Mindfulness and Addiction

Mindfulness and Addiction

The Bay Retreats Byron BayMindfulness in its simplicity is the art of being present, being aware of the present moment. An old Taoist fable best illustrates this art in the story of a monks’ dilemma:

One day a monk is traveling through a dangerous, tiger infested part of the mountains when he is suddenly chased by a large tiger. He runs and falls down a cliff face. Hanging on to a small sapling half way down this sheer embankment he notices two more tigers circling twenty feet below at the base of his cliff. He can hear the roars from above him as the first tiger claws at the edge of the drop… ten feet above him.

As he grips on to his sapling respite he notices a small wild strawberry bush with a large ripe fruit just within his stretch. His bite into the fruit explodes the sweet flavors into his parched mouth and he smiles and sighs, ‘Perfect!’

The story depicts the past and future as perilous, full of tragic possibilities and anxieties that often rob us of the possibility of truly tasting and enjoying the present.

The easiest way to connect with yourself is to track the phenomena of your senses in the present:  “I am now aware of what I am hearing, seeing and physically feeling”… start with these stronger senses, leaving out smell and taste.

Being aware and present in the moment allows us to remove ourselves from negative memories of the past and the anxious thoughts of the future.

Many different practices invite the tracking of the breath and/or even controlling it. However it is my experience that for many this technique often heightens anxiety, especially when the levels of anxiety are already high.

Meditation is a well-proven support system for stress and anxiety conditions. It is a tool for self-support that any holistic practitioner will prescribe and that any therapist can use in conjunction with the multitude of other self support systems they can offer.

There are many different meditation techniques, and thinking that meditation can only be undertaken sitting cross-legged in a monastic setting is now outdated. For many, the thought of sitting still for a period of time is daunting. For many others who have tried it and found only restlessness, the exercise can seem futile.

People are often resistant to the concept of meditation because of misunderstanding of what it actually means.In the broadest sense it is an invitation to experience ‘stillness’ through detachment to thoughts of the past, or projections of the future.

If “traditional” sitting meditation is not enjoyable to you there are many other ways to integrate mindfulness into your life. Meditation can be in the joy of watching your child smile. Observing a wing flutter in the wind. A beach-scape that drenches your soul. It can be in contact with another being. It can be in the expansion and contraction of your rib cage. It can be noticing the hurriedness and impulse to put the next mouthful in. It can be looking up from your computer and noticing that beautiful strawberry right in front of you.

Scientific research is beginning to prove that meditation has a positive effect on us on a physiological and psychological level showing such affects as:

  • increased levels of activity in areas of the brain that form positive emotions
  • reduced levels of activity in areas of the brain related to negative emotions
  • calming of the section of the brain that triggers fear and anger,
  • creating a state of inner peace even when faced with distressing circumstances[1]

Here at The Bay all therapists who have contact with the clients have a strong practice of meditation behind them. Radha Nicholson, our head clinician and program coordinator is a Registered Psychologist and Buddhist Insight Teacher. Brendan Healey, a Gestalt Psychotherapist and Supervisor, has trained under the traditional Taoist Order, has been a Vipassana meditator and a committed yoga student.

The Bay Approach™ model of therapeutic intervention is based on creative adaptation models. The question of “why we act and hold onto practices that no longer serve us” fades with awareness and insight. We are then available to new healthy sustaining practices which are more attuned to living and embracing life rather than being restricted to fearful and limited experiences.

If dependence on an addictive substance is your method of coping with and avoiding life, or if anxiety, depression and overwhelm have become your dominant life experience, these may be signs that it’s time to reach out and ask for help from organisations like The Bay.


[1] Antoine Lutz,  Lawrence L. Greischar ,  Nancy B. Rawlings ,  Matthieu Ricard  and Richard J. Davidson, ‘Long-Term Meditators Self-Induce High-Amplitude Gamma Synchrony During Mental Practice’

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“The Guest House”

In a famous poem, 13th century Sufi poet Rumi lays down a radical notion about welcoming pain in life, rather than avoiding it to experience emotional freedom As you read the following poem, remember, the words speak as a guidepost, reminding us which way to go. This being human is a guest-house.

Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture.
Still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you
out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
~ Rumi

“The Guest House” Translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne

 

 

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What is Mindfulness and how do the programs at The Bay help people who are stressed and anxious?

Mindfulness in its simplicity is the art of being present, being aware of the present moment. An old Taoist fable best illustrates this art in the story of a monks’ dilemma:

One day a monk is traveling through a dangerous, tiger infested part of the mountains when he is suddenly chased by a large tiger. He runs and falls down a cliff face. Hanging on to a small sapling half way down this sheer embankment he notices two more tigers circling twenty feet below at the base of his cliff. He can hear the roars from above him as the first tiger claws at the edge of the drop… ten feet above him.

As he grips on to his sapling respite he notices a small wild strawberry bush with a large ripe fruit just within his stretch. His bite into the fruit explodes the sweet flavors into his parched mouth and he smiles and sighs, ‘Perfect!’

The story depicts the past and future as perilous, full of tragic possibilities and anxieties that often rob us of the possibility of truly tasting and enjoying the present.

The easiest way to connect with yourself is to track the phenomena of your senses in the present: “I am now aware of what I am hearing, seeing and physically feeling”… start with these stronger senses, leaving out smell and taste.

Being aware and present in the moment allows us to remove ourselves from negative memories of the past and the anxious thoughts of the future.

Many different practices invite the tracking of the breath and/or even controlling it. However it is my experience that for many this technique often heightens anxiety, especially when the levels of anxiety are already high.

Meditation is a well-proven support system for stress and anxiety conditions. It is a tool for self-support that any holistic practitioner will prescribe and that any therapist can use in conjunction with the multitude of other self-support systems they can offer.

There are many different meditation techniques, and thinking that meditation can only be undertaken sitting cross-legged in a monastic setting is now outdated. For many, the thought of sitting still for a period of time is daunting. For many others who have tried it and found only restlessness, the exercise can seem futile.

People are often resistant to the concept of meditation because of misunderstanding of what it actually means.In the broadest sense it is an invitation to experience ‘stillness’ through detachment to thoughts of the past, or projections of the future.

If “traditional” sitting meditation is not enjoyable to you there are many other ways to integrate mindfulness into your life. Meditation can be in the joy of watching your child smile, observing a wing flutter in the wind, a beach-scape that drenches your soul. It can be in contact with another being. It can be in the expansion and contraction of your rib cage. It can be noticing the hurriedness and impulse to put the next mouthful in. It can be looking up from your computer and notice that beautiful strawberry right in front of you.

Scientific research is beginning to prove that meditation has a positive effect on us on a physiological and psychological level showing such affects as:

–   increased levels of activity in areas of the brain that form positive emotions

–   reduced levels of activity in areas of the brain related to negative emotions

–   calming of the section of the brain that triggers fear and anger,

–   creating a state of inner peace even when faced with distressing circumstances

Here at The Bay all therapists who have contact with the clients have a strong practice of meditation behind them. Radha Nicholson, our head clinician and program coordinator is a Registered Psychologist and Buddhist Insight Teacher. Brendan Healey, a Gestalt Psychotherapist and Supervisor, has trained under the traditional Taoist Order, has been a Vipassana meditator and a committed yoga student.

The Bay Approach™ model of therapeutic intervention is based on creative adaptation models. The question of “why we act and hold onto practices that no longer serve us” fades with awareness and insight. We are then available to new healthy sustaining practices which are more attuned to living and embracing life rather than being restricted to fearful and limited experiences.

If dependence on an addictive substance is your method of coping with and avoiding life, or if anxiety, depression and overwhelm have become your dominant life experience, these may be signs that it’s time to reach out and ask for help from organisations like The Bay.

Brendan Healey, August 2011

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Healing Addiction

Mindful Recovery: A Spiritual Path to Healing from Addiction

Life hurts. It is full of dangers and difficulties. Each life includes its share of suffering.

The Buddha faced this truth head on. Over a long life of teaching, he claimed to teach only the truth of suffering and the way out of suffering.

When life hurts or is difficult, we are tempted to run from life. We seek temporary shelter in many things, many of them not helpful or even destructive. This is particularly so when we seek shelter in the false refuge of drugs or alcohol.

This often seems to start innocently enough. What does it hurt to have a little fun? But once we begin to run from life in this way, it becomes very difficult to find our way out. The trap closes on us before we even know it to be a trap.

The abuse of drugs or alcohol is a kind of forgetfulness. Not only does it work at best in a very temporary way, but it actually adds to our pain. The next morning, we feel terrible. And the difficulties we sought to escape have if anything only becomes worse. What’s more, we lose our capacity to take in and enjoy the many wonderful aspects of being alive as well.

Mindfulness is the opposite. Mindfulness can teach the recovering person to walk in the direction of healing and awareness and leave behind the destruction and forgetfulness of drug addiction.

There are many practices, which help us come back to the present moment, and learn to enjoy life again. These practices include meditation, journaling, working with relationships, dream work, and others.

Mindful Recovery: A Spiritual Path to Healing from Addiction guides you step by step in living more mindfully and overcoming addiction. It combines eastern spiritual practice with psychological knowledge to help you leave addiction behind and find a more enjoyable, deep, spiritual way of living.

Thomas Bien, PH.D., Mindful Recovery: A Spiritual Path to Healing From Addiction, September 2003. Retrieved 05 August 2008 from http://www.mindfulpsychology.com/recovery.htm

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