Your Guide to Meditation for Addiction
Though it can be a stigmatized topic in our culture, addiction has far more forms and types than we commonly discuss. The topic of addiction is typically referenced with alcohol or drug addiction, but there are many more kinds at a variety of levels. Whether it’s an addiction to social media, to attention from others, to caffeine, or to any number of other external experiences, most of us encounter or experience addiction personally at some point during our lives.
Addiction is an important topic to discuss in terms of its true definition and in terms of the Vedic Worldview, so we can understand what it is, where it comes from, and how we can break free from any form of addiction that doesn’t serve our highest evolution. Meditation can be a powerful tool to turn inward and notice our addictive urges or behaviors, and to help us release the stress that tends to push us toward actions we take for temporary distraction or relief.
As we progress on the path of expanding our consciousness and meditating consistently each day, we’ll find that there are different stages of creating freedom from addiction– whether it is freedom from a culturally tabooed addiction or freedom from the addiction at the highest level, which is an addiction to our own thoughts and identity.
In this post, we’ll discuss meditation for addiction and the Vedic Worldview on addiction. We’ll discuss how addictive urges and behaviors change as our consciousness expands through regular meditation, and how Vedic Meditation specifically changes our desires.
What is addiction
To begin with, let’s define addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:
“Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences.† It is considered a brain disorder, because it involves functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control.”
Synergy Wellness Center defines three different categories of addiction, which are useful to help us understand the scope of addictive behaviors:
- “Behavioral addiction: Many people associate addiction solely with substances, like alcohol or drugs. But you can also be addicted to specific behaviors. Common addictive behaviors include shopping, sex, gambling, and video gaming. The compulsive behavior gives the user a rush or high similar to what those addicted to a substance experience.
- Substance addiction: Substance addiction creates a physical dependence on a specific chemical. People can be addicted to prescription medication, such as opioids, or illicit drugs, such as crystal meth, heroin, or cocaine. Alcoholism is also considered a type of substance addiction.
- Impulse addiction: Impulse control disorders can lead to impulse addiction. Someone with an impulse control disorder struggles to manage their emotions and actions. This disorder may make someone prone to theft, emotional outbursts, or destructive behavior.
Approximately 10.5% of people have an impulse control disorder, according to the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Behaviors that arise with impulse control disorders can become addictive. Impulse addiction can also intersect with other mental health issues, such as substance abuse.”
Addiction and the brain
The interesting and challenging thing about addiction is that it represents a misuse of our brain’s natural faculties to create neurological channels or ‘habits’ based on repeated behaviors. When we repeat any behavior that has a neurochemical our brain or body finds nourishing, we strengthen the neural pathway of that action until it becomes a habit and a regular desire.
We then end up providing our body with a source of serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin or any other feel-good chemical that is exogenously sourced rather than sourced within our own balanced system.
The longer we habituate the actions that dramatically change our biochemistry, the more we become desensitized and the more experiences we need to get the same oversize hit of that brain chemical. This increasingly makes it impossible for our bodies to feel balanced and satisfied with the diminishing amount of the chemicals that can be produced naturally within our brains.
Our brain’s ability to identify actions that increase the serotonin, dopamine, or other feel-good chemicals in our bodies is part of what keeps us alive. It’s what draws us to fitness, so we can feel the endorphins. It’s what draws us to conquer our fears, as we get a rush of cortisol and adrenaline.
Our brain’s ability to create habits and learn new neural pathways is a tool that we can use to our benefit or to our detriment. Our neurological patterns in turn create and affect our personality and determine our physical well-being.
This means that when we habituate actions that feel good at the moment but ultimately don’t serve our evolution, we’re literally changing our brains, and as a result, we end up changing our personalities and physical well-being. The longer we strengthen that neural pathway, the harder it is to change it.
This also means that anyone can create addictive habits, as in, habits that rely on immediate good feelings from an external source and do not lead to our evolution and growth.
The addiction-prone brain
Though anyone can form addictive habits, there are many people whose genes or brains are more susceptible to addiction. Perhaps their brain naturally produces less of an essential chemical or hormone, so they naturally seek external sources to supplement. They may have particular past traumas that led to addictive behaviors, or they may be genetically predisposed to addiction.
The Vedic Perspective on addiction
From the Vedic perspective, all addiction (to anything) comes from stress. It comes from a desire to escape the stress-filled monotony of the day-to-day, and the desire to experience a different consciousness state.
The person who seeks to create an internal experience via external means is seeking. Thom Knoles puts it well in his podcast, The Vedic Worldview:
“What is this? This is all seeking. We’re seeking higher consciousness states. These are the people who are willing even to sacrifice their physiology, and the longevity of their physiology, if only they can challenge the assumption made by all other people that life is just about suffering.
They want a consciousness state in which one can rise above suffering. And the result would be, hopefully, to find some kind of nectar that can cause us to rise above suffering sustainably. These are all seekers, and they’re brave people.
They’re brave people who are willing to take a risk, and even at the risk of harming their physiology and their brain, and even at the risk of harming their social relationships, they’re seeking a consciousness state higher than what they see in what’s taught to them at home and at school.
…And they’re right. There is a consciousness state that lies above and beyond these three [waking, dreaming, and sleeping].
It’s called Turiya. Turiya in Sanskrit means the fourth, the fourth consciousness state. That fourth consciousness state is a state of pure transcendence.
And on our way to the state of transcendence, if we’re fortunate enough to learn Vedic Meditation, we know that we can experience abstract consciousness states that are the lead up to that transcendence of the fourth state.
We can, and we do, experience these themes regularly in Vedic Meditation, but in the absence of Vedic Meditation, people are willing to try anything. And all of those anythings taken together make up many unsustainable approaches to having a fourth state of consciousness, at least one new state of consciousness, that is not just the regular, everyday routine monotonous experience.”
This fourth state of consciousness is the place beyond the thought that we can experience through meditation. In the place of no thought, of pure Being, the brain is saturated with bliss chemicals. The brain creates no thoughts because it is completely satisfied. We are connected to our bugger Self, our being beyond our individuality, which is Universal Consciousness.
Releasing stress to alleviate addiction
Our bodies store stress memories that affect our brains continually. Our brains’ chief survival mechanic is to help us avoid situations where we have previously perceived danger or stress. This means that any normal sensory input or thought that our brains associate with a negative emotion gets stored as a datapoint, for the brain to reference in the future and protect us from harm.
The result is that we become more and more sensitive to stress, and less and less able to create a normal, happy balance of chemicals in the brain. The brain is constantly saturated with cortisol, constantly responding to these stored stress memories and telling us to be in a bad mood or on high alert. There’s no room for bliss chemicals in this state… and we’re collecting more stress memories every single day.
How Vedic Meditation creates bliss chemicals
The only way to release this deeply stored stress is to take the body into a hypo-metabolic state while the mind is still conscious. This is how Vedic Meditation works. It helps our body get to a place of deep rest, so the mind and body can release stress memories. The more stress we release from our bodies, the more easily our bodies will be able to regulate the feel-good hormones and regulate our well-being in general.
When we add to our meditative stress release by experiencing transcendence, we retrain the brain to generate a cocktail of bliss chemicals internally. We rely far less on external sources of stimulation or changes in our consciousness state. In that same podcast episode, Thom shares:
“When we practice meditation regularly, we are awakening inside the stable and balanced production of… a cocktail of bliss chemicals, which is sustainably produced, able to be reproduced again and again, that’s good for our health…
Good for our heart, good for our brain, good for our longevity, good for our looks, cosmetically improves our look, and enhances the way in which we age gracefully. This cocktail of bliss chemicals is produced by meditation, and it also removes the stresses that stop us from behaving naturally in situations where we could be behaving naturally.
…When we experience the bliss state at the source of thought, baseline consciousness…it’s productive of bliss consciousness and bliss physiology, all of which are mediated by certain neurotransmitters. These are protein-like substances and peptides, neuropeptides, neurotransmitters that instruct the body to go into a bliss mode.”
As we continue to experience transcendence and we release more and more stress from the body, we’ll find our desires for external stimuli change.
How Vedic Meditation decreases addictive desires
The more we expand our consciousness through meditation, the less we will feel drawn to change our state through an external action or source of stimuli. We’ll feel content and connected to Universality all the time, and we’ll begin to prefer that experience to one that could be created through substances or experiences.
That doesn’t mean that our desires will go away. They will simply refine. Our preferences will become far less urgent, and we’ll find we can have a good time with far less. We’re generating our happiness from the inside, so we are free to choose what we’d like to participate in eternally.
This is why you won’t find a Vedic Addiction Meditation or Vedic Meditation for addictive behavior.
Meditators find that they want alcohol less, they find it less charming. They also find that their bodies are more sensitive to toxins since their body isn’t bogged down by so much stress. They don’t seek as urgently, since they’ve found an access point to another state of consciousness through meditation. And they feel connected to the universal, so they feel less need to distract or depend on something external to feel stable or happy.
The timeline of Vedic Meditation for addiction cravings
These changes occur for different people at different times along their meditation journey, so long as they relentlessly practice twice a day, every day, for twenty minutes as their instructor taught them. This way, we’re releasing not only the stress that has built up in our day, but we’re also releasing embedded stress from our past (the kind that is still coloring our mood, health, and reactions!).
Meditators don’t tend to wake up one day and think, ‘today I’m free from addiction!’ or ‘Today I’m done with alcohol forever!’ Rather, meditators who are consistent will slowly notice their desires change. They may look back one day many years later and realize they’ve stopped an old habit entirely, but not be able to pinpoint exactly when it stopped.
The addiction that everyone experiences
We most often think of addiction in terms of extreme behaviors. An addiction disorder can be identified with things like alcohol, drugs, sex, porn, shopping, food or eating disorders, theft, emotional outbursts or impulses, smoking, video games, internet addictions, pharmaceutical drugs, or gambling.
Addictions that aren’t often categorized as diseases or disorders include addictions to caffeine, sugar, social media, fame or popularity, tv shows, or anything else we can’t say ‘no’ to freely.
On the subtlest level, there are addictions or normalized mental patterns and behaviors that our culture doesn’t call addiction at all, but that we still can’t say no to and may struggle to part with. These include addictions to our own thoughts, opinions, problems, ideas, and sense of identity.
You might say that someone who is a ‘worrier’ has become addicted to thinking about problems. You could say a narcissist is addicted to being perceived in a very particular way. You could say that in any area where we are certain we are this type of person or that type of person, we are addicted to our sense of individuality or identity.
These subtle addictions are a printout of our consciousness state. The only solution to change those addictions is to elevate our consciousness state.
Encountering our true nature
The more we encounter the intersection of our individual identity or ‘self’ with Universal Consciousness, our ‘big Self’, the less we’ll be attached to our individual identity and thoughts. Vedic Meditation is for addiction recovery and works on the level of addiction to our stress, our reactions, our problems, and our identity, since it puts us in touch with our true nature so regularly.
Our true nature is totality.
When we have elevated our consciousness to experience our totality and our individuality simultaneously, we’re not worried about meditation music for addiction or developing addictive habits at all. We’ve experienced the ultimate, as Thom puts it:
“What is the ultimate? That my own inner Self, my own inner baseline, my own inner state of Being, is one with The Universe. My own inner state of Being is the infinitely expansive, pure, supreme, contented, blissful state of, there was a use of the word once religiously, the word is Godhead.
Godhead means the point at which individuality meets Universality. “I can experience my oneness with The Universe inside myself, and my brain evidently loves it so much that it produces, sustainably, its own natural chemicals that keep me in this state and keep me going, and it grows and grows in stability, day after day after day.”
This is the result of a consistent Vedic Meditation practice.
Learning Vedic Meditation
To receive your own mantra and start a meditation practice of your own, register for the Learn to Meditate course. You’ll learn how Vedic Meditation affects the mind and body, and why releasing stress and experiencing transcendence ultimately leads to the slow and steady expansion of one’s consciousness.