The Gut, the Brain and Addiction

Who Knew We Had Three Brains? The gut has its own independent nervous system, known as the enteric nervous system, that consists of about 500 million neurons. This system is embedded in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, beginning at the esophagus and ending at the anus. Amazingly, the enteric nervous system can operate independently from the brain – it can function without it, and has been dubbed our “second brain”. It has a two way communication with the brain and central nervous system via the parasympathetic fibers of the vagus nerve and the sympathetic fibers of the prevertebral ganglia. This channel is known as the gut-brain axis, and links the emotional and cognitive centres of the brain with intestinal function, and vice-versa. The gut-brain axis is modulated by neurotransmitters, hormones, immune …

Yoga and Addiction

I am not a stranger to the struggle of addiction or the trauma and negative thought patterns that it typically stems from. I’ve been affected by and intrigued with this limited realm of the human mind and the mysterious ability we can have of disassociating from our (true) selves to fill an unmet need or emptiness despite the consequences. It beguiles me how we can be in a state of constant maneuvering towards some sense of perceived safety, with the capacity for both truth and denial, often expressed simultaneously. We’re masters at this, while often yearning for compassion and a sense of belonging to ourselves and those we love. In my search and experience I have discovered that Yoga can be a pivotal tool in healing from addiction. It’s an exciting …

What is Your Addiction Doing For You?

Let’s look at addiction not from the point of view of the harm it does, which is obvious for all of us, but what did it do for you? What did you get from it? What was right about it? The American researcher, Dr. Vincent Felitti, said that the problem was dismissing addictions as self-harming behaviour. He believed it ignores their functionality in the life of the addict. Begin this question with yourself, whether the addiction pertains to yourself, your friend, your family member, or your client. Don’t think about what’s wrong with this; they already know what’s wrong with it, unless they’re in deep denial. The question is, what is right about it. Let’s find out from you. What did it do for you? What did you get from it that you …

Be Compassionate Towards Your “Stupid Friend”

Eckhart Tolle says that many people live with this terrible judge in their minds, that’s forever tormenting them with all kinds of negative evaluations. Some of you say, “I just don’t want that anymore.” But consider that the inner judge, that negative self-talk, actually helped you survive. It helped you survive, because when you are a child and stuff is happening to you that you suffer from, what you cannot do is to fight back against the environment, because if you do you’re going to get pulverised. It’s that simple, you’re going to get pulverised. You don’t have the strength, you don’t have the power. The child, therefore, as a matter of survival, makes themselves wrong. Says, “The environment can’t be wrong, because if it was I’d have to leave it, …

On Gratitude and Forgiveness

“May you be here now in gratitude. As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life.” -  Siddhartha Gautama Last night, en route to teach a Beyond Addiction workshop in New Mexico, summer storms made flying unsafe and I had to sleep in the Dallas Airport. In the face of this “first world problem” I was grateful for the teachings of Kundalini Yoga and the principles of the Beyond Addiction program. When my flight was cancelled, I observed my own drive to have things go “my” way and my desire to impose my will on others to have them behave as I wish. I then softened into acceptance. As Gabor Maté says, “I am here now in this.” There’s nothing any of us …

Move Beyond Addiction: Come Home to Your True Self

To move beyond addiction, it's essential that we come home to our True Self. One way of understanding the separation between our human and spiritual selves is to compare our “soul” or “essence” to our “personality”. Our “essence” is whole, beautiful, undamaged, ever-present, loving, linked to all that is, intuitive and connected. Our personality forms in infancy and childhood in response to the people and environments around us. When our “essence” isn’t received, cherished, loved or acknowledged, our personality creates armour and coping mechanisms to protect it. The personality is created to help us survive. It’s a set of reactive behaviour patterns that have become a habit, and includes feelings, body sensations, particular thoughts, words we use to define ourselves, images that occur in our minds, memories, projections and reactions. From the …

Anatomy of a Shopping Addiction

by Hari Miter Kaur Part One It’s been a rough week. I’m overwhelmed at work, a dinner I had been looking forward to with a friend was cancelled and “he” hasn’t texted in 4 days, 3 hrs and 15 minutes. I had planned to clean out the laundry room this weekend but now that Saturday has rolled around, I’ve decided to take it easy. I pause intermittently from my House of Cards marathon to take bathroom breaks. During one of these breaks I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and stop take inventory of my reflection. My roots are showing, this old t-shirt is making me look frumpy and my skin is dull – I’m getting old; I’ve worn “this” so often. This image of myself is getting old. I …

Seven Breathing Practices to Help Overcome Addiction

  Breath, Thoughts, Emotions Our breathing patterns are intimately linked to our thoughts and emotions. Shallow breathing generates anxiety; slow deep breathing induces calm. Left nostril breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system and promotes relaxation; right nostril breathing activates the sympathetic nervous system and energizes. When we bring awareness and mastery to our breath we: promote health and vitality; expand the range and flexibility of our emotions; more easily regulate our moods; develop concentration; and feel more connected. When we breathe consciously on a continual basis it is easier to direct our lives and achieve our potential. All of these outcomes help us to decrease addictive behaviour. Ultradian Rhythms and the Nasal Cycle We have a physiological need to relax and breathe deeply at least every 2 ½ hours throughout the day. Ordinarily we …

Yogi Bhajan on Forgiveness

Forgiveness is one of the keys to healing and recovery. Yogi Bhajan writes: All healing is based on a relationship. The fundamental relationship is to your Self and Soul. You are missing nothing. You are complete within yourself. Whatever you have asked for is given. But we learn fear (or to fear ourself). We learn that we are incomplete. We learn that we are flawed, bad, wrong, or ineffective. The fastest route to healing and to the experience of happiness is to forgive completely and limitlessly. Forgive, release, learn, love, and excel! What is there to forgive and release? The hundreds of inner tapes, patterns, and feelings that had you live as if you are limited and inadequate. Regardless of the source of those patterns, they must be forgiven and released from the very …

Dr. Gabor Maté on Attachment and Addiction

When it comes to addiction, I’m going to introduce the word ‘attachment’ to you. Attachment is an interesting word, because it has two meanings. If you want to talk in terms of negatives and positives, it has the negative meaning of clinging, or craving, or grasping onto ideas, behaviours, substances, relationships, or situations that are negative for us. In fact, that’s the definition of addiction; any behaviour that gives you temporary pleasure, relief, that you crave, that you cling to despite negative consequences, is an addiction. In other words, addictions are a form of what the Buddhists call attachment. We’re just too attached, or we’re attached period. Whenever it talks about clinging or attachment, it’s to everything; our form, our bodies, our flesh, our ideas, our perceptions, and our relationships. It’s …