MINDFULNESS, MEDITATION AND ADDICTION
Ahead of our next silent retreat, we look at more about what Meditation and addiction is as a subject, and what meditation and addiction both actually represent. Meditation, or “sitting,” needn’t be complex or esoteric. It is an essential part of recovery from depression, addiction and dis-ease. It is, as the name implies, merely sitting with a few simple guidelines. We would speak of “our 11 o’clock ‘sit’” or that our “meditation sit’ might consist of two twenty minute sits with a walking meditation in the middle. This will develop over time. At any rate, making plans to meditate is relatively easy. Actually doing it can prove more challenging. Sitting can be uncomfortable. The physical act itself is enough for most of us to feel a hip, lower back or knee within 5 minutes into a meditation and, of course, the other side of meditation relates to our minds that have been unmanageable with racing thoughts, obsessions and compulsions. This brings us to the heart of Meditation and addiction. This also means it may take some time for addicts in early recovery to get the best out of the practice. It is however this practice that will make the progress better. Specifically, our mental activity, our unique proclivity towards preservation of thought (or not) and how we choose to see and define ourselves and lives by what we are “thinking.” Meditation and addiction need to be one.
Thus, first off, we teach that comfort is foundation that is essential to the process of Meditation and addiction recovery. We are attempting to quiet the body as much as possible, get it out of the way, so that we aren’t distracted by a tight hip flexor or a foot gone numb and asleep. So, whether you are sitting on the edge of your bed or in a folding chair, or hovering 6 inches off the ground in a full lotus, get comfortable and find this comfort and ease in a posture of attentive receptivity. Attentive to the moment and receptive to insight and information flowing in a space of non-judgmental and kind observation. We visualize this posture as rolling the tail under, rooting the sits bones into the earth and stacking the vertebrae, tucking the chin, extending the crown into heaven and folding our wings long onto our back as the side body melts long, to forearms folded in hip creases, hands palm-in-palm with thumbs gently touching. This posture takes you on a journey of Meditation and addiction and says, I am awake, I am here, I am ready and I am humbly receptive and accepting to all. Once we are sitting and reasonably comfortable, there’s nothing “to do” really, we simply try:
- To not fall asleep and remain in open receptivity.
- To breathe (best way to connect to your spiritual self).
- To become the observer…and not get carried away on a tide of branching thoughts or judgments, or fears, or past or future…and when we do, we try again (practise).
- TIP: At the end of practicing to quiet the mind, you would do well to then take 2 minutes, just 2, and forgive every single person who comes to mind….yourself, Donald Trump, A relative, an abuser, a future self or a past self, the 12 year old you…any name that comes into your mind. This is like 12th stepping in our addiction recovery programme, it is a way to give back spiritually, which may do you more good than you realize.
- TIP: When practicing Meditation and addiction recovery, If you cannot stop the racing thoughts, use affirmations. Say them over and over again, and this will be the only head noise you have to deal with. Good affirmation examples are:
- I can choose peace rather than this.
- It is my time to recover, grow and heal.
- I am more than a body, I am body, mind and soul.
- I do not limit myself in how I see myself, what I will do in this world
- I choose to forgive myself for mistakes made and learn from each and every one
- Every day, in every way, I am getting better.
- I can and I will heal through Meditation and addiction recovery.
- I am becoming a better me.
- I am worthy of great things. I like the person I’m becoming.
- All of my worldly problems have a spiritual solution.
- I press on because I believe in my path.
- The past has no power over me anymore.
- I have many strengths. I am in charge of my life story.
WHEN TO MEDITATE? Through your addiction, and through meditation and addiction recovery, through your obsessions, compulsions and the substances you used, you were trying to find peace. You were trying to feel good. You were looking for escape. All of it was fruitless of course, because addiction and any kind of substances give us the opposite of what we were looking for. They give us depression, negative consequences for self and others and complete unmanageability. The right way to peace, love, tranquillity, bliss, or nirvana….whatever you want to call it, is through practising a programme of letting go like the steps. A right tool to use is meditation (receiving) and prayer (asking). But when to do it? Eventually your life can become a prayer and a meditation in itself. You become what you ask, for intentionally or unintentionally, it comes back to you. But we all need to start somewhere. Mornings – Amrit Vela – The “ambrosial hours” fall just before sunrise, and are considered one prime time for meditation practice. At this time the rays of arriving light are infrared. Whether this is a “thing” or not doesn’t matter. What we do know if that many writers and creatives have said this is the best time for them to be creative as well. Yogis, Sufi’s and many other spiritual people also assure us this time of day holds some kind of good energy…so let’s go with it. There are some practical and spiritual reasons to get up before the sun or at sunrise to perform spiritual practice like meditation. Practically speaking, it’s really quiet! Your peers are mostly asleep. There are almost no vehicles on the road, so you don’t have to hear engines starting up or car doors slamming. And spiritually, that physical quiet has a profound effect on us. Meditation and addiction need to meet at some point. The ambrosial hours are thought to be balanced and harmonious rather than active or inert. It’s also said that there is a higher concentration of energy during this time, making it a powerful opportunity to strengthen and cleanse our non-physical bodies. Additionally, the rays of the rising sun are thought to have a meditation enhancing quality. It’s no surprise that religious traditions around the world recommend rising early to spend time in prayer or meditation, as the early morning hours are very powerful.
Evenings – Similar to mornings, there is something calming and soothing about the hours near sunset. Perhaps it also has to do with the rays of the sun? Meditating too close to bed time means you could fall asleep rather than meditate. But that’s okay, the last thoughts you have just before you fall asleep are said to stay with you right through the night. Moments of mindfulness – Through Meditation and addiction recovery the last thing an addict wants to do is to be mindful and sit quietly with their thoughts. Through recovery and our kinda unique and awesome programme (spiritual, mindful, emotional, intimate and such) this quickly begins to change. Plettenberg Bay too lends itself to the art of being mindful. Our morning silent retreats and walks can be meditations in themselves. A practice that you can get better at each time you do it. Recovery from addiction is about re-connecting. Sometimes it’s hard to find the time for a structured, formal meditation practice. While the “ideal” would be to set aside a fixed time each day for meditation, you can also build small moments of meditation or mindfulness into your day. At any moment you can pause and take a breath, become mindful and say “Thank you” to your Higher Power. When you wash your hands, you have the opportunity to enjoy the feel of the water on your skin, be mindful of that gift. When you sit down to eat a meal, you can pause before starting to consciously enjoy the smell, taste, colour and textures of your meal.
MEDITATION AND ANXIETY Meditation in the treatment of any kind of anxiety and addiction, or one or the other, for that matter is being used more and more each year. There seems to be no doubt about it. It seems to be an almost essential way to quiet the mind and stop the frantic-ness of the obsessions and compulsions that drug and alcohol addictions bring. In fact, any addiction for that matter. By building new neural connections among brain cells, we rewire the brain, and with each new neural connection, the brain is actually learning. It’s as if we’re adding more RAM to a computer, giving it more functionality. Neuroscientists found that after just five 20 minute sessions of a mindfulness meditation technique, people had increased blood flow to an area of the brain vital to self-control, the anterior cingulate cortex. This can aid greatly in the treatment of anxiety and addiction. After 11 hours of practice in meditation, they found actual physical changes in the brain around this area. Researchers from Yale recently found that a 4-week mindfulness training programme for anxiety and addiction was more effective as a treatment for addiction for smoking than the American Lung Association’s ‘gold standard’ treatment.
One of the benefits of mindfulness meditation practice in treating for anxiety and Meditation and addiction is this process of creating new neural networks for self-observation, optimism, and well-being. Through mindfulness meditation, we light up and build up the left-prefrontal cortex, associated with optimism, self-observation, and compassion, allowing ourselves to cease being dominated by the right-prefrontal cortex, which is associated with fear, depression, anxiety, and pessimism. All contributing to anxiety and addiction. As a result, our self-awareness and mood stability increase as our harsh judgments of others and ourselves decrease. By devoting attention, intention, and daily effort to being mindful, to recovering through meditation and addiction, we learn to master the mind and open the doorway to the creativity available in open-mind consciousness. One of the first steps in dealing with anxiety and addiction is to discover the emotional cause of it, whether it is fear, depression, anxiety, or pessimism. Many times these unwholesome thoughts and beliefs come from what I call the “wanting mind.” In wanting mind, we feel that our current state of unhappiness could be cured if only we could have the money, job, relationship, recognition, or power we had and lost, or never had and strongly desire.
When you are stressed you are reacting to everything in your environment and you feel like you have no control in those moments. Even meditation for 10 mins every morning before you start your day it interrupts you usual thinking patterns and brings you back to present. If you just focus on your breathing right now you will realize that you aren’t stressed because you can only focus on one thing at a time. Meditation and addiction definitely go hand in hand. They need each other.