Posts Tagged ‘addiction’

Ego, Self and Anatta

Posted: 27/05/2018 by zandtao in Insight, ONE planet
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These three words have multiple definitions and because of this there is confusion. In such cases it is always important to understand where your own “definitions” lie. In ascribing “definitions” to these words I have no wish to obviate other definitions and ways of thinking, just a simple effort to clarify where I am coming from.

I have to take as “assumed” what I wrote in the Ch22 on addiction, by assumed I mean that I don’t want to keep repeating myself – that would make these blogs more tedious than they already are. This meme taken from Buddhadasa’s teachings brings some clarity:-

Here we have three levels but they do not correspond to Ego Self and Anatta. Anatta and sunatta are similar, and could be seen as no-self, so this meme has effectively two levels self and not-self. Within the two tiers of self (self, body and psyche) are the ego and self.

This train of thought started when I was trying to explain about clashes of male ego to a Thai person. She did not understand ego but did understand atma or atta. In other words in Thai there was no distinction between ego and self. This makes sense to me because the ego and self are both formed by attachment to the khandhas – represented in the meme by body and psyche.

The situation of description concerning clashes of male ego also helped me come to an understanding as to an arbitrary distinction between ego and self, and that distinction is relating to society. An ego is something like a façade that we put out as a defence against society – hence male ego. This ego still comprises of the 5 khandhas but is more concerned with how we appear to society. Hence there are similarities to egotist and arrogant, and of course clashes of male ego are concerned with “handbags at 10 paces” ie superficial ego in society.

There is a tendency based on Hindu thinking amongst others to have a two-tiered approach ie just ego and self. This fits in with certain aspects of western thinking such as self-realisation. In other words, in this two-tier system the self is seen as the true you that has to be realised or actualised. As far as it goes this is fine, it is a way of thinking I worked with for years. For this approach people are searching for their true selves by trying to eliminate ego and finding something that is true underneath any conditioning that they unravel.

When bell hooks talks of self-esteem I would suggest that she is talking of this true self, and how this true self should be valued – self-esteem.

It would be reasonable to leave this consideration at ego and true self (not bringing in anatta). When people are seeking self-realisation and get close to their true self, then there is great understanding. But the problem is that there is still conditioning left – illustrated by the fact that people are calling it self. There is still some separation.

Buddhadasa makes this clear by talking about “removing I and mine from the 5 khandhas”; self is still I and mine, no matter how true, soul or “essence” it is. In Hinduism this “self” confusion comes from needing something to transmigrate when there is reincarnation. But if there is oneness, no separation – just oneness, then there is nothing that is unique.

Some would argue that a self needs to exist to give volition etc. But examine the 5 khandhas (body – rupa, feeling – vedana, memory and perception – sanna, mental operations – sankhara, and consciousness – vinnana). What else is there in self? If each of these 5 khandhas carry out their function, what action is there that is not covered by these 5? In other words, why is there a need for a separate entity of self. As explained in Ch22 we build up self by attaching to 5 khandhas through instinct, and then as adults we cling to this self – our instincts – instead of just letting them go. The final step of this letting go is to let go of the self and just accepting sunnata.

Following the path can be seen as recognising the ego letting it go, seeing that self is also attachment to the 5 khandhas and transcending this self, just being sunnata.

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To end addiction you need power. In the Christian 12 Steps you get that power from God, here is where Russell [Recovery p 68 of 444] got his power to overcome addiction:-

I became an alcoholic because being middle-classed I had no power. Equally I was fortunate with my addiction because of my middle-class powerlessness, that needs explaining. The essence of being middle-classed is that you have no power to make decisions, decisions are made for you by the culture you are in. The nature of this culture is conformism, you are expected to confirm to the decisions the culture makes for you. These decisions are primarily education – to get qualifications to get a job (not real education). There is no freedom to make different decisions as is evidenced by the family uproar caused if someone chooses not to follow education.

I remained middle-classed until I hit bottom. University was a sense of freedom for me as evidenced by the first night where I was completely drunk, puking and unaware of anything by 8.00pm. University followed the course of few lectures, exam resits, return to the parents during vacation where I became completely middle-classed again. At the end of 4 years – I did one year of a two-year M Sc course, I got on the required middle-class rung.

At this point being middle-classed (hetero) ought to mean that I had played at university, I’d got a job, would find a woman in the office, get married and procreate within the culture – create a new generation of middle-classed. But the conditioning was failing me, I am not sure why – it was not a failure process I was conscious of. In part it was the drink, it could also have been the discipline of having to work all day long at something I didn’t want to do. At uni I never wanted to do the maths but being middle-classed I wanted the degree so worked for the exams. In the job what was there to work for? Personally I had never made any decisions. I went to school – not my decision, I went to uni – I chose which one not whether I went; it never crossed my mind not to go. Going to uni and getting a degree was the totality of being middle-classed – the only ambitions I had. By the time I was sitting my finals I was a well-disciplined student. I was in a hall of residence – a good place to get middle-classed. There were varying levels of playing throughout the 3 years but the ethos was pass your finals. Starting as a complete drunk I emerged as a well-conditioned member of the middle-class with sufficient control of the drink to get a degree. The next year, postgrad year at uni, was more of the same although I met social studies people who thought and we discussed a lot – I can’t remember about what. Maybe this was the beginning of the upheaval.

When I started work there was the usual pub-oriented work culture that I was well trained to join in. But I did not have discipline. Once the discipline of the exams had gone I had nothing. Exams had been the motivation, I did not know how to hold down a job. But in my first job there were interesting people, and for some reason the interesting people liked me. At work there were the careerists and the people who had a life outside the career. The careerists soon lost interest in me, and the others took me under their wing. But I only played, they played and knew how to hold down a job. At the end of the year the firm pushed me out, giving me a token wage increase – I was lucky I wasn’t sacked.

Someone introduced me to the second job. He played up the job as having all the things I thought I wanted – all the things a good middle-classed would have wanted (I had that in the first job). But the job paled in comparison as did the people. And I drifted to the bottom in 3 months.

When I got sacked I ran home, it seemed the natural thing to do. But I didn’t run home to the warmth and comfort of a loving family, I ran home to the repression – to a place where all the decisions were taken away from me. A place of powerlessness.

Of that time (3-4 weeks) I remember only one day. It was just before Xmas and I was walking the streets of Manchester – it was not unusual for people of middle-class Sale to go into Manchester (I have had many conscious days doing that since). I just wandered around as one does, and I passed a pub in which there was an office party. I listened to the enjoyment, and just thought “that’s not for me”. I cannot remember any of the other decision making processes that were going on then, but early January I went back to London. Thinking back I am amazed at the craziness of my plan. I had nowhere to live. I got off the coach, went into a job agency, and they sent me to a boring cobol programming job in Hounslow. I went there, got the job, found a B and B in Hounslow, the next day got a room in Chiswick – a room that became important to me. Considering how weak I was at the time I am amazed at my fortitude. But I had made a decision and it was the end of being middle-classed.

At Chiswick I empowered myself although I never thought of it as that. That empowering was concerned with the experiences, and was so helped by the wonderful people I got to know. If any of this means anything to you, if you are lost like I was, find good people – or even write to me; without finding people for whom the path means something you might not have the strength or power to stay on the path. And you will regret that all your life.

Overcoming being middle-classed was essential to what happened with my alcohol addiction. Following the path I had become empowered even though I was foolish enough to waste that power in the booze for so long. I teetered along a way of life which included the path and addiction for 12 years until I eventually stopped.

I keep saying I was fortunate with my addiction. I was an alcoholic by the time I stopped but because I had been on the path part of the time I was sufficiently empowered to stop. The decision to stop wasn’t mega-tortuous. I had been going to an acupuncturist for migraines, and he told me that the treatments were helping, I was then getting drunk and drinking away the healing. He told me to make a decision and I did. I can remember withdrawal symptoms, on Fridays I was mentally weakest and had to be careful. I was doing Tai Chi, and my route to the practice passed a pub, and I remember it being difficult not to go in. Until it wasn’t, I felt certain after 6 months.

I had the ability to stop because being on the path some of the time had given me sufficient power. If I had still been middle-classed I don’t know where the power would have come from.

It is the power of the path that enables you to overcome the addiction to conditioning, whatever the conditioning, whatever the substance I presume. There are very interesting questions as to how we connect to our path that need to be examined, but it is the power of the path that enables people to overcome addiction. And that power had to be enabled individually, it is not belief but power, strength, and it is the individual who acts wherever they consider the power comes from.

I was fortunate that the conditions that led to the path and alcoholism were middle-class repression. I was fortunate that I had found the path during my fight with the addiction of alcohol so that I had sufficient power to overcome that addiction. But I have not overcome addiction, and need to make more effort to follow the path.

But please remember, the greatest fortune was not that I found the path so that I could overcome addiction. The greatest fortune was that I found the path, and the joy that the path has brought me in life. I don’t question the way the path has taken me because it has given me that joy. I have great joy now in writing retrospectively about the way the path took me. The critic in me says why didn’t I embrace the path 100% throughout my life rather than indulging the weakness of alcohol. But I accept the critic, I learn from the critic, but I enjoyed the path.

Maybe I had two childhoods, maybe there were times that careerism and profiteering wore me down whilst teaching, maybe I could have done more to help others about the path, but the path brought me joy. That can never be forgotten. The path beyond conditioning, the path that overcomes addiction, the path of compassion, insight and creativity has great joy. Always remember that when considering the path, it has great joy. The path is what Gaia gives us to overcome suffering. Natural joy.

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Russell’s 2nd Questions

Posted: 10/03/2018 by zandtao in Freedom, Insight, Struggle, Uncategorized

These questions are taken from Step 2 of Recovery p77 of 444

He’s gone mad with the questions at this step, I’m not bothering with them all.

Do I believe that I need to change? Yes I do although my ego is ambivalent. My ego steps in and thinks that I am following the path to some extent, isn’t that enough? And the answer to that is no because I am still addicted to self for the “rest”. This ego aspect of apathy is something to be watched out for, but remember self-criticism does not mean “beat myself up”.

Do I accept that change means I must think/feel/act differently? Primarily act differently. In the past I know I should not be addicted to self, but I have allowed it to happen.

Is this change likely to be easy and driven by the ideas I already have, techniques I already use and support system that I already have access to? Such changes are never easy, but the issues are meditation and determination. I know that these are sufficient but I also know addiction takes me back. So as they are they are not sufficient. Things are better today but then tomorrow they may not be.

Here is a change that might help. Timeout. Every time I am going to start a self-activity, I must take timeout and ask “Do I really have to do this?”

What is my conception of a power greater than me? The power greater than me I call Gaia, the unity of the planet’s life and all life on the planet. Buddhadasa calls Gaia the God of Buddhists, Idappaccayata – sunnata. I believe Thay calls it interbeing, and Lao Tse used the word, Tao. Gaia does all kinds of things I can have no knowledge of such as kamma, etc. Gaia “decides” on the path and conditions of my life.

In terms of addiction it is necessary to understand that it is through my power that I change, and to understand where that comes from I use this meme:-

At birth there was no self. During my earlier life through instinct my consciousness attached to the khandas resulting in the self that I called my identity. As this self there was addiction to alcohol, and now there is addiction to selves that I indulge so that I am not always following the path. When I am following the path, I am not being conditioned, I am not addicted to self. When I am free from that conditioning, sunnata empowers me (presence), this sunnata could be called Gaia, Idappaccayata, Interbeing, Unity etc. It was sunnata that guided me on the path, gave me the power to overcome alcoholism, gives me (or not) the power to overcome addiction to self. Sunnata is ever-present but it my failure to overcome addiction to self that disempowers me.

That “power” sunnata is ever-present. It is a “power” far greater than I could imagine or have access to, but there is greater “power” that I could have access to if I could be assed. That “power” is not me, that “power” is sunnata, and if I were not addicted I could have access to it. But that “power” is beyond comprehension and cannot be measured, it is however there for me to access if I follow the path, if I can be bothered to remove addiction.

Do I have doubt about this “power”? None. That is why it is so senseless that I am sometimes addicted to self. There is no excuse. It is mind in life.

Mantra:- Don’t let the ego addict you, follow the path.

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This blog is reinforcement of Gaia’s Addictive Spectrum, and the reinforcement concerns the word addiction. Nice Buddhists might feel that the word is too strong, similarly those same nice Buddhists might feel that conditioning is too Pavlovian and that how humans are conditioned has no connection to whether a dog gets his bone or a rat gets through a maze.

This is a matter of ego. There is the spectrum of addiction from self to heroin, and those addicted to self such as those with houses in suburbia might resent being described as addicted in the same way as a crack addict. I am attached to my house sounds so much nicer then being addicted, as does being attached to the 5 khandas.

But the process is the same not going beyond conditioning, not going beyond the self whether that self is attachment to cake or heroin. The social results might be very different but in terms of keeping the mind on the path the mental process is no different.

Am I being bloody-minded? Surely the harm that comes from the causes and effects of addiction to crack is far worse than the attachment of sugar-craving. Yes, the social results are very different, but the mental process is the same, addiction to sugar-craving is the same mental process as addiction to heroin. “There but for the grace of God go I” has a great deal of relevance when considering addiction, the mental process is the same and the path to go beyond the addiction is the grace of God although few interpret the phrase, grace of God, that way – as the path. At the same time if people were aware that their thinking was addicted, they might feel some shame at the way their addicted thinking contributes to the suffering in the world. When dealing with drug addicts corrective measures usually involve some reference to how much they hurt the people they love ie the suffering they cause people. Simply out addiction causes suffering, and so we are back to the 4 Noble Truths PAGELINK.

So we have many words to appease the niceness of those hearing them:- addiction, conditioning, craving, clinging, attachment; yet all are the same mental process. End the stigma attached to addiction because we are all addicted. See addiction for what it is, a mental process that has social consequences, educate that mental process, and make people aware of it.

This will not happen. For it to happen requires two changes to understanding addiction:-

The first is that the 1% are addicted to money and power as are the people who administer the 1%-system.

The second is that addiction is conditioning, and to go beyond conditioning we need to follow the path of insight and creativity.

In our current society these two are very closely linked. Those with insight and creativity (not attached to conditioning) reject addiction to money and power. The 1% would lose their status if this rejection was universal. Equally most people in our 1%-system could never face the reality that they live in a world of conditioning, and that is part of the conditioning.

The path beyond conditioning and addiction could also be called the path of compassion – as well as insight and creativity. Many addicted will be happy to hear this because they will say they are compassionate. But the path of compassion means compassion first and no addiction, poor caring Liberal there goes your house because of the compromises with addiction and the 1%-system that you have made. Liberals, why doesn’t your compassion extend to ending wars for profit? Would that mean the end of your house? We must all work for each other so why do we need to end wage-slavery? Compassion is revolutionary caring, caring first (beyond conditioning) – not addiction first then caring.

But I must be fair. Whilst the mental process of Liberal addiction is the same, the suffering they cause per se is limited. The real problem of Liberal addiction is that it does not contest the 1% and the 1%-system, their delusion avoids considering the harm and suffering that is done by their governments at the instruction of the 1%. Compassion must drive people to confront the 1%-system, their caring to a great extent is nullified by ignorance of what is actually done in their name. It is not what Liberals do per se but what is done in their name – with their power. It is responsibility that matters but an important part of the 1%-system is the mental process that takes away that responsibility. The system makes it difficult to be responsible, people take responsibility where they can, and ignore the suffering that is caused by those who have taken the rest of that responsibility away. “We can’t be that bad, look at how caring we are.” A liberal anthem, a middle-class anthem. Deep compassion requires efforts to taking back that responsibility, but we are too addicted to the easiness of life that not accepting this responsibility produces. It is easier to be ignorant or blame others, than it is to take back responsibility. Compassion means compassion for all, no suffering for all, in this globalised world where so much is done by the 1% through western governments to cause suffering in this world.

There are no strings to compassion, no addictions to self. The three attributes of the path, compassion, insight and creativity, would end addiction as they put an end to self. But they would also end the 1%-system so they cannot happen.

But it can happen for you. Follow the path of compassion, insight and creativity through the practice of meditation. If you do not follow the path, then you are addicted; if you follow the path some of the time then the rest of the time you are addicted. End your addictions.

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Gaia’s Addiction Spectrum

Posted: 02/03/2018 by zandtao in Freedom, Insight, Struggle

Russell’s First Exercise led me through a useful questioning, and this morning there was a clarity about “following the path”. In a way that always had to be the answer because Gaia only offers two choices – path or addiction, and one is suffering the other is not – 4 Noble Truths. And the end of suffering, end of addiction, is Nibbana, I presume (as I have not reached it but the dogma says so).

And this addiction is addiction to conditioning or self that has to be ended. I therefore will never be able to say that I have ended addiction, no matter how much I would like to. However there will always be addictions that I can overcome, it is just recognising them.

Let me examine the last one in detail, the one that arose after Russell’s First Exercise. This is something that has always been there. I was so fortunate with my upheaval that led me onto the path so young, I have also been fortunate in the way that the path guided me through childhood without any great pain – although I am not sure what I missed out on by being middle-classed. How have I used that good fortune? I became a teacher – noble, but could I have done more? I am now a writer, could I have been a writer when younger? How much more could I have contributed to education about the path through writing – less so in education itself which is so rigidly controlled? In the end the path is all that matters, so teaching maths without contributing to awareness of the path is not that noble. Tied up with these critical considerations of path are the “happiness” I now have, and speculation as to whether I could lose this through following the path. But there is guilt, have I done enough with my good fortune? These are the questions that come from Russell’s First Exercise.

And the answers are all “be in the present moment”, forget the speculation and guilt; follow the path. Get back to focussing on meditation, be more determined and stop wasting time. The path is far more important than any consequences that might break any attachment to current “happiness”.

All of Gaia’s addictions are self, so everyone is addicted to self (the mental process of addiction) – this is 4 Noble Truths. But in society Gaia’s addictions are dodged by most people. Let us move along the spectrum of addiction. We can begin with drugs. I know little about drugs but society criminalises drug addiction. “Drug addicts have lost control, and will do anything including criminal acts for their next fix”, so this addiction is considered a crime. But there is also a huge hypocrisy concerning these drugs. It is socially acceptable to snort cocaine, ecstasy (that dates me) is taken at clubs and raves, and the police turn a blind eye to the criminality because there is some sort of control. So there is drug addiction that is criminal and drug addiction that is not – and the difference is somewhat arbitrary.

Then there is alcohol. This drug leads to much crime and domestic abuse but instead of it being seen as an addiction, and perhaps criminalised, it is associated with glamour, taxed for government profits, and there are legal social establishments for its sale. There is an arbitrary name for some of these alcohol addicts, and that is alcoholic. The arbitrariness is not based necessarily on the degree of addiction. There are plenty of alcoholics who cope financially with their addiction, so are not considered alcoholics but when you are poor and addicted – unable to easily buy the substance, you are an alcoholic even if you are drinking less than others not classified in this way. Marijuana is beginning to be legalised. It has few social crimes associated with it, it has medicinal value as yet properly investigated, and in racist societies is used to incarcerate black people for some of whom it is a drug of preference.

Then there is lust – addiction to sex. There is the illegal sex addiction of paedophilia. I have no idea about the specific nature of this addiction, but has to be illegal because it is children who are exploited. But then there is prostitution, how much crime is associated with prostitution? I will always remember Cynthia Payne and the luncheon vouchers when I was living in Streatham – never went!! Although she made money out of her fame (see wiki), she was deemed a criminal. Yet the men who paid for the services were not criminals, without their money (luncheon vouchers) the place would not have existed. I suppose it was deemed acceptable because lust is natural (addiction), and of course the place became famous because many men of power used the services. And as a further example of sex addiction there is domestic abuse in which men demand sex from wives, and yet this crime of addiction is not adequately dealt with by a patriarchic society. Men are addicted to their lust, and crime as a consequence is mostly accepted – in many cases blaming the women.

Then there is addiction to food. Gluttony is one of the 7 deadly sins, “fat people” are described as an epidemic. Some women, such as the wonderful Karen Carpenter, die from anorexia, Jane Fonda the activist was a beautiful young actress who at that time suffered from eating disorders. Many people are overweight, and whilst some people are suffering from metabolic disorders others are just addicted to food. Their addiction is so strong that they make themselves ill with diseases associated with their food addiction such as diabetes II. And yet how does society respond? BigFood has additives in their food, and these additives are there because they appeal to food addiction (MSG) – food also contains preservatives to help BigFood make profits. Sufficient people doubt the health of these additives and preservatives, and yet addicted people are eating them. Protection organisations within government do not have the political strength to fight against the power of BigFood, and addicted people could be further damaging their health with these chemicals. Desires for sex and food are natural yet they can be addictions.

All of these addictions are addiction to the self but are treated vastly differently by society. The hypocrisy concerning sex addiction highlights this the most. Men, who are addicted to sex and powerless because of that addiction, manipulate the political and social (patriarchic) system so that they are not considered criminals.

Addiction to the self that focuses on the home and lifestyle leads to political delusion. Middle-classes globally are addicted to their way of life to such an extent that they ignore harm that is done through their governments in their name; to add to this problem because of this addiction and greed they accept implausible excuses made by their governments maintaining the status quo.

What I am stressing is that addiction is a mental process that pervades the lives of all in our society. Rather than empathising with the extremes of addiction those extremes are marginalised, called “addiction” by society, enabling the less extreme from facing their own addiction; in addition addiction provides revenue for governments. So much could be gained by people recognising the spectrum of addiction, offering empathy for the worse addictions. Compassion for the suffering of others because their addiction has worse impacts on some than others.

And a special word for a particularly harmful group of addicted people – the 1%. These people are addicted to greed to such an extent that it matters to them that they can increase their personal wealth even though they already have sufficient money to buy whatever they want. When those people are prepared to create war to increase their wealth, their addiction is a serious problem. Yet they are not called out for being addicted – greedy sometimes, often clever although greed and addiction are not intelligent activities, but never addicted.

Addictions has a spectrum of conditioning that most people fall into. The path is going beyond conditioning, beyond addiction, and few follow it. As we are all addicted we should show more empaythy for those who are struggling most.

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Russell’s First Exercise

Posted: 02/03/2018 by zandtao in Freedom, Insight, Struggle

In Russell’s book Recovery (Ch1 p59 of 444) on the first of the 12 steps, he wrote a series of questions on addiction; these are my answers to Russell’s first exercise:-

What do I want to change? Addiction to self.

What pain or fear do I associate with change in this area? There is no pain or fear, I don’t understand why I don’t have more determination not to be addicted to self. After all it is only comfort, and there is a lot more pleasure to be gained by presence. I suppose I don’t really believe that I can live in presence longer.

What pleasure am I getting out of not changing? I really don’t know. I certainly know that if I were not doing the good stuff (meditation, study, writing and beach) I would be very unhappy. But why am I not more determined to do more good stuff?

Recognition, my ego wants recognition. After all it is true that there are many charlatans who know far less. But I also know recognition doesn’t matter, after all I enjoy what I do, I give back and if no-one wants it that is just the natural order. This is an ego problem, but determination should not be an ego problem.

I really do not know why I am not changing more. There is so much to learn. Whilst I read often it is a long time since I have read a book, and I know reading books is far deeper than any clip. I give up and watch clips, and then watch crap …. for way too long.

What will it cost me if I don’t change? I don’t know. If I don’t follow my path as far as it will go, what will I miss? The further along the path I go, the happier I am, the more I am at peace, so if I stay addicted to self I will miss out on potential happiness. This peace is great so why aren’t I more motivated to get more peace?

I am not contributing to Gaia’s path, and I feel guilty. But what can I do? Old age is not the time to start on a new path, old age is for reflecting and imparting wisdom. If I have any, imparting is what I am already doing. If the wisdom is not wanted that is not for me to choose.

What are the benefits I could gain by having this changed? Peace, more peace.

There is a feeling of untapped potential – greater clarity, if I go deeper into my mind. I have had clarity, I have had insights, and I have had cloudy minds; I don’t want the third – and the third is caused by addiction to self.

Has this problem caused any type of illness? Not illness but lack of controlled sleep.

Do I turn to the type of person that enables me to practise this behaviour or to companions who enable me? There is only meditation and books/clips. People I am acquainted with are not interested in the path, I do not keep them close to me. I am isolated because I am following the path, this is only a problem in terms of recognition – and that is ego I can usually deal with. There is nothing wrong with the isolation, except for ego and recognition occasionally. I would not admit to the ego and recognition if I wasn’t trying to bear all. If I don’t question deeply the exercise is meaningless, but this ego about recognition is not a big problem – just there, and mostly accepted.

What have I done in the past to fix, change or control this are of life? Meditation. Last year I began bhavana, several meditations in a day. I need more of that. Ideal meditation twice a day and bhavana on Sundays. Actual practice – mostly once a day, sometimes not at all, last bhavana 3 months ago.

What are the feeling emotions or conditions I have tried to alter and control with this problem? I am not trying to control or alter with this addiction, but I am avoiding. I am avoiding the full potential of my path.

Am I afraid of who I could become on the path? That is a fear. I am afraid of who I could become, and I don’t want aspects of recognition that could bring. I want my isolation, I want the life I have, and I don’t want disruption if my path takes me there. This is the source of my addiction, I don’t want more in case ….

That is shameful. Coward.

I have retired. I don’t want all that fighting any more so I don’t want to place myself in the position of having to fight. Shameful, so selfish.

If this is such an important area of your life why haven’t you changed? I haven’t changed because I don’t want the possible discomfort that could come from change.

Am I willing to do whatever it takes to have this changed healed or transformed? Doesn’t look like it.

These questions I didn’t answer, added for completeness:-
How has this problem placed my important relationships in jeopardy?
Have I lost respect/reputation due to this problem?
Has this problem made my home life unhappy?

Excellent questions!! I really don’t like the conclusion. I am avoiding the path because of the responsibility that might come with getting rid of my addiction. Yet I should.

Solution:- Follow the path – Gaia’s addiction spectrum.

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What are the conditions

Posted: 02/03/2018 by zandtao in Freedom, Insight, Struggle

As I am addicted to self then I need to understand the conditions that have created the self I am addicted to.

To understand such things history is a good teacher. I was middle-classed so those were the conditions of my youth, repression, pushing for exams, sports and the like. When I went to uni I rejected most of this but that rejection took the form if drinking whilst trying to pass exams a bit. But all of that was conditioning. I followed the prescribed academic path, got a job and cracked up – tag bottom.

Coming out of bottom was a time when I had the least conditions. It was as if I was empty and starting again. There were so few conditions in my life. I needed money but had found presence. The path was all that mattered, I found people who knew about this, and it was a whole new beginning.

But then around me I built conditions, conditions of my own choosing but nevertheless conditions. I decided to work with children initially in child care and then teaching, and by the time I was teaching I had accepted the conditions of alcohol dependency. Whilst I was still moving forward on the path that dependency was also following its natural course until I stopped. There was a huge hole in my life where the drink had been, and whilst I was politically active at the time television filled the drink hole.

Then I left the UK and flew into Botswana. Stepping off the plane it was as if a huge weight had been lifted. I consider the UK a repressive society, and that was all lifted. Conditions that society imposes on you are still conditions, conditions are not only personal, and in Botswana it was again like a new birth only this time I was far more mature (into my second childhood) than the child who hit bottom.

Once in Botswana I built conditions around me. Conditions will always be built as people need food, a place to live – a home, and much more. For most people I worked with their conditions were connected with their local experiences – finding a woman and drinking dominating for many. But I did not drink, and what mattered to me in life – the path – I brought with me. I established a home, TV, going to Shashe dam, and visiting game parks in holidays; at the same time I did a distance learning Masters – it was good.

But I was beginning to establish conditions for me to live as an overseas teacher. Lacking money and fearing the oblivion I saw many long-term expats falling into in Botswana, I left after 6 years, and travel-taught for a further 7 years. In each new country I established my home with TV, and visited local places of interest – none of which matched up to Southern Africa.

Whilst in Botswana I started what I called a mid-life review which drew me to Buddhism, and soon after visited Thailand where at Wat Phra Keau I decided I was Buddhist. So in tandem with the conditions I described above I also started meditation – the beginning of freedom; I didn’t meditate in Nigeria However because every time I meditated I came up with breaking contract and running away !! I sacrificed two years in Nigeria making good money and together with inheritance I was able to retire early – although that was only a plan I formulated towards the end of the first year of a two-year contract. Since my Wat Phra Keau conversion I had travelled to Thailand for a break so Thailand became part of my conditions until eventually I moved here to live.

In Thailand I established similar conditions. I was now free to meditate, study and then write 24/7 so to begin with there was much freedom. But there was still the TV, and TV became significant in addiction to self. I have a comfortable home in rural Thailand, I get my food, pay my bills, watch TV and do the meditating study and writing as described.

So where is the self in this? I must begin with “passing time” – TV. For every minute I watch TV I am not present so why do I do it? Last night I wasted maybe 6 hours of non-presence. I get tired, I put on the TV and just veg, after a while I am not tired but am still just watching. Self.

There is more self than this. If you ask me how much meditation do I do? I say most mornings 45 minutes, and this is true. But there are phases when I do none. And when I do none I fill up with self, why do I let this happen?

Recently I have been blogging about Russell Brand podcasts. In itself this is a creative activity, I am learning and writing, but then I stopped meditating getting hooked on writing for the podcasts. This must be self but why?

LUST – censored. This is private. But any consideration of conditions must include sexual desire and its effects.

When I look at this examination of conditions and self I can feel happy, compared to others there is only a little self. But then I think why am I so feeble to allow so much self – to allow so much addiction. I have been lucky to find the path so young and what do I do with it now – addicted to self.

Inbuilt in my life has been a sense of new beginnings because my life has changed so much over the years. I have been in Thailand since June 2006, and whilst I have been forced to move because of landladies this has been upheaval rather than changing conditions. Travel often made me evaluate conditions but now I don’t travel. In a sense I am stuck in my current conditions with too much self. And I question where are the new beginnings?

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Posted: 02/03/2018 by zandtao in Buddhadasa, Freedom, Insight, Struggle

Addiction is a fascinating subject, and I have become interested again through reading Russell’s book on Recovery.

Reading the introduction kept me internally screaming “4 Noble Truths”, but Russell coped with his addiction through the 12 steps programme LINK blog. A simplified version of the 4 Noble Truths might read:-

1) Around there is suffering.
2) Suffering comes from desire, and clinging to this desire.
3) We can free ourselves from suffering by letting go of this clinging.
4) The Noble 8-fold Path is the Buddha’s method for freedom from suffering.

Another key Buddhist teaching is paticcasamuppada, dependent origination. Buddhadasa discusses it in detail here, and here are the stages he discusses:-

The religious 12 Steps are too “Goddy” for Russell, and in the same way despite great respect for his insight Buddhadasa’s description of both the 4 Noble Truths and paticcasamuppada are a tad dogmatic. So much so that looking at both it is perhaps difficult to relate them to addiction.

Buddhists whilst knowing these doctrines tend only to see them in terms of personal choice and conduct, and yet there are such wider implications for both. There is an issue in Buddhism as to “engagement”, how much what the Buddha taught can be applied to socio-political life. For example, paticcasamuppada is concerned with conditioning, and offers a solution as to how we can be free from conditioning. But in considering conditioning Buddhists tend not to view “their” conditioning as connected to the “political conditioning” that so many activists discuss. In the same way at one meeting I discussed the suffering caused by the political system (referring to capitalism) as part of the first Noble Truth, whilst not necessarily disagreeing with the premise that capitalism was the problem, it was said that the suffering talked of in Buddhism does not usually refer to “suffering caused by a political system”. Somehow Buddhist mainstream sees these conditionings as different. It is important to note here that the conditioning discussed in Buddhism has a much wider scope than the political system and conditioning of this time – Buddha’s teachings are timeless. However that does not mean that what the Buddha taught cannot be applied to all forms of conditioning at this time.

What I want to note here is that the teachings concerning the 4 Noble Truths and paticcasamuppada can be applied to addiction. I will look into this later.

Russell discusses how wide addiction is and I want to look at this further. Addiction is a weakness that is a mental process. It is normal to see addiction as a problem associated with substance abuse, and it clearly is. The primary addictions concern drugs and alcohol, and undoubtedly they both have a compulsion that is attached physically. There are far far more knowledgeable people on this, and this physical dependency as addiction is not what concerns me now. It concerned me a lot more when I was younger and an alcoholic (discussed throughout this blog “tag bottom”).

I am now more interested in examining the mental process of addiction, and this is much more connected to the 4 Noble Truths and paticcasamuppada. It is not my intention to get too involved here with Buddhist dogma …. it is however central to the discussion.

When we become addicted to alcohol (I don’t know about drugs), there is a pattern of behaviour associated with alcohol addiction. In my case it was enjoyment and escapism as well as overcoming shyness. Once attracted to the enjoyment and escapism I got pulled back by these attractions until I said “no more, finish” – 17 years. It is these patterns of behaviour that conditioned my alcoholism.

I want to investigate pain in this process as Russell focusses on pain. I think I was particularly lucky on this. In my childhood there was no pain only repression, I was completely middle-classed – repressed by my middle-class upbringing and education. This is a reality and not a complaint, by the time I was an adult I was well equipped with the usual middle-class privilege (qualifications) to have choices in life; it was a privilege I was able to use. In terms of how Raoul Martinez describes it, I was conditioned with middle-class privilege, and compared with what others have to put up with I am happy with that. There was no pain.

But there was no freedom in this repression, and when I left home this conditioning got questioned. At university I was a fool, but the privilege survived the alcohol, and after uni I had a passport that put me on the bottom rung of society’s success ladder. But I did not cope and was not interested, and this led to my hitting bottom, and the upheaval starting me on the path. Was I in pain prior to hitting bottom? No, but I was numb (I use that word because Russell uses it a lot). But the process of hitting bottom seemed more like a conditioned response, middle-class, academia, office job, and a complete lack of invested decision-making in the process. All the “stars” drank so I drank leading to hitting bottom. For a month prior to my hitting bottom, alcoholism badly affected my daily life as I was up all hours and drunk soon after work finished. And I did not cope at work making so many trivial mistakes because I did not care. The job was a bit humdrum as was where I was living – Sevenoaks, but it was nothing to do with either – I was the problem and deserved what happened to me – the sack. In fact because they were both humdrum it hastened the rush to bottom – but probably not by much.

But at that time I was just numb and drifting through, hence my seeing the process as conditioned. I have no doubts at all that I had a physical need for alcohol, but more importantly there was some kind of mental process happening. I describe this process of hitting bottom as upheaval leading to the path, and that this path was natural and moving me beyond conditioning. It was initially creative, as I matured it became gaining insight then insight through meditation. Now I perceive the path as this:-

Unfortunately addiction to alcohol did not end with starting on the path. From the book Recovery, it came as a great surprise to me that Russell had stopped drugs and alcohol 14 years ago, I think I formed my opinion of him as a dickhead long after he stopped. But that changed with his book “Revolution”, and the quality of people on his podcasts “#UnderTheSkin” shows the respect people have for him. Sadly this still seems not to be reflected in his stage persona, but how could he make any money if he was investigating spirituality as he does on his podcasts?

So being on the path is not necessarily free of conditioning, it is what it is – a path. In fact surprising as it may seem to some there is much ego on the path but oft-disguised. I have described my life as having two childhoods leading to a maturity – with much still to learn and ego to overcome.

And understanding addiction has its place in this. Why would someone who is fortunate enough to have landed somewhere on the path still allow addiction? It is the mental process of addiction that is the cause – not an attachment to substance.

Russell recognised addiction to food when he was young – and other addictions later. This suggests that his mental processes can become addicted “easily”. In society the word addiction tends to be saved for those with substance abuse, but this disguises a wider social addiction.

Throughout our lives we have glimpses of the path – some more than others. Within us, for some deeper than others, there is a recognition of these glimpses called presence, muse, nibbana-dhatu and many more. Within us all is the knowledge of the path, the recognition of what could be a better life if we looked for it. However we usually remain inside the conditioning. When we know there is something better, and we hide from it, isn’t that addiction – addiction to conditioning?

To understand how this works we need a Buddhist concept – anatta, no-self. We are born without selves having the 5 human attributes or khandas. What then motivates us is instinct. With this instinct we seek succour from mother, warmth from family, procreation in adolescence, these instincts are all aspects of conditioning that help us survive. As behaviour patterns reinforce themselves throughout our lives we begin to recognise certain things about our lives, and we attach to them calling them self. With many such reinforcements we build up an identity or self, we condition a self.

Through the removal of ignorance and application of paticcasamuppada we can recognise the conditioning process and begin to detach from instinctive responses. As we begin to detach we also develop insight that frees us from the attachment to conditioning. In the meme inserted above we start with the 5 khandas (body and psyche). Through instinct and conditioning consciousness attaches to the khandas creating a self that we perceive as our identity. If we remain ignorant then the conditioning continues, but if we connect to (glimpse) sunnata then we can recognise that there is a path that is not subject to conditioning.

But that conditioning keeps pulling us back, we feel comfortable and want to follow the familiar patterns that we have followed before and gained instinctive gratification from. That is addiction, we are addicted to instinctive patterns of behaviour – not dependent on substance abuse.

We are addicted to the conditioning that has created our selves. Substance abuse is an example of this. But it is not addiction per se that is the problem, it is the results of the addiction that society finds unacceptable. For most of the time my drinking was not a problem for anyone else because I held down a job, and performed it comparatively well. My being an alcoholic was not an issue for others especially as I lived alone. It is not addiction but the results of addiction that are the social problems. Society functions with our addiction to conditioning so long as the results of addiction don’t cause issues. Hence we have the somewhat gross scenario where a significant number of lives are hurt by alcohol addiction, government profits from this by taxing alcohol highly, and Hollywood glamourises the relationship between sexual gratification and drinking. Drugs have such a glamourous connection as well but at least government does not tax drugs.

In the Buddhist dogmas of the 4 Noble Truths and paticcasamuppada, desire and clinging to conditioning is seen as the source of our suffering – this is the mental process of addiction.

What are we addicted to? The conditioning that produces self, we are addicted to self. Anatta simply means ending the addiction to conditioning and moving beyond that conditioning – the path.

Saying I am addicted to self means a lot to me but it might not mean a great deal to others – people who do not follow Buddhadasa Buddhism (Theravada as taught by Ajaan Buddhadasa).

I am suggesting that we have to recognise that we are addicted to self – addicted to the conditioning that produces self, and that we have to resolve to end that addiction.

So understanding what the self is that we are addicted to becomes the problem. This involves going back and seeing where self arises, self arises from attachment to the khandas (see meme above). This is dogma. So when does self not arise? When we do not attach to the 5 khandas, and that means that we must have the mental discipline of detachment and allow connection to sunnata.

Again this is not too helpful because it is dogma. How do we know we are not attached and Eckhart has an easy word for that – presence. One could also use muse, sunnata, more consistent nibbana-dhatu, unity, non-duality and so on. Many words – hard to understand.

Let’s make this everyday. Is there presence when you are watching TV, having sex or masturbating, cooking and eating, gossiping, routine? I suggest not. Is the path everyday stuff? No But we have to do everyday stuff to live so we do them as mindfully as possible, then maybe there is presence.

In presence there is path, there is no addiction, in creativity, insight there is no addiction.

Impossible all the time – maybe. But to avoid being addicted to self we must question our conditioning and always try to be present, the Power of Now, living in the present moment.

So what do the 12 steps mean for being addicted to self?

This is important and difficult, as I don’t know whether I can bear my “soul”, open myself to public scrutiny (even for the 0 people who read this blog). But for it to be meaningful I have to answer honestly.

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12 Steps

Posted: 28/02/2018 by zandtao in Freedom, Insight, Meditation
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This blogpost is primarily for reference in case I want to refer to the 12 steps programmes used in Russell Brand’s book Recovery.

Taken from Ch 1 p25 of 444, firstly there is the usual Christian 12 Steps:-

And the slightly more profane Russell version:-

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