I sat with the young dharma group at Jeana's tonight, (185 Mission St. Apt 5 if you are interested). The topic beign discussed was addiction. What the group name right away was that when you were mindful of the feelings that accompanied the dive into an addiction, usually the driving feeling was boredom. Boredom is interesting in that I feel it very viscerally. It hurts me physically and I want to scramble away from it as quickly as possible. Then I will flee into another thought, or a drama of the moment, a story, a recrimination, or even start to move physically. I will check email compulsively, a begin a fervent surf of the internet, each click driving a spike of dopamine into my blood stream and staving off, for a moment, the rising wall of panic.
But what happens when I do the opposite. When I turn into the boredom. Strangley, when I turn into it, look for that emotion of boredom, it dissolves. I am suddenly intensify interested in the feeling and the conditions and then I find that I am not bored at all. That I was bored was just a story I was telling myself. When I pay attention, its gone, a phantom, a dream.
Interestingly, I notice that is the way with a lot of my emotions. Maybe all of them. Recently I have noticed that when I turn into anger, or boredom, or intimidation, or jealously, they soften, and when I extend my feelings a kindness, letting them be whatever they are in the moment, they just fade and disappear. I am surprised to learn that I don't feel the way I thought I did when I wasn't looking. Its not as bad as I thought. Or rather, its exactly as bad as I thought and now I am not thinking about it, but just letting it be, its not bad at all. Can you really hate yourself as psychologists seem to say? My experience is no. The only way to experience that sensation is not to really pay attention to yourself, but rather to tell yourself stories about how you should be and what is wrong with you. When you really just kindly spend time and attention with what is really there, how can you hate it? I thought I could, but I couldn't. Its just me; And thats just kind of there, without judgment.
So there you go, just like the cold that I noticed I no longer felt when I really paid caring attention to the sensations and stories that were happened in that moment, similarly, I noticed that when I look into boredom, there is no boredom, and when I look into anger, there is no anger. There is something, its just....well, me. And who am I to judge that?
So what does that mean about addiction? Well, addiction is very real. But like boredom, the interesting thing to me is that you have to start by liking it a little. By admitting that you are in fact getting something you want and need. And once you do that, the addiction is less immediate. There is just a little space there because you are beign kind about what that addiction is doing for you, and seeing that you have needs that are not met. Sometimes we have the freedom in that space to make other choices. Other times the best we can do is just enjoy our addiction. Sometimes we have no choice at all, or so it seems. But there is no reason that your addiction is something other than you. There is nothing bad there. Nothing to be eradicated or destroyed. There is no warden in that prison, and sometimes when I pay attention, I notice that while the window is barred, the door is open, and I can just walk on out.
Since personal experience is the cornerstone of what I am doing here, I will put more me in this. Recently, I noticed this buzzing in my head. It drives me on to do more and more and the sensation, once I paid attention to it, is quite euphoric. I noticed when it was gone, the buzz was gone, and that this sensation may come from all the excersize I do. I don't really go to the gym, but I surf most days, and I climb many others, and then I ride my bike places and walk a lot. I also like to lift weights on occasion. I truly like these activities, but when I noticed the buzzing, I noticed it had more qualities than I ha previously noticed. I noticed that there was a hunger there and once I noticed it, paid attention to it, I noticed I was not entirely comfortable with how it felt. maybe all this activity was my addiction? Well, once I noticed it, it took a couple months, but eventually, there arose the realization that I was bored with answering that hunger. I wondered what it would be like to do something different. So, thats what I am doing. There was enough space created by my attention that I noticed how the cell door was open, even though I had been banging on the window bars. So, Then I sat in the bunk of my mind and made up stories about the horrors of outside the cell. Finally, I decided that horrors or not, I wanted to see what was out there. Frankly, I knew all about the cell and wanted something different, even if it confirmed all my fears. So, this month I am doing something differnt. I dont know what that is yet, because this is new, but somehow, I am discovering I know just what to do. Strange how when we forget what
Thanks for your attention if you got this far.
“A Course on Koans” is the delusion-riddled work of Chris Kufu (“Wind in the Void”) Wilson, who began practicing Zen in 1967. He regards Taizan Maezumi, Robert Aitken, and David Weinstein as his root teachers. Each of them pecked at his shell until he “completed” the never-ending koan curriculum of the Harada-Yasutani lineage.
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