An addiction is a programming (or operating instruction to your biocomputer) that triggers uncomfortable emotional responses and excites your consciousness if the world does not fit the programmed pattern in your mind. The identifying characteristic of an addiction is that if your desire is not fulfilled, you respond emotionally in a computer-like way and automatically play out a program of anger, worry, anxiety, jealousy, fear, etc. That which you emotionally avoid is just as much an addiction as is something you desire.
Why do addictions destroy happiness? Are there some harmless addictions? Can’t I have even one addiction? Aren’t there good addictions like addictions for love, knowledge, or consciousness growth?
Of course, you can have one addiction — or any number you want, but for each one you pay a price in lost happiness. Since an addiction is backed up by the full rush of your emotions, each addiction from time to time puts you in a state of emotional warfare with yourself and others. They dominate your consciousness and keep you from perceiving clearly. Addictions separate you from others, for everyone is instantly valued by the degree to which you suspect threat or support. Addictions are not needed because you can do the same things and enjoy the same life experiences on a non-addictive basis. Through higher consciousness, you can have every beautiful experience that life offers you.
All things in the world around us are constantly changing. Our bodies and minds are constantly changing. These changes, moment by moment, month by month, year by year, affect our ability to make the flow of our life conform to the arbitrary addictive patterns that we desire and expect. So we’re caught in an absolutely endless moment-to-moment struggle to make the outside world fit in with our addictions. And it is always a futile struggle in the end. No one that ever lived has ever had enough power, prestige, or knowledge to overcome the basic condition of all life — you win some and you lose some.
The operation of our lower consciousness feelings is such that even if we satisfy many addictions during a day, the one addiction that was not satisfied will prey on our consciousness and make us unhappy. There is just no way to win the battle of our addictions. There are no addictions without unhappiness, although with the higher addictions (love and consciousness growth) you experience less suffering than with the lower level addictions of security, sensations and power.
As long as you have addictions, your exquisite biocomputer — your mind — will be dominated by the vain attempt to help you find happiness by manipulating the world around you into fitting your addictions. A mind dominated by addictions is not able to tune in to the finer vibrations of the surrounding people and things — just as a drummer who plays too loudly can keep you from hearing the violins and flutes of a symphony. To be fully here and now, you must be able to experience all of the instruments of the symphony. To live in the beauty of higher consciousness, you must be able to perceive both the grosser and the more subtle aspects of the world around you. Addictions are not evil or bad — they just cost you too much in lost perceptiveness, wisdom, effectiveness and happiness.
Addictions always cause unhappiness sooner or later. Preferences never do. When an addiction is not satisfied, you are unhappy. When an addiction is satisfied, you feel momentary pleasure, relief, or indifference. When a preference is not satisfied, you are simply indifferent — it was only a preference after all. But when it is satisfied, it adds to the texture and beauty of your life. Your ego and rational mind do not have to guard the source of your satisfaction because you are not depending on it for happiness. Upleveling all of your addictions to the status of preferences (or eliminating them if they cannot add to your joy of living) is a Living Love key to being joyous and loving all the time. A practical rule of thumb for one starting on the road to higher consciousness is to grant oneself emotion-backed demands for physical necessities such as air, food if starving, or shelter if about to freeze — and all other addictions are sickness!
Only your emotional programming determines whether something is an addiction or a preference. You must clearly understand that when we discuss giving up an addiction, we simply mean reprogramming that part of your brain that makes you restless, churning and unhappy if a desire is not realized. Your living patterns may or may not be changed when you uplevel your addictions to preferences. It is vital that you fully understand that the growth we are describing lies wholly in reprogramming your automatic emotional programming — it is not necessarily aimed at changing your external actions. You can do anything you prefer as long as you are not addicted. For when you are free of addictions, your actions will be characterized by wisdom and oneness.
Some addictions are more costly in lost happiness than others. An addiction for having money in your bank account may yield less satisfaction than an addiction for having a PhD. But both keep you in a constant state of threat, both dominate your consciousness, and both keep you from fully tuning in to the beautiful spectrum of the world around you. And, of course, you do not need to be addicted to money or knowledge in order to acquire them. You can prefer to have money and knowledge (or anything else) and you will then (and only then) be able to totally enjoy whatever money and knowledge the river of your life brings to you.
Thus it is not the external circumstances that constitute your addiction — it is only your inside emotional programming that must be changed. And the wonderful thing is that it is fully within your ability to do so — whereas up to now you have been hopelessly trying to manipulate the outside world to conform to your addictions. You will live in a peaceful world when you eliminate your addictions and then spend your time making choices on a preference basis.
We see things not as they are — but as we are. Every addiction distorts your effective processing (on both conscious and unconscious levels) of the enormous flow of information that is continually flooding in through all of your sensory inputs. Every second your biocomputer is receiving millions of electrochemical impulses from your sight, sound, touch, taste and olfactory receptors and the tissues and organs within your body. For example, each hair on your body is connected by a nerve to your brain. All of your internal organs are continually sending signals to your biocomputer, most of which are fortunately handled on an unconscious level.
The reticular activating system of your biocomputer is a network that selects what goes into your consciousness. It screens the data that it sends to your cerebral center — your master analyzer. This network can close down your consciousness and put you to sleep. It can turn up your consciousness and awaken you when you are asleep. This neural structure performs the function that is often referred to as the "ego." (See Chapter 22 for a fuller discussion of neurological factors that affect your consciousness.)
You can consciously pay full attention to only one thing at a time although your consciousness can switch back and forth with lightning rapidity. How does your reticular activating system (or ego) select what to pass on to your consciousness? It selects the information that is to go into your consciousness by following the programming that you have been putting into it since infancy. Thus your programmed addictions determine your experience of the world for they are the guides that your reticular activating system uses to determine which data will be suppressed and which can go into your consciousness and command full attention. In this way, you gradually develop an illusory version of the people and things in your world because of the enormous domination of your consciousness by the things you are programmed to desire and that which you are programmed to fear.
The more you live with your distorted version of the people and things around you, the more certain you will feel that it is the only "true" picture of the world. Thus you build up a warped picture of yourself and the people and situations in your world. For your mind is such that whatever it believes is true produces a feedback that continually reinforces and molds your perceptions.
You should always be aware that your head creates your world. Your addiction patterns — your expectations, your desires, your attachments, your demands, your mental models — dominate your perceptions of the people and things around you. It is only when you become free of your addictive programming that you can perceive how things really interact in your world.
How do you spot your addictions? It’s easy. You just notice the desires and expectations that you use to make yourself feel up-tight in various life situations. By tuning in to your minute-to-minute stream of consciousness, you discover the addictions that make you worried, anxious, resentful, uptight, afraid, angry, bored, etc. You thus use every uncomfortable emotion as an opportunity for consciousness growth. Even though you may still be feeling emotional and uptight, you begin to get at the roots of your ups and downs — your brief bits of pleasure and your long periods of unhappiness. And you begin to feel a deep satisfaction as you become more awakened and alive!
In the past you continuously tried to find people who would minimally disturb your complex security, sensation and power addictions. However, a person for whom you feel little attraction is probably your most helpful teacher in getting free of some of your addictions. You will grow faster if you work on your addictions by experiencing someone that you usually would have excluded from your life. When you find that you can remain centered no matter what he or she does, you will know that you have reprogrammed the addictions that created the separateness you felt. And although you have continued the relationship for your own growth, you will have offered the other person valuable experiences that he or she can use for his or her rapid growth (for example, the experience of being loved unconditionally). When you have reprogrammed the addictions that separated you in your feelings, you may have developed a love and oneness that holds you together. Or you may prefer to spend this time in another way — and it may then be more productive of growth for you to follow your preference — and be with this individual less (or not at all) in the future.
Everyone and everything around you is your teacher. If your washing machine won’t work, you are being checked out on your ability to peacefully accept the unacceptable. If you are addicted to your appliances always working, you will suffer. If you prefer them to operate well, you will not compound your problem by superimposing your uncomfortable emotions on the here and now realities of repairing them.
Your moment-to-moment stream of consciousness becomes interesting and real when you experience everything as a step in your growth toward higher consciousness. You will soon begin to feel peaceful and loving almost all of the time. This is your consciousness telling you that you’re using the Twelve Pathways more skillfully. Just keep going — you’re well on your way!
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