If you’re like me, your mind’s default setting is “I suck and everything sucks.”
Your life may have lots of wondrous things in it, but still you wake up in the morning with a feeling of dread that could impress Franz Kafka. This feeling can shake off at some point during the day– or it can grip you continuously. It’s paralyzing and heavy. It can make it difficult to complete creative projects, go to work, or just be out and about in the world.
This perception of suckiness and the feeling of heavy dread that accompanies it is part of a spiritual illness that many of us human beings have, namely, the disease of addiction.
The disease of addiction is, at base, just that: dis-ease. It’s the discomfort, difficulty, suffering that comes from attaching to and believing in the thoughts and stories that the mind produces, especially the negative and frightening stories. Once that basic dis-ease is happening, it prompts us to reach towards behaviors and substances to soothe the internal discomfort: over-eating, over-sleeping, coffee, cigarettes, obsessive romance, drugs, on and on.
Unsurprisingly, the “soothing” behaviors that we adopt to cope with the dread themselves have painful consequences that only make us feel worse. Every high brings with it a yucky low.
You probably have experience with quitting your symptom-level addictions. That’s what New Year’s resolutions are for, right? But don’t your symptoms always re-surface again, in some form? Life gets stressful and soon you’re back on the wheel?
What if it was possible to strike the disease of addiction right at its root? What if you could be free not only from the substances and behaviors that hook you into painful cycles, but also from your addiction to suffering itself?
This is the possibility that interests me. Lately I’ve been smoking like a forest fire, pouring coffee into my mouth, eating chocolate in quantities that would astound Willy Wonka himself (“Augustus! Augustus, honey, stop! Save room for later!”) and procrastinating on important projects. I want to stop indulging in these dubious “comforts” — but I want more than that, too. I want to drop the painful mental processes that cause me to reach for such comforts in the first place.
I know that this dropping is possible because I’ve accomplished it for periods of time recently. I know that freedom from the mind’s tyranny feels like wondrous spaciousness, deep love, and a rich sense of hope and possibility. It feels like being in total agreement with the flow of reality— even when reality doesn’t match up with my ego’s dictates of what should be happening. What interests me is living in this spaciousness and flow all the time, not just for short visits.
So I’m inviting you to join me on a journey of letting go of the fundamental dis-ease. This journey consists in a series of nine daily commitments that are simple but radical:
- Notice that your mind continuously judges against you and against people and situations in your life
- Understand that these judgments, though voiced by your own internal monologue, represent the distorted perceptions of a spiritual dis-ease and not “the truth”
- Get honest with yourself about the consequences of exactly what happens when you accept your mind’s judgments as “the truth” and then act on them or allow them to affect your mood
- Recognize when you’ve hurt someone as a result of your dis-eased thinking and make immediate amends
- Vividly imagine what your life would feel like without your mind’s judgments and stories about the past and future playing all the time
- Practice having faith that it’s possible to be totally sane, joyous, and free, no matter what’s happening
- Experiment with fully agreeing with reality as it is rather than as your mind says it should be
- Attempt to be fully present as loving awareness with yourself and with others
- Give up trying to figure out the future at all and instead simply trust that the silent, loving awareness of your being will lead you where you need to be
I’ll be writing posts about the how to’s and benefits of practicing each of these commitments. As we get ready to take this journey together, I ask you to ponder this question and to answer it in the comments section: do you really believe that a life free from suffering is possible? And if not, why not?
Editor: Hayley Samuelson