Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lifestyle Practice: Breaking the Addiction to Doing

Lifestyle Practice: Breaking the Addiction to Doing
(c) MCStrom Photos

Just about everyone carries deep, unhealed pain from childhood.  Even if we had a relatively benign childhood with no major traumas or abuse, little things happen all the time that make a deep imprint on our young psyche.  From example, perhaps, we’re crying for mommy, but she’s busy with baby brother so she doesn’t come right away.  We feel unloved, perhaps unworthy of mother’s precious love.

We all come up with strategies to get away from this pain.  For some, it’s destructive activities such as heavy use of drugs or achohol, gambling, or poronography.  I’ve never been addicted to any of these things personally, but yes, I am an addict also.  My addiction has been to doing.

I had my share of pain as a young boy, much of it stemming from my father’s sudden death when I was 5.  As a child, I never did any therapy or any sort of healing process.  The only way I knew to get away from pain was working hard in school and playing sports incessantly in my free time, always staying busy.  I did get enough A's to get into Princeton and I also won quite a few tennis matches.  But, it was exhausting.

Getting  A's at Princeton took so much effort that by junior year, I was exhausted and burned out.  That Summer, a friend gave me an amazing book called The Inner Game of Tennis by Tim Gallwey. 

When, I began applying the lifestyle practices from the book on the court, my whole life changed.
One of the key principles of the Inner Game is to use the alternation between points and breaks to maximum advantage.  For those of you who’ve never played or watched tennis, the game is structured so that after each point, there is a break of 20-30 seconds.  These gaps in activity offer a wonderful opportunity to drop into a non-doing mode.

My old habit was to use this precious time to think about the last point, perhaps beating myself up if I’d missed an easy shot, or to worry about the next point.   From Tim, I learned how to drop into the Present.  I brought awareness to breath, watching the alternation between inhalation and exhalation.  I looked at the trees, listened to the birds.  Simply enjoyed a beautiful moment of non-doing.

Almost immediately, I noticed a dramatic difference in my experience while playing the points.  Rather than being uptight, afraid of missing, I was very relaxed, simply enjoying watching and hitting ball.  I not only had way more fun, but also played a lot better.

That was the beginning of my recovery process from my addiction to doing.  As 12-steppers will tell you, recovery is a long journey.  Mine has been a very rich one.  I spent years doing tons of meditation, and spending large amounts of time in nature, getting as far away as possible from the busyness of the working world.  Eventually, during one of my camping retreats on Mount Shasta, I had a vision to move to Washington, DC and start a nonprofit. 

 In my next blog, I’ll share about how I learned to apply the alternation between doing and non-doing in that job.

Andrew Oser has been offering spiritual life coaching, along with guided retreats on Mount Shasta since 1982.   Through hikes to little-known sacred sites, guided meditations, spiritual life coaching, and time drinking in the silence of the mountain, he helps clients to deeply renew themselves in body, mind, and spirit and receive clear vision for their lives.  For more info, please see www.mountshastaretreat.net

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