Our work at the Kiloby Center for Recovery centers on an advanced mindfulness approach I developed called Natural Rest for Addiction. This method is based on helping clients relax into the natural peace and joy of the present moment and inquiring into and releasing painful thoughts, emotions and sensations.
After being involved in many different recovery programs and techniques for years, I came to this insight: If addiction is all about avoiding or medicating uncomfortable emotions and sensations, then recovery is about no longer avoiding/medicating and, instead, feeling into and releasing these energies directly.
I’ve been doing private sessions and giving live talks across the U.S. for several years, and they have taught me some important lessons when it comes to directly experiencing and releasing emotions and sensations. I remember giving talks in which participants were really suffering with addictive thoughts. I would often say, “Now, can you just sit with that sensation, as it is.” I thought that this was a clear enough instruction. My intention was to help the person really sit with the sensation or emotion in a bare naked way, which is a radical form of acceptance of the emotion/sensation. “Bare naked” means sitting with it without any words or mental pictures on it. Being with emotions/sensations in this way is a direct way to face them, so that the emotions/sensations can be accepted, felt and then released. But the instruction was not always heard in the way it was intended. And some who found the instruction to be clear still had difficulty being with bodily energy this directly. It seemed too difficult to be “that present” with what was arising in the body.
I noticed that many participants were not sitting with the sensation or emotion by itself. They were sitting with what I call “the Velcro Effect.” In other words, participants were often subtly or not so subtly thinking about the emotion or sensation, such that there were certain words or mental pictures velcroed to it. This kept the suffering or addiction around. As long as words or mental pictures are associated with an emotion or sensation, the mind is trying to think about the emotion or sensation and is therefore reinforcing it by staying focused on words about it or mental pictures that characterize it. The mind is trying to find meaning or labels for what is felt instead of just feeling what is felt. I had to change my language and make it clearer. At that point, I began speaking more directly by instructing to be with the energy without words and mental pictures on it.
This kind of “bare nakedness” is an integral part of what I and the other facilitators at the Kiloby Center for Recovery do. It’s an important part of each one of my Living Inquiries, which are mindfulness techniques that release addiction, anxiety and depression. The Living Inquiries are described in my book, Natural Rest for Addiction.
This “bare nakedness” works really well to dissolve addiction mainly because of what I said earlier in this writing: addiction is all about avoiding/medicating or remaining unconscious to these bodily energies. So recovery is all about slowly peeling off the words and pictures from the bodily sensations and emotions, so that one is more directly conscious of that energy. The emotions and sensations can then begin to release, once the mind stops reinforcing it. Once the energy is released, naturally the desire to medicate, change, suppress or get rid of uncomfortable sensations/emotions is no longer operating. The emotions or sensations are no longer there.
If you are suffering from addiction or know someone who is, please take this one insight very deeply into your life: avoidance, in all its forms, keeps addiction alive. So whenever you are avoiding the direct experience of any emotion or sensation, you may be unwittingly reinforcing the desire to reach outside yourself for an addictive substance or activity. Once you see this and begin incorporating the “bare naked” direct experiencing of these energies, without words and pictures on them, you should start to see a decrease in your craving levels.
At the Kiloby Center, we find this approach to be highly successful. Clients report a genuine, quantifiable decrease in cravings the more they rest in the present moment and feel directly what they have been avoiding or medicating for years. Our Living Inquiries are a systematic way of undoing the Velcro Effect as it arises.