As a break from the earlier subject of creating a life centered around meditation and exploring the extent of usefulness of meditation, I'd like to focus this blog on the subject of becoming more aware of our addictions. Different definitions exist. Addiction is sometimes defined as something you feel or think you can't do without, or can't help but doing. Furthermore, using or obtaining this item causes difficulties for you in several important areas of life. Think work, home life, relationships, school. Thirdly, it takes a succession of acts of serious willpower to become and stay clean. Now, I can hear you thinking "well this can't be for me, as thankfully I have no such weakness".
Very clinical, this definition. Aimed at people who have gone off the tracks. But what of freedom seekers? Personally, I'd prefer to be in complete control of the elements in my life that can have a hold on me. Many elements that I use as tools end up binding me to them. Take the laptop I'm typing this blog on for instance. It is essentially a productivity tool, designed to make my life easier. Yet, I find myself spending way more time in front of screens such as these than I actually need to if I would limit my laptop's use to work, thereby reducing the productivity gain earned from using the laptop in the first place. The things we own may end up owning/limiting us. This goes for habits and people in our lives as well, maybe doubly so.
Of course, I could have chosen a different word with less connotations of illness. However, I think that there are interesting parallels that can be drawn through using this word. For this reason, I'd like to use a simpler definition: addiction is a dependency on something that can be broken without causing serious damage. Let's explore what dependencies can be addictions. In a way, the basic necessities of life can be seen as dependencies. Without water or air we would not survive for very long, thus our dependency on those two commodities can not be broken. The same goes for food, sex and shelter. I'm aware that there are people who can do without one or more of these for longer periods of time but, seeing that they are intimately bound up with biological impulses of the animals we are, I wouldn't necessarily recommend trying this as a general practice.
I would maintain that, in order to function in this world we all share certain addictions. All the things we add to our lives can be addictive. Generally, in my experience, the addictive part is contained in the stories we tell ourselves about them, whether we are aware of them or not. In this series of blogs titled "The mindful addict", I'd like to systematically examine a number of these addictions, as well as propose ways of temporarily loosening the hold our stories have on our day-to-day lives.