Addiction and Non-Duality: How and Why to Space Out

Here’s Why to Space Out:

• Addiction is always an addiction of attention.
• Freedom is a freedom of attention.

• Attention is love.

• Attention in its natural state is space-like. (Unbounded love.)
• Attention short-circuited, is planet like. (bounded love)

• Our education, our culture, our physical experience all lead toward short-circuiting of our attention, e.g., short-circuiting of our love, such that most of us, most of the time, experience our attention as planet-like.

• Addiction is attention in its planet-like (short-circuited) state, caught in a particular gravity pattern, revolving around a particular star or two (e.g., tobacco, sex, money, fame, booze, or daily soap operas.)

• Simply remembering our natural state, (e.g., love, space-like attention,) again and again and again until it again becomes our daily experience, is the mechanism for resolving addiction. (more…)

The Smoker Identity Is a Hitchhiker!

Let’s pretend that when you were younger, just for fun, and to have an adventure, you picked up a hitchhiker– the smoker identity. You were a brave, fun-loving soul! Ahh, youth!
Naturally, when the hitchhiker first hopped in you asked, “where you going?”
“No where special,” the hitchhiker replied. “Where you going?”
“I’m just going to school,” you said, or to work or to the party, or wherever you happened to be going at the time.
“That’s fine. I’ll just tag along,” the hitchhiker said with a shrug, “Don’t worry about me. I don’t have anywhere else to go.”
So the hitchhiker tagged along, and actually fit in quite well with you and your friends, maybe even with your family. Whether you were being serious or having fun, were stressed out or relaxing, the hitchhiker made no complaints, hung in there with you. You became great friends. Over the next weeks and months, the hitchhiker quietly, unobtrusively moved in with you.
“We’re going out to dinner,” someone would say. “Or on vacation, or off to work, or to the store. “
“That’s fine,” the hitchhiker says, no matter where it is you’re going. “I’ll go with you.”
“But I’m going to church,” you say, or to the synagogue, or to grandpa and grandmas, where such hitchhikers are not invited.
“That’s okay,” the hitchhiker says. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll wait outside.”
So it’s been a number of years now. A lot of years, that the hitchhiker has been tagging along, no matter where you go. Even just staying home, the hitchhiker is there. And lately you start to realize that the hitchhiker has been steadily, quietly, borrowing money from you. A little bit at a time but it adds up. Five bucks or so a day. Every day. And even though you yourself don’t need to go to the store, the hitchhiker wants to go to the store, to spend your five bucks. So you go.
And not only has the hitchhiker been borrowing money every day, the hitchhiker has been quietly, almost unobtrusively borrowing other things from you. At first, it was little things, like a shirt or blouse that came back with a burn hole in it. And little bits of time– five minutes here and five minutes there. And you see that the hitchhiker has borrowed some of your reputation, which also comes back somewhat soiled.
Lately, though, you realize that the hitchhiker— your old pal, your friend—has also been quietly stealing from you. You hadn’t noticed the theft at first. But now you realize the hitchhiker has been stealing your sense of smell. And your sense of taste. And even more dramatically, the hitchhiker has been stealing little bits of your attention. Whenever you are doing something, even late at night, the hitchhiker calls, demands a bit of your attention. And when the hitchhiker demands your attention, you go.
And worst of all, lately, just lately, you realize the hitchhiker has actually been stealing your very breath! What you use to live with! What you need to live with!
“Give it back!” you shout. The hitchhiker shrugs, and turns away. You’re not getting it back, at least not from this hitchhiker. It appears as though this hitchhiker has no qualms about borrowing more of your breath, even if you don’t have any to spare!

Enough’s enough. The question now is how to evict this hitchhiker. How to get this hitchhiker out of your life.
The answer is really quite simple: start living your own life again, doing what you want to do, when you want to do it. And next time you see the hitchhiker, with thumb upraised, don’t stop. Don’t pick up the hitchhiker.
Take back the room—even if it’s just the garage, or the porch– that the hitchhiker has been using. Don’t loan the hitchhiker any more money. You don’t need to fight the hitchhiker. Just don’t feed the freeloader. Don’t answer the bum’s call. Get your life back. When the hitchhiker calls, don’t answer.

A Craving is Like A Buzzing Bee

Yikes! A bee!

Yikes! A bee!

      You ever get a bee in your bonnet? Or in your hat?  In your car?  All of sudden, you’re not thinking of anything, else, right? Everything in your life, except that bee, is immediately back burner. You need to do something about that buzzing bee and you need to do it now. When you have a bee in your bonnet, life is suddenly very intense, and uncomfortable, or potentially uncomfortable, and that potential makes it uncomfortable right now. You feel you need to do something.

      For a lot of smokers, quitting smoking is very similar to having a bee in their bonnet, or a bee buzzing around in the car with them.  Life is suddenly very intense, and uncomfortable, or potentially uncomfortable. They feel they need to do something about that buzzing, “right now.” Nothing else really matters.

    Contrary to popular belief, it is not the lack of nicotine that makes a quitting smoker so jumpy. The use of nicotine patches or anti-depressant drugs such as Zyban can be helpful, but, so far, these substances lead to success in fewer than 30% of the cases. Even with nicotine levels at “ordinary,” and with stress levels reduced, the “bee in the bonnet” feeling persists, and smokers go back to smoking in order to let the bee out. The “relief ” which a smoker feels with his or her first cigarette, after an unsuccessful quitting attempt, is exactly the same relief as when the bee flies out the window. “Whew, thank goodness that’s over.”

    So, what is it, exactly, that makes a smoker feel as if he or she has a bee in the bonnet, a bee in the car just as soon as the Quit Date arrives? If we could figure out where the bee comes from, we could go a long way to making it easier to quit, yes?

      From careful research, and long discussions with smokers and ex-smokers, it seems clear that the “bee in the bonnet” comes in the form of a simple little question that our attention gets hooked on, that the smoker continually asks. That question is: “Should I, or shouldn’t I?” 

     Should I or shouldn’t I have a smoke? Should I or shouldn’t I give up on this quitting business? The answer to the question, of course, is logically no, don’t have one, don’t give up. That’s obvious, that’s easy. So the smoker answers, “no, of course not, I won’t have one, I won’t give up.”  And then the question comes up again, and then again, and then again, should I or shouldn’t I?

     Here’s the rub: To answer, no, is obvious, but just to answer no does not stop the question from recurring!   Smokers don’t enjoy the question because they don’t enjoy either answer (yes I should smoke, no I shouldn’t smoke!) And what do smokers do when they aren’t enjoying themselves? They have a smoke!  The recurring question is the bee in the bonnet!

     Researchers have consistently found that the reason most smokers give for trying and failing to quit is that they were unable to resist the “cravings” they experienced shortly after stopping.  A craving is basically a thought repeated over and over, LIKE A BUZZING BEE! (Good news: this bee doesn’t have a stinger!  It may be a craving for chocolate pie or a craving for a ski trip or a new Ferrari. A craving is a thought repeated, again and again, until finally action is taken or— here’s the freedom– the “craver” consciously decides to change his or her thinking patterns.   The key words here are consciously decides. In the minutes and hours and days after quitting smoking, the thought– in the form of a question– continually arises, “Should I or shouldn’t I?” Most smokers assume it is their job to just keep saying no long enough for the question to finally go away.  Of course, that works, sometimes.

     More directly, though, the conscious decision to drop the question itself, and put attention on something else, is a conscious decision to drop the craving, and thus drop the habit. We are inherently free to drop our cravings, or to drop thoughts we don’t enjoy to think!  Of course, we are also free to develop or nourish our cravings.

    Non-smokers don’t ask the question, “should I or shouldn’t IThe habit of asking this particular mental question is the basic habit that smokers are breaking when they quit smoking. The secret to quitting is not so much in correctly answering the question, “should I or shouldn’t I?” The secret is in not asking the question at all! Dropping the question lets the bee out of the bonnet.   Then, whether to smoke or not smoke is simply no longer the question.   The bee is gone!