Category: Blog Posts

Finding Peace — Addiction Survivors Share Their Stories

My sister died three years ago from medical complications related to alcoholism. Watching her slowly kill herself was one of the most awful experiences I have ever endured.

Our family tried everything we could to help her: treatment, counseling, ultimatums. She was completely overtaken by her disease. The worst part was that the woman I knew and loved had vanished. My sister was a completely different person when she died.

There is definitely a component of shame associated with alcoholism, which is ironic considering how prevalent alcohol is in our culture. And regardless of any shame I felt about her situation, the shame she felt was infinitely worse. For her it was a vicious cycle of self-loathing and drinking.

When I think about her now, there is still a tinge of anger. But that has more to do with me missing her terribly and hating that she is missing out on my daughter’s life, on my nephew’s life.

If she could be with us today, I would tell her that I’m not ashamed of her, and I would reinforce that as much as possible. It’s hard to know if telling her that more would have helped.

(Photo Courtesy of Pixabay)

As part of my healing process, I have spent more time with people in recovery. I honestly believe that a better understanding of these human beings who are suffering helps me fully comprehend that it’s not a choice, it’s a disease.

Some of the people I have been spending time with offered to share more about their experiences. Together, our goal is to boost the conversation about addiction, and spread awareness of loving the addict and hating the disease.

Wesley’s story really touched me. This gentleman was living on the streets of New York for a year because of his heroin addiction. He told me that he didn’t really feel the spark to get clean until a chance encounter with recovery survivors. Those people were his inspiration to seek treatment.

“It encouraged me to go forward,” Wesley said. “It gave me an opportunity to see that the work that needed to be done was necessary. They gave me a lot of love. I hadn’t experienced that in such a long time. And at that time in my life, I was in need of some love and some real care.”

Now clean and sober, Wesley graduated from treatment armed with a new set of tools to give himself a better life. He said through behavior therapy he was able to gain a whole new perspective on the world.

“I thought I could never be honest in my life and let someone know what is truly going on with me. [Rehab] prepared me, and they gave me my self-esteem back. They loved me more than I hated myself, and helped me to see that there is value, meaning, and purpose in my life. And today, I have what it takes. I have a new life, and I have the tools to proceed with that new life,” he told me.

Wesley’s story, though heartbreaking, was similar to so many others I’ve heard. His rock bottom was just different.

Some of the people I’ve talked to exude a buoyancy that’s almost hard to believe, but being around them you can actually feel it. I definitely felt it with Kevin. It’s so obvious that this guy has embraced sobriety and is loving life.

“Going through treatment made me look at my life and notice I don’t have to do drugs at all. I just want to be sober for the rest of my life. The first two or three days that I [was in rehab], I was down about what I had done. I had stolen from so many people, from my family, just to get my drug. As [one of my peers said], every day of being sober is a mystery for the next day. You don’t know what’s going to happen. And I’m looking forward to that. I’m looking for a surprise every single day,” Kevin remarked.

Kevin is actually one of many who said spirituality played a strong role in guiding him through addiction treatment. He did point out that where he went, the programs are not spiritual in nature unless that is what the patient seeks. It’s comforting to know that there is not a hard and fast line being pushed in rehab.

At some point these stories become almost too hard to hear, but I want to keep hearing them. I know it’s good for addiction survivors to talk about their struggles, and it’s good for those hurt by addiction to hear about the struggles.

Jeremy’s story hit close to home for me. He told me that his divorce compounded his growing alcohol addiction. He said he started having blackouts, and that he began contemplating suicide.

The idea of taking his life scared him enough to get help. And talking to him, you would never know that he had been a crumpled shell of a person barely wanting to hang on to life.

“If you’re lost and you can’t function on a daily basis without your drug of choice and you’re miserable, that’s no way to live. I wake up every day now with a smile and just love life for what it is. Being sober and having that clear mind is such an amazing feeling. So you just have to honestly give it a chance and fight through it. In the end, it’s so worth it,” Jeremy stated.

Out of all the people I talked to, Megan’s story was the most painful to hear and left me in tears. She told me she grew up with alcoholic parents who were checked out, and she was always taking care of her brother. Megan also told me that she was sexually and physically abused. All of this, she said, paved the way for later choices she made.

“After my later years of high school, I had a son pass away. That was really hard for me. I just grew so fast. And that’s when I pretty much stopped going to school for the most part. I stopped playing basketball, and I would get to the point where I wouldn’t get out of bed unless I shot up.

“And one day I woke up and I looked next to me and there was a spoon, and there were used needles. I had lost my house, I was living with somebody else, and the way I paid my rent was with drugs,” Megan recalled.

So alcoholic parents, physical and sexual abuse, and the loss of a child? How do you bear that kind of weight without dying a little inside? Her choice to escape reality isn’t surprising.

Megan, who now celebrates one year of sobriety, said it took repeated efforts from an intake counselor before she finally took the step to get help. I asked her how she feels now, and she had a pretty bright attitude.

“There are things that [treatment] has helped me do such as becoming self-confident, love myself, and realize what I did wrong. But they did it in a way to let me know that that’s not me anymore. That wasn’t me when I was doing it, it was the drugs. They also helped me realize that there is a way to fix it,” Megan said.

Each person I have talked to has opened my eyes a little wider. I am humbled and grateful for their honesty. My sincerest hope for them is that they can continue to find peace. I will be forever in their debt for helping me in my journey toward healing.

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Buddhist Views on Supernatural Powers

miracles-room-2There is a nice story that illustrates the attitude of Gautama Buddha toward the tendency of some people to strive for miraculous powers in their spiritual practice.

One day the Buddha came across an ascetic who was sitting by a river bank. This ascetic was known for his spiritual practice of austerity for good 25 years. The Buddha asked the ascetic, given all his hard work and labor, what he had received as a reward. The man replied with pride that, he was able to cross the river by walking on the water. The Buddha pointed in the direction of the ferry, indicating that the gain of the man was insignificant. He could, after all, cross the river for just one penny by using a ferry!

This story probably has different layers of meanings. One meaning could certainly be the message that we have to live our lives happily, performing our everyday duties, rather than chasing miracles and supernatural powers.

After all, why are we here on this planet, incarnated on this physical plane? We must have gotten these material bodies for a reason. We have them to follow our worldly duties, occupations, and obligations, and yet strive for Divine accomplishments and achieve something beautiful and worthy.

Of course, Buddha must have known very well that meditation, concentration, and training the mind within a well developed spiritual practice leads to attaining supernatural powers.

Buddha must have also known that these mystical powers develop by themselves even when the student is not seeking them, provided that he or she is well advanced on the spiritual path. But He never encouraged His students to chase nor publicly show such powers.

To Him, paying attention to miracles and powers was nothing else but a distraction for the disciples striving to realize the truth. The students themselves have to work for their liberation through purification of the lower self and not be tempted to fall into the trap of developing powers.

To Him, it didn’t really matter the kind of power: walking on water, thought reading, foretelling the future – they were all similar.

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But what about hard core materialists and non-believers ? Buddha believed that even for the people with little faith, seeing miracles being performed was also not very useful. To Him the faith should be embraced because of the realization of the truth, not because of fascination or fear.

Therefore, Buddha was trying to draw people to listen to the Dharma (the teaching and religion of the Buddha) appealing to their reasoning powers.

Buddha was telling his disciples that gaining incredible powers was possible even without developing spiritually. He knew that one automatically receives powers if spiritually developed, which is a much better option. Having powers without being spiritually advanced is dangerous, as it usually leads to strengthening the ego, achieving vain glory or fruitless material gains.

Buddha explicitly forbade His students to demonstrate the authority of His teaching by using powers. To Him, miracles were simply a manifestation of the superiority of the mind over matter. Anyone with proper mental training could carry them out.

For Buddha, the highest power one could develop was the understanding the truth and realization of one’s true nature.

Here are some interesting resources about developing supernatural and mystical powers within the Buddhist thought and religion.

Relevant Links with Respect to Buddhism and Supernatural Powers

Did Buddha Perform Miracles?

Gautama Buddha was believed to possess powers. However, he disliked, rejected and despised them. He attained his abilities during His many years of deep meditation. He was well aware that attaining miraculous powers should never be the motivation for being on the path of self realization.

Check our more here.

Six supernatural powers of the Buddha

There are six supernatural powers of the Buddha. The explanation and instructions how to acquire them are given by Buddha Himself.

They are as follows:

  1.  Iddhividha – the power of transformation
  2. Dibbasota – celestial hearing
  3. Cetopariya – the power of discernment of the mind of others
  4. Pubbenivasa – power of knowing previous existences
  5. Dibba-cakkhu – celestial vision
  6. Asavakkhaya – Supra-mundane knowledge or power relating to destruction of asavas (mental defilements of sensual pleasures, craving for existence, and ignorance) and the recognition of the four noble truths.

You can check out the more detailed explanation of all of them here:

Mogallana’s Supernatural Powers

Mogallana was Buddha’s disciple. He had the divine power to hear sounds, no matter how near or far. The other divine power of his was to see things through obstructions. He was also able to travel to any place in an instant.

You can check the detailed explanation of Mogallana powers here:

Does Buddhism Believe in Supernatural?

Check out the most complete answer here, even though perhaps it will not be the most satisfactory one.

buddhist-temple

Psychic Abilities in Buddhism

Buddhists know deeper levels of concentration and jhana (Jhana is a state of meditation characterized by profound stillness and concentration) can lead to a wide spectrum of psychic powers.

These psychic abilities include knowing the past or future, reading minds at distance, seeing or hearing at distance, manipulating the basic elemental forces of air, earth, water and fire, and so on.

Buddhists texts that describe these powers are for example “The Path of Purification” or “Visuddhimagga” by Bhadantácariya Buddhaghosa.

The other teaching is, for example, the “Yogas of Naropa“.

It is a tantric tradition within the Tibetan Buddhism. Arranged by the Indian masters Tilopa and Naropa, this yogic system was carried to Tibet one generation later. The six yoga methods described in this teaching are the yoga of inner heat, clear light, forceful projection, illusory body, consciousness transference, and bardo yoga.

Psychic and Supernatural Powers in Contemporary Buddhist Practices

We know of some contemporary Buddhist practices where psychic powers are developed and even documented.

For example, the practice of tummo has been shown to increase core body temperature at will. G-tummo meditators are able to dry wet sheets surrounding their naked bodies during a frosty Himalayan ceremonies. The result have been published in the following paper:

Neurocognitive and Somatic Components of Temperature Increases during g-Tummo Meditation: Legend and Reality

Another phenomenon is related to the so-called rainbow body. Dzogchen practitioners are believed to be able to dissolve their bodies at the moment of their death. During the process, their body emanates rainbow light, and finally only the hair and nails are left behind.

Have you ever experienced any psychic phenomena in your meditation practice? What is your attitude toward attaining supernatural powers?

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7 Best Ways to Clear Your Mind From Negative Thoughts

stop-negativityMore often than not, Negative Thinking is a matter of habit. If you let thoughts linger in your mind, they will stay there unless, of course, you take action and get rid of them.

You might be tempted to use brute force on those thoughts. Don’t.

It doesn’t work that way. Pushing them out or using force often backfires on you.

You reinforce what you pay attention to. When you resist negative thoughts, you actually reinforce them. Then they become stronger. It’s a vicious circle.

The more you try to avoid them, the more you think about them.

Obviously, you should do something different. Devise a different strategy.

Below I will suggest several strategies how to get rid of your negative thoughts.

Change your posture

There’s an intimate link between your body and your mind.

Monitor your body language for a moment. Chances are, if you are in a state of negative thinking, your body will reflect that.

What’s your body language telling you? Are you slumped, as opposed to standing tall? Do you have a closed posture?

What is your facial expression?

If the answer to these questions is yes, you will be prone to negative thinking, even if you are not at the moment.

The solution here is to change your bad body language. Let your body express your confidence. Stand up straight. Smile more often.

Once you change your body posture, you will notice a change in your mental state. You will feel much better. The negative thinking will be less dominant or it may disappear entirely.

Science confirms that. In an article published in the Biofeedback journal, Professor Erik Peper found that just by choosing to alter your body posture to an upright position, you can improve energy levels and mood in general.

stop-negative-thinking

So, just a simple change of posture might do the job with your negative thinking.

Talk to someone

It’s never a good idea to keep these negativities to yourself. It helps if you talk to someone. If nothing else, it makes you formulate your concerns and dilemmas much better.

Who you decide to talk to is not unimportant. Choose a good and considerate friend, who you know for sure won’t judge you.

When you decide to share your thoughts with someone, you will be able to see your emotional issues much better and put things into perspective.

If needed, you can then deal with the causes of the problem much better.

It is also important how you talk to someone. In a recent interview, Andrew Newberg explains the need to minimize negativity that goes on in conversations. For example, people should try to make three positive comments for every negative statement in their conversation.

stop-negative-thinking-2

Calm your mind in meditation

You don’t need a long meditation session. Just a couple of minutes of your time.

Just to calm your mind.

Throughout the day we often let our mind run like a crazy horse. When you combine this with negative thinking, everything just gets more difficult.

So, sit down for a moment. Close your eyes. Do nothing. Just be present. Don’t try to stop your thoughts. Whatever happens, just be present.

It’s a kind of rebooting.

After a minute or two, you will feel much better. It often takes that little to slow down and stop rushing.

If you have more time, you can even thy some free guided meditations from UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center.

stop-negative-thinking-3

Change your perspective

Negative thoughts can be the result of wrong perspective. Can you identify your point of view on the cause of concern?

Is the problem really so big as you imagine it? Is it a real problem or not?

Let’s take an example. Suppose you are thinking: “These problems are so difficult, I’m in a great trouble.” Instead, you could change your thinking to this: “Right now I face challenges, I’m working on them and trying to find a solution.”

Both statements reflect the same truth.

In the first you are negative. In the second you have a positive outlook.

Always try to find the positive in every situation. This shift in perspective could mean a great deal to your mental patterns.

Set aside some creative time

Being creative is a fantastic mood changer.

Especially if you are affected with negativity.

So, instead of obsessing with negative thinking, decide you are going to spend some time creatively.

It could be any form of art: writing, drawing, painting… Or even cooking, as long as you are creative in it.

The negative mental patterns disappear under the light of creativity. Use it. It works.

Creative work also enables you to explore your inner emotions. It can be a sort of self-therapy. It also leads to emotional discharging and brings about elevated mood.

Go for a walk

I know. This is trivial. But it helps.

So, take a walk, alone or with a friend. Ideally, it should be a walk in a forest, or at least in a park.

The idea here is that, sometimes, your thoughts are a result of your surroundings. You receive (positive or negative) thoughts from the people around you.

If they are filled with negativity, I bet you will be in a negative mood too.

So, if you change the environment, you may start to lose that negativity.

Wood is the best environment to transform your negative patterns. Science is clear about the health benefits of spending some time in a wood.

Even a park can help, or any cultural event or artistic performance that’s uplifting and fills you with joy.

Make it your habit to distance yourself from any negativity that surrounds you in your day to day life.

You can combine walking with searching for good things. Stacey Kennelly reports about a study in which the participants were instructed to consciously search for good things while in a walk. They were feeling happier than the people who were instructed to look for bad thing.

stop-negative-thinking-6

Cultivate gratitude

Gratitude seems to be a magical cure for everything.

Seriously.

If you have never tried cultivating gratitude, now is the best time to do that.

Why? Because it works so well on dissipating your negative thoughts.

The famous spiritual growth guru Tony Robbins talks about 10 power emotions, or 10 emotional seeds you should plant in your soul right now. Can you guess which one is at the top of the list?

stop-negative-thinking-7

We often tend to forget all the good stuff in our life. In the midst of our busy days, we simply have no time to focus on the positive. Not to mention the negativity we are constantly being bombarded by the media.

Now, you absolutely have to train your brain to start cultivating gratitude. For all the good things in your life.

There’s always something you can be grateful about.

Do you have a roof over your head? Are you grateful about it? Do you know how many people are homeless?

If you are homeless, are you healthy? Are you grateful about it? Do you know how many people are not healthy?

You get the point here? Make a list of things, no matter how small, that you are grateful about.

And, never, never take anything for granted. Often the wonderful things are right in front of your eyes, but you fail to see them.

Learn to appreciate the positive things in your life. They are already there for you and you should be enormously grateful for them.

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stop-negative-thoughts

 

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