Addictions – an attempt to escape the pain

The nature of addiction is an attempt to escape the pain at the core of our being. Resisting the urge to give in rather than face the appetite or addiction takes patience and determination.

If you want freedom you have to come to terms with being okay in the now doing nothing. All of your bad states are entirely your responsibility. Your state is totally under your control as long as you can exercise the mindfulness to be present in the moment. When you remain present you won’t go to the addiction or to a negative mind state. On the spiritual path, you’re not fighting your addiction, you’re fighting the inability to face the appetite or addiction. It takes patience and determination to sit through the state and study the pattern, rather than simply being driven by early childhood conditioning.

— Doug Duncan Sensei From a public talk given in Winnepeg, Canada in September 2009

Podcast Transcription:

From your early childhood condition, you get a very strong imprint very early from your mother that doing nothing is not good. The nature of the interruption of the addiction is you learn to do it to yourself. A mother’s job is to condition you to be a functioning adult. She’s done a pretty good job. You are all relatively functioning adults, right? You know how to feed yourself Yeah. You know how to put your clothes on, you, get the buttons done up, right, okay? And you managed to put some sort of life together for yourself? Yeah. So Mother did her job. 

She got you to be a functioning adult. But on the other hand, the nature of the functioning adult doesn’t disturb the status quo. In other words, disturb the tendency of the child to be a brat. So the disturbance of the cycle is gradually, you internalize that process. Now when you get to the meditation cushion, you do it to yourself. When you start to interrupt yourself, the nature of the ego structure can’t handle that, so it has to blame it on somebody. 

So what happens is: the child blames it on someone as an excuse for interrupting themselves. So from this point of view, all your bad states are entirely your responsibility because you’re doing it to yourself. Doesn’t matter what somebody else is doing to you, your state remains well within your power. Your state is completely and totally under your control, insofar as you can exercise the mindfulness to be present in the moment. Insofar as you can keep that present mindfulness in the moment, then it doesn’t go to the appetite, it doesn’t go to the addiction, and more importantly, it doesn’t go to negative mind states based on aggression, ill-will and so on and so on and so on. You start to do it to yourself. And this is the interesting thing that you start to see in meditation is that boredom is something you do to yourself by being discontented with the lack of something that seems to be happening at the moment.

But the point is that at any moment of time, an infinity of things is happening. No? The rug you feel under your bum, you feel the breeze of the fan on the back of your neck, there’s always your breathing. There’s the breathing in and breathing out that’s always with you. Not terribly entertaining! 

Now, the thing that you have to understand and the nature of your conditioning is your entire conditioning has been built around being entertained. Whether it’s entertained by work, entertained by relationships, entertained by TV, the average American watches (and the Canadians are, you know when I say American / Canadian, it’s the same now in a way) four hours to five hours a day of television. The average child, who’s now 30 years old or younger, has on average watched 4-5 hours of TV a day as a kid. What are you being fed? 4-5 hours of entertainment or interruption with the idea that it’s not good enough the way it is.

Unless you have gap clothing, you’re a loser kid. Unless you have McDonald’s French fries, you’re not one of the chosen kids. So the battle goes on and on and on. When you come to the spiritual path, or of the path of liberation, or the path of realization, the thing that you’re fighting isn’t your appetites and it isn’t your addictions, right? It’s your inability to face the fact that it’s an appetite and its addiction. 

In other words, being bored isn’t the issue, it’s your inability to look at the nature of the pattern of being bored, and that’s your issue. In other words, I haven’t got the patience it takes. I don’t have the determination it takes to sit through this state and study the pattern. Now, the meditative mind is simply that which is more interested in studying the patterns than it is and being jerked around by them.

And so if you’re going to  be jerked around by your patterns, you can be sure you’re going to  be jerked around by your appetites. And if you’re being jerked around by your appetites, you’re being jerked around by Madison Avenue, or what is it in Canada? Bay Street. 

In other words, the advertisers know how to sell you that which is addictive. Advertisers know how to sell you that, which leads to more consumption, that’s what they’re good at. If anybody’s in advertising, they’ll agree with me, that is our job – to sell the stuff you don’t need. But also to sell the stuff you do need. 

So the nature of the appetite or the nature of addiction is that you start doing it to yourself and in that process, the conditioning cycle keeps going on and on. And the one thing you’re not doing in the whole process is studying the nature of the patterning of how you respond to conditioning. You’re too busy being driven by your early childhood conditioning to be discontented and disrupted, which is what your mother did to train you and it’s not her fault. 

If you want freedom, your job – as an adult, as an awakening being, or as a realizing being – is to come to terms with being okay in the now, doing nothing. Which doesn’t mean you’re going to  be doing it all the time. But for this period of time, I am doing nothing. Now it’s very difficult to do that because of the nature of our addictions. 

And so we have meditation techniques that give the illusion that you’re doing something. These are made up! These are imaginary objects to engage your imaginary attention. The way you perceive your reality is imaginary. How do you know what’s happening out there? Everything that you experience out there is experienced by this in here. 

Your eye has, how many cones? They perceive what? Red, blue, and green. So I’m looking at Karen’s jacket and thinking, what color is that? Purple. There’s no purple in your eye! There’s Red, blue, and green. Your brain mixes them all together. 

Curiously enough, the one that you have the most receptors for is taste. You have something like 1000 different taste receptors. Or smells – the ability to distinguish different chemicals in the air. So from the point of view of the meditator right, you can’t possibly be bored. How could you be bored? 

You have six senses trained to bug you constantly while you sit there doing nothing. Yeah, So we do come up with these meditation objects to distract you long enough to get you to sit there to realize that your states are being created by patterns. So when we get into things like Tibetan initiations or more complicated meditations, they’re all basically built to keep you entertained while you’re sitting there getting bored. Until you get so bored, you start to wonder what it is that gets bored?

Now, when you start looking at the nature of the question, ‘what is it that gets bored?’ you’re going to find the one beast: the demon we call the Demon of Resistance. The Demon of Resistance is your appetite. Your addiction. Your inability to sit still and do nothing, which drives you out, again and again, seeking happiness where it can’t possibly be found because, as I said before, the nature of happiness cant be found if you’re constantly in the next moment. 

In the process of being in the next moment continuously, you actually reaffirm, recondition, strengthen, and deepen the root of your addiction to being disturbed – which will then go from boredom to fear to anxiety, to a new addiction. You go from boredom to fear, from fear to anxiety and from anxiety, you’ll go find something else to occupy your time. But, as I said, we started with this idea that human beings are social animals and the nature of a social animal is to work together. To work in a community, to work in a group, to create a tribe that can survive, can create things and do things. And so then how does this apply? 

All you have to do now is make the connection that outer activity is the lesson of meditation applied to the activity. So when you’re washing the dishes, you wash the dishes. If you’re washing the dishes to get to the idea that you’re going to  milk the cow, then you won’t be happy washing the dishes right? But more importantly, you won’t be happy when you’re milking the cow either because when you’re milking the cow, you’ll be getting the chickens or whatever right?

And so this whole process is you find that you’re constantly living your life in a fantasy world. In other words, you’re not living your life in the present. You’re living life in some future event that’s going to  happen which you never ever get to. This is anxiety-producing. 

How can you be at peace in your being if you’re not in the present moment? The only moment you have is the present one. And so the false god, the false refuge of our society, is consumption. It drives our appetite, it drives our needs, it drives our ideas of where we are, who we are, what we’re going to  do, where we’re going to  be in the future, and so on and so on and so on. So if you can apply that mindfulness, that present mindfulness to your activity, then in every moment you are? Bored. Because you see, the nature of it is you’re not sure how to do it.

Happy actually is the right answer, but you can’t possibly be happy until you get bored with being bored. You can’t possibly be happy until you get bored with being fearful. You can’t possibly be happy until you get bored with being anxiety driven, right? In other words, you can’t possibly be happy until you’re willing to die – because at this moment, there is no previous moment and there is no future moment – you only have this moment. So there’s no birth and there is no death. 

For more information, please visit 

Thank you.