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A Retreat – For the Mind

Addiction is a disease of the brain, which is altered by the substances abused, leading to symptoms such as intoxication, withdrawal and others. This leads to ill¬ness within the mind like loss of willpower, inability to make good choices, defensiveness, denial and oth¬ers. While the brain and the mind are two separate entities, addiction treatment also includes exercises of the mind, like meditation. This component forms an integral part of treatment at Chithuen Phenday Association (CPA). Blending contemporary medi¬tation with the essences of Buddhism, clients at the center undergo meditation exercises daily. In order to comprehend the spirit of meditation from the Buddhist lens and to acquire other sa¬lient teachings of Buddhism related to addiction, the summer of 2014 witnessed 25 participants from CPA and Samzang retreat Center, Paro, participat¬ing in a retreat exercise at Druk Ralung Shedrup Choling monastery in Kabisa, Thimphu. The five day programme had His Eminence Gyalwa Dokha¬mpa extensively dwell on the basics of meditation, Ngobdro, Bodhichitta, Chenrezig, four Noble Paths and the Three Yanas. Refuge Vows were adminis¬tered to the participants that included people from within and beyond Bhutan. At the Happiness and Wellness Center, treatment is primarily based on evidence based modalities. How¬ever, Meditation which is an ancient practice that may date back to as early as 5000 BCE is a core component. It is because CPA believes in a com¬prehensive approach to treatment. These secondary activities are meant to enhance the rehab experience and are also beneficial in improving the overall well-being of people. Additionally, as addiction is a biological disease that is in direct connection with mental health, it makes sense that a practice like Mindful meditation can be useful when working through substance abuse. The Summer retreat pro-gramme, from July 4- 8 in 2014, aided us in under¬standing meditation and other aspects of Buddhism better, which has immensely benefitted us. From several benefits of meditation, one is the help it provides during early recovery, which is very stress¬ful. Addiction cravings run high and there are always new challenges to face. Meditating in addiction re¬- covery allows one to set time aside to stop and relax. Some research has even shown that meditation can help make people become less reactive to stress as well as recover from stress more easily. Another potential benefit of meditation in addic¬tion recovery is its impact on ones mental health. While results vary from study to study, there is evi¬dence to suggest that mindfulness-based meditation can moderately improve anxiety and mood disorder symptoms. Along with the possible mental health benefits of meditation in addiction recovery, some people may also experience physical health benefits from med¬itation. In some studies, meditation has been found to lower blood pressure, improve heart health, and may even boost the body’s immune system. After years of damage to the body from substance misuse, meditation in recovery may help facilitate the phys¬ical healing process. Many people in recovery struggle to get good sleep as their body adjusts to no longer having the addic-tive substance in its system. Meditation may help change that. For some people, meditating may re¬duce insomnia and decrease fatigue. Meditation also helps in managing pain and con¬nects people with their spirituality. For some people, this spirituality can act as a catalyst in their recovery journey and propel them forward. Meditation can also lead to self-observation and op¬timism: a recipe for improved self confidence! While mindfulness helps to develop a clear and positive perspective towards oneself and others, it can also improve how one views addiction. For many people, addiction can be traced back to trying to fulfill or fix a need that feels lacking, which is a result of the mind “wanting” something. Meditation helps in developing the capacity to see clearly what one is attached, which is important in conjuring measures to let go of it and end suffering.

Chenrezig Meditation

Universal love and compassion are the very foundation of every bodhisattva’s spirituality yet nowhere are they more evident than in Chenrezig. In many ways, he is the archetypal expression of compassion. He occurs throughout Mahayana Buddhism, either as a specific being or, more commonly, as an archetypal bodhisattva who is the quintessential expres¬sion of every Buddha’s love. After listening to His Eminence Gyalwa Dokhampa on his talk about Chenrezig meditation, we learned how to visualize Chenrezig as the guide in my med¬itation process. It provided us the opportunity to transform the mind into one of great compassion and wisdom, our Buddha nature as we recited OM MANI PADME HUM. Today, as we practice Chenrezig meditation, we are ful¬ly enveloped with the light of compassion, which shines and illuminates things as they are. It tells us how we can bring peace, wisdom and harmony intoour world. It shows us how we can relate lovingly yet firmly to the complexities of our mind. We can clearly see how we need to act and work and the ways in which we can cope with any misfortune. We can now replace aggres¬sion with love and empathy.

Addiction and the Four Noble Truths

As a born Buddhist, we have heard about the four no¬ble truths at school. We may have read about it but it was after the retreat programme that we fully realized the importance of the four noble truths and its relevance to addiction and getting out of it. His Eminence said that the four noble truths are considered to be the first teaching of the Buddha and one of his most important teachings. They are called “Noble Truths” because, as the Buddha says, they are real, infallible and do not change. In very simple terms the four noble truths are cen¬tral and universal events regardless of time and place. The first truth is that all beings experience pain and unhappiness or suffering during their lifetime. The second is that pain and misery originates from a specific cause, or that there is a cause for suffering. The third truth says that pain and misery or suffering can be stopped; while the last truth spells out that there is a way to end this suffering. How relevant are the four noble truths to our lives? Birth is pain, old age is pain, sickness is pain, death is pain; sadness, grief, ache, sorrow and anxiety are pain. Contact with the unpleasant is pain. Separation from pleasure is pain. Not getting what one wants is pain. In short, the five aggregates of the mind and matter that are subject to attachment are pain. And addiction is pain. Addiction is suffering – the first noble truth. What made us addicts? What were the causes of our suffering? It was desire, accompanied by pleasure and passion. It was our desire to drink and derive pleasure; our desire to appear “cool” in society and our desire for materialistic gains. This is the second noble truth. However, we have come to the Happiness and Well¬ness Center to find a cure to miseries and end our suffering. We are completely letting go of our passions to drink. We are putting an end to our desires. There is always a way out – the third noble truth. And finally, what is the path for the way out? It is called the Eightfold Path: the right understanding, the right thought, the right speech, the right action, the right livelihood, the right effort, the right memory and the right mindfulness. These are things that we learn at the Center, almost every moment.

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