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HOW TO WORK WITH ADDICTIONS

Tibetan Sky The teachings tell us that there is suffering.

There is dissatisfaction and frustration. Often nothing seems to go right. There really is a wound. But it is not necessary to scratch it. Working with addictions is about not just impulsively grabbing for something to stop the itching, not just grabbing for something to fill up the space, not giving in to this impulse to feel okay and just to get comfortable as soon as possible.

When we scratch the wound and give into our addictions we do not allow the wound to heal. But when we instead experience the raw quality of the itch or pain of the wound and do not scratch it, we actually allow the wound to heal. So not giving in to our addictions is about healing at a very basic level.

It is about truly nourishing ourselves.

The view that is presented in the Buddhist teachings is not one of becoming a better person, or finally getting it right, but is a view based on trusting what we already have, of starting and staying where we already are.

So with letting go of an addiction, the instruction is the same, it is instruction to get in touch with our basic nature, to get in touch with the basic energy of the moment in which we are all caught up. Addictions can be to anything: we can use this process with what we traditionally call addictions or we can use this working with so-called negative feelings of all kinds.

The moment in which we give in to our addictions is a moment in which we are all caught up —in which there is tremendous karmic momentum to go forward in the same old way —to scratch the wound. This can be a wound which really bothers us —we can see the wound bleeding, we can see it getting worse and we will not stop scratching. We can actually even feel quite nauseated by what we are doing, but we just will not stop!

What allows us to stop is maitri, which in this case means a basic feeling that we do not have to be afraid of what we are feeling right now, that we do not have to look for alternatives, that we aren't ashamed of what we are feeling in this moment. We are scared of what we are feeling. Instead, we can just let our warmth toward the wound, or the warmth toward that instant of time just be there as the working basis.

Maitri is settling down with the situation without looking for alternatives.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche talks about three stages in this process. The first is the warmth or maitri, the second is dropping discursive thinking and opening and the third is communicating. When we drop the discursive thinking and open, or communicate, what that basically means is that we we contact the moment fully.

At each moment of time, we can just completely cut discursiveness and open to the moment as an act of total freedom. We can cut through the solidity of identity, can cut through the solidity of our sense of identity, can cut through the solidity of our sense of problem and can just let the problem go. We can cut through the strong sense of "I need this now," "I have to get something out of this," we can cut through that.

But in order to do this we have to develop a sense that it is safe to stay with the present and not look for alternatives, that it is completely safe and even useful not to look for alternatives. Another way of looking at this is to say that we have a sense of warmth for the uncomfortable energy of the present moment, for the raw quality of energy, regardless of how irritating it is. And instead of being ashamed of being all caught up, we begin to regard it as a valuable place to be in. So there is some work that we need to do in preparation.

But what is so liberating about this that it is not saying that we just have to laboriously work and work forever. Once we have developed the habit of trusting, we can just abruptly cut, and find freedom. So the basis is maitri —that is the first moment. And the second moment is cutting discursive thoughts and opening like a flashbulb going off. And then communicating with what remains. When these moments become more continuous it is given a fancy name like samadhi or enlightenment.

And the most powerful time to do this is when we are all caught up.

There is a teaching, a very advanced teaching which people always perk up whan they hear which says, The more neurosis, the more wisdom. People like this because they know they have a lot of neurosis. But no one can really understand this at first hearing because it doesn't ever feel like "the more neurosis, the more wisdom." It actually feels like "the more neurosis, the more despair." But what I have found in working with this is that if you are all caught up and it occurs to you to just open, there is so much energy which is available to wake up —there is so much more energy available at this time.

Often you feel that you cannot let go. But if you have the courage to just experiment with abruptly opening at this time, there is enormous ability to have the mind open completely because there is so much energy. Of course the energy is pregnant with wanting to close right back down into the discursiveness or the mood that you are in. But you do get "the most for your money," the most for your moment at this time when you are all caught up. You get the most for your instant —you are propelled further than you would otherwise go on the energy which pushes you further. The hardest time to do this practice is also the most powerful time to do the practice.

Photo by Ana Elisa Fuentes.

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