I was heavily addicted to coffee for a long time. I used to put cream in there and a ton of sugar and as many espressos as I could sneak in without my heart exploding. At some point – with my heart racing and swimming in sweat – the realization dawned on me that this habit was maybe not in my best interest. So I kicked coffee forever … like ten times in ten years. Finding a defilement is easy. Getting rid of it – completely different story. I tried everything. I tried things that kick like coffee, things that look like coffee, things that taste like coffee, nothing worked. I usually stopped for a month, then I was back on it. I was beyond help. Did all my meditation help me? No. In the end I had to use a trick (as a Buddhist I should rather call it: Skillful mean.) I caught a bad stomach flue and from experience I knew that whatever I eat last before I turn into a living fire hose will be of my menu forever. This time I got lucky and my last meal was a cup of coffee. So, did I enlighten myself out of the defilement of an addiction to sensual pleasure? Not really, I used a simple conditioning tool to change my behavior since I notices that it makes me unhappy, even though it disguises itself as happiness. Now, does this mean I won? I won because I don’t drink any coffee any more? No, because I switched from one addiction to another. I switched to something else. I started to drink green tea. And now I was addicted to green tea. And also … I wanted a coffee. After a couple of years of drinking gallons of strong green tea I was ready to acknowledge the problem. So, I stopped drinking green tea … and now I have a shelf stuffed with twenty kinds of organic herbal tea.
By now there should be pattern revealing itself to the reader…
I know that me ranting over coffee and tea may seem childish, but my point is that it is not only the really big things we can’t control. The simple and sad truth is, that we can’t control shit in our life most of our time. However we are still supposed to fix the world while we are at it. These days Buddhism is supposed to be really engaged in the big matters. War, economy, climate, gender confusions and whatnot. Because we strife to liberate everyone with our practice, supposedly.
In the meantime, there I am in my kitchen, claiming that I meditate for almost twenty years, while even a simple cup of colored water has me up against the ropes no problem. That’s just sad. Also it is an important lesson from the Buddha. It never ends. As long as we are here, there will always be a next thing. Another thing, that will always be followed by a next suffering. The first important step is to acknowledge that. You will not be able to eliminate all addictions by doing that, however you will train yourself to realize what it is you are doing. You will start to see these things as the simple but strong conditionings they are. Nothing more than that. Not your personal failure or something to be ashamed of. There will always be another suffering somewhere. This is how this realm of existence is build.
Do you know the Pali word for what we translate as suffering? It is “dukkha”. Do you know what dukkha originally was? Imagine an old school ox chart with big wooden wheels. Take one of the wheels of and look in the middle where the axis is. That whole there was called dukkha. Get it? It’s a dirty place you are trapped in that goes round and round and round … forever. It is also known as the wheel of suffering.
In case you haven’t noticed. Coffee can also mean sex, food, work or whatever else you find yourself addicted to.
Also, yesterday I had a coffee at Starbucks. Go figure.