What I Learned After Lying Motionless in Dubai

by Michael Simmons on Mar 9, 2010

Note: This entry is a journal entry to myself, which I’ve decided to share publicly…

I’ve spent the past few hours lying motionless on a hotel bed in Dubai.

My body hasn’t acclimated to the time difference yet, and it thinks it should be frolicking outside right now.

So, instead of fighting it, I’ve essentially chosen to meditate, despite constant pressure from the mind to relive every seemingly random moment of my life and philosophize about it.

The biggest virtue I will focus on in 2010 is surrendering my addiction to thoughts and stimulation.

The biggest addiction I’ve had in my life that I’ve conquered is addiction to sweets.

In high school, I used to have 1/4 of an Entenmann’s Marshmallow Iced Devil’s Food Cake every morning for breakfast. Then, I used to bring candy with me to school and eat it throughout the day. I was always “hungry”, I always carried food with me too. In reality, I was just having withdrawals from sugar.

Fast forward to today, ten years later. I’ve had a handful of desserts over the entire year, and it hasn’t really been that much of a struggle. I’ve been working on my diet since I was a freshman in college. I actually eat much less now. When I’ve needed to fast for 24 hours for my religion, it has been very easy.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted sweets in my life (beyond the addiction) was that I felt like having dessert was one of the best ways to suck the most joy out of life.

Today, I look at the world much differently. Addiction distorts one’s mind. If we feed our addiction, then we justify it. When we justify our addiction, it becomes invisible to us, which means we don’t appreciate its impact, and we don’t endeavor to solve it. Why else would people choose to eat foods that will without a doubt shorten their lives by decades in some cases?

Addiction takes away our freedom to act independently and think clearly. It takes away our ability to appreciate now, because we’re looking for our next fix constantly.

The biggest addiction of our generation is an addiction to constant stimulation. We get this through checking facebook a million times per day, watching our favorite TV show daily, constantly refreshing our email inbox, or just incessantly thinking about the past or future.

I used to feel that not having dessert was bad, because I looked at it as a loss of sweetness. In reality, it is the freedom from the need to have sweetness. Paradoxically, this sweetens every moment.

I now choose to have leverage over myself. The path out of stimulation addiction for me is giving myself the freedom and space to not think and therefore, be bored. We don’t realize it, but the discomfort of boredom has a major impact on our lives. We don’t fully appreciate it, because every time we start to experience it, we look for our next stimulation fix.

Erasing my food addiction didn’t mean stopping eating all food. It meant stopping eating food for the wrong reasons. Our body needs food to survive.

In the same way, thoughts allow us to function in the world. If we are alive, there is going to be stimulation. The problem is stimulation for the wrong reasons. Stimulation will never truly eradicate boredom. It will only temporarily hide it. The only true antidote to boredom is giving yourself the freedom to experience it. Then, as resistance comes up in the form of desire for the next fix, one must surrender that. One must constantly surrender each impulse.

Here are the costs I see to stimulation addiction in my own life:

  • I make BS excuses about why something is absolutely critical right now. In doing so, I make it OK to be stressed. Research has just shown extremely conclusively that stress is just bad for your health. It is almost silly for me to eat really healthy on the one hand in the name of being healthy and then prematurely age myself by justifying stress.
  • The addiction distorts my thoughts and sharpness. As a result, I don’t deal with feelings of jealousy, frustration, and anger as they come up. Instead, I justify how I don’t have enough time for them. In reality, I’m just not comfortable with how they make me feel.
  • They distort my sense of what’s important. So, instead of focusing what’s most important, I might choose to check my email, read a random article on the Internet, or do an activity that impulsively makes sense. As a result, I’m pretending to be busy, when I’m actually just wasting time, and sometimes even causing more damage to my life than benefit.
  • I lose integrity with myself, because I know that I’m being hypocritical. On the one hand, I’m trying to be a healthy person who does what’s most important, but on the other, I know I’m not completely doing what I know already works.

The daily exercises I can do to free myself from this addiction on a daily basis include:

  • Meditation for one hour in the morning.
  • Meditation for one hour in the evening.
  • Three 10 minute meditations throughout the day at 10am, 2pm, and 6pm.
  • One 30-second ‘refresh’ every waking hour.
  • Only checking email and articles at pre-defined times.

In other words, I commit to spending about 2 and a half daily to surrendering the addiction. Feels scary and somewhat impossible, but I can do it! I must do it!!!

My dream life is having harmony between my intentions, thoughts, and actions. Taking these steps would allow me to live my dream life.

Using the regret minimization framework of Jeff Bezos, not living my dream life would truly be a regret for me. The ‘time’ sacrifices that it would require more than make up for themselves in the long-run.


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I'm the co-founder of Empact, one of the leading entrepreneurship education organizations in the world. I'm obsessed with understanding how we all can lead meaningful lives that have a positive social impact. I love probing into the truth of how we experience life. I believe that challenges are what make us grow the most, and I openly share my experiences. Continue reading…