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Innocence

By Greg Ascue.   One thing I like to communicate to people about addictive and compulsive tendencies is how innocent, predictable, and natural some of this is. Humans are born with the biochemical capability to become addicted. We are born into existence with deep, built in impulses to seek pleasure and to avoid pain. At a certain level, it’s almost mechanical. At this level, what happens is simply the body’s attempt to protect, preserve, and enhance life. These impulses influence almost everything we do. Knowing this helps (I believe) with inquiry work. Understanding and accepting how this all works allows one to go further in working with addiction. Accepting the innocence I am speaking of, frees us to address what really needs to be addressed.

These impulses provide motivation that is integral to survival (they even provide the motivation to thrive). The flight, fight, freeze response is built into our reptilian brain. We don’t have to think about avoiding a truck barreling down upon us. We just jump, it just happens. This jumping from danger is initiated prior to our having to think about it. Without this inborn response, the human population would be dramatically reduced. Correspondingly, the impulse to seek pleasure is built into this deeper part of our existence. Examples of this impulse are hunger and sexual desire. Without eating an individual would die, without engaging in sex humankind would die out. Another function of this biochemistry is to keep everything in balance (neither too much or too little pleasure – stimulation or sedation). This balancing is protective in nature, it prevents extreme occurrences (internally and externally) from affecting us too much.

It is because we have these inborn impulses and biochemical systems that addiction can occur. The process of addiction (regardless whether it is an addiction to a substance or a behavior) hijacks these natural biochemical systems. In a peculiar way, almost all we do is addiction-like because addiction is based on this same natural motivational biochemistry that drives much of everything else. The underlying biochemistry of eating and sex is very similar to the biochemistry of hyper-stimulating addictive behaviors and substances (although less pronounced). The problem here is the hyper-stimulation.

This hyper-stimulation disrupts the natural pleasure systems of the brain (and central nervous system). In the presence of hyper-stimulation, the brain seeks to regulate, and normalize (balance) the amount of pleasure being experienced. This balancing is achieved via habituation and desensitization. In the presence of too much stimulation and sedation (pleasure) for a prolonged period the brain (via the processes of habituation and desensitization) reduces the pleasure centers in the brain, reducing some of some of the receptors necessary to experience pleasure. When the hyper-stimulation is removed, people are left with less capability to experience pleasure thus becoming less capable of dealing with the normal stresses of life. This leads to an increase in the craving for pleasure (and less capability to deal with the lack of it). It is all very natural.

Overlaying these underlying natural systems is the sense of self and all of the learning, memories, and conditioning associated with this sense of self. This self is unfindable (in the sense that we use the word unfindable in the Living Inquiries). People, at some (perhaps unconscious) level, seem to know this. They know that they have an unfindable, mistaken identity, that life is not what it seems to be (or “should” be). This mistaken identity tends to foster suffering (to some varying degree). Because of this mistaken identity people invariably feel a certain amount of insecurity, anxiety, and fear (a natural response to “danger”).  Because of this insecurity, anxiety, and fear, people naturally seek pleasure to compensate. Unfortunately, this pleasure is often sought through hyper-stimulating ways – drugs, alcohol, food, sex, porn, shopping. But not knowing the source of the issue the pleasure, inevitably, does not bring about a permanent end to suffering. The pleasure fades. Then people tend to turn again to what gave temporary pleasure. Thus, the addiction cycle is born. The biochemistry is thrown off.

This cycle also leads to an increase of negative stories about the “mistaken” identity (I’m weak, I’m an addict, I’m a victim, I’m being threatened, the stress is too much to handle, etc.) adding impetus to the addiction cycle. It’s a vicious cycle.

In my experience, understanding and accepting the innocence of our bodies is a powerful step in working with addiction. My body did the best it could through (at times) almost overwhelming circumstances. When I consider, it I feel a deep sense of gratitude for the body’s efforts to perpetuate this life. The war with this physical existence can end. With this kind of gratitude, the inquiries can help provide freedom from addiction by working with the overlaid negative stories (and all the consequences of those stories). With this freedom one can allow what is natural to re-balance and re-generate. The pleasure centers can grow again and the receptors necessary to experience pleasure can re-generate. Via neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to heal and adapt) one can return to a more optimal place. The innocence can be re-born. Life can spring anew.

Neither Nor

By Greg Ascue.

Many people do inquiry around the “bad” things in their lives in the hopes that they will “disappear”. Negative identities, threats, addictions etc. This is entirely natural. Who wants to suffer? But in the end, this is only part of the equation. “Good” things can constrain your experience of life too.

Recently, after an inquiry session with a woman I work with, I mentioned that it is useful to look for (in inquiry) opposites. Both possible sides of a subject. Good and bad, presence and lack, existence and non-existence and so on.  In mentioning this I pointed out that many people naturally (perhaps subtly) set up beliefs in the findability of the opposite of what they could not find in inquiry. But the un-findability of one end of a pair of opposites does not imply the findability of the other end of the pair. By looking at both sides you can address such subtle tendencies. No matter how pleasant (or unpleasant) a belief may be, inevitably there is some form of constraint. All things are unfindable.

Neither a “self” nor a “not self” can be found

Neither “something” nor “nothing” can be found

Neither “existence” nor “non-existence” can be found

Neither “duality nor “non-duality” be found

Neither “volitional” nor “non-volitional” can be found

This form of inquiry works equally with any belief or thing (including beliefs and things associated with the inquiries themselves). Taken to their ultimate, these inquiries leave you with no views or concepts to promote or adhere to. Again, all things are unfindable. Simple, spacious, and clear.

The woman’s reaction was one of surprise and she asked what about things like love and intimacy? Without thinking about it I replied “It’s pretty hard to love or be intimate with a story” (to love or be intimate with something unfindable). Understandably, perhaps, she displayed even more surprise. But what underlies this statement is my experience that beliefs surrounding such concepts often tend to create suffering too. Love is “this or that”. And when this “this or that” is not here there is “the lack of love”.

Neither “love” nor “the lack of love” can be found

Neither “intimacy” nor “the lack of intimacy” can be found

What is important here is that in saying “love cannot be found” I am, also, saying “the lack of love cannot be found”. This is why it is useful to look at opposites. There is no promotion of any opposite. Neither a limited, constrained, conditional love nor a cold, unfeeling, nihilism. There are no assertions being made here, no limited beliefs. Whatever this is, it is beyond any such assertions. Such assertions have never been known here. This allows experiencing to be done nakedly without limits or constraint. Oddly, love and intimacy are liberated by their unfindability.

What are the implications of this in how we should live our lives? None whatsoever. Any such implications would be unfindable as well. True freedom. I have been married for over 25 years.  In not finding love nor the lack of love I am not constrained in loving my wife, it gets better with each passing year. I savor these passing years. For someone else this may mean leaving behind some dead relationship. Stepping away from the tyranny of unfulfilled dreams. For someone else none of this may be relevant in any way. The freedom to do what is best is here.

Life is liberated by its unfindability. Unfindability is liberated by its unfindability. This moment is born anew. You are born anew. This world is born anew.

 “All knowledge is bondage” – Shiva Sutras

“All that is heard is non-existent” – Adi Shankara