Addiction is often thought of as a disease — a disease that “someone else” has…
In essence, the ego is an addict! The ego is the soul identified with the body. All addictions are attachments to things we think will provide happiness and fulfillment for us. An addiction is a compulsion, not a choice. The real toxicity of an addiction is the inability for us to access and use the will — our free will, to turn our attention to higher consciousness, Joy, and Bliss. Yogananda said the only free will a person truly has is to turn towards God or away from God.
The ego defines itself by its addictions… what it likes and dislikes
The ego defines itself by its addictions which are habits of thought about who it is, what it likes and dislikes, what it must have, etc. These habit patterns (positive and negative) are stored in the subconscious mind and influence everything we say and do. Our negative habit patterns can pull us into harmful directions such as anger, toxic relationships, financial distress, and lack of initiative — just to name a few.
An important fact to consider is that harmful addictions can never be cured at the subconscious levels where they are created. These addictions may only be cured in the superconscious (beyond the level of the ego), where we can access Divine Bliss. If we try on our own to ‘fix’ addictions without accessing superconscious Divine help, we are almost certain to repeat the same errors. We are likely to fall into self-justification, defensiveness, and the malicious cycle of addiction all over again. Does it sound like the addict is powerless to control his addiction? Is this situation hopeless? Maybe we should consult a professional about this matter.
The Addiction Doctor
It is time to make an appointment with the Addiction Doctor. You would be correct if you guessed that this doctor is God. For those who have a Guru, the doctor is God as He flows through the Guru. Let’s listen in on a conversation between Doctor and patient (the addicted ego).
EGO: Hello, Doctor. I came in today because I am not happy with my life. I heard you may have a cure for me.
DOCTOR: Unhappiness comes from looking outside for fulfillment and meaning in life. You will never find it there.
EGO: What do you mean?
DOCTOR: You have habits of thought, feeling, and action that cause your unhappiness. These are addictions. In addiction, we seek things outside ourselves for some ‘opium’ to cure our restlessness and general discomfort with ourselves. The more we seek happiness outside of our self, the more we are disappointed and the greater our efforts to continue seeking things outside. I can help you break these habits but I must have your full cooperation.
EGO: I don’t want to be rude or dispute you, but I don’t think I have any addictions.
DOCTOR: Well, let’s see… you have a habit of acquiring more and more possessions. They are crowding you out of your home and draining your finances but you are still not satisfied. Are you happy with this addiction? Look to God for your wealth and security. Live within your purse. Acquire only what you truly need. Mere possessions can never satisfy your need for Bliss.
DOCTOR: Let’s see, here is another example. You constantly change jobs and partners. It seems you are happy with your new situation for about six months and then dissatisfaction creeps in. The job and/or partner does not completely fill your desires. Soon you are ready to leave and looking for an exit. Can you recognize the pattern of addiction here? Just like a substance abuser, satisfying these addictive cravings requires more and more of the ‘drug’ of worldly indulgence.
Ego: I think I understand now. But these habits — these addictions are so comfortably familiar. I am certain of the outcomes of my behavior even if they are bad. I do not like uncertainty.
DOCTOR: Live in changeless eternal Joy. Only there will you find the happiness you are seeking.
EGO: It’s going to take a lot of work to break my negative habits. I’m not so sure I can do that.
DOCTOR: Turn to Me and I will help you.
EGO: But you are not with me all the time.
DOCTOR: I am everywhere you are. You are not with Me all of the time. Practice meditation. Call on Me throughout the day. I will come for you.
EGO: I don’t think I am worthy of all Your attention.
DOCTOR: You do not know or see who you really are—My child! You are filled with Divine Light. Renounce your false self-definitions, renounce this imprisonment! Turn away from your addictions. Turn toward the Light.
EGO: You are very convincing but I will need a lot of help to be strong in my efforts. I need some guidance on how to proceed. Please help me.
DOCTOR: That is what I have been waiting to hear. Now I can begin My work to dissolve your limitations and addictions so you can find Me and realize who you truly are.
Let’s take a look at the Doctor’s prescription for us. The secret to overcoming our problems is to shift the mind into solution consciousness. Here are five powerful solutions:
Meditation is a central practice to lift our consciousness out of old negative habit patterns. Only when we experience the peace and joy of our souls can we believe there is another way to live. Meditation is like a river in flood. It washes away eddies of stagnant energy, murky thoughts, negative habits, and lifts that freed energy upward into the Light.
Meditation is a simple practice. You can learn the basic Hong Sau meditation technique free in the Meditation Mini-Course. Start with short meditations (10–15 minutes) at least once a day, twice daily if you can, and increase the length of meditation as you go. Quite soon you will notice an increase in your levels of joy and peace during the day. Troubles will seem more manageable. Fresh inspiration born of your dive into deep stillness will come to help you with your difficulties. Always leave time at the end of your meditation to offer up to the Divine Presence (by focusing at the point between the eyebrows) any problems or questions you may have. You will receive the answer in your heart. The answer often comes as a whisper of thought or visual image or feeling. Sometimes it comes right after you ask but often it comes at a later time. Always listen with your ‘inner’ ear.
Commitment to daily meditation practice is the key — as it is with all of the practices you are receiving. Scientists have studied how meditation changes the brain. Our limbic system and other more primitive parts of our brain are the repositories of habits, primitive self-protective responses, anger, and fear. Addictive behavior patterns are stored there. The highest functions of the brain are in the prefrontal lobe (located just behind the point between the eyebrows), which is the seat of creativity, joy, and concentration.
These two areas inhibit one another. When the limbic system is more active the prefrontal lobe becomes less active and vice versa. In people suffering from addictions, anxiety, depression, and low energy, the limbic system is dominant and the brain makes lots of neural connections to keep it that way.
When these people are taught to meditate their prefrontal lobe becomes more active, the brain makes new prefrontal lobe connections and the limbic system quiets down. Meditators will notice that their mood lifts, they have increased energy, joy, and fewer impulses to indulge in harmful habits of thought. The changes become permanent after six months of daily meditation practice—very happy news for the meditator!
The subconscious will form habits both good and bad. Examples of good habits are brushing our teeth and how to drive a car. We can establish new good habits anytime by reprogramming the subconscious. Good habits can interrupt harmful patterns. Another wonderful tool to use is affirmation.
Every virtue is part of our soul nature.
Affirmations are positive statements of a quality we wish to strengthen. We don’t use affirmations to convince us of what we are not but rather, to remind ourselves of what and who we are. In our souls we are perfect— strong, loving, courageous – every virtue is part of our soul nature. The subconscious has gotten into the habit of identifying with littleness, flaws, and limitations. These old patterns, set into place by past experiences, are like ruts in the road, and water easily flows down them. Negative thoughts take less energy than positive ones but these old habits do not reflect who we want to be, nor our highest qualities and potential.
In order to reprogram the subconscious mind, we must tune into higher consciousness, use will power, and draw on Divine help. Choose an affirmation that replaces the negative mental habit with one that affirms the higher consciousness you seek. Repeat the affirmation several times at each level of consciousness (conscious, subconscious, and superconscious), always with high energy and concentration. We accomplish this by taking each repetition of the affirmation more and more inward. First, say the affirmation loudly to wake up the conscious mind, then more quietly, then in a whisper to bring it into the subconscious mind and finally, silently concentrating deeply at the point between the eyebrows — the seat of superconscious awareness. It is best to practice your affirmation several times a day over a number of days or even over several weeks until you experience results, but with intense concentration you may see results immediately.
Swami Kriyananda wrote a book Affirmations for Self-Healing (available here in paperback and audiobook) with 52 affirmations to strengthen positive soul qualities. Each affirmation is followed by a prayer that you can use after repeating the affirmation. Here are two from this book that you might like to use. Notice how these affirmations are stated positively, reinforcing our highest potential. Keep this in mind if you write your own.
For the habit of reacting to challenges with fear and anxiety, you might want to work with the affirmation for Calmness:
“Though the winds of difficulties howl around me, I stand forever calmly at the center of life’s storms.” The prayer that accompanies the affirmation is, “With Thee beside me, I know that the tides of trouble can never sweep me away. Hold fast my hand, Lord; never let me go!”
When you find yourself faced with loss or disappointment you could use the affirmation for Non-attachment:
“Nothing on earth can hold me! My soul, like a weightless balloon, soars upward through skies of eternal freedom!” The prayer is, “I destroy all my attachments. They are no longer mine, Lord. I am free in Thee!”
The Peace and Harmony Prayer
This prayer from Yogananda is a powerful tool to use when you are having difficulty with another person or group of people. Such problems often arise from old thought patterns and reactions but the healing happens in higher consciousness.
The prayer is easy to use: Visualize the person with whom you are having a challenge surrounded in light. For one minute (about 12 repetitions) repeat this prayer: “Lord, fill (name the person or situation) with peace and harmony, peace and harmony.” Then visualize yourself in the light and pray for 15 seconds (about three repetitions): “Lord, fill me with peace and harmony, peace and harmony.” Yogananda said to do this prayer five times a day—three or four times might work but five times practically never fails. Old ruts in the road can miraculously disappear with this prayer if you really apply it.
Addictions thrive in the dark realms of self-involvement and subconsciousness. The ego sees itself as a victim and the world as the cause of all its problems. The antidote is to expand your energy upward and then outward to others, in a strong flow of selfless giving and serving. In selfless service never think, “what’s in it for me.” It is all about tuning into the person or situation before you and opening yourself up to be a channel for God’s energy.
As you go about your day, see the very next activity that comes your way as a divine assignment. Serve with a loving and joyful attitude, an awareness of God’s energy flowing through you as His instrument, and see Him there in those you serve. Now it becomes God serving God. In that powerful upward flow of energy, harmful emotions and attitudes evaporate.
One way Yogananda encouraged us to serve others is by becoming “Smile Millionaires,” shining beacons of light out to awaken joy in every moment, every person, and every situation. Joy is one of the aspects of God and is found at the heart of everything. Do your part to awaken this joy in others and it will increase the flow of joy within you.
Chanting (repeating an affirmation or name of God) is also a very helpful tool to uplift consciousness. Try chanting aloud or mentally as you serve. Here is a simple chant you can use:
“I awake in Thy Light! I awake in Thy Light! I am joyful, I am free, I awake in Thy Light!”
You may have another chant you like which reminds you of your connection with the Divine. Let the chant revolve in your consciousness as you serve and it will add the power of affirmation to the power of your selfless service.
Use Your Tools
Work with these tools every day. Feel free to spend more time with the one tool that seems to be a good fit for the particular habit pattern you are trying to change. As you attune to the flood of Divine Bliss flowing through you, you will find your negative habits and addictions starting to dissolve. You will feel the trapped energy release. You will feel your joy level — once seemingly a vague concept, now expanding so much that you can hardly contain it!
As this bliss overflows, you will find that you must share it with others. In this way, you will be contributing to the happiness of others and uplifting consciousness in the world. You are no longer a victim of your addictions. You are part of the cure!
Ananda Course in Meditation
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