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​The Basque Birthday: Beginner’s Mind for Addiction Recovery, Healing, and Change.

In the first year of attending Maryland University of Integrative Health, I learned a term called “The Basque Birthday.” Each month on the day of your birth, you gain a new skill. Starting a new skill teaches us to be in a beginner’s mind. Beginner’s mind is a practice of approaching something intentionally without preconceptions and certitudes and connect with openness, experiencing, learning when appropriate, and sometimes curiosity or enthusiasm. I have not personally researched to find out if the Basque people have such a tradition. A beautiful practice none the less.

Often, I find people don’t know who they are without their symptom. Even long-term physical manifestation result in sensations and emotions that leave us feeling lost without them. Very common in cases of the lasting effect from trauma, physical or otherwise, we have to unknow ourselves to “remember ourselves well” or get to know ourselves again in a new way.

I recall a person struggling with alcoholism who didn’t know how to do various things without a drink or being drunk. He may have felt he doesn’t know how to be him without a drink in his hand too. Beginner’s mind is so critical to not only addiction recovery but all healing. I introduce the concept of the Basque Birthday. If you don’t know how to clean the house without a drink, that’s your Basque Birthday. If you don’t know who you are when you are tending the yard without a drink, that is your Basque Birthday. If you don’t know how to have a conversation sober, that is your Basque Birthday. He was my teacher in following through and taught me about the usefulness of this practice. Loved ones of those with addiction can also have many Basque Birthdays in the process of recovery. Some things you do on your own and some you help or company.

This wisdom can be spread across many circumstances, the death of a family member, change of position at work, loss of employment, healing of the body, deterioration of the body, and personal transformation. This practice leaves us with something other than trepidation and awkwardness that can come with change; it leaves us with a greater ability to heal and adapt to that which doesn’t mend. It is a birthday celebration.

Take time to enjoy your newness, your naked bum while learning to walk, whatever walking is today, if it is walking without a drink, without a limp, without a leg, without a spouse, or without a grudge. Enjoy the tender vulnerably and remember to smile. Enjoy the awkwardness, you are alive, and your senses are reminding you that you have some youth in you regardless of your age, and where there is youth, there is hope. Enjoy letting go of being perfect as being defined by without flaw and embrace being perfect as defined by being complete or whole. Enjoy your Basque Birthdays, planned and otherwise.

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