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Supporting recovery through religion

By Param Singh

Having been in recovery for several years, I was seeking a way to connect my personal journey of battling addiction with teachings from my religion. I also wanted to learn personal practices that would support my long-term recovery in a way that was unique to who I am and to my own cultural background. Subsequently, last month I attended the Gurmat Sikh retreat in the outskirts of London.

Gurmat, meaning Guru’s Wisdom in the old Indian language of Sanskrit, are a set of teachings core to the religion of Sikhism. Through my day at the retreat, there were four key themes that really rung true:

1. I am
There are many aspects of our lives over which we have had little choice. Described as “I Am” or “the Ego”, we learned how from the moment we were born, we have no choice over who our parents are, what names we are chosen, our gender, or the faith we are born into. These ultimately shape the person we are. Based on the families and the cultures we are born into, our upbringing is set in stone, which also directly impact both the careers paths we chose and our views on the world – both I previously believed to be completely within our control.

2. Concept of self
The concept of being someone with a unique set of traditions, cultures and beliefs, only starts from a few years on in life. When a child is born, they have no concept of the “egoic self”, and only over a period of time, as the child to grow, are they conditioned as an adult adopting specific worldviews. One’s worldview will then colour their experience through life, and impact how they then engage with their surroundings.

3. Our unique identity shapes our view on reality
Our views on reality are engrained within our assumptions, beliefs, and experiences - these inform and influence both our understanding of and attitudes towards everything we see and hear. During the retreat we were encouraged to recognise our identity at a physical, mental, and emotional level.

4. Meditation is key
Meditation was key to mindfulness and exploration of the inner self. By being guided through our meditation at the retreat, we were able to analyse our own identity, and discover our inner most beliefs and truths. It enabled us to understand, recognise and cultivate the different influences we had had in our lives, and ultimately help us on a path to self-discovery.