Addicted to Seeking

I like to compare our consciousness to a TV set. As kids our TV’s are naturally tuned to be able to flexibly switch back and forth between black-and-white and color programs. As we grow older glimpses of color TV become rarer and seem to be connected to “events” such as falling in love, achieving goals, having mystical experiences or blowing our minds with sex, drugs or rock ‘n’ roll. As we have a preference for the richer and more stimulating color television experience and since, at some point, we become convinced that switching from black-and-white to color TV can be brought about through efforts and actions, we develop an addiction to try to tune and tweak our TV sets to experience the world in color as much and as long as possible.

Addictions usually operate on a sub-conscious level beyond our realm of control. The same applies to our addiction for color television; it is unconscious and has wide reaching implications on how we live our lives. The addictive seeking for color is so deeply ingrained in our psyche that we don’t and, in fact, can’t really question it as long as it remains unconscious.

What’s wrong with seeking happiness?

There is nothing wrong with it per se. We all want to be happy. It’s our birthright. Unfortunately, though, our unconscious addiction to the seeking makes us ignorant about the fact that the very effort to tweak and tune our TV set is what obstructs color from naturally appearing and disappearing in our experience. The reason there is color when our efforts are fruitful is merely due to the fact that once we get what we want, the effort to manipulate the TV set stops for a moment, the accumulated tension of seeking has a chance to be released and the TV screen is flooded with supressed color. Instead of being nurtured by the natural blessings of color TV every now and then, we deny ourselves the nourishment for extended periods of time (sometimes for a very long time!) because, due to our addiction, we make it dependent on a triggering “event”.

Gradual Rehab

The first step in any recovery from addiction is to make it conscious. All kinds of practices to develop inner awareness such as mindfulness practices are very helpful in that regard. Only when we know we have an addiction problem, can we start working on it. We need to become aware of when and how our addictive seeking gets triggered and acknowledge that it is a psychological pattern we have very little control over.
The second step is to temporarily get out of an environment that re-enforces the addiction, e.g. change one’s social environment, going on a prolonged journey or retreating into solitude.
The third step is to take enough time to let the addiction run its course before re-engaging in situations that trigger the seeking.
The classic form of rehab from addictive “TV tweaking” in all spiritual traditions is to start a formal spiritual practice, study the scriptures, going on retreats/ pilgrimages and gather with like-minded people.

Sudden Rehab

While gradual rehab is very effective, there is an even more effective way of recovery, which is, “seeing through” the addiction. As opposed to making the addiction an adversary to be eradicated, one can also come to the realization that the addiction feeds on the belief of lack and deficiency. Fundamentally, any addiction is just a very convincing story we unconsciously believe in and re-enact over and over again.
In the Eastern traditions people in rehab from seeking are told that the self is either non-existent or omni-existent, both pointing to a non-duality between the inner and outer realities. All is One and, thus, no-thing exists. An awakening to this deeply mystical dimension has the power to cut through the story-telling mind, eliminating the belief in an inherent lack in what is (experienced) in any given moment. The awakening is the revelation of the unconditioned and uncaused abundance of “color” in the Now (the danger, again, is that an awakening experience can be misunderstood as an “achievement” and become a new focus of addiction).

Whenever we get caught in the mind-made story of deficiency, we will automatically relapse into addictive “TV tweaking”. Hence, although the awakening realization may be sudden it can take quite some time until it is truly understood and stabilized enough.

The Message of Awakening

What we all want, happiness, can neither be achieved nor lost. All seeking for happiness, ultimately, is futile, a waste of energy. It comes and goes on its own accord. We can never produce it but only prevent it from occuring.

There will always be a next low after the latest high. There will always be a next high after the latest low. Don’t fall for the ever-blissful “Guru” but rejoice in being truly human.

Don’t reject unpleasant or ordinary experiences. Don’t grasp pleasurable ones. Pleasurable or unpleasurable, remember that they are of single essence. Nothing is ever lacking.


“People suffer because they can’t rest in ordinariness.”
~ Zen


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