human qualities, such as intellectual, artistic, and spiritual activities.
  6. Doorway Six: Cultivate healthy relationships that discourage addiction. Many people become addicted in part because of painful and unsatisfying relationships. In turn, addiction can destroy even the best relationship. As you become more mindful of relationship patterns, you can begin to change them, reducing the need to indulge your addiction.
  7. Doorway Seven: Explore dreams to expand your view of who you are beyond the limited point of view of your conscious, rational self. Dreams offer clues about what is missing and what is out of balance. Often these are blind spots which we have difficulty seeing consciously.
  8. Doorway Eight: Practice mindfulness at work. A mindful life involves mindfulness in all areas of life. Practicing mindfulness at work can help you stay calm and centered there as well.
  9. Doorway Nine: Learn to hold and embrace difficult emotions to ensure successful recovery. There are well-established methods for dealing with difficult feelings. If you need extra help, therapy may be a useful aid.
  10. Doorway Ten: Living moment by moment: practice, practice, practice. An intellectual understanding of how to change life is just the beginning. Direct experience brings the peace, health, and wholeness you seek.


intention candle

This week focused on “Doorway Four: Practice meditation to become more accepting of yourself and your life. When you become more accepting of what hurts as well as more aware of life’s many positive aspects, you establish a firm spiritual foundation for recovery.”Before engaging in a guided meditation, each group member was given a simple candle in a glass vase and asked to reflect upon and write his or her hopes, aspirations and intentions upon the candle. Each person shared his or her intentions with the group as the candles were lit. As the candles burned in the center of the group room, group members were led in a metta meditation.Metta is a Pali word that means “loving kindness.” In essence, a metta meditation is a prayer of the heart asking for loving kindness first for oneself, then for others and finally continuing in an outward, widening circle encompassing all.If you’re interested in learning more about metta meditation, Sharon Salzburg, a renowned meditation teacher and author who spoke at the Asheville Unitarian Universialist Church last fall, has written vastly on the subject. http://www.sharonsalzberg.com

background image © marshaan

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