Whether it's recovery from addiction or Zen training... which surprise! is just another version of healing from addiction, as it's a disease and un-ease of mind, there are a few consistent themes. The first is that the primary mood and mind-altering substance at the heart of suffering are thought streams of negativity, and an unhealthy relationship to the mind that projects them. The second is persistent and intrusive ideas that we're somehow insufficient, not enough, broken, undeserving, inadequate, and/or damaged goods. The third is that the solution more times than not appears at a distance from us. The fourth is the solutions only provide temporary relief, and one way or another tend to reinforce the previous points. The fifth is satisfaction, contentment, happiness, serenity, or peace is short-lived, and is pretty much accidental.
Needless to say, in my direct experience... the mind's sense of dissatisfaction was my higher power for a long time because that's what was influencing my decision-making. Perhaps not so coincidentally this is the "First Point," Buddha offered at his very first teaching, known as "Dukkha." In his time it was a colloquialism meaning the potters wheel that turns in a way that's not balanced. It's for that reason, that it's impossible to make things that are beautiful. In this way, the potter's wheel is a way of talking about the mind when it's not only untrained, but we have an unhealthy relationship with various aspects of it. The Second Pointer... "Samudaya," means having a deep craving... hunger... thirst... for things to be perfect, despite the fact that the causes and conditions for perfection as the mind see's it isn't an option on the menu of reality.
The most common hooks the mind uses to pull us away from satisfaction... contentment... happiness... serenity... peacefulness... are fantasy, fear, worry, anxiety, depression, anger, resentment, guilt, and shame. When we travel and live within such thoughts... or bond to them with the words, "I, I think, I thought, I feel (which if we actually introspected the statement is often a thought masquerading as a feeling) my, and mine;" suffering is the soup of the day, every day.
If you're curious, the inner Jedi to the mind's jagged edges of being needy, greedy, and clingy does serve a purpose for it. The Mind can only gain a reflection of itself through our suffering. When we're happy... joyful... comfortable... peaceful... there's nothing being reflected because those experiences have the effect of being seamless... without distance, space, or time.
To addiction-mind that's like not existing at all. That's why ego spends so much time photo-bombing moments with negativity, that's often replaying and re-litigating our past, or projecting about the future, and freaking out about events that are largely guesses about what could happen. If you believe I'm kidding, how hard is it to pick someone or ourselves apart, as opposed to appreciating and noticing what's positive or beautiful about them or ourselves... especially in awkward or challenging moments? Where's the unconditional positive regard then?
How hard is it to stand in front of a mirror, look ourselves in the eyes, and say that we love ourselves? In recovery, it's not an uncommon project for an addict to ask others about positive characteristics about themselves. We could let that sink in for a moment. The negative narration is so powerful, that we can be blinded from seeing ourselves in a healthy or positive light. If you asked the person to describe what's wrong, there's usually no difficulty identifying that.
The Third Point is Nirodha, which literally means to stop actively participating and swimming in the dialogues and monologs of thought-streams, directly experiencing Reality as It Is. This naturally leads to the Fourth Pointer known as "Marga," literally meaning path or prescription. It's the skillsets that we could intentionally apply... like a prescription that changes our relationship with the things mentioned in the very first paragraph of this essay.
This practice is:
8) One-pointed undivided stabilized attention
7) Depth of Mindfulness
6) Embodied effort/energy
5) Wise community involvement
4) Compassionate Action
3) Healthy Communication
2) Sincere Resolve/Intention
which naturally results in
1) Wise understanding
Is what You and I are doing right now leading us to be fully whole, and wholly free, or manufacturing the causes and conditions of harm to ourselves and others? If the answer is harm, then that exposes an unsoundness of mind, that is entropic... self and other destructive on a spectrum. If it supports kindness... connection... Love... well... there ya go...
一We Are the Practice Itself