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The Pleasure Pain Treadmill

Basic ideas:

  • Seeing that good and bad, or pleasure and pain are in all things.
  • We can use pain to promote change.
  • Ultimately, we can get off the treadmill of pain and pleasure.

Our desire to avoid pain and experience pleasure tends to push us around if we are not paying attention. When we use introspection to learn about the mind we see that we all try to avoid pain and move toward pleasure in everything we do. This is a huge thing to understand fully.

Pain tells us something is wrong, but we tend to overreact and begin to avoid all pain and discomfort. This creates a treadmill of pain and pleasure. Where we are constantly trying to manage our states of mind by moving away from pain and toward pleasure.

We can deal with this three ways:

  • Do nothing.
    • How does this hurt us? Well, if we’re unconscious of it we end up not being very durable. We end up running from any and all pain we see. We might think we deserve no pain, and so whenever it comes up, we feel like we’re cursed or unlucky.
  • Secondly we can learn to use pain effectively.
    • Think of someone who’s life situation is fine, versus someone who is in pain. The person in pain is motivated to change. The person who is fine, may want to change, but will often not go through the bother or work to change because there is really no motivation to do so. This is the first way to use pain effectively. Become aware of it.
    • We can also use pain for gain. This is a way to develop in a worldly sense. It can help us do things like lose weight, or perform better at sports, and evolve spiritually or behaviorally. We can learn to associate pain to things we’d like to change, rather than where they happen to fall. Examples of this might be associating pain with being out of shape, or associating pain to not meditating.
  • Lastly, we can get off the treadmill of pain and pleasure.
    • Pain is inherent in all things. The duality of being shows us that there is both good and bad in all things. Good and bad are facets or opinions of things and situations. So it is unwise to try to always get the “good.” It just won’t work. Seeing this truth is a huge teaching.
    • Learning to accept pain as a part of the experience is a great teaching of meditation. Pain/pleasure treadmill response is the normal human response to being. What would an exceptional response look like? How can we achieve that state? Meditation is one way.
    • We place ourselves in an accepting mode, and train that response to stimuli. Boredom and frustration, and even physical pain can come up during meditation. It is training to learn about the nature of our relationship to pain and pleasure, and ultimately have the ability to get off that treadmill.
    • We learn to stay through different painful events and not judge them. That lack of judging gives us a different, and better, experience of both pain and pleasure. Then we are off the treadmill.

Learning about this allows us to wake up to the understanding that this is how we’re built. We also learn that we can use pain to grow. And lastly, we learn that not fearing pain or being attached to pleasure allows us a deep freedom. Those experiences are a part of the oneness of being. We can learn to relate to them differently.

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Ending Addiction For Good

We’re going to discuss what addiction is, and then talk about how we can come to terms with it and what can we do to stop it.  To do this, I’ll talk about addiction, in broad terms.  Then we’ll do a quick exercise that might help you find what your addictions are.  This could be considered an addiction “workshop”, albeit a very short one.  Then we’re going to discuss the different quality of being that allows for better choices.  That state of mind, one of presence, can help us end addiction.

What is addiction?  Addiction lives on the pleasure pain level of being.  So there will be lots of references to good and bad in this podcast.  What are the different addictions?  Drugs and drinking and smoking, of course, but also watching TV, shopping, eating sugary foods, and working out. Some of these are obviously better for you than others.  Some are manageable, and some aren’t.  Ultimately, addiction can end up really ruining a person, but it’s ugliness doesn’t have to wait for that extreme.  All forms of addiction stem from a choice in attention.

I talk about the unhappiness that becomes so big that we end up choosing to drink or drug because we can’t face the pain.  The problem with this is that the problems grow.  We’re Pavlovian, and want to move toward pleasure.  So it is a slippery slope to not become addicted on some level.  It’s important to watch how we manage our lives.

What happens when we’re addicted?  While responsibilities are piling up, they become completely unmanageable.  We need the courage to face that, and it’s very hard to do.  We usually aren’t motivated enough unless there is enough pain.

How do we stop addiction?  What is the different quality of being that allows for change?  I mention the conscious use of pain, and also the use of being awake.  Those two things will allow us to quit our addictions.

Pain is the reason we change or stop.  It may seem odd that pain may also be the reason we started.  That makes sense when we realize that in the beginning, the thing that makes us feel good hadn’t become painful yet.  So how painful is your addiction?  Can we make our pain unacceptable before it truly becomes unbearable?  That would be like getting free from addiction early.

So here’s how to stop.  You must go into the feeling of the addiction.  When you are faced with that moment of choice, which you’ve just become aware of, how do you make a different choice?  You feel into the feeling of conflict.  You breathe into it.  In that moment you give yourself enough space to make a different decision.  If you choose poorly, just gather data and don’t beat yourself up.  Becoming aware allows us to see the moments.  Those moments, when we see them, we have the power to get free.   We can’t face all our problems at once, we need to face them one at a time.  So this is a constant vigil.  This conflict and the needed attention to it will soften over time.

In conclusion, we need to realize the pain addiction is causing us, and that needs to become greater than the pleasure it gives us.