A Zen Story for Eating Disorder Recovery
- Category: Coping Strategies
I wish all of us the courage, determination and commitment to hear the Zen master's response to the naive challenger. Moving beyond life limits created by an eating disorder and being fully present and functioning in what life presents to us is the great recovery challenge. *pix
After winning several archery contests, the young and rather boastful champion challenged a Zen master who was renowned for his skill as an archer. The young man demonstrated remarkable technical proficiency when he hit a distant bull's eye on his first try, and then split that arrow with his second shot. "There," he said to the old man, "see if you can match that!"
Undisturbed, the master did not draw his bow, but rather motioned for the young archer to follow him up the mountain. Curious about the old fellow's intentions, the champion followed him high into the mountain until they reached a deep chasm spanned by a rather flimsy and shaky log.
Calmly stepping out onto the middle of the unsteady and certainly perilous bridge, the old master picked a far away tree as a target, fired a clean, direct hit. "Now it is your turn," he said as he gracefully stepped back onto the safe ground.
Staring with terror into the seemingly bottomless and beckoning abyss, the young man could not force himself to step out onto the log, no less shoot at a target.
"You have much skill with your bow," the master said, sensing his challenger's predicament, "but you have little skill with the mind that lets loose the shot."
Your methods of coping with stress reveal themselves and change for the better as you move on your recovery path. With an eating disorder, like the naive archer, you seek to control your environment so you can succeed with your skills that are limited to carefully constructed settings.
In eating disorder recovery you learn to accept and move through your vulnerabilities as you heal and develop new internal strength to face the surprising conditions life offers.
Joanna Poppink, MFT, Los Angeles eating disorder recovery psychotherapist.
*pix Bihor mountains Romania, 25 August 2007, Sighistel gorge, photo by Tommy from Arad, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.