Seeing that Frees Us from Addiction
I used to wonder if my brain was deliberately working against me. How else could I explain the regular transitions from sincere determination to quit alcohol one minute to deciding to go on another bender the next? I now understand it was not that my brain was defective or trying to harm me, it had just fallen victim to a trick.
My brain had been tricked in much the same way as a naïve investor might get caught out by a sophisticated pyramid scheme. The saddest thing in this situation is that by the time investors become suspicious, they are usually too heavily invested to pay heed to these suspicions – it’s the same with addiction.
Knowing your brain has been the victim of trick may be helpful, but it is usually only when we understand the trick that we can fully escape and avoid falling into the same trap again in the future. The goal of mindfulness/insight practice is to give us the ability to see how we have been tricked.
The Seven Factors of Enlightenment
If you wish to protect your brain from harmful delusions, you will need to gain insight into how you are being tricked. This type of understanding is far more likely to arise in a state of mental clarity, focus, and non-reactivity (i.e. we need to put aside our tendency to habitually react prior to investigation).
The easiest way to promote the growth of insight is to meditate regularly. This needs to be done in a certain way if we hope to achieve the best results. The ‘7 factors of enlightenment’ are attitudes and mental states that together will greatly increase the likelihood of insight during meditation and include:
• Mindfulness means recognizing what your brain is doing at any given moment (e.g. fantasizing, getting angry, or listening)
• Curiosity means investigating what is arising in our mind in a fresh way
• Energy gives us the ability to make progress towards insight (it can be increased through other factors such as curiosity and joy)
• Joy arises in meditation as we develop deeper concentration (see my previous post on jhanas). Focusing on this joy can move us even into a deeper state of single-pointed concentration.
• Tranquility arises as we calm down mental activity through concentration and equanimity
• Concentration requires keeping your attention on the object of the meditation (e.g. the sensation of the breath). Concentration is like a lamp, the stronger it is, the more of the mind we can see
• Equanimity is the non-judgmental and non-reactive mind state that facilitates curiosity, concentration, and tranquility