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.

Part 3 of a public talk given in Winnipeg, Canada, in Sept. 2009

Podcast Transcription:

This moment is this moment. Now what we’re gonna tell you is a bit of a leap, but when you die, consciousness doesn’t change much;  it keeps going on. It just does it without a body – a bit like a dream. You know what dreams are like? If you consider death to be like a dream, you have a pretty good idea of what happens. 


The body dies, you know, your body is not there for you (in terms of functioning) it’s just sleeping – but the consciousness goes on. Does it not? It goes into dream states. It goes through that deep sleep where nobody’s home, which is what happens, and then the nature of the habitual patterns picks up a pattern, right? Which we call the dream state. The dream state plays itself out until you get bored with the dream, and decide you want to make this dream happen (or not) or this dream is way too weird.


You make the decision to wake up. So you’re dreaming, having a dream – maybe it’s a dream you like, or maybe it’s a dream you can’t stand – but who makes the decision to wake up? Well, in lucid dreaming, you make the decision to wake up. So why do you make that decision? Usually fear, or you’re tired of being in it, or you’re bored. You want to get on with your “real” life.


So now here you are in your real life, and now you’re subject to the dream of being in the next moment. Because not being in this moment means you’re asleep. At this moment, you can’t know what’s going on in this moment if you’re in the next moment. If I’m thinking about taking out the chickens when I’m washing the dishes, I’m asleep! I’m in a dream state. No? So if I make the decision to wake up in this moment, what illusion or dream am I breaking? 


Well, I’m breaking the dream of anxiety. I’m basically breaking the dream of my identity because I don’t know who I am if I’m not planning. I don’t know who I am if I’m not getting the ball rolling into the future. I don’t know who I am if I’m just resting in this moment here, which is exactly the state of what you’re in in the dream – you don’t know who you are. 


You wake yourself up from the dream to find out who you are. But at the same time, if you’re washing the dishes and you’re thinking about taking out the chickens, you’re not in the here either. You’re still dreaming! Unless we’re planning, prodding, addicting, habituating, consuming, and eating, we don’t know who we are, right? We lose the sense of the definition of our separate, independent individual identities, which we never ever had in the first place. 


Your individual personality and identity were shaped by your reactions to your mother, and secondarily to your father. So if the mother said, “Jan take out the garbage”, Jan said, “Sure”. Which made her a good child; Jan the ‘good child’. If mother said, “take out the garbage” and Jan said “no”, this makes Jan the ‘troublesome child’ or the ‘bad child’, right? 


If you see the nature of your addiction and your habits, you have an on/off relationship with your: addictions, habits, and consumption pattern in order to keep ‘you’ in the story. You can’t ever possibly be happy in the moment, because the definition of ‘you’ in the moment is that which is not in the moment! Does this make sense? Do you follow what I’m saying? 


If I am that which is going to take care of the chickens after I finish the dishes, and all I am doing is the dishes, then there is no me to be the person taking the chickens out. You could say, “okay, I’m doing the dishes”. But if you’re talking to yourself about doing the dishes, you’re not really doing the dishes are you? So let’s shut that up. Okay? No talking to yourself while you’re doing the dishes. 


The first thing that’s gonna happen is: Anxiety. The next thing that’s gonna happen is: Fear. The third thing that’s gonna happen is: Boredom. You start writing scenarios for yourself. You write intellectual scenarios, then you can be the smart guy. Or you write emotional scenarios, and then you can be the feeling guy or girl. And then you write sensual kinds of things and then you can be the sensual person.


But all of the data comes back to your basic need to put yourself in the story. What does that imply about other people? If you’re the hero in your own movie, are you? Aren’t you? I mean you’re always the hero in your own movie. ‘I’m oppressed by society’, or ‘I am the struggling hero again depressed by the monster of society’, or ‘they’re all bad and I’m the noble warrior going out to change…’ you know that one?


But in any case, you are the hero in your own story, are you not? Even if you’re the loser. ‘I am so bad’, ‘I’m such a loser’ – well, what an identity to have, right? I mean, nobody can even argue with you! If someone says, “you’re kind of pretty”, you say “No, no! I’m not pretty! Oh my God! I got like a little blemish on my nail here”. Right? 


So if you’re a hero in your story, what is everybody else? Supporting cast. Welcome to your relationships. And so we write the scenario over and over again, and the story of being a hero in your own movie makes everybody else either supporting actors, or the bad guy that makes you look good. Or that’s the problem, that person over there is the problem. I’m the poor, hard done by one and we should all get out violins and sing the song of the victimized Canadians: ‘the Americans are so mean to us’… right? 


Who does this to who? Who creates these stories? And so the nature of the addiction and the nature of the appetite is you write your stories. And you can write any old story, can’t you? 


The nice thing about a meditation retreat is you get bored with your stories. Oh here comes that one again. Here it comes up again. So you start writing news stories: ‘Well, you see, if I keep meditating and hold the pose, yeah, and get a robe maybe? The next thing there will be lights, and then I can see the camera moving in, and this will be the mill. And there may be some angels kicking around up there, and then the lights come on, and then I’ll be a buddha, right? And then like I’ll be the Dalai lama and everybody will think I’m wonderful…’ You want the Dalai Lama’s job? 


How many hours a day do you think he works? How about President Obama? I mean look at that guy’s schedule! He’s got to come out and seem like he knows what he’s doing and under control and have it all together. 


So now you have the other aspect which is: ‘Okay, well fine. You’ve convinced me sensei that I should just be in the now. Be in the present and dwell in a clear and radiant mind state. Breathe in, breathe out you know. Be aware of the ant crossing the trail, or the flowers opening in the sky, or the sunset happening.’ But what about my food? What about my job? What about my relationships? What about work?


Well the thing is you just extend that meditation in the same place. When you’re talking to someone, you talk to them in the present time; you’re present. You’re there with that person doing that thing. If you’re fixing your car – bolt-on bolt off. Kind of like the karate kid – bolts on, bolts off’. 


The reason you get bored with work is because it’s repetitive. You don’t like repetition because it’s boring. It’s boring because there’s no surprise. ‘I want an entertaining job’. Now if you have an entertaining job, what’s that gonna demand? It’s gonna demand spontaneous non-control. 


In other words, if you have an entertaining job, you don’t know what’s gonna happen next, do you? No! It could be anything! You see the problem with having an entertaining job is you have to be an entertaining person, which means you can’t know what you’re going to do next. 


And the nature of appetite is you know exactly what you’re gonna do next. The nature of addiction is that you know exactly what you’re gonna do next. The nature of neurosis is you know exactly what you’re gonna do next. 


It’s all written, and you go to the movies to be entertained so you don’t have to live an entertaining life. It’s an escape. ‘Get over there to the movie so I don’t have to be responsible for what I do next’. Because if I do know what I’m gonna do next, then I’m bored. “Ugh, going to school tomorrow.” If I don’t know what I’m gonna do next, well, at that moment, you don’t know who you are, do you? If you don’t know how you’re gonna behave in the next moment, then you don’t know who you are. 


From Freud’s point of view, this is the terror of altered states of consciousness – you don’t know what’s gonna happen next. And so now you have these two dilemmas: 1) not knowing what you’re gonna be, who you’re gonna be, where you’re gonna go, or what you’re gonna do in the next moment – which is freedom – and 2) the understanding that if you’re not connected to something, you’re dead. You have these two parts of your being. 


What we’re suggesting is: you learn on the meditation cushion and in the spiritual halls of the temple – in the magic circle of the mind of exploration – how to not know what you’re gonna do next or know who you are. When you go to work, you cross out of that magic circle. You enter into the world of the tribe and the community, and you function mindfully as clearly and concisely as possible. 


But you don’t take the dialogue out to that, because internal dialogue of boredom, restlessness, and anxiety is because you’re living in a fantasy world and your other world. If you bring that into your inner world and you allow those stories to unravel (the entertainment aspect) then you gradually realize that of everything in the universe that can happen, you already are; but that’s on the cushion. In terms of what happens out in the world (so-called), then you have the exercise of control. I can choose to do this or not do this. But what I will choose is to be mindful. 


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Thank you.