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Advanced Yoga Practices
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Note: For the complete lessons, with additions, see the AYP Easy Lessons for Ecstatic Living Books.

Lesson 308 Addictions and Flights of Fancy

From: Yogani
Date: Feb 21, 2009

New Members: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the web archive, as previous lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why This Discussion?"



All that we accomplish in life is based on the formation of habits. We are creatures of habit, and this can be used to great advantage. On the other side of the coin, we can fall into habits that are not in our best interest. So much of what we do to improve our lot in life is directly related to how we manage our habits.

If we have begun a spiritual practice like deep meditation, our success with the practice will not depend on how pleasant an experience we might have today, tomorrow or the next day. It will depend on our ability to sustain our daily practice over months and years, through all the ups and downs we will be sure to experience along the way. It will be our habit that will carry us through. We might even say we are "addicted" to our habit of spiritual practice.

What is addiction? In the simplest definition, addiction is a habit that is so deep we are unable or unwilling to change. There are addictions that can be beneficial, such as an addiction to divine unfoldment, without limiting its scope in any way. It can also be seen as an unwavering dedication to a cause an obsession. Some might not see this as good. Yet, an addiction to divine unfoldment will eventually lead to its own transcendence. It is an addiction to surrender, an addiction to letting go one of the essential secrets of developing devotion (bhakti) in our spiritual life. It is active surrender.

On the other hand, there are addictions that will retard our spiritual progress and can hold us back from progress in many areas of life. These are addictions that sustain and add to the obstructions to inner silence within us. These may be considered to be chemical or psychological. The most destructive addictions are a combination of both. A destructive addiction is one that may give us an artificial sense of wellbeing, while holding us back from real progress at the same time.

In terms of the physical things we may ingest, such addictions can take many forms:

--A
lcohol

--Tobacco

--Drugs

--Caffeine

--Refined Sugar

--Medicine and food supplements

--Chronic overeating of any or all foods

--Chronic undereating of all foods (anorexia)

Any of the items mentioned, approached in moderation, may not be harmful. In fact, the road to health and happiness is paved with moderation in all things.

On the other hand, any food or substance that is consumed compulsively to excess (even water) can be regarded as a negative addiction. On the other side of it, an obsession with consuming less can be a negative addiction also. Addictions can be behavioral, not involving what we put in our body, but rather, how we might relate to our surroundings in compulsive ways. Unproductive or harmful addictions may not be recognized as they perpetuate themselves through subconsciously ingrained obsessive habits. Much of our spiritual progress, brought on by practices such as deep meditation and spinal breathing pranayama, is related to the unwinding of the obsessive conduct that retards our natural growth.

How do we overcome negative additions? The same way we overcome any habits, eating or other, that hold us back from health and happiness. It is always going to be an inner journey leading to surrender to that which is evolutionary and positive within us. Yoga practices are designed for this. They clean the mud off the windshield of our nervous system, so all will become gradually much more clear, and we can navigate through life with more clarity and purpose.

In the case of strong negative addictions, yoga practices may not be enough. In that case, we have the option to resort to more direct means to overcome compulsive negative habits. The twelve-step program, originally developed by Alcoholics Anonymous, is the most effective known means for dealing with a strong negative addiction. It has been expanded to cover every kind of compulsive and addictive behavior. The twelve-step program is a kind of yoga. It involves admitting that we cannot change by ourselves, and surrendering to a higher power. As soon as we are able to do this in any avenue of our life, great power surges up to aid us in our time of trouble. The twelve-step program is a specialized way of applying the principles of desire and surrender to overcome negative addiction, leading to a happier healthier life.

Flights of Fancy are another form of compulsive behavior that can hold us back. There is the idea out there that if a little of something is good for us, then a lot of it will be even better. Some take it to the point that if we do nothing but that one thing, then this will surely deliver us from all that ails us, and bring us (and the entire world!) enlightenment as well. Unfortunately, it doesnt work that way. This sort of obsessive conduct can also be called the magic bullet syndrome.

To make steady progress in life, especially in the spiritual arena, it takes a broad-based application of methods supporting a gradual move toward all around balanced and healthful living. The magic bullet approach to designing a better diet, spiritual practice routine and lifestyle is a manifestation of the same compulsive behavior we find behind negative addictions. It is compounded by the rational mind assuming that the more of this one thing we do, the better off we will be. In a sense, the tendency to pursue flights of fancy is more problematic than a recognized negative addiction. A flight of fancy can go on for a long time. When it finally does crash, many reasons for its failure can be conjured up and assigned elsewhere, and the person involved in it may then move on to the next magic bullet flight of fancy. It is similar to a negative addiction. Some of us go through all of life like this, seeking the holy grail, not knowing that the holy grail is in us all along, found in a steady moderate approach encompassing an integration of effective spiritual methods and the sound lifestyle choices that will be the natural result.

Getting some sunshine on a regular basis can be healthful. Is lying in the sun for hours at a time healthful? No it isnt.

Taking a few vitamin supplements each day can enhance our nutrition. Will taking ten or twenty supplements each day enhance our nutrition? Maybe, and quite possibly bring undesirable side effects as well, including some that may compromise our health.

Likewise, the judicious use of prescription and non-prescription drugs can reduce discomfort and extend life. But do we need a drug for every hiccup we may experience? The aggressive marketing programs of the drug companies tell us we do (for their own reasons), but we know better in our inner silence.

Obviously, it is good to consult professionals when considering utilizing supplements and drug prescriptions, especially if we suspect a serious health issue. However, if it reaches the point where we are shoveling pills in our mouth to compensate for an unhealthy lifestyle, or we are taking drugs to treat side effects from other drugs, then something is seriously wrong. It is the flight of fancy out of control. It can happen in the most professional environments. Flights of fancy are not limited to individuals. They can run rampant in our institutions as well.

We can see that even in the most health-oriented endeavors, excess can creep in, leading to diminishing returns. This can be as great an obstacle to our health and spiritual progress as any other kind of unhealthful living.

All of this is to say that the surest path is the one of moderation in all things. This goes for our spiritual practices too the steady cultivation of abiding inner silence and ecstatic conductivity.

If we are inclined to become addicted, then let it be for our divine unfoldment. This is the kind of addiction that is able to transcend itself to the infinite!

The guru is in you.

Note: For detailed instructions on deep meditation, see the AYP Deep Meditation book.
For detailed discussion on addiction, see the Diet, Shatkarmas and Amaroli book.

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