Skeletal Notes I prepared for my Tricycle Retreat on Addiction


talk 1, the nature of addiction:
the root of addiction is a craving to get rid of all forms of stress and discomfort
—some stresses stem from underlying feelings of loneliness, uniqueness, isolation
—some from obsessive thinking
—the inevitable, unavoidable discomforts of life; abandonment, rejection, criticism, blame, etc
—these are inner states that the addict is largely unfocused on and towards which develops little tolerance

addictions primarily relieve our awareness of our inner stress
—the solutions are short term, with long term consequences that in no way develop tolerance or lasting solutions
—the addict largely blames his suffering on external conditions, and fails to see how his lack of tolerance plays a central role in the addictive spiral

karma & coping strategies: neurons that fire together wire together
habitual reactions to stress become increasingly ingrained, the mind develops ruts

finding any additional stress unbearable, further keeping our addictions in place are a set of coping strategies that develop around the addiction to keep them operating
—we continually focus our awareness on what other people are doing and thinking about us, so that we remain unaware how we're bring stress into each situation, causing our suffering
—we refrain from asking for help
—we avoid difficult interactions or chores (paying bills)
—we lie, exaggerate to escape from confrontations

papanca: the most damaging coping strategies of all, fear of change, self-justification and victimization
in attempting to maintain and justify one's state of affairs, the mind becomes increasingly filled with thoughts that cause more discomfort (due to their proliferation) and keep us even more unaware of our inner stresses
—fear gives us the illusion of preparation, only keeping us armored and tense
—self-justification masks our unskillful actions that cause shame and low self-esteem 
—victimization maintains the belief that the cause of suffering is other people, external

the keys 1) reducing avoidable stress
2) tolerating the stresses that are inevitable
—nothing skillful gets rid of uncomfortable feelings, entirely

solutions:
SHARE
LISTEN
TAKE INVENTORY OF WHAT ACTIONS CAUSE LATER DISCOMFORT

PRIORITIZE PRESENT ISSUES
BODY and BREATH SCANS
MEDITATION PRACTICE of DROPPING STORIES



talk 2, mindfulness
root of addiction is craving to avoid immediately any stress & suffering
—illusion of control as security
—numbing and thrilling that diverts
—addicts experience the illusion of stress being eliminated instead of reduced

Sakka's anger-eating demon
—"allow me to make you comfortable"
—not about resisting or ridding
—we turn towards, rather than away from
—how can i relax around stress, fear?

seek refuge 1) the body 2) the body 
3) prioritizing what can be addressed now; 
4) reflect on gratitude and virtue

tools:
BODY & BREATH SCANS 

IN MEDITATION GREET FEARS and OBSESSIONS, FOCUSING ON HOW THEY'RE HELD IN THE BODY


talk 3, dropping self-view
the greatest source of stress and suffering in life is papanca rooted in sakkaya-ditthi, or identity view
1) I am unique, no one is like me
—note the four noble truths, transpersonal
2) my core identity is constant, fixed, capable of limited change
—if i consider myself to be an angry person, happiness or calm are not really me, i'll sooner or later return to anger
—we classify or identify with emotional states we resort to when stressed

while stress tends to push us towards our ingrained, habitual responses, creating the illusion of personality
—when we relax, we see change

letting go of our identity views doesn't mean letting go of skills, nor does it mean we can drink
—its simply opening ourselves to the possibility of rewiring our habitual responses to life, neuroplasticity

1) we practice our body & breath scans
2) we stop viewing actions in terms of "this is the way i do things" we view in terms of the four noble truths: does this cause suffering?
3) we reflect on the universal quality of our experience
4) take a vow to not cause suffering/ sill

tools:
MEDITATIVE EXERCISE - BREAK DOWN EXPERIENCE INTO COMPONENTS

CONTINUAL FOCUS on HOW DO I FEEL RIGHT NOW? 
NOTICE CHANGE of INNER SENSATIONS


talk 4, you are not damaged
easy to fall into belief of broken, damaged, unfixable
—acting despite awareness
—immediate reactions, how long ingrained
—how strong the urges feel

the immediacy and power stems from 1) the underlying stresses pushing us; 2) the repetitive obsessive avoidance obsessions
—at one point in life we stumbled upon behaviors that gave immediate relief
—relief triggered dopamine
—repetition ingrained the circuit
—loneliness - sex; sadness - food
—six year old lying, hiding, exaggerating
—14 year old drinking & drugging

coping strategies are not bad, they're unskillful attempts to relieve stress at all costs
—addiction is not a dark monster that wants to kill us, though often it accidentally does
—its a strategic attempt to find relief

luckily the mind is like a committee, it has skillful & unskillful voices
—we replace strategies that work in the long term rather than the short term
—long term successful strategies tend to not take immediate effect, like popping a pill

learn to tell good strategies from bad, and implement
1) the first step is always to reduce underlying stress
2) notice impulses from a larger perspective:
—how do they effect the body?
—come with self-justification?
—do they repeat, belittle?
—would i tell this to someone else? tolerate from someone else? last thought? 
3) after acting, notice, the next day, does self-justification or physical unease arise at the thought?
4) plant metta, karuna, mudita, upekkha