HOW TO WORK WITH ADDICTIONS
The heavily addicted moment is the perfect time to do this since the intense energy of severe addictions can
equally become the equally intense energy of wakefulness.
When you first begin working with this, particularly with severe addictions, you may find that you can delay
acting for a while, but eventually you give in to your addiction. But that delay is also extremely valuable, as
it become the seed for longer refraining and begins to develop our trust that it is possible. We start with
delaying our addictive impulse for just a few seconds but eventually we have a longer and longer delay between
the wish to scratch the wound and actually scratching the wound until finally we do not have to scratch at all.
During that delay we begin to befriend the energies.
For heavy addictions it is often useful to have as the initial goal something that is achievable. Our initial
goal might be to delay fulfilling the addiction for a short period of time and then gradually lengthen the
delay. This delay becomes the wedge we can use to bring down the whole addiction.
Working with delay of running off out destructive pattern increases our trust and helps to develop the
healthful pattern. Again, we start where we are and work slowly and patiently, without aggression for
ourselves. This is maitri.
Then we just contact the moment with our sense perceptions. So instead of the sense of being all caught up in
scratching the wound, we are able to let the discursiveness go. Out of a sense of warmth for the whole
situation we are able to let the discursiveness go and then there is communication, this contact with our sense
perceptions. In the Shambhala teachings they talk about contact with limitless ayatanas, limitless sense
perceptions. What this means is that what was limited and becoming more and more miserable and introverted
suddenly opens up and goes completely in the other direction.
There is the sense of everything going outward instead of everything being poisoned inward. Things open
Rinpoche said to just abruptly cut discursiveness, open, and then disown. For instance, if you have a wonderful
experience, just disown it. Even if nothing happens, just disown it. Then just go on. In another place Rinpoche
says it is just like taking a photograph with a flashbulb. You just take one photo after another. There is a
sense of just opening to the moment.
When you think of what you are doing here, you are completely cutting through the solidity of self-importance,
the solidity of holding on in any way, completely cutting through the chain reaction of karma. It's pretty
powerful, what you are doing here. The photographs are separate from each other; there is no ego glueing
them together. This is what "disowning" means. The photos are there and taken but there is no one owning them.
There are just these moments of warmth in which we communicate with feelings and are no longer identified with
what we consider our poor, miserable, separate selves.
So specifically the process is: When you are frantically eating, smoking, grabbing for a valium or whatever it
is and it occurs to you to try this, first you pause. The traditional teaching when we are all caught up is to
bring to mind something which stops us, such as the face of our teacher or of someone who really loves us. But
it could be anything that works for us.
The process can actually be quite fast, but we may have to artificially slow it down the first few times we do
- Uneasy feelings come up and we say to ourselves something like:
"I am not afraid of what is coming up. I have worked with feelings like this before. I can feel them. They are
workable. They will teach me something. I know from experience I can trust this process." This is the first
- Then we let go of our words about it, for example, "just this one won't hurt me," "I have to have this
now because... "and just be open to the space. It is as if the words were playing in a tiny little corner of the
space or it's as if you are in an airplane looking down on them.
- Then we communicate with the feelings that are left which are now wordless and move outward, as if the feelings
weren't specifically ours but were shared with the whole human race. They are changed to a warmth for the whole human race.
They are changed to a warmth and tenderness for the whole human condition. You are really feeling with all of humanity and your heart
could melt from the intensity of the pain or longing.
What begins to happen as a result of practicing this way is a growing trust we can be brave enough to open and
to stop scratching that wound. We trust that we can do it and we also see that sometimes we can't do it for
very long, but we nevertheless begin to have a trust that it is possible. We begin to trust that we can connect
with what is underneath the facade of protective devices, that we do not have to be afraid of that rawness, of
that pain, of that wound.
And then we also begin to find that what we connect with underneath that facade or protective device is
actually healing to to us, it is actually nourishing to us, it is not basically frightening. It is not a sense
of annihilation, it is a sense of warmth and expansion and a sense of enormous freedom and spaciousness. It is
a sense of coming home.
And most important there is a sense of enormous simplicity. Just simplicity. We make life complicated when it
is actually simple. Based on our experience of working with this, we develop a real sense that we can evolve
from being all caught up scratching our wounds, to a sense of the boundless nature, which is completely freeing
and open and focused outward.
We can cut the karmic chain at any moment and just let go. We can cut through the solidity of identity, the
solidity of the "problem," and just let it go. Rinpoche describes this by saying that "we can stop collecting
dust on our woolly tails." We can stop collecting the dust of negative karma in our actions. The image is of
just cutting through discursiveness and opening. In another place, Rinpoche says that this is as if someone
punctures your tire Pop! or in this case, punctures your speech balloon. This is not exactly a gentle
approach at this time, but is based on a gentle approach. It is a sudden glimpse which is also an experience of
warmth at the same time.
In the course of working with this, our perception of ourself changes.
One person describes the change: he said that he used to think of himself as a confused person doing confused
things, but now he regarded himself as a good person doing confused things. To him that was a big
difference because underlying this was a change of allegiance and expectation from confusion to wisdom.
The view is that the wisdom guide is inherent in each of us and that we can connect with that at any time and
be completely free.
Photo by Ana Elisa Fuentes.
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