A koan is “a story, dialogue, question, or statement, which is used in Zen practice to provoke the ‘great doubt’ and test a student’s progress” (Wikipedia). While I’m not a Zen practitioner, I enjoy pondering koans that others pose as well as posing my own. Here are a few for your consideration:
The opposite of addiction is not abstinence, it’s connection. (Sarah Bowen)
Sarah Bowen is one of the psychologists who developed Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention. I heard her say this in the MBRP teacher training, and it was like a light switch going on – I’d never thought of it quite that way, but it made total sense. Since then, I’ve repeated her words to many of my clients, and it has the same effect on them. It’s powerful.
Addiction begins with a desire to disconnect from whatever reality seems too uncomfortable to bear, but it takes you to a place where you lose the ability to re-connect. You become disconnected from the people you love the most and who are the most important to you – starting with yourself. When you’re in your addictive behavior, you’re not present, and you’ve lost yourself.
The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.
One of my clients said this recently, and I thought immediately of my father, who throughout my life has said he loves me – always from a distance, in his letters and postcards – but I’ve never felt loved by him. What I’ve actually felt is his indifference.
Love is an action verb. It takes effort, it requires showing up. Sometimes it’s really hard to love, and sometimes it hurts. Hate takes effort, too, in fact it’s exhausting to hate someone. What’s easy, and takes no effort at all – that’s not love, it’s only the idea of love, which is really indifference.
The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. (Anne Lamott)
Anne Lamott has written several well-regarded books about her struggles with faith, her recovery from addiction, and raising her son as a single mother. I read this quote in The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, who goes on to say, “Faith and reason are not natural enemies. It’s our human need for certainty and our need to ‘be right’ that have pitted faith and reason against each other. . . We need both faith and reason to make meaning in an uncertain world.”
The opposite of play is not work, it’s depression. (Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, also quoted in The Gifts of Imperfection)
The hallmark trait of depression is anhedonia, which means “a loss of interest in things that normally are pleasurable.” When true depression sets in, there is no play, there is no pleasure, there is no interest in seeking pleasure. (And you can’t just “snap out of it,” thank you very much.)
When we forget to play, or don’t make time for it because we’re too caught up in work, after awhile life loses its meaning. Have you ever said to yourself, “Why am I doing this? It’s not fun anymore.” To play and have fun is a human need – not as basic as water, food, and shelter, but it helps us keep going through the tough times. And it’s part of taking care of ourselves.
The opposite of scarcity is not abundance, but sufficiency: enough. (Brene Brown)
I found this in Brene Brown’s new book, Rising Strong. And I’ll close with a paragraph from that book, which poses more opposite koans for us to meditate on:
“The opposite of recognizing that we’re feeling something is denying our emotions. The opposite of being curious is disengaging. When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; instead, they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending – to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes, this is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends.”