Pause and Deepen your Attention
Today, I listened to a Tara Brach podcast (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKn4IGY8OH8) titled Healing Addiction: De-Conditioning the Hungry Ghosts (2017-03-22). The talk was examining the suffering that arises when our needs are unmet. Typically when we hear of additions, our knee-jerk reaction is to think drugs and alcohol, Google will confirm this as their first page results show the same inclination to substances. However, this isn't necessarily the case for everyone.
Each one of us has some inclination (or suffering for the realists) from some form of addiction, moderation is rarely practiced in our society and can be seen on a daily basis. Which makes me wonder about the things we don't see, those dirty secrets that are hidden even from the self. Our hangups may be life-threatening or not, it doesn't matter how we dress it up, the human mind creates these built-in distortions or illusions, and we rarely see the world clearly.
Tara mentioned a New York Times article written on William C. Moyers, who is a recovery advocate, he spoke at an M.I.T. conference. In which he said "I have an illness with origins in the brain...but I also suffered with the other component of this illness, I was born with what I like to call a hole in my soul... A pain that came from the reality that I just wasn't good enough. That I wasn't deserving enough. That you weren't paying attention to me all the time. That maybe you didn't like me enough." The conference room was as quiet as it had been all day. Mr. Moyers continued, "For us addicts, recovery is more than just taking a pill or maybe getting a shot...recovery is also about the spirit, about dealing with that hole in the soul."
That statement (hole in the soul) resonated with me, as I thought about it for most of the day. For myself, that "hole" has led me down a myriad of different paths. As a child, I was always trying to be the pleaser (which has lingered most of my adult life as well). I obsess over everything especially those things that I am attracted to. For a very long time being perfect, at everything I set my mind to caused a lot of internal strife. I still find myself wanting some form of approval but at the same time fighting it off (the recognition) and with the thoughts of being too awkward in social situations. The world can be messy, our internal struggles can be a crime scene, but having some time I set aside for myself has approved my state of mind. I call it meditation, but it doesn't necessarily need to have the same meaning. I would recommend that you give yourself a few minutes in the morning to consciously connect to yourself.
Pause and deepen your attention
This is an excerpt from an article in the New York Times Magazine a few years ago:
William C. Moyers, a recovery advocate (and the son of the journalist Bill Moyers) who for 12 years has been free of crack and alcohol, was invited to speak at the M.I.T. conference. In a room full of scientists and addiction researchers obsessed with the intricacies of the human brain, Moyers read a lecture that reminded them that treating addiction might be even more complicated than they thought.
"I have an illness with origins in the brain...but I also suffered with the other component of this illness," he told the gathered researchers and scientists, some of whom dutifully took notes. "I was born with what I like to call a hole in my soul...A pain that came from the reality that I just wasn't good enough. That I wasn't deserving enough. That you weren't paying attention to me all the time. That maybe you didn't like me enough."
The conference room was as quiet as it had been all day. "For us addicts," he continued, "recovery is more than just taking a pill or maybe getting a shot...recovery is also about the spirit, about dealing with that hole in the soul."
What is the hole in the soul? It is an unmet longing for connection with others, for communion, for oneness...a longing to realize who we are. It is a longing to know we are loved, to find ourselves lovable. It isn’t only addicts who experience the hole in the soul.
So how do we deal with a hole in the soul? We have this deep longing for love, for freedom, for creativity, for happiness, but what happens is we fixate on substitutes that take us away from what we really long for, away from the very moment that could be the source of freedom.
What is it we fixate on? What do we try to use as a substitute for the real longing?
It could be approval. We might think,“If I just get this praise or recognition, then I’ll know I’m good enough. Or it might be money, or things that money can buy. If I have this house, or this kind of car, or a particular brand of clothing, then I will be acceptable. Food is a very common substitute. Have you ever found yourself feeling lonely or sad, and searching the refrigerator for the remedy? Other substitutions might be sex, or drugs, or alcohol.
We sometimes describe this fixation as “if-only mind.” We believe that, “if only this would fall into place, then I would be happy.” Does that sound familiar? “If only I’d get my health back.” “If only I’d get that partner.” Or, “if only that partner and I could really have it work out right.” Or, “if only I’d lose the 20 pounds.” The list is endless. We fall into believing that these things can make us happy.
But we cannot deal with the hole in the soul as long as we’re pursuing substitute gratifications. When we do that, we are taking ourselves away from the moment where it would be possible to find that which we truly long for. Only in the present moment can we experience aliveness, love, understanding, freedom.
How do we move from pursuing substitutes to coming home to presence? Start by identifying when you are trying to fill the hole in your soul. Where are you thinking, “if only...” If only I had this thing. If only I could be like this. When you notice your thoughts or behaviors moving you towards substitutes—pause. Just stop. Mindfully recognize what is happening, you might just label it “wanting, wanting,” and with gentleness and interest, become aware of the force of wanting.
Just this pause and deepening of attention will start to open you to more freedom. You might first bring awareness to layers of hurt or fear. You might, if you stay, finds some real healing, some compassion and a flow of aliveness. Or you might move into the behavior, but with more awareness than before. Either way, the pause puts you on the path of healing unmet needs and discovering the source of your deepest longings.
Author: Tara Brach
Source: Tara Branch Blog