Ashtanga and Addiction

Am I addicted to my Yoga Practise, and is this a problem?

We are all addicts. It’s the nature of life; we want the pleasurable, furthermore, want to assure we keep on getting it. The question is, to what do we allocate this quality? It’s perfectly normal to feel strong biases on how we behave, It’s just a question of how we work with these that leads to more or less constructive lifestyle choices. For, everyone suffers from addiction in as much as we feel we need things that we do not definitely possess, that are not inherent to our being; in order for life to continue in the way we want. Indeed, this is also correct to some extent. If we lack the fundamentals of life; food, shelter and human-care, we can absolutely be sure we will suffer. Yet, although we would fight tooth-and-claw to retain these things, we don’t consider basic things like these, nor love and Friendships, as addictions. So, what is it exactly that starts to turn the fulfilment of our needs into something problematic?

Firstly, it is well to remember that whatever we have allotted as the object of our desire, it should not be a value-judgement on our very Being. It’s purely down to social-conventions as to what addictions are encouraged, even respected, and which ones chastised and denigrated. It all depends on how the behaviour our interests manifest benefits or detracts from society in general. Therefore, whatever our inclinations, it’s purely a matter of practicalities as to how they are viewed and received. That said, how we are treated and move within society, as social beings, cannot be underplayed in its affect on us, it makes all the difference to our lives. So, learning how to desire in accordance with the dictates in which we live is a very useful thing. For, we are all a mass of tangled inspirations, jostling internal forces. It all comes down to understanding which ones to follow and which to ignore.

This is the basic premiss behind the rudiments of Philosophy as a practical Science conceptualised by the Ancient Greeks. For our life to run smoothly, it’s imperative we consider trying to relate creatively towards the external world from our internal states. To this ends, it’s helpful to reflect that the boundaries aren’t clearly set as to how our desires materialise. It is a potentially fully within our remit to tinker with our fundamental urges, so as they play out more to our liking. Yet, it’s not easy either; past-history, even genetics have set up some quite definitive predilections on our behaviours. The first step towards creating greater objectivity towards these biases, so we can actually take some control of deciding what is working for us and what isn’t is cultivating awareness.

Most evidently, there’s a lot of talk around this word these days, but it is not always clear how this might play out, rather than simply trying not to rush so much, or be less selfish. Ultimately, we are all in the same predicament, desiring something we do not have, striving to bring that situation or object into closer proximity. We are all selfish in as much as self-interest governs are behaviour. Which is also as it should be, for what better notion could we possibly follow? Nevertheless, this does seem to play out better for some than others. The reason may be sheer luck; in desiring the right things at the right time, or, equally as possible, it is the use of thought to skilfully relate with our sovereign guide of emotion; this basic thrust at the heart of our Being.

Considering carefully the varied and multifaceted impulses that come upon us is a cause for surprise. For, they are, indeed, more wide-ranging in their interests and concerns than we might at first intuit. Moreover, they do not run accordingly in the same direction, but are, instead, often contradictory and discordant. Hence, it’s a question of how we then sort through and make sense in them. We all have to select a thread, a line through them, attracting us so as to decide on a relevant and appropriate seeming project to follow in life. Things are popularly considered as ‘addictions’ when this thread is too singular, the project deeply lacking in shortsightedness. In other words one or two inclinations have been selected and narrowed-in upon to an extreme degree, ignoring opposing forces on us, or any others, whatsoever.

Again, this basic kind of creation with regards to life isn’t wrong, it simply doesn’t seem to work very well. The more simple the project, the less it provides any kind of inspiration for living. The most obvious example of the most superficial consideration of our inner-impulses or emotions when coming up with our plan is the resort to drugs and alcohol. There is no creativity or momentum with this life, solely the exclusive desire to escape our current state for another. Although, indeed, this is the primary driving-force behind all of us, a more successful-seeming life is one that takes in our need for complexity and the need for continuity, or lack of conclusion.

For conclusions only spell death to us. At which point our vision has to be wholly recreated, which, being usually way too much of a task, usually means that to preclude the termination, our boundary is simply pushed to a higher level of intensity with what we are already doing. For we demand a sense of continuation with our Being, and this is always found within the idea of progression. This plays out In reality then, when we have a definite and finite conclusion, as seeing continuation and progress then is in simply ‘upping the degree. This is usually a very bad thing; as is a drug addicts finally overdosing, or even, nowadays, the increasing craving for celebrity at all times and costs.

In stark contrast, applying more consideration around impulses is to flesh them out, and hence to develop a complexity with them accordingly. Not only does this mean we don’t lurch from end to end, ever more violently, we will also be more likely to feel a greater sense of relaxation with our project as it’s aims, being more of a general nature and more wide ranging, are more likely to be hit. The whole game has been spread out so generally, that there is increasingly less anxiety as to accomplishment, as our sources therein are many. Look, for example, on the way we feel about friendships (granted that we have a number) to the way we tend to hold on to a romantic-partner when decided. In a sense, it’s supply and demand.

Therefore, the widely lauded ‘balanced’ person, is, in fact, no less of an addict than any of us; in a way, maybe they are actually more so, having spread their desires in a more diverse and far-reaching manner. This is to use our most basic self-compulsion, desire, with much higher skill-ratio, in the capacity for circumspection and imagination in envisaging the most satisfactory project we are able to conceive of. Subsequently, our perceived success rates are higher, if only that the project has become so abstract and multidimensional. Further to this, we then have less if an urgency in which we pursue whatever we deem our success to lie within, as we have already accrued some stock within ourselves. The best case scenario is that our project continues to run ad-Infinitum, conveying a perpetual sense of direction and accompanying meaning.

The matter then remains as to how to generate more skill in working with to engender a complexity of vision from the grassroots of our nebulous feeling-states. As mentioned, the fundamental requirement is simply to have more awareness regarding the nature and depth of the barrage of impulses constantly rained-down upon our Being. The ability to turn-over more carefully these chaotic ‘pulls’ on our volition, so as to refocus them in the external reality in the most appropriate way possible, rests on having a sense of space and time with it. We need to be able to create some distance between us and these desires so to be able to decide between them more thoughtfully, with as much objectivity as we can.

This lead on, crucially, to the ability for a ‘delayed-gratification’ on our desires. If the urge and necessity isn’t so immediately felt to demand a satiation in the external realm, we can allow ourselves time to generate more elaborate and advanced schemes with our lives. If this is not the case, however, a basic response is attempted, which, given its limited scope, and hence brevity of conclusion, granted that it even is; will only frustrate us, as the need for repetition will occur almost instantaneously. Another specific characteristic of our endeavour is that, depending on its scope, it will necessitate more or less relation with others. Whether we like it or not, this is finally instrumental to us as social-animals.

Maybe, we need this interaction to dissipate the burden of our sense of Being and the loneliness it entails. For in this isolation,we seem to intuit, an inherent inadequacy to our experience that leads us to more compulsive behaviours – ones orientated towards immediate feedback. On the other hand, when our locus of intent becomes so mixed with that others, the onus and responsibility for its conclusion will similarly be shared, so the weight is accordingly felt as less pressing
In its need for resolution. More people being involved also guarantees we never run aground with our objectives. Their
influence means our plans are constantly redrawn and redefined.

It, the question still hasn’t been answered as to what factors facilitate our awareness, our ability to consider our desires more thoughtfully, spread in clearer detail against the backdrop of adequate space and time. This, I will refer to as either the ‘gradient of lack’, or, the ‘gradient of surfeit’. This compels the strength and urgency of seeking conclusions to our impulses, as regards the difference between what we feel we are, and have, and that which we feel we aren’t or don’t. The stronger this gradient is, in other words, the larger the perceived discrepancy between what we feel we are and what we are not, the less time we will have to consider more wide-ranging schemes around our impulses. That is, firstly, even to recognise that their more complicated nature begs a similar response.

Once again, to degrees, we all suffer against the injunctions of both our feelings around Lack and those of Surfeit. Although, it is the absence of something more obviously felt, we clearly also strongly feel overwhelmed in our Being also as a common experience, hence the need to negate our consciousness through drugs and alcohol. Even
Though these gradients do have a historical precedent, there are methods we can apply to gradually change their course and soften their trajectory. Indeed, this we need consistently do, regardless of our current degree with them. If not, it appears they exhibit an ever-truncating sense of looping in on themselves.

Our inevitable disappointments in our projects leads to a correlate lack of self-belief, which in turn slowly limits our scope of imaginations in our perceived lack of ability to reach so far with our plans, and thus our very life itself closes-in. To understand this, one only has to look at the attitude to life or most older people, with their perceived lack of options and subsequent narrowing down on basic, mundane pleasures. Life is all to often a slow decline into utter narcissistic solipsism. A turning against our being most unkindly in a harsh and presumptive attitude towards what it throws up. Here, the sense of inquiry and accompanying wonder at life is all but gone.

In the face of this terrifying vision, not to worry if you feel you have become ‘addicted’ to your Yoga Practice. Of course you have; it’s unavoidable. For, if something has led to repeated gratification on some level in the past, we will instinctively try to repeat it – which is only rational and sensible after all as a method of advancing. Still, if the original impetus and desire with it isn’t, as quickly as we can, considered in more depth, we are again in trouble of running-aground into the murky waters of what we conventionally term as ‘addiction’. Soon, Practise will be characterised by the same ‘tightness’ and neuroticisms involved in all others. Small gains through achieving our ends, will be overshadowed by worry and fear.

This is to allow our original attraction to Practise, a physical enjoyment and identification, to remain unreflected upon. This really should not, or need not happen in theory, as The Method of Yoga is about engendering the requisite space and time bracket around ourselves in order that a sharper more aware consciousness is produced de-facto of simply following the rules here. If we are unable to grasp and use the tool offered, finally the whole project will grind to a halt as the conclusion is reached and then attempted to be reached again in ascending intensity. In this way, the very endeavour, or desire, consumes itself in the end.

However, with regards to Yoga, the opportunity for insight and it’s resultant benefits is very great due to the unusual state of mind it ought to produce. Whereas, normally, we are either overly focused on a task, in other words, distracted in concentration, or, more conventionally distracted in distracted ‘absent ness’, with this task we are guided towards a third choice; un- legislated concentration. In other words, simply the space of awareness itself, provided by the lucidity of an unaccounted-for focus in following a method. Another way to say it, is that within this action, we are neither zoned-out, nor pre-occupied. Hence we have time and space with the mind to, more ease-fully, toss-up and consider the variegated-material of emotion from many different angles.

This still presupposes our ability to allow the very Method a greater space for consideration in the first place. For, we could, of course, as does so often happen, charge ahead, unthinking, with a literal and linear conception of Asana-Practise, which, in its limited conception, sooner or later is destined for the pain of addiction and inevitable disaster. But, granted that we are not already imbued with a gradient of Being not preclusively steep, the method will be applied to the extent possible, and then, increasing, the space and movement we have around our desire; that inherent feeling of ‘lack’ or ‘surfeit’ will increase in order we can look at what we are doing more widely and envisage a wider scenario of concern with it.

Of course, this is all to easy to say, not so easy to do. After all, our primary bias is still towards the initiation of immediate physical responses to inner-stimulus due the the very fact that our body is composed of outward-facing sense-organs. An attitude of containment, or holding-back, it could be said, doesn’t appear to be our nature. Then again, blindly following it’s dictates, doesn’t seem to serve our best interests either. We must acknowledge the basic material; this sense of immediacy that somatic, feeling-experience provokes, but then be able to handle and work with it, indeed, elaborate and build upon it, so as our Being continues to have a fluidity and dynamism to itself.

The other option, having (actually correctly) intuited the void as the central-axis to Being, rather curiously, we attempt to return to the very thing we wish to escape from, by nullifying ourselves in seeking immediate termination of the very thing that keeps us alive and out of the void – our desire. Thus, in fact, we should keep making as intricate castles in the sky as we can in order to avoid for as long as possible the inevitable culmination of our existence once desire has worn itself out.

To turn one last time to the Practise itself, it finally does strike at the very root of desire in its resultant awareness. This is even beyond the two rudimentary poles of Lack and Surfeit. Finally, at the very heart of Practise can be seen the need for desire in and of itself, a need for things to be other than they are, in order to escape the emptiness of possibility that is base-level existence. So, a great deal of our gradient towards escape may be directly in relation to how unresolved we are towards this rather formidable reality. Emptiness, is indeed, not that easy to get a hold of by definition! Yet, if we do not start to get comfortable with it, rest in it a little, this hollowness tends to lurk ever more menacingly behind the scenes.

Most importantly then Yoga-method allows us a framework in which to get comfortable with awareness and the uncomfortable truth it conceals that stops us wanting to go there. For, however useful and creative our external projects are, they are still an escape, a fictionalisation which is still futile and bound to be perpetually frustrated. Perhaps, this Method may lead on to a radically new assessment of desire as an insignificant part of our being. Although, what else we could be outside of this, I cannot currently imagine. So, until that time, we are, indeed, addicted to our Yoga Practise, but it is a most constructive one, if we can use it at its highest possible level of conception.

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