Thank you all for being here, I'm honored that you are. Thank you to Banyen Books for facilitating this event. I'll be reading from a number of books, most of which I bought at Banyen. An addicted personality - if there is such a thing, I have it. So that means I can get hooked on anything. Whenever I run into a spiritual crisis, my way of dealing with it is to go out and by another spiritual book - which I don't read. But next time a get into another spiritual mud bath, I go out and buy another book. In fact, I buy several at one time. So Banyen has everything to be grateful for, as far as I'm concerned, because I'm probably personally responsible for their annual profit, such as it might be.

This talk was titled 'Who we are when we are not Addicted: The Possible Human'. I didn't and wouldn't have come up with that title because I don't know what that Possible Human is. Therefore I jumped at the chance of giving the talk because it gives me an opportunity to actually learn something, rather than giving the same talk or variations on the same themes, I had a chance to explore something new. My immediate response to the question would have been "I don't have a clue." But then I realized that it's not true I don't have a clue, but all I have is clues. So I'm not going to be answering that question tonight as to what the possible human is, but at the very most, or at the very best, I'll be giving you some clues that I've begun to follow or believe they are worth following to various degrees. But there's no completed answer.

I'll tell you to the degree to which there's no completed answer here. When Sat Dharam started her exercises and we were doing the breathe work, my mind immediately started thinking 'when will this be over so I can get on stage?' I'm not the one doing that because I'm just sitting there trying to do the exercises. But my mind, the Egoic mind, immediately wants what it doesn't have at that moment, which is attention. Which gives you a clue to the nature of the mind - it's always about the self. I'm talking about the Egoic mind. So that Egoic mind has no idea what the possible human is. Or at least it thinks that the possible human is just the wanting something.

In this culture, we've made that into an ideology, science and philosophy of life. The North American and capitalist society's believe the nature of the human being is to be selfish, acquisitive, aggressive and competitive - and that this is who we actually are. Scientists will actually try and find the selfish gene, and there's even a book written about it with that title. But that's not science - that's ideology. But it's an emanation of that Egoic mind that sits there saying 'when is it my turn?'

I got this book from a conference recently called Panchatantra, which is an ancient Sanskrit book of stories. I've never heard of it but apparently it's the most famous book in the world. It's a series of stories like the Canterbury Tales, the Decameron, or the Arabian Nights, which has become a format where one story follows another.

In this book there was a king in ancient India who was a great leader. He had three sons who were rather stupid, and he was worried about passing the kingdom on to them. So he talked to his wise men who each gave advice on how these close-minded, obtuse sons could be turned into wise rulers - but all of that would have taken many years. He finally hears of a wise man named Vishnu Sharma who could possibly do it sooner. This wise man says:

"Oh king, listen, here's the plain truth. I don't want your money or you to pay me land grants. I'm 80 years old so there's nothing you can give me. But I will teach your sons. My boasting arises from no greed for cash. I can do this but I'm not boasting. I have no use for money and all the objects of sensual desire have lost their charm, but in order that your request may be granted, I'll show a sporting spirit in reference to artistic matters. Make note of the data. If I fail to render your sons, in six months time, incomparable masters in the art of intelligent living, then his majesty is at liberty to show me his majestic bare bottom."

And that's my promise to you if I don't give you anything tonight.

As I was preparing to give this talk, a friend of mine whom I met last summer, gave me a poem by. So this a poem by Edgar Shanti who says 'who are you?': "You are beyond the mind, body and personality. Beyond all experience and the experiences thereof. Beyond the world, etc. Be still and awaken to the realization of who you are."

He goes on to talk about the supreme reality and how you're the form or source, and the more I read this the more infuriated I get at this message. Eckhart Tolle, another great teacher also talks about how we're Being and Presence - and we are not the Egoic mind. But when I hear this it drives me crazy because on the one hand, something in me recognizes the truth in it, yet there's no way I can get there. I've never experienced myself as any of those things.

I'm sure all of that stuff is true, but I've never been there. How can I stand here and give you all that. Out of the mouth of an Edgar Shanti whose had that experience - and I genuinely sense that he has - those are not cliches, that's the reality he is embodying. But for me to give you those words would be a lie. So that's not what I can tell you. The only clue I can give you is how to possibly get there, or at least how to get beyond this Egoic mind of ours. Because I very well know that little Egoic mind that jumps around anytime Sat Dharam is trying to bring us into the present - that always thinks about itself and creates a film over my experience of the world - that creates a barrier between myself and the universe - a barrier between myself and my deeper self - a barrier between myself and other people - and a barrier between myself and nature.

Karl Marx said alienation has four aspects. We are alienated from 1) nature 2) our true selves 3) other people, and 4) our work. So what we do does not represent who we are. So the nature of society is that it promotes alienation and the mechanism of that is the Egoic mind, which is very much in charge of my mental life.

So in this Edgar Shanti poem, there's a clue. He say's "be still and awaken to the realization of who you are." The problem is, we don't know how to be still, and the mind doesn't know how to be still. And so that if I don't know, if I haven't experienced what he has experienced, it's likely due to the fact that my mind has not been still enough to experience any of that stuff. And I do everything in my power to keep it from being still. So we escape stillness.

In Joan of Arc, one of the plays by George Bernard Shaw, Joan, the young French woman, visionary and military leader talks to the King of France. She heard voices and in today's world would be diagnosed as schizophrenic. Imagine if some young woman went up to Stephen Harper and said "I hear voices and they are telling me that you shouldn't allow the pipe line from the northern..." She'd be hustled to a psychiatric institution and drugged full of the modern miracles of medication. But in this case she was heard for a time, at least from those that mattered.

So the King said "why don't the voices come to me, I'm the King, not you." Joan say's "they do come to you, but you don't hear them. You have not sat in the field in the evening listening for them. When the bell rings, you cross yourself and have done with it. But if you prayed from your heart and listened to the thrilling of the bells after they stopped ringing, you would hear the voices as well as I do."

I could complain why I can't have that experience that other people have had about the Being, stillness, presence, beauty, etc. Or I could notice that I have never stayed still long enough for that to happen. I haven't trained my mind in that particular way. And that's why I'm so excited to work with Sat Dharam and his course because I can see it will get me out of my mind. Out of your mind is supposed to be a bad thing. What are you, out of your mind?! Thank god I'm out of my mind, finally.

So I do get it's not about what anyone else will teach me or what I'll teach you. Jesus said it was up to his followers before leaving them by saying "I'm going to leave you soon, and I'm leaving for your own good. Because if I stayed around, you'd never learn because you would be looking to me. But I'm going to send you a comforter, the Holy Spirit, which is the inner voice." And Jesus also said "That which we bring out of you will save you." So when it comes to addictions or any other problem we're facing, it doesn't do well to look for the solutions on the outside. That's a clue. There are no solutions from the outside.

The medical profession exemplifies that to the nth degree. As physicians, we take addicted, depressed or anxious people and not for a moment do we believe that they have the truth within themselves, that the healing power resides in us all, or have any idea how to encourage, invigorate and empower that healing capacity we all have. What we do is replace one pharmaceutical with another. For your depression, here's the pill. I've taken them myself and they've really helped me. But they're not the solution or the answer. At the very best they buy you some time. But then we stop there and think this is it. The solution is you have a problem so here's something from the outside and then you'll be okay.

But the kind of getting into your body that Sat Dharam was initiating here, and the kind of looking at the nature of your mind that I'm encouraging in this conversation, never occurs to the mainstream healing profession in this country or the Western world. Which is why we are so far away from understanding or being able to solve any problem at all.

When we have a problem, there are two ways to approach it. You could say you have a problem with addiction, or your son and daughter have a problem with addiction, and how do I get rid of this problem. But as the spiritual teacher Almas points out "All the difficulties you experience and all the problems you have exist quite simply because you don't want to grow up." On some level we don't want to take responsibility. So the question is how to take responsibility? Furthermore, he says the reality is every problem we have can be looked at in two ways. We can look at it as a difficulty to get rid of, or a message from our true selves. We can look at it as something to overcome and get through or as a possibility of learning. He also says all the difficulties we have are designed by the parts of ourselves that love us so much, that it'll create extra difficulties for us if we don't get the message.

I've actually had people with cancer come up to me and say it's the best thing that ever happened to them, and people who have overcome addictions say the addiction which gave them HIV is the best thing that ever happened to them. I don't recommend those ways of learning, but what they are saying is that those difficulties woke them up to the necessity of getting to know themselves, to accept themselves and even to love themselves. But for those experiences, they were too stubborn to learn and were just going to stumble along life living an alienated existence and they were never going to wake up to who they really were. So what Almas is saying, every problem doesn't come along to make our lives more miserable, but to make it less miserable, and the suffering it imposes is an attempt to wake us up, and if we wake up then we have a reason to be grateful.

What I do recommend is that if anything comes along, we take it as an opportunity to learn, as a god given gift that is here to wake us up, and unfortunately, many of us need many wake up calls, and I'm not someone who is very quick to learn. It takes a long time for me to wake up, and even when I do wake up for a while, my tendency is very much to go back to sleep. But, remember the question is the possible human. What I'm saying here is that the very possibility of being human is inherent in dealing honestly, openly and courageously with our difficulties and that's what makes us human. The people that are too afraid to do that, I'm tempted to say go into politics - but that's a whole other conversation although there is a lot of truth in it because they try to act on the world instead of first acting on themselves.

I recently read a book by an academic Marc Lewis and it's wonderful. He is a neuroscientist who goes through his own addictions, from pot, alcohol, ketamine, heroine, ecstasy, and other substances like that. He talks about the physiology of the addicted brain as well. At a certain point he's in the jungles of Malaysia with some fellow scientists and runs across a clearing with two people, a father and son, part of a jungle tribe. I wish I could describe the eloquent description of these two humans beings, but the fundamental sense of it is that they are two real people absolutely grounded in themselves, comfortable with who they are - neither afraid nor aggressive - and they feel safe and rooted in their world. It's a beautiful description. And of course, Lewis contrasts the presence and stillness of these two people with his own neurotic, troubled, uncomfortable in his own skin consciousness. And he says it's possible to be like that. That the very possibility to be like that excited him.

So when we talk about the possible human, we aren't talking about a far away ideal that might exist at some point in the future. There is an idea these days that we are evolving into something higher, but I don't go along with that. That something higher still exists in a very few rare places where so-called civilization hasn't intruded. It's not that we have to evolve into something higher, it's that we have to shed the mental and spiritual pollution that so-called civilization has instilled in our minds, souls and personalities. And that's not a personable problem, or my failure or yours either - it's the culture we live in. But that possibility is inside all of us. That's our true nature and who we are. We are talking about what's here right now, in terms of possibility.

So from that point of view, I'm very happy with Almas' definition of enlightenment, because when he talks about enlightenment he says it's very simple. It's not a grand recognition of the unity of all, although it's clear to me that he's experienced that - when I listen to him that's the sense I have. I've had that experience once, but it was under the influence of a substance - Ayahuasca. I had set this intention before the ceremony of experiencing god. I was gonna go for the big enchilada. For once I wanted to experience god or universality - because god is just a word. I wasn't going to experience any particular religion, I just wanted to get the whole picture (laughter). And I've seen people do it. I've been in retreats where people have these spiritual experiences where they really get the connection, love, beauty - and they're getting that and I'm sitting there seething with rage, because they are getting it and I'm not! And the Egoic mind can only think in terms of loss. If someone is getting something then I'm not getting it. It's like the cake is only this big and if someone else is getting spirituality then I'm not - and that's not fair.

I did the ceremony - and no angels, staircases leading up to the heavens or trumpets in the sky. I missed it again. But then I go outside and there are the trees looking like trees, and all of a sudden they are real beings who are somehow communicating with me. They aren't saying anything in particular, but they aren't separate from me. Then a flock of Canada geese show up, and I got it - that's god. He or she is not going to show up with trumpets, not for me anyway. But it's been there all along, and all that morning I was looking at the geese, trees and grass and there was this perfect unity. But of course this experience was induced because the plant was in me. So I could see things that otherwise I can't see, and a week later the trees were just trees again. Except when I look at trees now, I say to them 'ah, you can't fool me! I know you're in there.' (laughter) But they aren't trying to fool me. I'm the only one that ends up fooling me, and it's that addicted mind of mine.

And so Almas says enlightenment is not this big experience, but for a moment you can't be controlled by your mind and personality - and in that moment you are enlightened. And that doesn't take much. It's work, but it's not like having to experience angels and trumpets - it's about not allowing that conditioned mind to control who you are. And addiction is all about the conditioned mind controlling you.

Now, the four qualities that I can see that are needed to get behind the conditioned mind that drives addiction is:
  1. Compassion for the self which is so lacking in this society. The epidemic of cosmetic surgery is a massive epidemic of lack of self-compassion. People cannot accept themselves the way they are. And of course, society says you shouldn't accept yourself the way you are because you aren't good enough.
  2. People say to me in workshops that they can't love themselves for a second, and that's because they don't see love when they see it. Because they think self-love is some sort of emotion. How many of you think that you don't love yourself? Have you had that experience? Well, the fact is, if you didn't love yourself, what the heck are you doing here? The very fact that you're here means that you love yourself because something about this topic said to you there's a possibility of transformation, of being human and comfortable in your own skin as you are, and I'm worth it enough that I'll take myself to this event and see if I can learn something that can help me get there. That already is self-love. It doesn't have to show up in terms of gooey emotions or a warm hearted regard for the self. I've never sat there and said I really love myself, but I've done a lot of things that has supported my learning. That's self-love. And that's all I mean. Some compassion that something else is possible and that you are worth that possibility. That's a necessary quality for dealing with addictions.
  3. There needs to be some courage and a willingness to look at how it actually is, not how you think it is. So one of the prime qualities of addiction is denial. So that the people who are addicted to profit will deny that the Alberta Oil Sands will pollute the environment. The evidence is clear from those that have worked on the project. But to not see that? And it's not just denying it or not knowing it, they actually make themselves believe that it's not going to happen. That's the addicted mind. So in order to get over addiction you have to have the courage to look at how things actually are inside here (put's hand on heart). And there has to be awareness. Again, Jesus said in order to heal you have to bring outside of yourself what's inside of yourself. And what you bring outside of yourself will heal you.
  4. And finally, you have too dis-identify from the experience. I am very much in favour of the 12 Steps, but when someone says at an AA meeting that they are an alcoholic, something in me doesn't like that language, because the language identifies the person with the experience and says "I am that experience." You're not that experience. Addiction is not a person and it's not who you are. When you say "I'm an addict", no one is an addict. It's not who you are. Even when people say someone is a survivor, but as long as we don't take those categories as defining anyone, because if you say you are a survivor then you are defining yourself in terms of the past. In the present you are not a survivor - you are whoever you are in the present. The fact that you survived something doesn't make you into a survivor. Those statements are both true and untrue. But you have to dis-identify. You have to let go of the identification with the experience. If you understand that addiction is not who anybody is, it's just an experience - and who you are is never an experience. Even if you are 49 years old and you have had the experience for 40 years, that still does not mean that you are that experience.
Another question we have to ask, what experience do I generate that keep me in the addicted experience? I've just come through a 4-5 week (?) funk and I was depressed. You might say that had I been in a different phase of my life it would be time for the anti-depressants because some days it felt that lousy. This was after a real addictive phase of my life.

On December 1st I flew to Albany, New York where I spoke on the 2nd. I then flew to New York where I spoke on the 3rd, and on the morning of the 4th I was going to come back to Vancouver and then Victoria the same day to lead a 5 day retreat. Which thanks to Health Canada, was canceled. The previous month has been just like that. I was feeling good and in my element with power and presence with people, speaking the truth which others appreciate and responding to them in the moment. When I come home, within a day I crash. I have severe back pain, can barely get out of my chair and get more and more depressed.

I have become totally addicted. What did I become addicted to? Not the feedback and applause - I see past that and know it's not me. But what I do get addicted to is being that person that can speak the truth. And if I'm not doing it, the crash inevitably comes. Who creates that? I create it by doing way too much. James mentioned my book 'When the Body Says No' and I tend to believe that I'm immune to what I teach (laughter). That I can teach people all this stuff that is true, but somehow the rules that apply to everyone else has left me free to be exactly the way my egoic mind wants me to be. No wonder I come home and go through the typical withdrawal of the addict: depression, irritability and physical pain.

In dealing with the addiction, you may not be the experience, but what experiences do I generate for myself that keep me in the addiction? Why is it so difficult to get out of these habits. Albert Kamyu in the novel 'The Plague' which takes place in Nigeria, talks about a bubonic plague that takes over a city which is spread by rats. At the very end of the novel, the plague is beaten back, the city is revived, and the healthy start living again free from the fear of the plague and everyone is happy. The last paragraph of the book is very sobering, and I believe Kamyu may have meant this as an allegory for fascism, but I think it's an allegory for something much bigger than that. So he writes in the last paragraph:

"And indeed, as he listened to the cries of joy rising from the town, Rue remembered that such joys always imperiled. He knew what these jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned from books - that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good, that it can lie dormant for years in furniture and linen chests, that it bides its time in cellars, bedrooms, trunks and bookshelves, and that perhaps the day would come that for the bane and enlightening of men, it (draws?) up its rats again, and sends them forth to die in a happy city."

What he is talking about, beyond the ability of fascism, is also the nature of the human egoic mind. Because at a political level, fascism is the highest representation of that egoic mind. The Fuhrer, the I, the Ego. But that's the ego inside all of us and it threatens to come back all the time.

The Buddha has this powerful and disturbing image of two strong men pulling a weaker one towards an abyss in which they are going to hurl him and cast him to his death. The weaker man resists, digs his feet into the ground and tries to save himself from perdition, but they are stronger than he is. And the Buddha says those two strong men are our habit energies - they are the ingrained habits of the mind and that weaker one is our selves.

Just like Kamyu said that the plague can come back, those habit energies can assert themselves at any time. So it does take vigilance not to be an addict in society. There is some truth when someone stands up and says I haven't drank for 40 years but I'm an alcoholic. As much as I don't like the phrase, there is a possibility that the addictive behaviour is still very much within me and I need vigilance to overcome it. I can never take it for granted that it's totally gone.

That's the nature of the human mind because these habits are ingrained in the brain very early. Furthermore, it's in the very nature of the thinking mind. It's difficult to think outside the box because thinking is the box, and that's where the yoga work comes in because it gets us outside our thinking mind. If we have a hard time thinking of a way past our addictions, don't worry about it - that's the very nature of the thinking mind. That itself is a representation of addiction, and it's very self-oriented.

As Eckhart Tolle points out, the structure of the egoic mind is wanting - and what we want, the content, may change, but the wanting is structural. So there is a fundamental addiction process that is the same for any addict. I define addictive behaviour as anything associated with craving, temporary relief, and an inability to give it up despite negative consequences - but it goes way beyond that. And because that wanting is structural in the egoic mind, is it any wonder we have such problems with addiction in this society, which promotes that.

Almas has a wonderfully funny and disturbing image that basically we are all babies wanting a tit to suck on. We look at every other human being as a tit and wondering where the nipple is. Is it big enough, does it contain enough milk for me, and will I like the milk or will it turn sour? Is it going to make me feel good or give me a stomach ache? Or is the tit too big and will it smother me? He basically says we're all a bunch of tits walking around looking for the nipple.

That's just another way of saying what Tolle says - and that the wanting is structural. So when you say 'I'm an addict' - no you're not - you're a human being. But the degree of wanting you have is related to the degree of emptiness you experience, and the degree of emptiness you experience is very much related to what happened to you very early in life. And before I go there, let me once again say it's not a personal problem, but in the very nature of the world.

In the Tibetan book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche says the greatest achievement of modern culture is the brilliant selling of Samsara - the sanskrit term for suffering and its barren distractions. Modern society seems a celebration of all the things that lead away from truth, make truth hard to live for and discourage people from believing it exists.

So the very culture we live in denies that there are truths, makes people hungry, hurts people and keeps people isolated, therefore empty and wanting satisfaction from the outside and addicted - and then it creates all these products, activities and cultural diversions to fill the very emptiness that it creates. And then they say that selfishness is the nature of human beings - and there is the complete circle of ideology.

As Eckhart Tolle points out, every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain. Every addiction starts with pain and ends with it. As I've often said, in the downtown Eastside, I rarely ever met a woman who had not been sexually abused. So the greater the pain, the greater the addiction and that pain always goes way, way back. There's a very interesting relationship between the word attachments and the word attachment. In Buddhist terms, attachment is the craving and holding onto things in an unhealthy way such as our possessions, looks and all the things that are passing, temporary and unsatisfying. And that attachment creates suffering. Then there is the word attachment in the modern psychological sense. Attachment means love and the drive to be close to someone in order to be taken care of or in order to take care of. In my book with Gordon Neufeld, Hold onto your Kids, about the need for children to attach to their parents and what happens when that attachment is lost, we are talking about attachment in a positive sense.

It's very interesting that the same word is used because the less you had of the positive attachment, the more you're going to have of the negative attachment. The degree to which you attach to food, substances, attention, television - and external behaviour from the outside - the more it means you never had attachment in the positive sense. Professors and thinkers make a big mystery out of addiction and what it's all about - why would people do these things to themselves that hurt and destroy them, tell lies to their children and families? But the less your attachment needs were met as a child, the more you will look for it from the outside.

So for example, you may never have had a substance addiction in your entire life, but you just might be a nice person, and you're a nice person all the time because you need to be liked. Why do you have a need to be liked? Because you weren't accepted and loved for who you were. It's like that song 'Face it you're addicted to love'. So a lot of us will contort ourselves into pretzels in order to get that love. So some people make themselves so nice that they end up getting cancer. And that is a manifestation of not being loved in the first place and therefore they suppress themselves in order to be liked and that self-suppression ends up suppressing their immune system.

That is a whole other conversation, but that too is a need to get something from the outside, so the less we had that attachment given to us in the first place, the more we try and crave it and get it from the outside, which is the very nature of addiction. So at the heart of addiction there is loss and pain. And what is the nature of that pain? Eckhart Tolle says all emotions are modifications of one primordial individuated emotion that's origin is in the loss of awareness of who you are. The big loss is not that your mother of father didn't love you, or that they abused you.

It doesn't matter how many times you've gone through the trauma you've experienced as a 5 year old and whether you were abused or mistreated, because that wasn't your big problem. As Almas says, 'the fundamental thing that happened and the greatest calamity is not that there was no love or support. The greater calamity which was caused by the first one, is that you lost your connection to your essence. That is much more important than whether your mother or father loved you or not.'

So the big thing is not to focus on what happened externally and how to get that from the outside, but how do I reconnect to myself. And that reconnection to the Self doesn't happen through here (points to his head) because if it happened through here, I would be the most enlightened person in the world, because I have thought about this, and thought about this and thought about this, and written about it.

People write thanking me that my book changed their life. Maybe I should read it myself? Because thinking, talking, teaching about it, and helping other people get there doesn't get me there. Because you can only get there in here through the body - at the very core of your being. There is nothing out there that anyone else is going to say that is going to get you there. And all the teachers tell you that. All they can ever give you are clues.

As it says in the Tibetan book of Living and Dying, 'Whatever you do, don't shut off your pain. Accept your pain and remain vulnerable.' And there are all sorts of things we do to get away from pain like being nice or doing substances. It continues, 'However desperate you become, don't shut off your pain because it is in fact trying to hand you a precious gift - the chance of discovery through spiritual practice, what lies behind sorrow. And don't we know and only far too well, that protection from pain doesn't work. And when we try and defend ourselves from suffering, we only suffer more and don't learn what we can from experience.' Or as Almas says, the surest way of going to Hell is to resist going to Hell.

Do I know this? I do. But do I embody it much of the time? No, I don't. And there's a deeper knowing that says 'Aha' to something and I'm sure that is in all of us, and this is the possibility of being human. The Buddha talked about the interconnection of all things. He says 'Contemplate the nature of interconnected arising during every moment. When you look at a leaf or a raindrop, meditate on all the conditions, here and distant, that have contributed to the presence of that leaf or raindrop. Know that the world is woven of interconnected strands - this is because that is, this is not because that is not, this is born because that is born, this dies because that dies - the birth and death of any dharma, or phenomena in this sense, are connected to the birth and death of all other phenomena. The one contains the many and the many contains the one.

So that sense of connection which Sat Dharam ended her exercise is where I would like to lead you. I know each of you has experienced the dancing monkey of the egoic mind, and that is has been active in many of you during this conversation. That's the nature of it. But it doesn't make you into an addict but that's the experience you are having. And I also know the sense of connection that Sat Dharam's exercise encouraged in us. When we are able to be still and able to pay attention to what's actually there, then that sense of connection isn't just an idea, it's a reality way beyond the separation that the mind would otherwise impose.

Thank you very much.