Tag Archives: philosophy

Taoism and Addiction

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“As I am going to study philosophy next year, I often think of how religions and other theories of life might view addiction and recovery. Is it acceptable? Is there a reason? Is there a cure? To start my regime on educating myself with the various opinions I took a look at some articles. This one is written by Elizabeth Reninger from About.com and it gives some insight on addiction using the practice of Taoism. If your interested in “The Way” (as tao the ching is translated), or are even struggling finding your Higher Power, this article may shed some light on the matter. Keep in mind, Taoism is not a religion, its a philosophy, a “way” of life.” -Love and light, Robyn

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Any kind of addictive behavior makes it really difficult to conserve our “qi” — to garner a beneficial surplus of life-force energy — for the simple reason that addictive behaviors, with their corresponding mental/emotional patterns, almost universally drain our qi.

Can Taoist practice help us unwind addictions?

I would say: yes! I’ve touched on this in my essay, Addiction, Habit & Ritual — making a distinction between, on the one hand, flowing with the (seemingly repeating) patterns of the Tao, in a way that is awake and responsive; and, on the other hand, becoming a slave to the unconscious impulsive dictates of an addiction.

On a very practical level, there are ear-acupuncture protocols (NADA and ACACD) which have been hugely beneficial — in conjunction with counseling, education and group support — in resolving addictions.

Here a recovering alcoholic, in expressing how, as an atheist, he was able to make 12-step programs work for him, articulates quite beautifully the process of realigning with the rhythms of the natural world, a quintessentially Taoist approach to sanity:

“But, you might ask, if there’s nothing there, no sentient god, how do you get restored to sanity? Again, simple. A tide lifts a boat without being asked and without being sentient. Meet the conditions: place a boat on a tidal body of water. Wait. Then it happens. Be open to understanding the principles that govern your world and do your best to act in harmony with them, do your best not to waste your energy in trying to change the things you cannot change, turn your efforts to identifying and changing the things that can be changed, and the tide will lift your boat. Simple, no?”

Aligning with the elemental wisdom and rhythms of the natural world can be hugely supportive in transforming addictive behavior and perception. In doing so, we establish a perspective or view that’s in alignment with reality, and supports spontaneously “right” — healthy and harmonious — action.

In Buddhist practice, a similar notion is spoken of in terms of Samma Ditthi or Right View. The Pali word Samma was, as I understand it, originally a musical term, and points to a kind of “right” that means “attuned” — in tune with the contexts unfolding in the present moment. It’s about becoming sensitive to our surroundings, and our relationship to them, in a way that allows us then to act skillfully — rather than out of unconscious (e.g. addictive) preconceptions.

Written by Elizabeth Reninger from About.com

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Take Six

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Here, she feels stable. Here, she has a fresh start. The scene is familiar but only from the years spent visiting her grandparents and wandering the streets that surrounded her with shopping centers full of chain supermarkets and restaurants. She remembers the only store that was remotely unique was called Twist Treat in the shape of a large swirl of pink ice cream in a giant kiddy cone. They always armed her with extra sprinkles on the side and she would dip her chocolate ice cream in the bowl to replenish the sweetness. She reminisces and digresses. She can’t escape the fact that she left behind her home three days ago. Twenty years of the same people, places and things made her feel nauseous. She had to leave, it was her only choice for sanity.

She walked around for miles, up and down the same streets. She drove around uptown, glancing at the little shops and old nooks she used to hang around. Tears rolled down her face but she couldn’t help but smile. This was depressing to think about– leaving her home– but she was so excited. This meant she was one step closer to independence. She had a plan. A master plan to get her long overdue “proper” education that could really take her places.

Since she first heard her father tell her, “if you don’t believe in Jesus Christ, at least believe in something,” she was determined to find the answers to life and death. She studied all the great texts in high school, only to find the same patterns disheveled in creative tales and sonnets. All this information only made her more confused. So she busied her mind with something else; art and music. It wasn’t long until the expression and lack of answers led her to experimenting with her reality through drugs. Soon enough she only became concerned with consciousness and lost all desire to pursue her hobbies. When she ran away from philosophy, she made a mistake. The search kept her going at the time, art was just a distraction. When her addiction took over to later reveal her disorders, she morphed into an egocentric, hopeless disaster. But now that she realizes this, she is able to recognize her passion that has followed her all along.

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She had always been afraid to pursue a philosophy major because she thought the only thing you could to with that is become a writer or a teacher. At this point, she just didn’t care. Those two options didn’t seem so bad anymore. She daydreamed that one day she might be able to conjure up a novel outlining her two months of insanity. She was inspired by all the books she has read while she is in recovery; books about addiction, bipolar disorder and the psychotic mind. She was so intrigued with the memoirs that completely related to her, she felt like she was no longer alone. These people had been best selling authors, brave and admirable for they’re ability to tell their truths so vividly to the world. She knew she would need a lot of strength to dig out those memories she tried so hard to suppress but she thought it was worth it to explore herself enough to help another struggling addict/bipolar. She would need to do extensive interviews with the people that went through it with her. That would require another trip to India… As scary as that thought was, it made her feel warm. She fell in love with India and all the people who helped her along the way. She would want to write down every single experience– even the most embarrassing and shameful. She cringes at the idea of any of her loved ones reading her stories but she had been open up until this point, publishing her journal in front of the whole world. While maybe the whole world wasn’t reading it, they most certainly could. And maybe someday they would. She has big ambitions. Maybe even “grandiose.” But she didn’t care anymore. This is what drove her. This is what kept her clean. This is what kept her sane. This is what kept her alive.