The Zen Way of Recovery: An Illuminated Path Out of the Darkness of Addiction (Paperback)
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An accessible, compassionate guide to Buddhist principles and practices that can help support recovery from addictions and addictive behaviors—written by an experienced lay teacher with long-term recovery.
For anyone struggling with addiction, Buddhism offers powerful, grounding wisdom and tools to help support recovery. In The Zen Way of Recovery, Laura Burges shares her experience as a dedicated Zen practitioner who came to terms with her own addiction to alcohol and found support for her recovery. Through the lens of Buddhist teachings, Burges offers tools and practices which, together with the help of recovery programs, can offer a road to sobriety.
Burges is an experienced and compassionate guide, and her message is resonant for people with any type of addictive behavior—and for people who aren’t necessarily familiar with Buddhism. Her teachings are drawn from the Buddha's life and teachings (specifically the Eight Awarenesses of the Awakened Being and the Six Paramitas), and the wisdom of Japanese Buddhist priest Dogen Zenji, the founder of the Soto school of Zen, among others.
Burges emphasizes the importance of being in an active recovery program, and the teachings and practices she offers in each chapter—including reflections, journaling prompts, meditations, instructions for setting up and altar and zazen—are both a perfect adjunct and powerful reinforcement.
Examples of reflections and journaling prompts include:
- Do you still hear the critical, contemptuous, sarcastic voice of a parent or partner in your own head?
- Do you sometimes hear yourself mirroring this negative voice with others?
- What were the models of relationship that you grew up with?
- What are ways that you can cultivate more patience?
- Check in with yourself to see if tiredness, hunger, loneliness, or anger is affecting your thinking in the moment.
About the Author
RYUKO LAURA BURGES, a lay entrusted dharma teacher in the Soto Zen tradition, lectures and leads retreats at practice centers in Northern California. She received monastic training at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, the first Zen Buddhist Monastery in the United States. A teacher of children for 35 years, she now mentors other teachers and helps bring mindfulness practice into the elementary classroom. Laura co-founded the Sangha in Recovery Program at the San Francisco Zen Center and is the abiding teacher at Lenox House Meditation Group in Oakland. She is the author of Buddhist Stories for Kids: Jataka Tales of Kindness, Friendship, and Forgiveness. She is a fellow at Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is active in the Lay Zen Teachers Association. Laura lives in San Francisco.
“This book, written in a uniquely feminine voice that is supportive, authoritative, and most caring, mandates recovery as a prerequisite for genuine spiritual insight and freedom from addiction. Laura Burges’s personal voice is a pleasure to hear.”—Sylvia Boorstein, cofounder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center and author of Pay Attention for Goodness' Sake
“This is a special book, the kind that only comes from someone with a wealth of gifts. The first of these that Laura possesses is the hard-won wisdom of deep recovery and a deep Buddhist practice. Those can’t be faked. The second is a talent for writing that makes her work a joy to read, beyond even the wisdom she imparts. And finally, here we find someone who is willing to give everything of herself to us. This generosity, wisdom, and elegant writing make for a book that will be a cornerstone of the Buddhist recovery community for many years.”—Kevin Griffin, author of One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps
“Laura Burges, whose dharma name is Ryū Kō Ei Tai (Abundant Cultivation Flower of Serenity), opens herself to us with the gift of unstinting honesty in The Zen Way of Recovery. She skillfully reveals and shares what she has found to be true—the power to transform the suffering of addiction through the interfusion of Zen practice and recovery practice. This is the double strand of a new joyous life of serenity, sangha-fellowship, and benefiting others. A Dharma book full of laugh-out-loud humor and pathos, lessons from Zen teachers old and new, teachings from her third-grade students, and everyday stories of the alchemy of ‘spinning straw into gold.’ A treasure!”—Eijun Linda Cutts, Senior Dharma Teacher, San Francisco Zen Center
“It takes time, effort, endurance, and a bit of getting knocked around, to settle into down-to-earth wisdom, the kind of wisdom that appreciates life’s difficulties and knows how to negotiate them gracefully. Laura Burges has achieved such wisdom, and she expresses it with love and good humor in this wonderful book. Using teachings from Zen Buddhism (which she teaches and has practiced for many decades), psychology, folklore, and her personal life, Burges’s The Zen Way of Recovery is a fresh and important addition to the growing literature on Buddhism and recovery.”—Norman Fischer, poet, Zen priest, author of When You Greet Me I Bow and Selected Poems 1980-2013
“The Zen Way of Recovery is a gentle and wise primer to Buddhism written by one who has used the practices to heal herself of addiction. The lessons learned are shared with humility and compassion and in no way minimize or sugar coat the difficulties we all face as vulnerable human beings prone to suffer. An excellent book that will be of help to many.”—Dr. Fred Luskin, Director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Projects, author of Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness
“This wonderful, friendly, helpful book weds the warm, practical humanity of the recovery community with the gem-like clarity and deep, ancient practices of Zen Buddhism. If you are in recovery and seeking to explore a more structured spiritual path or are secretly struggling with an addiction that your religious life hasn't ‘cured,’ I can think of no more trustworthy guide than Zen teacher Laura Burges. She has walked the walk for decades, with kindness, deep knowledge, and gentle humor. There is no inherent conflict between Buddhist teachings and the spiritual path of recovery. Laura shines a light on how the practices and teachings of each can support the other.”—Katy Butler, author of Knocking on Heaven's Door and The Art of Dying Well