Photo by Greg Rakozy via Unsplash.

Healing from addiction or any other unhealthy habit is a spiritual practice. It’s impossible simply to say, “Oh, I don’t want to indulge in this or I have to get rid of that.” We cannot. The more we try to push it away and get rid of it, the more we wind up suppressing it, not releasing it. If you don’t want to release it, to really heal from it, nobody is going to force you. But you will be forced by the problem itself. It will teach you very soon. That’s what the Mother Nature does. 

Whenever we develop an addiction or attachment toward anything it very soon teaches us that, ‘You cannot be happy with me always. And even the little happiness I give you is mixed with 99 percent of pain.’ That is the reason why in life we go through a lot of pain in various aspects of our life, including relationships—be it a family relationship, teacher-student relationship, a friend relationship, or a work relationship. Ultimately they have to end up causing pain when we invest our happiness solely in that. That is the nature of the world and how it teaches us to find the happiness that is already in us, as us.  

Dukham eva sarvam vivekanaha: “For a discriminating person the entire world is created to give you pain and nothing but pain,” the great sage Patanjali said. Not that he was condemning the world, no. If you have a wrong approach, the world is there to give you pain. If you have the right approach, it won’t cause you pain. A wrong approach has to give pain because it’s usually only through pain that we learn the lesson whereas with pleasure we seldom do. By suffering we seem to learn more. Once we learn the lesson there’s no pain. Nothing is there to pain us purposefully; it is caused by our wrong understanding. If we even see the pain as a blessing, we will seek to undergo it in order to liberated from whatever is binding us.

I always tell the story of the two women who went to the doctor. One women wanted the pain of her stomachache to be cured. She got the remedy and left the doctor’s office relieved that her pain would go away quickly. Another women went to the doctor and said, “Doc, could you induce some pain?” The doctor said, “What? Are you crazy? Why do you want me to induce pain?” She replied, “Well, Doc, don’t you see me? I am expecting a baby. I should have had the labor pains two days ago and without pain how can I deliver? So, please induce the pain.”

This woman knew that without that pain there would be no gain, right? No pain, no gain, we say. If we know the benefit of pain, we will understand it. One of the important Yoga practices is “tapas,” which means “to burn.” We have to undergo a type of burning of all our selfish desires and all our unhealthy habits so they can be cleaned out. Only by burning these up can you clean it up, not by pampering. How does a goldsmith get the highest carat gold? By heating the gold to the greatest heat so all the impurities are removed. The less impurities, the higher the carat.

I like to use a pun to describe how pain purifies and heals us. You know how in the church there is a friar? We are all like fritters. We are all dropped in the hot oil in the wok and God is our friar. We have to be fried of our moisture—the unhealthy attachments, addictions, and selfish desires that bind us. Once the moisture is totally taken away by frying in the hot oil, we don’t make any noise—all the bubbling, hissing that occurs when a fritter is placed in hot oil stops. It just floats around peacefully. We are all going through a sort of frying process. Life is like that hot oil and whether we like it or not we are constantly being purified. But if we know the benefit of pain for purification we won’t suffer more. The fact that we deny the pain, run away from the pain, causes more pain, which leads to suffering. However, when we know the benefit of the pain we will accept it and then it’s no longer experienced as pain.

There are so many examples I could give. How does milk become butter? It is churned and then it floats. Unlike milk, if you put the butter into water, it will float. We have to be good floaters and not let the world affect us negatively. Once we undergo the churning we need in order to be balanced, peaceful and joyful in life, we will just float through life. Before becoming butter, the milk is afraid of getting lost if it is placed in water. But when it becomes butter it will be floating on any water we place it on. And at that point, no water can enter into that butter. We can become much better when we become like the butter!

Just like the many women who endure labor pains because it means that the precious baby they have been waiting for will come soon, so let us learn that this is nature’s formula, nature’s way. Mother Nature is there to purify us. If we voluntarily offer ourselves to get purified it will be much easier. Otherwise, like some children who don’t want to go into the bathtub, the mommy has to hold them tight and apply soap all over. It gets into the eyes and ears and then it irritates and burns. She won’t let us get out of the tub until we are clean. So let us be conscious of this truth.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda