All that we accomplish in life is based on the formation of habits. We are
creatures of habit, and this can be used to great advantage. On the other
side of the coin, we can fall into habits that are not in our best interest.
So much of what we do to improve our lot in life is directly related to how
we manage our habits.
If we have begun a spiritual practice like deep
meditation, our success with the practice will not depend on how pleasant an
experience we might have today, tomorrow or the next day. It will depend on
our ability to sustain our daily practice over months and years, through all
the ups and downs we will be sure to experience along the way. It will be
our habit that will carry us through. We might even say we are "addicted" to
our habit of spiritual practice.
What is addiction? In the simplest definition, addiction
is a habit that is so deep we are unable or unwilling to change. There are
addictions that can be beneficial, such as an addiction to divine
unfoldment, without limiting its scope in any way. It can also be seen as an
unwavering dedication to a cause an obsession. Some might not see this as
good. Yet, an addiction to divine unfoldment will eventually lead to its own
transcendence. It is an addiction to surrender, an addiction to letting go
one of the essential secrets of developing devotion (bhakti) in our
spiritual life. It is active surrender.
On the other hand, there are addictions that will retard our spiritual
progress and can hold us back from progress in many areas of life. These are
addictions that sustain and add to the obstructions to inner silence within
us. These may be considered to be chemical or psychological. The most
destructive addictions are a combination of both. A destructive addiction is
one that may give us an artificial sense of wellbeing, while holding us back
from real progress at the same time.
In terms of the physical things we may ingest, such addictions can take many
--Medicine and food supplements
--Chronic overeating of any or all foods
--Chronic undereating of all foods (anorexia)
Any of the items mentioned, approached in moderation, may not be harmful. In
fact, the road to health and happiness is paved with moderation in all
On the other hand, any food or substance that is consumed compulsively to
excess (even water) can be regarded as a negative addiction. On the other
side of it, an obsession with consuming less can be a negative addiction
also. Addictions can be behavioral, not involving what we put in our body,
but rather, how we might relate to our surroundings in compulsive ways.
Unproductive or harmful addictions may not be recognized as they perpetuate
themselves through subconsciously ingrained obsessive habits. Much of our
spiritual progress, brought on by practices such as deep meditation and
spinal breathing pranayama, is related to the unwinding of the obsessive
conduct that retards our natural growth.
How do we overcome negative additions? The same way we overcome any habits,
eating or other, that hold us back from health and happiness. It is always
going to be an inner journey leading to surrender to that which is
evolutionary and positive within us. Yoga practices are designed for this.
They clean the mud off the windshield of our nervous system, so all will
become gradually much more clear, and we can navigate through life with more
clarity and purpose.
In the case of strong negative addictions, yoga practices may not be enough.
In that case, we have the option to resort to more direct means to overcome
compulsive negative habits. The twelve-step program, originally developed by
Alcoholics Anonymous, is the most effective known means for dealing with a
strong negative addiction. It has been expanded to cover every kind of
compulsive and addictive behavior. The twelve-step program is a kind of
yoga. It involves admitting that we cannot change by ourselves, and
surrendering to a higher power. As soon as we are able to do this in
any avenue of our life, great power surges up to aid us in our time of
trouble. The twelve-step program is a specialized way of applying the
principles of desire and surrender to overcome negative addiction, leading
to a happier healthier life.
Flights of Fancy are another form of compulsive behavior that can hold us
back. There is the idea out there that if a little of something is good for
us, then a lot of it will be even better. Some take it to the point that if
we do nothing but that one thing, then this will surely deliver us from all
that ails us, and bring us (and the entire world!) enlightenment as well.
Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. This sort of obsessive conduct can
also be called the magic bullet syndrome.
To make steady progress in life, especially in the spiritual arena, it takes
a broad-based application of methods supporting a gradual move toward all
around balanced and healthful living. The magic bullet approach to
designing a better diet, spiritual practice routine and lifestyle is a
manifestation of the same compulsive behavior we find behind negative
addictions. It is compounded by the rational mind assuming that the more of
this one thing we do, the better off we will be. In a sense, the tendency to
pursue flights of fancy is more problematic than a recognized negative
addiction. A flight of fancy can go on for a long time. When it finally does
crash, many reasons for its failure can be conjured up and assigned
elsewhere, and the person involved in it may then move on to the next magic
bullet flight of fancy. It is similar to a negative addiction. Some of us go
through all of life like this, seeking the holy grail, not knowing that the
holy grail is in us all along, found in a steady moderate approach
encompassing an integration of effective spiritual methods and the sound
lifestyle choices that will be the natural result.
Getting some sunshine on a regular basis can be healthful. Is lying in the
sun for hours at a time healthful? No it isn't.
Taking a few vitamin supplements each day can enhance our nutrition. Will
taking ten or twenty supplements each day enhance our nutrition? Maybe, and
quite possibly bring undesirable side effects as well, including some that
may compromise our health.
Likewise, the judicious use of prescription and non-prescription drugs can
reduce discomfort and extend life. But do we need a drug for every hiccup we
may experience? The aggressive marketing programs of the drug companies tell
us we do (for their own reasons), but we know better in our inner silence.
Obviously, it is good to consult professionals when considering utilizing
supplements and drug prescriptions, especially if we suspect a serious
health issue. However, if it reaches the point where we are shoveling pills
in our mouth to compensate for an unhealthy lifestyle, or we are taking
drugs to treat side effects from other drugs, then something is seriously
wrong. It is the flight of fancy out of control. It can happen in the
most professional environments. Flights of fancy are not limited to
individuals. They can run rampant in our institutions as well.
We can see that even in the most health-oriented endeavors, excess can creep
in, leading to diminishing returns. This can be as great an obstacle to our
health and spiritual progress as any other kind of unhealthful living.
All of this is to say that the surest path is the one of moderation in all
things. This goes for our spiritual practices too the steady cultivation
inner silence and ecstatic
If we are inclined to become addicted, then let it be for our divine
unfoldment. This is the kind of addiction that is able to transcend itself
to the infinite!
The guru is in you.
Lessons Topic Path
Discuss this Lesson in the AYP Plus Support Forum
Note: For detailed instructions on deep meditation, see the
AYP Deep Meditation book.
detailed discussion on
addiction, see the
Diet, Shatkarmas and Amaroli
book. Also see AYP Plus.