Overcoming bad habits and addictions:

In one of Castaneda's books, there is a phrase that says: "...one should do everything as if it was the only thing that really mattered while knowing at the same time that it does not matter at all..."

This attitude is not an easy one to keep. However, if we can look at life as it comes to us and receive it with this attitude then we can fully live each moment without having to get attached to it or get overly identified with what it brings. We can develop an outlook and approach to life which embraces each moment as it comes knowing that it is perfect as it is. We can receive the moment as it comes, observe it and then let it go.

This very moment is our perfect teacher. Most addictions spring from our resistence to receiving the present moment and facing it fully as it comes to us. It is very hard sometimes to face life for what it is and receive our present as it comes without trying to change it or transform it into something else. Each second of our lives we are given the gift of the present moment, yet rarely do we welcome it as if comes. Most of the time we reject it, hate it or try to get rid of it. This causes a great deal of stress and frustration within our second to second forever evolving reality. This attitude causes a great deal of dissatisfaction. This feeling in turn makes us look for ways to escape from our present circumstances and reality. What comes to us is not what we want and we very often do not welcome it. When we do not embrace what the present moment is bringing to us, we are basically pushing it away and rejecting it. This means we are rejecting life.

Most of us do not take situations we do not like as teachings. Instead we tend to reject them or hate them. We run like crazy trying to change them. It is then that we use all kinds of ways to escape. All addictions spring from this moment when we meet our reality and we can't stand it for what it is. We feel that we have to do something to soften it, to make it better, to change it. Then we become addicted to whatever behavior help us cope with that unwanted reality. Whatever works to help us ease the pain we feel when we face what we do not like form our addictions to help us cope with the present moment. There are many different ways to entertain us and escape from our reality. For some people is drinking, for others is playing cards or eating. In this way we do not have to feel the pain caused by having to face our reality for what it is. In this way we manipulate our present reality into something that is not. This is a temporary easy-way-out to help us deal with our present circumstances in a very illusionary way.

Throughout our lives we all develop our favorite ways to escape our reality when it does not bring us what we want. We tend to get fixed in these behaviors which rapidly develop into our addictions and which are really hard to get rid of. Most of us think that the easiest way to get rid of our addictions is to avoid the behavior chosen as our escapade. However, this only temporarily deals with the problem. The only way to get rid of our addictions is to get rid of the need to escape. The only way to put an end to our compulsive behaviors is to put an end to our need to constantly escape from who we are and what the present moment brings to us. This may sound easy but is not so in actual practice. The best way to tackle this problem is to be ready.

Through meditation we can be fully prepared to be attentive to receive the present moment with wide-open eyes without needing to escape. Through meditation we can clearly see what is in front of us without needing to react on what we feel or escape from what reality show us. We can face our thoughts and emotions directly and instead of reacting on them we can just observe them and immediately let them go. If we can maintain this state of awareness it is then possible to control how we deal with our present circumstances. Through meditation we can see clearly when we are shutting down. We can see clearly how we are attacked and hurt by the present or our reality and how we try to hide from it or protect ourselves from it. Once we can have this open awareness we can observe this process and relax with it. The idea is that our present circumstance is still the same. We can do very little to change it but we can change the way we react to it. We can just look at it at the face, recognize our emotions and look directly at what is threatening us or causing our struggle. So when we meet our present face to face, rather than react, indulge or reject what we see, we can somehow experience it and let the quality of that emotion pierce our hearts. We can breathe those feelings in and then release them and let them go. This is the way to live our reality with compassion, cultivating an open and kind heart.

It is then through meditation that we can observe what we feel and allow ourselves to just stay there without reacting or overindulging in an attempt to escape from what hurts, from what causes pain or shame, from what we do not like or reject. In this way, we can start loving ourselves as we are and in so doing healing our wounded hearts. In this way out of nowhere we can experience some compassion towards ourselves and we can stop struggling and just relax. In this way we can connect further with the roots of human suffering and reach certain wisdom that brings compassion into our hearts and help us understand others and look at the world with more compassion and kindness.

If we can do this, we can just look at all those things that cause us discomfort without needing to protect ourselves or escape.

So this state of awakeness can bring us awareness of our constant struggle for pleasure and pain present in our lives as they evolve in front of our eyes. We can then attempt not to strive to make pain go away, but we can try to give up control altogether instead, letting our ego fall apart and collapse. In this way we can learn to meet whatever life brings to us with courage and respect recognizing each moment as a gift of life. We can stop resisting life and develop a welcoming attitude. We can then open up and look closely at life for what it is, a real gift. When we stop resisting and we relax with the moment. When we hold on reacting responding to our usual impulsive behaviors we can feel something very soft behind that experience of fear or frustration. We can see how our emotions control us and make us run in circles. In this way we can learn to pause on our reactions and wait. We can learn not to impulsively do the same thing again and again. This can be a magical experience: to simply pause instead of needing to always fill up the space. In this way we can start to take care of ourselves and develop a good relationship with ourselves. We stop needing to oversmoke, overdrink, overwork. We can start to develop a good relationship with ourselves and just stay still and stop causing harm to ourselves. In this way, we can take our time to love ourselves and make sure that we are not harming ourselves. We can slow down to notice what we feel and how and if we are going to react or not. The more we witness our emotional chain of reactions and how our brain works, the easier it becomes to stand aside and observe. In this way, we can develop a way of being that cherishes our awakeness and our state of awareness. Then, we can always take time to slow down and just observe our emotions and feelings instead of reacting on them.

Part of being able to keep this attitude is realizing that we have no control and that we should not attempt to be in charge of what happens to us. We can observe the paradoxes of life and not let us hurt us. We can observe all this show with love and open arms yet with nonattachment. We embrace the moment and as we embrace it we can learn to let it go. We can be aware that everything is constantly changing and that everything is born and dies right in front of our eyes. When we are aware of this fact we can relax with paradox and ambiguity. We can stop resisting the ongoing uncertainty of this play of life. We can stop thinking that there is always a problem and that we have to take sides and we need to fix something. Once we can do this, we can dive into the present moment with no alternatives, content to be right there without trying to change it at all. This means also facing that we are mainly alone and that there is really nothing or nobody to hold on to. We can face our uncertainty about it all. This truth hurts and we want to run away from it . But once we can see this pattern clearly we can also see that to run away form our own loneliness it does not lead us anywhere. In this way we can stop seeking for something external to comfort us. We can stop trying to grab onto something to find a way to make things okay. If we can just stand there as we are and feel, we do not need to resort to the world of alternatives and desires to ease our pain. Then we can just look at ourselves with compassion and humor and feel love for our human condition.

To conclude, there is only one way to put and end to our addictions and that is not to feed them with our usual reactions. The only way out of our addictive behaviors is a journey inside ourselves, inside our brains, inside our hearts. It is a journey of sincerity with ourselves and our feelings. It is facing life as it is and comes to us in spite of and because of the huge contradictions that it carries along: pains and happiness, love and hatred, confusion and wisdom, beginnings and ends, births and deaths.

If we can see ourselves for what we are and embrace our human condition, then we can overcome our addictions and feel full loving respect and kind compassion towards ourselves and the whole world.

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All information on this website is copyright of Verónica Muñoz
Last revised: July 04, 2001.