‘Burn Yourself Out’

     While many of the Big Book’s suggestions on how we must behave are rooted in the principles of Christianity, the suggestions for achieving mental freedom are right out of Zen Buddhism and its precepts of emptiness, non-attachment and non-resistance. Indeed, we can see that our dualistic thinking and the way that we perceive things and relate to things is almost entirely responsible for whether we have problems that extend beyond our basic needs. In other words, we own and control our minds. If our minds are cluttered, chaotic or suffering, it’s because of us and our failure to tend to them, not anything outside of us.

      When dealing with addiction, sure we must be tough and have rules and behave morally/spiritually. But at the same time, we let go, forget ourselves, detach, embrace and accept things as they are. This is the magic of zen. We have rules but we don’t get caught up in them. We depend on them but we are not dependent on them. Just like people, places and things. We depend on them but we are not dependent on them. So we are both serious and not so serious, both firm and soft, rigid and not rigid, focused and unfocused. We try and we don’t try.

     And sure we must think and use our minds, but we must also empty them out, like, after we use them. It’s the same as exerting self will to do God’s will; yes we act, but we let go at the same time.

     I am constantly changing what I do and how I do it. Maintaining balance and health 5 years ago looks completely different than it did 9 years ago or even 2 years ago. We must adapt and remain open, maleable, educable. I can learn one thing one day, and unlearn it the next. Of course there is right and wrong, but it’s one thing to just honor it and live it as opposed to possessing it as a concept separate from ourselves that we use to judge and preach and get all bent out of shape. The point is not to attach ourselves narcissistically to anything external.

     It is no secret that I have opinions, but I am also open to being wrong, even though I’m pretty sure I’m right when it comes to addiction 😉 Regardless, it is absolutely essential for addicts to be willing to be wrong. Sometimes I may sound annoyed about one thing or another, but the truth is I’m just talking about it and thinking about it and I’m often not mad at all. Just because I may disagree with something or someone, that’s okay. Something comes in, I have a thought about it or perhaps a full blown analysis, and then it goes and its gone. Over. Done. Move on. This is key. Freedom involves not holding on to anything. So I try to just do what’s in front of me, do it completely and wholeheartedly, and then let go of it completely and wholeheartedly. Make sense?

     So to paraphrase from the late and brilliant author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (which is recommended reading around here), Shunryu Suzuki, burn yourself out completely and then let go. You don’t want to leave any “traces” of self behind. If we are thinking and our minds are elsewhere when we do something, we are not present in what we’re doing, and that is selfish. Admittedly, I do this all the time, but that doesn’t mean it’s not wrong, because it is. I shouldn’t be talking to someone or doing anything if I’m not completely there with them or totally wholehearted in what I’m doing. We addicts must be present and we must go with joy. It is all about removal of self. The less self, the better we are and vice versa.  

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