Awakening (and feeling) into Addiction
It’s often taboo in enlightenment circles to say “the body is the friend.” It’s funny how that happens. An awakening takes place and then all of a sudden people don’t think the body is “important” any more (chances are, they never did)—as if in oneness the body is excluded. If I sound a bit bitter here, it’s because I am. And the reason is this: over and over people are told they are not their bodies, which is true, by the way. But that is misunderstood, and so people think they have to forget, disavow, rise above, eradicate, *insert other word that resonates*, their bodies. And what follows is, well, suffering. This suffering is directly tied to the belief that awakening is a permanent state (see my previous post Embodiwhat? and other tales of spiritual seeking), but it’s also tied to a deep dissociation from the physical form inhabited—the body.
After experiencing a period of bliss, only for it to “go away”, I often hear something like this from clients: “what have I done wrong?” There is a sense of guilt, shame, abandonment, and/or self-loathing. And even though they’ve experienced “no-self” and know that they are not their thoughts, these feelings (of shame, guilt, self loathing, and so on) and the unconscious thoughts that go with them prevail. The last thing many of us want to do is feel what we are experiencing, because it’s just plain awful, and also because society overwhelms with the message that we just need to “change our thoughts.”
I get a lot of correspondence from people who have had awakenings, and who have experienced “bliss” afterwards. But then they noticed old patterns emerging, or new ones forming. At the heart of these patterns is often a restlessness—of the mind and in the body—and lots of discomfort. This is pretty aligned with my own experience as well—I was plagued by loathing and debilitating thoughts, had painful body contractions, and was on emotional roller coaster.
Enter, addiction. The body serves many mechanisms—the mind thinks, the lungs breathe, ears hear, and so on. Addiction serves a mechanism as well. Breaking it down simply, addiction is an invisible mechanism, often kept alive by invisible problems. It’s a mechanism that the body comes up with in an attempt to help itself survive. After all, it’s only responding to the fight, freeze, or flight response that it’s biologically programmed to experience. These feelings of flight, fight, and freeze keep the mind spinning, and the body in survival mode. To help alleviate this state of anxiety and the restlessness that comes with it, we turn to just about anything that will help us feel better. The desperate desire to “get back” to that awakened state often follows, and can be accompanied by various addictions—including food, sex, (spiritual) seeking, self improvement, drugs, etc—anything to keep the being busy and not feeling.
There is a way to “stop the madness.” It’s good old-fashioned looking at and journeying into thoughts, beliefs, sensations, actions, behaviors, patterns, and so on. It’s not a magic pill: no one “out there” is going to magically save you, nor is that old awakening going to magically “come back”. It’s about you taking an honest look at what is moving through this thing called life, in that which you’re housed in—the body. It’s engaging with it, and in it. It’s inquiring into all the thoughts, images, sensations—it’s taking a look at what seems true, and then experiencing what’s actually true. Particularly important is spending a lot of time exploring the bodily sensations and energies that arise. This is what most therapists and modalities skip over, and I find that it is vital to explore the deep caverns of the biological mechanism if we are to break free from the false beliefs and thoughts that often get velcro-ed to these sensations. For me, this is at the heart of embodiment and is important to get to the heart of any addiction (or other emotional imbalance).
There are lots of ways this can happen—and you don’t have to do it alone. In fact studies show that support can increase the chances that an addiction will be successfully overcome. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMSHA), states that frequency of support is an important factor in overcoming addiction.) There are supportive programs that can provide lots of tools for inquiring into what is going on for you, with you, so that you don’t have to try to handle what is feeling so overwhelming, all by yourself.
Living Inquiries offers a way to journey with addictions in a very unique way. The Kiloby Center offers an extensive outpatient program, and certified Living Inquiries facilitators offer Skype/phone sessions. Because we recognize that support is crucial for your recovery, there is ongoing support while you are in the program, as well as after. Natural Rest groups are available free of charge via Skype throughout the week, as well as in person in some cities. Also available are free audio and videos, numerous Facebook groups (contact me directly for the various Facebook groups) and a chat group. This network, is here for you. Combined with your own deep willingness and readiness to look into your thoughts, behaviors, and sensations, facilitators are present to explore and journey along with you.
If you are suffering from spiritual seeking or any other addiction, feel free to contact me for more information, or click on the links below. Make friends with your body and your thoughts. In doing so, they are no longer things to fear or avoid. Instead, they become companions—and supportive companions at that.
 My bud Tim Foley came up with this word, and my other bud Travis Enix just used it in his recent blog. Perfect timing, thanks Travis, and Tim!