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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Mindfulness for Recovery and Relapse Prevention: When dealing with addictions, Steve Price describes how a higher consciousness is needed

May 31, 2015 02:10PM ● By Steve Price

Scientist Albert Einstein stated that a problem cannot be solved with the same mindset that created it. That would be like hiring the arsonist to put out a fire. A higher consciousness is needed, and that is where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness is the fire chief.

In a recent study at the University of Washington, the practice has been found to be significantly more effective in preventing relapse than traditional approaches. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), defines mindfulness as "paying attention to the present moment, with intention, while letting go of judgment as if your life depends on it." In the process of recovery, each part of this definition is essential.

Presence. Living wholeheartedly in the present empowers us to weaken and release old patterns and move forward intelligently and productively. Therein lies the difference between reacting and responding. Reaction (re-action) is the unconscious repetition of a behavior. Responsibility is simply the ability to respond, to be in an intimate, moment-by-moment interaction with what is happening now. Instead of replaying the past, we stay in the present, where we are able to act with awareness.

Intention. An intention is not a goal. While goals are helpful, they exist in the future, with the risk of our attachment to an outcome. If the goal isn't met, self-criticism, hopelessness and relapse can ensue. Intention, on the other hand, is instantly attainable. While the goal might be, "I will quit drinking by July 15th," the intention can be, "I have the clarity and power to create the life I really want." Even if we notice ourselves lapsing into reaction, we can always return to our intention. Intention is the seed that when nurtured, grows into the life we truly desire.

Non-judgment. Letting go of self-judgment liberates us, not from responsibility, but from the shame that can keep us stuck. In step four of the twelve-step approach, the fearless inventory that is taken becomes an opportunity to observe past actions without beating ourselves up. We can see these behaviors as byproducts of the person we used to be, not who we are now. By releasing judgment, we can access the courage and clear-mindedness necessary to resolve past issues and move forward, with intention, into a new way of being.

Vigilance. Radical as it sounds, Kabat-Zinn's qualification, "as if your life depends on it," is true. Each of our thoughts, words and actions affects our life and the lives of everyone around us. Because our past conditioning can be so strong, we must remain watchful of old patterns and committed to our intention. A regular practice of prayer or meditation helps to stay present throughout the day, whether we're brushing our teeth, driving or interacting with others. With consistency, we can recover our true nature—to be kind, happy and free.

Steve Price directs and teaches at A Mindfulness Life Center, in Scottsdale. For more information, visit

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