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Powerless over our thoughts

Inner Workings of the Human Mind

“For many, negative thinking is a habit, which over time, becomes an addiction… A lot of people suffer from this disease because negative thinking is addictive to each of the Big Three — the mind, the body, and the emotions. If one doesn’t get you, the others are waiting in the wings.” – Peter McWilliams, American self help author.

‘We admitted we were powerless over (addiction) — that our lives had become unmanageable.’ This is step one in the twelve-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous and all other twelve-step programs that exist including ALANON – which is a twelve-step group for families of alcoholics.

This is a poignant step for recovery – admitting that we are powerless. If we can’t admit this then we are still wanting to be in control. Which often is the root cause of many addictions.

What if we admitted we were powerless over our thoughts – that our lives had become unmanageable?

Take time to reflect on this. What emerges for you?

What if we could see that there was no thinker, that thoughts arise out of no where, and cease into nothingness?

Take time to reflect on this. What emerges for you?

What if we could see that there is nobody controlling our life. That life just happens. That there is no sufferer, just suffering that arises and ceases? Take time to reflect on this too. What emerges for you?

How often does a thought arise, we hold on to it, identify with it and act the thought out?

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I ask these questions because often we think of addiction as dependency on chemical substances only. Addiction for me was the dependency on sugar – which did become a matter of life or death for me at one point. almost died at the foot of my toilet, with food lodged in my windpipe as I was purging. I snorted white stuff (sugar) through the mouth, and my teeth crumbled, my voice box strained and my stomach collapsed. Addiction for me is not just about the dependency on chemicals. One of my root addictions has been my stinking thinking. It was that, which lead me to identify with my thoughts, act on my thoughts and hey presto I had created a fixed self ‘the addict.’.

We may laugh – how can our thinking be a matter of life and death. If we think out of the box, and think of life and death as a physical, spiritual and emotional issues. Then we can perhaps clearly see how it can be a matter of life and death.

I share this from the new book – Eight Step Recovery – Using the Buddha’s teachings to Overcome Addiction written by myself, Valerie Mason-John, and the psychiatrist Dr Paramabandhu Groves – which will be published in January 2014.

‘Human nature has an inbuilt tendency for addiction. For some people this tendency can lead to the destruction of their lives, through their addictive and obsessive-compulsive behaviours. However, we can all struggle with the nature of the mind that tends towards addictions. We could say that we are all in recovery. That may come as a surprise to many of you.

‘All of us are addicted to our thinking. Thinking that tell us stories, thinking that can make us angry, thinking that can literally intoxicate us and impair the mind. Accidents and even fatalities can be caused when we are under the influence of this type of thinking. In Canada distracted driving and aggressive driving are in the top five most common reasons that cause car accidents. Our thinking can distract us and can cause road rage to the extent that we can become impaired behind the steering wheel.’

This is a frightening fact – and we also know the impulse to identify with a thought while driving can be manifested in texting while driving, which also can be a matter of life and death. So if we admitted we were powerless over our thoughts what can we do?

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About Vimalasara

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Dr Valerie Mason-John is a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order. She is currently co-writing Eight Step Recovery - Using the Buddha's Teachings to Overcome Addiction. She teaches a weekly meditation class - Meditation for Addiction. She is the author of seven books, including, Detox Your Heart, a book on working with anger, fear and hatred. She is available for talks, seminars, workshops and retreats. Read more articles by .

Comments

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Comment from Patti
Time: May 6, 2013, 12:29 pm

My meditation practice is soooo scattered and infrequent and my thoughts are stuck in “stinking thinking” b/c of my food addiction…yet when I receive these things from Vimalasara I feel nutured and not judged. I always “get” something from her blogs. Thank you so much. I hope I have the courage to “sit” tonight.

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Comment from Patti
Time: May 6, 2013, 12:31 pm

Oh my goodness, I did not realize our comments would be published. Please, please do not publish my comment. I feel very exposed and quite raw. I am sorry I didn’t understand the process. Thank you…

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 6, 2013, 2:48 pm

Your email address isn’t published and you didn’t use your last name, so there’s no way anyone can work out who you are from your comment, Patti. But if you still want it removed, just let us know.

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Comment from jillian
Time: May 11, 2013, 3:27 pm

I have been practising mindfulness for a couple of years and recently started practising some of the exercises from wildmind which I love. I am also an addict – alcohol – and was wondering if there are any specific sites or teachers that specialise in meditation for addicts. My battle with alcohol has only just started as I have only just become insightful of my addiction and meditation is helping greatly. Still very early days, currently sober but it is very fragile.
thank you
jill

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 11, 2013, 6:56 pm

I know that Paramabandhu Groves has worked on mindful approaches to addiction, and that he has a book coming out next year with Vimalasara, who writes monthly on Wildmind’s blog.

I wish you well!

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