Over at Living Realization, we’ve been working on a new form of inquiry specifically designed to address addiction and compulsive behavior. It’s called the Compulsion Inquiry (CI). Scott Kiloby’s book on addiction, Natural Rest, will be out in a few months, and all is revealed expertly there, so without going into a lengthy description here, there is an aspect that is of particular interest in regard to the unfindable self.

In brief, first we look for the command to use, or engage in the compulsive behavior, in images, words, and bodily sensations. For instance, the image of a cigarette, or even the cigarette itself—Where is there a command to smoke in either the image or even the cigarette in your hand? We go through all possible associations with the behavior, even looking at a clock, the place where the behavior occurs, and other triggers, like smoking with a morning cup of coffee. No command can be found anywhere.

Then it can be seen that when an urge or a craving arises, there is an almost fleeting, flash image of the act itself, like a “ghost image” of the activity already happening. When this image is seen, really looked at, prior to using, the craving miraculously seems to disappear, or is simply forgotten.

In addition to looking for the command, it is usually the case that when someone attempts to curb any form of compulsive behavior or addiction, there is often a period of abstention that is achieved, in part, by a subtle but often unconscious agreement made to use or engage in the behavior in the future. There is usually an image of the behavior—we actually see ourselves doing it—but more importantly, there is also a physical sensation that is associated with this promise we make to ourselves. It is similar to a barely noticeable relaxation that happens when, for instance, we have come to a decision about something. For most, the discovery of this point of relaxation is a discovery of the sweetest peace imaginable. This is not a fleeting experience engendered by a substance or activity, this peace. This relaxation response is the natural state, hence the title, Natural Rest. It is the complete allowance, complete agreement with what is experienced physically, and this allowance, this rest, is not dependent upon anything external—no substance, no activity required—nor is it something to seek for in the future. It’s right here, right now, always. It is the experience of the end of seeking.

“…feelings and good times are temporary energies. They arise and fall, providing no ultimate or final relief. This question is asking what you’re ultimately seeking from the thing. This requires you to look a little deeper. Beyond the experience of temporary energies such as pleasure, something else happens when you attain what you’re seeking: The seeking energy relaxes for a moment. As that energy dies, presence reveals itself naturally. Present rest is synonymous with peace and contentment.” ~ Scott Kiloby, Natural Rest

The point of relaxation reveals that the self is often felt as a barely perceptible bodily contraction. People can have the clearest seeing of no self, of oneness, yet this contraction remains or recurs, albeit slightly to barely detectable. Thus, there can be great clarity, but forms of compulsion persist.

“…there is a core type of grasping…it is our most rudimentary sense of self…It is that grasping and contracting around which all the other senses of self are constructed…awakening is the sudden releasing of this grasping in the gut. There’s no guarantee that the grasping will stay released; it may grab hold again.” ~ Adyashanti

“The body is a warehouse in which all our hurts, rejections, failures, fears and resentments are stored, long after thinking has forgotten them…It is these layers of tension and contraction that obscure the natural transparency and openness of the body and give the impression that a separate, inside self is in residence…These may be dormant much of the time but may also be triggered for irrational reasons at unexpected times, and betray in us, over and over again, the residues of a separate inside self.” Rupert Spira

Thus far, in our limited trials using the CI, feedback seems to indicate that this innate physiological grasping is at the root of compulsive behavior. The unconscious grasp within produces grasping, seeking without. Beyond the implications of reducing, if not completely eradicating compulsive and addictive behavior, it has been reported and experienced as an overall diminishment of this sense of a separate self. With the relaxation of this contraction, overall compulsion and the sense of separation relax as well.

Addiction then, could be viewed as a significant portal not only to the recognition of the residual self that remains (in theory), as well as the dissolution of both the behavior, and the root of its persistence. The Compulsion Inquiry is a radical approach to recovery. The good news is, the impact of this work goes far beyond the curbing of addiction and release from compulsive behaviors. It potentially reveals, and subsequently undermines, the sense of separation at its core.

15 thoughts on “The Compulsion Inquiry~Self as Contraction, Manifesting as Compulsion

  1. Very interesting entry. My mom Lynn sent me to your blog.

    This phrase really jumped out at me:

    innate physiological grasping is at the root of compulsive behavior

    It accurately reflects the most commonly understood research into the neurophysiology of habit formation, wherein real neurological grooves are carved into our brains with the formation of deeply-entrenched habits and/or compulsive, addictive behaviours. Once a given habit is encoded into our brain, we require little to no cognitive involvement to deploy that habit anymore.

    I’m objectively curious to know how the dissolution of a sense of separate self would effectively address that neurological encoding, however. Does it help to overcome the craving itself, when you see it for what it is? What specifically is the process for shifting from a mindless, automatic way of acting out a compulsive habit to a mindful, conscious way of acting which obliterates that pre-ordained, pre-encoded behaviour?

    1. Not a scientist, Dustin, but from a non-neurological point of view it seems that simply making the unconscious more conscious, for instance, by seeing the “ghost image” that precedes the behavior, it’s as if the automatic aspect of the compulsion is short-circuited. In the end, one can only speculate why it works, but empirically this seems to be the case–that compulsivity in general relaxes when we become more conscious, by literally deconstructing the components of the behavior. And the relaxation seems to coincide with the diminishment of an often unrecognized contraction that we could identify as that sense of self. What comes first is kind of a chicken/egg kind of thing. Thanks for the thoughtful question. This is all very new, and I’d be hard-pressed to respond with certainty as to why and how it works.

  2. Everything that is described here about the conception and blossoming of a compulsive behaviour rings true. I want to ask the question- what does one do when the craving arises and seems to take hold, and rushes you towards its completion- in drunkenness, smoking, overeating or whatever?

    1. Thanks, V. We are seeing that looking right at what we’re calling the “ghost image” concurrent with the craving, or urge, radically reduces, or eliminates the impulse entirely. That intervention within the seemingly automatic compulsive behavior, coupled with the discovery of the relaxation response, or the peace that already exists–Without, and prior to, any substance or activity, turns the whole compulsion on its head. It’s amazing to behold.

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