Posts filed under Addiction

Nonresistance: practicing ending my addiction to suffering

One of the primary ways in which I get the foul miasma of self-rejection to descend upon me is by imagining that there are things in this world I need to resist or avoid. I look out onto the horizon of existence and I see possibilities I don't like: sickness, failure, poverty, grief, death, the negative judgment of other people (far worse than death, according to certain parts of my psyche).

And then I think - "must resist! must defend! must refuse!"

This works me up into a contrary state.  A state of internal resistance to life.  In which I take myself Way Too Seriously.  In which I'm prone to reject myself for the very reason that I'm not Invincible Enough.  (Screw good enough, I want to be Invincible Enough!)  Like all of us, I'm vulnerable.

The thing about the contrary state that I use to reject my vulnerable mortality is that it's rigid.  It feels brittle, it feels about-to-be-broken by every sling and arrow of outrageous fortune.  When I'm in it I feel like a pasteboard dart target that gets punctured through her very core every time life throws something.

Today, I'm interested in easing out of contrariness.  I'm doing this by deciding to give no internal resistance to the possibilities of life that I don't like.  Why? Because that internal resistance is suffering - and I've accepted out (at least intellectually) that suffering is not a requirement.

Suffering, like coffee, isn't a necessity of life.  It's just something I'm addicted to because I imagine it benefits me.  It seems to benefit me in that it

  • Keeps me doing the thing that almost everyone else seems to agree is the thing to do - i.e., suffer - and therefore, gives me a weird sense of closeness with the rest of humanity.  Just like smoking with a bunch of smokers after a meeting seems to give me a sense of closeness with the smokers.
  • Promises that it will protect me somehow from the things I fear. Like, if only I resist this hard enough and make a fuss about it, then it won't happen.
  • Gives me a sense of importance.  Like, wow, see how much I suffer? I must be really important, with lots of important things to suffer about!

At times, these benefits seem highly worthwhile.  But then they come with side-effects.  Side-effects like seeing the world as a rotten place and being miserable and being unable to do anything creative or fun because I'm paralyzed in rigidity.

Today, I'm interested in being Lady Bountiful instead of a pasteboard dart target.  Lady Bountiful is my wiser, fuller version of myself. I saw her once on an Edwardian Christmas card.  She has rosy cheeks and carries huge armfuls of cheery presents into an orphanage.  She creates bounty and joy in the dark places instead of cowering away from those dark places.  She rocks.

So what are you resisting today? And what would it feel like to drop that resistance and just be in your life with all its coal soot and undarned stockings?

 

 

Posted on September 12, 2012 and filed under Addiction.

Surrender Your Addiction to Suffering - Part 4

The third commitment (among the nine) that we make in order to surrender our addiction to suffering is:

3) Get honest with yourself about the consequences of exactly what happens when you accept your mind’s judgments as “the truth” and then act on them or allow them to affect your mood.

 

Most of us human beings live in a perpetual state of judgement.  We're constantly evaluating whatever's around us and deciding upon its relative worth.  The tragedy of this is that most often we're judging from a perspective of delusion wherein we imagine that we're separate from the life unfolding around us.

 

Since our judgments arise from and support this dualistic perspective of separation, we can end up in a never-ending loop of discontent and unhappiness.

 

The Vicious Cycle

Here's how it works: We look at a person or situation in our life, we judge it "not good enough," we treat that person or situation with much less than total love and acceptance (usually with criticism, disrespect, unkindness, impatience, indifference), then that person or situation responds (understandably) with a negative reaction to our ill-will, and that negative reaction validates our initial judgment of "not good enough" or "unsatisfying."

 

In other words, we reject the circumstances around us, they reject us right back, which gives us more reason to reject them.  When the next tough situation comes up, you're already depleted and weary from your battle with the last one.  Your respond with even less patience and more rejection.... and the cycle continues. When we're operating in this vicious cycle, it's easy to forget that we're doing it to ourselves.  After all, people are rude to us, situations do go badly.  It looks as if we have an objective rationale for deciding that stuff sucks.  The mirroring responsiveness of the world outside us to our negativity can do a good job of masking that it's our negativity which fuels the problem.

 

This isn't to say that there aren't situations in the world which are massively challenging or that just by altering our disposition we can make everything totally peachy-- but it is to say that by altering our disposition we can make things a hell of a lot peachier than they would be if we just persisted in our criticism and rejection.

 

What circumstance in your life right now isn't matching up with your story about how it "should" be?  How do you treat that circumstance when you're believing that it's lacking?  Do you complain about it? Resent it?

 

Honesty is the cure

You can practice this commitment by being willing to look with fearless honesty at the results of your own judgment.  How do you treat yourself when you believe something in your life is lacking?  How do you treat those around you? Are you less-than-fully-present, brusque, self-pitying?  How do you deal with the projects and responsibilities in your life? What do you do to make yourself feel better? Do you reach for a cookie, a cigarette, a glass of wine, a compliment? None of those things are inherently evil, but they can all wreck havoc in our lives if we use them to cover-up the stress caused by believing our thoughts.  Don't shy away from minutely recording your own response to your belief in your mind's story.

 

The Virtuous Cycle

Whatever it is about your life that's bugging you, ask yourself this: what would it look like if I totally embraced, accepted, and loved this situation?  What if peace and joy were more important to me than having it "my way"? Take time to strongly visualize and feel this scenario.  Allow yourself to get a vision of the virtuous cycle.

 

In the virtuous cycle, a situation or person appears who challenges you-- and rather than responding with negative judgment and shutting down into aloofness or unkindness, you open up into love and acceptance.  The situation or person then senses your love and responds -- often in very surprising ways! -- to the spaciousness and gentleness that you've offered.  You receive positive feedback from the life around you, and this leads you to feel even better.  Then, when the next tough thing comes up, you have extra reserves of love energy and willingness with which to meet it.

 

Love!

Carolyn

 

Image by Kudumomo, used under Creative Commons licensing, borrowed from Flickr.

Surrender Your Addiction to Suffering - Part 3

 

This is the third post in a series on Surrendering Your Addiction to Suffering.  You can read the first post here (wherein I give an overview of the nine commitments necessary to the process) about the and the second post (about the first commitment) here. Today we're talking about the second commitment in surrendering your addiction to suffering:

 

2) Understand that these judgments, though voiced by your own internal monologue, represent the distorted perceptions of a spiritual dis-ease and not “the truth”

 

The Buddha (one of my favorite dudes, along with Jesus, Byron Katie and Lao Tse) said that ignorance is the primary affliction of the human mind.  The two other afflictions he noted, desire and hate, are secondary manifestations of that ignorance.  The ignorance that makes us suffer isn't a lack of knowledge in the conventional sense -- instead, it's a fundamental misperception about the nature of who we are and how reality works.

 

Our misperception leads us to think that we're discrete, solitary individuals separate from the whole of existence.  We identify with the contents of our mind and emotion and mistake the aggregate of those contents to be "me." Once we've made that basic mistake, we have the sense, at a fundamental level, that it's "me against the world." Even if we're generally happy-go-lucky people, the moment something goes not-according-to-plan in a big way (we lose a job we depended on for our security; a relationship goes sour; a loved one dies; we get ill; we get old... on and on) we feel attacked.

 

This feeling of being attacked by things not matching up with our internal picture of how life should treat us is a symptom of our misperception that we're basically separate from the rest of life. We resent the people and situations that appear to be battling us (i.e., we experience hate) and we long for whatever circumstances we think would make it all better (i.e., we desire).

 

In the absence of the fundamental mistake of thinking we're a separate "me" we would be unable to see anything as going against us (because there would be no "us" for "it" to go "against") and we'd be unable to wish for anything other than what's already present in our lives (because we wouldn't be able to perceive ourselves as lacking anything -- you can't lack something if you are everything).

 

Ignorance, desire and hate are the dangerous trio that make up the spiritual disease of addiction to suffering, which we ordinary humans are all afflicted with to some extent or another.

 

Sometimes I think that Jesus said we must become as little children in order to reach the Kingdom of Heaven because very little children don't yet have a sense of themselves as discrete individuals; they don't hate; and while they sure make a fuss about getting fed and having their diapers changed, they don't desire in the sense that they don't mentally attach themselves to specific stories about what life should look like.

 

Enlightenment (or "entering the Kingdom of Heaven" in the Christian tradition-- a Kingdom which, by the way, Jesus adamantly stated could be found here on earth) is the state of consciousness in which one is totally free from the disease of addiction.  It's the condition of being free from ignorance, hate and desire.  Far from being a boring condition (some folks imagine desire-less-ness as a kind of numbness) it's actually a profoundly vivid state of joy, abounding love, and deep fulfillment.

 

I've long been putting in my petition to get hit with the enlightenment bolt, but until that happens in order to stay remotely sane I have to focus on letting go of my ignorance, hate and desire to the best of my ability. The second commitment in this process reminds me that my mind's stream of negative judgments just aren't the truth.  They're the product of my fundamental confusion about who I am and what life is doing. This commitment represents my willingness to be humble and to be aware.

 

When I keep this commitment at the forefront of my awareness I find that a bit of air and spaciousness comes into the dark, foetid chambers of my mind and makes room for truth and love to come in.

 

If you'd like some help on getting to spaciousness around your suffering, you might want to check out my low-cost life coaching.

 

Love!

Carolyn

 

Image by Dalbera. Borrowed from Flickr under Creative Commons licensing.

Surrender Your Addiction to Suffering: Part Two

 

In the first post in this series, I talked about how the addiction to suffering is the addiction that underlies all other addictions and outlined 9 daily commitments that help us to let go of this fundamental dis-ease.

 

Now, let's go in depth talking about the first of those daily commitments:

 

1) Notice that your mind continuously judges against you and against people and situations in your life.

 

This is a daily commitment because our negative judgments are slippery fish.  It might seem that they'd be easy to spot, but that's not necessarily the case.  If you've been doing personal growth and spirituality for a little while, probably your mind no longer comes at you with its flat-out, direct attacks.  You may have already learned to let go of really explicit self-judgements ("I'm so stupid! I'll never be able to do this!") but you might still be vulnerable to more subtle forms of judgment like envy, comparison and resentment.

 

Sometimes I wish that contests existed to recognize very finely twisted malevolent inner qualities, because if so, my exquisitely crafted envy would win the blue ribbon every year.

 

It's not that I consciously cultivate my envy (to the contrary! I spend plenty of time practicing rejoicing in other people's success-- and that practice has helped A LOT - otherwise I would have had to jump off a bridge by now).  It's that the envy just prances out, sashaying its little gremlin ass, digging its pointy little dagger-claws into my heart.

 

Envy is a judgment both against me and the world. Against me it (subtly, quietly, yet definitely) says: look at you-- you're not good enough! You're just an ordinary person-- and that person over there-- they've achieved so much! So many things you've dreamt of achieving! What were you doing, slacking all those years watching funny cat videos?! LOSER!

 

Against the world it says (subtly, definitely): You're a cold, cruel place that's advanced other people and left me in the dry dust.

 

This kind of quiet, persistent, ever-available suffering that my envy generates (there's a huge supply of people to envy-- opportunities are afforded hourly via facebook, twitter, and every magazine on the planet!) constitutes a global rejection of myself and my life.  When I'm in it, it saps all my energy and leaves me unable to be fully present and helpful to my friends.

 

And the thing is, my mind just does it, on auto-pilot, without me making a conscious decision to do it.

 

Of course, not all negative judgment takes the form of envy.  For you, the flavor of your poison might be a little different.  Maybe your mind likes to come at you with good old-fashioned resentment and hostility. Perhaps you find your thoughts drifting repeatedly to the wrong that some person or institution has done to you.  Maybe you just wake up in the morning and everything looks kind of grey and pointless.  While shopping at the grocery store it could occur to you that everyone and everything there is irritating and ugly.

 

Just start by noticing that your mind plays this rejection game, whatever flavor it takes.  Notice how often you're finding fault, taking stock of the potential for ruinous failure, feeling hopeless or dispirited.

 

If you're like me, you might begin to realize that this rejection, this judgment is just something your mind does automatically-- and since it's automatic, it's meaningless.  It doesn't actually reflect the truth about the value of you, other people, the world, your life. It's not a valid, intelligent response.  It's a program, a mechanism. It's just an ingrained habit.

 

Start to realize that you could be living in paradise and your mind would still find a way to make you miserable, and you come a little closer to freedom.  You come a little closer to realizing that the trouble is not your essential self, in the world or in your life but just within your thoughts. And that's really good news, because that means you have the power to end that suffering.

 

Love!

Carolyn

 

 

 

 

Surrender your addiction to suffering - Part One

 

If you're like me, your mind's default setting is "I suck and everything sucks."  Your life may have lots of wondrous things in it, but still you wake up in the morning with a feeling of dread that could impress Franz Kafka.  This feeling can shake off at some point during the day-- or it can grip you continuously.  It's paralyzing and heavy.  It can make it difficult to complete creative projects, go to work, or just be out and about in the world.

 

This perception of suckiness and the feeling of heavy dread that accompanies it is part of a spiritual illness that many of us human beings have, namely, the disease of addiction.

 

The disease of addiction is, at base, just that: dis-ease.  It's the discomfort, difficulty, suffering that comes from attaching to and believing in the thoughts and stories that the mind produces, especially the negative and frightening stories. Once that basic dis-ease is happening, it prompts us to reach towards behaviors and substances to soothe the internal discomfort: over-eating, over-sleeping, coffee, cigarettes, obsessive romance, drugs, on and on.

 

Unsurprisingly, the "soothing" behaviors that we adopt to cope with the dread themselves have painful consequences that only make us feel worse.  Every high brings with it a yucky low.

 

You probably have experience with quitting your symptom-level addictions. That's what New Year's resolutions are for, right? But don't your symptoms always re-surface again, in some form? Life gets stressful and soon you're back on the wheel?

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5CLmflrwIA

 

What if it was possible to strike the disease of addiction right at its root?  What if you could be free not only from the substances and behaviors that hook you into painful cycles, but also from your addiction to suffering itself?

 

This is the possibility that interests me.  Lately I've been smoking like a forest fire, pouring coffee into my mouth, eating chocolate in quantities that would astound Willy Wonka himself ("Augustus! Augustus, honey, stop! Save room for later!"), and procrastinating on important projects.  I want to stop indulging in these dubious "comforts" -- but I want more than that, too.  I want to drop the painful mental processes that cause me to reach for such comforts in the first place.

 

I know that this dropping is possible because I've accomplished it for periods of time recently. I know that freedom from the mind's tyranny feels like wondrous spaciousness, deep love, and a rich sense of hope and possibility. It feels like being in total agreement with the flow of reality-- even when reality doesn't match up with my ego's dictates of what should be happening.  What interests me is living in this spaciousness and flow all the time, not just for short visits.

 

So I'm inviting you to join me on a journey of letting go of the fundamental dis-ease. This journey consists in a series of nine daily commitments that are simple but radical:

 

  1. Notice that your mind continuously judges against you and against people and situations in your life
  2. Understand that these judgments, though voiced by your own internal monologue, represent the distorted perceptions of a spiritual dis-ease and not "the truth"
  3. Get honest with yourself about the consequences of exactly what happens when you accept your mind's judgments as "the truth" and then act on them or allow them to affect your mood
  4. Recognize when you've hurt someone as a result of your dis-eased thinking and make immediate amends
  5. Vividly imagine what your life would feel like without your mind's judgments and stories about the past and future playing all the time
  6. Practice having faith that it's possible to be totally sane, joyous, and free, no matter what's happening
  7. Experiment with fully agreeing with reality as it is rather than as your mind says it should be
  8. Attempt to be fully present as loving awareness with yourself and with others
  9. Give up trying to figure out the future at all and instead simply trust that the silent, loving awareness of your being will lead you where you need to be
I'll be writing posts about the how to's and benefits of practicing each of these commitments. As we get ready to take this journey together, I ask you to ponder this question and to answer it in the comments section: do you really believe that a life free from suffering is possible? And if not, why not?
Love!
Carolyn