Hacking Codependency With Meditation

If you’ve already taken our mini-course, you may remember an email entitled “Becoming and Staying Aware”. The point of this entire email was that “mindfulness” is a crucial skill to overcoming codependent habits.

As our course states:

“Mindfulness essentially teaches us how to gain back control of our mind. In order to practice, we must learn to observe, describe and participate in the present moment. Mindfulness assists us in getting to know ourselves and monitoring how we react in certain situations. Codependent people tend to compulsively react without thinking or being aware of their surroundings. Their emotions are so entangled in someone else’s that they don’t know where they stop and the other person begins.

I have adapted some basic mindfulness practices that have been helpful for staying in the moment:
    • Fan-Sidebar-TransparentHave a “Teflon mind”- allow thoughts, feelings and experiences to enter but easily slide right on through your mind
    • Stay alert to everything happening in and around your personal space, and do not make judgments about it
    • Describe a thought as a thought, a feeling a as a feeling, ignore what emotion is attached to it
    • Allow yourself to fully participate in each moment, don’t think about where you want to be or where you think you should be”

It so happens that I just got out of a crash course in developing this exact skill, and I couldn’t wait to share it with you because I believe it offers tremendous benefits. Now I happen to be a very logical, scientific person, and a skeptic by nature, so I have a tendency to put a magnifying glass on things before I buy into them whole-heartedly. I can say without a doubt that developing this skill can benefit every person to some degree, and people with codependent tendencies probably stand an even greater benefit than most.

So what am I talking about?

For the past 10 days, I sat in complete silence, ate 2 vegetarian meals per day, rose at 4:30am and meditated for approximately 10 hours each day, for a total of 100 hours of meditation at a Vipassana Meditation Course. You certainly don’t have to put yourself through this to start developing mindfulness, this intensive course is merely a way to get firmly established in this type of meditation technique. It gets into a very deep level of meditation, but there many types of meditation out there, most of which offer the development basic “mindfulness” that we refer to in our mini-course.

What Is This Technique All About?CNM Pic 7 Meditator

    1. Awareness
    2. Equanimity
    3. Impermanence

Vipassana systematically trains you to develop awareness while practicing equanimity, which is a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind. Simply put, it means mental calmness in the face of unpleasant (or pleasant) thoughts or circumstances.

Awareness begins with the observation of one’s respiration, or focusing your entire attention on your breath until the mind becomes sharp enough to concentrate on such a small area and minimize outside distractions. Step two is using your newly sharpened mind to scan your entire body to observe the sensations you experience within, since every thought or emotion is also accompanied by a physical sensation. The problem is that when we are so unbalanced and out of touch with ourselves, we don’t have the faculty to fully feel these emotions, let alone the sensations that come along with them.

Equanimity is the most important piece of this. It is the yardstick by which you can measure success. We tend to “run away” from unpleasant thoughts / sensations, and “run towards” pleasant ones. When something pleasant happens to us, our natural mental habit pattern is to develop craving, clinging to this pleasant thing. We want more and more of it, and when we don’t get more of it, it creates misery for us. Similarly, we want to keep our distance from unpleasant things, so when they happen, it also creates misery. This is the habit pattern that developed when we began recognizing our power as young children, beginning to exert our control over our surroundings. In a sense, although we felt “in control”, we started to become controlled by our surroundings by running towards what we liked and away from what we didn’t like. Equanimity is the core skill needed to hack this pattern, gain back control, and develop mental and emotional peace and serenity at the same time.

Impermanence is universal law of nature which, when remembered, aids greatly in the development your equanimity. The nature of everything is – arising and then passing away. Everything from your home to your body to your thoughts (pleasant or unpleasant) is impermanent. All had a beginning, and all will have an end. Therefore, what is the sense of reacting to a negative thought? When you can begin to separate yourself from your thoughts and emotions, you uncover an incredible ability to objectively observe them without reacting. You can say, “okay, I’m angry for x reason, but this anger does not define me. I’m not an angry person, I’m just experiencing anger. Let me see how long this anger lasts, and when it’s done, it’s done.” The ability to do this brings liberation from the bondage of being constantly “acted upon” by outside forces, and instead choosing to react in a way that puts you back in control.

Here’s a great 10-minute TED talk on mindfulness and meditation:

How Does This Relate to Codependency?

Since a person with codependent tendencies frequently looks for personal validation from the outside, he or she is essentially trapped in a web of reliance on others for emotional well-being. Since he craves the love others (or often a superficial, conditional form of “love”), he is constantly miserable when he doesn’t get this craving fulfilled.

The direct result of beginning to develop awareness combined with equanimity is a sense of freedom and confidence gained, a tool which is quite helpful toward the goal of self-reliance and less dependence on others for emotional fulfillment.

One might ask, “does developing this ability mean that I will go numb? If I’m decreasing the misery I experience, won’t I also decrease the joy?” The answer is to the contrary; by developing intense awareness you begin to feel your emotions more strongly which is an incredible asset towards overcoming codependency, and by developing equanimity your joy, contentment, and happiness will actually improve while your misery decreases.