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There is a definite goal. But there is no timetable. What you are doing is digging your way deeper and deeper through layers of illusion toward realization of the supreme truth of existence. The process itself is fascinating and fulfilling. It can be enjoyed for its own sake. There is no need to rush. At the end of a well-done meditation session, you will feel a delightful freshness of mind. It is a peaceful, buoyant, and joyous energy that you can then apply to the problems of daily living. This in itself is reward enough. The purpose of meditation is not to deal with problems, however, and problem-solving ability is a fringe benefit and should be regarded as such. If you place too much emphasis on the problem-solving aspect, you will find your attention turning to those problems during the session, sidetracking concentration. Don't think about your problems during your practice. Push them aside very gently. Take a break from all that worrying and planning. Let your meditation be a complete vacation. Trust yourself, trust your own ability to deal with these issues later, using the energy and freshness of mind that you built up during your meditation. Trust yourself this way and it will actually occur. Don't set goals for yourself that are too high to reach. Be gentle with yourself. You are trying to follow your own breathing continuously and without a break.

That sounds easy enough, so you will have a tendency at the outset to push yourself to be scrupulous and exacting. This is unrealistic. Take time in small units instead. At the beginning of an inhalation, make the resolve to follow the breath just for the period of that one inhalation. Even this is not so easy, but at least it can be done. Then, at the start of the exhalation, resolve to follow the breath just for that one exhalation, all the way through. You will still fail repeatedly, but keep at it. Every time you stumble, start over. Take it one breath at a time. This is the level of the game where you can actually win. Stick with it--fresh resolve with every breath cycle, tiny units of time. Observe each breath with care and precision, taking it one split second on top of another, with fresh resolve piled one on top of the other. In this way, continuous and unbroken awareness will eventually result. Addiction is a word that covers a lot of ground--everything from debilitating drug or alcohol use to out-of-control gambling. But in all cases, the working definition of addiction is the same: continued compulsive substance use or behavior despite harmful consequences. To the person who is not addicted, that concept seems simple enough. If an action repeatedly has an adverse effect on your life but you can't or won't stop, then you are most likely addicted. That logic is easy to apply to others, yet few things are harder to recognize in ourselves than addiction. It's not difficult to see why. The word addict is among the most stigmatized in the English language.

Thanks to media-driven stereotypes, it conjures images of people who have lost all ability to function in society. We've convinced ourselves that addicts live in abandoned buildings or alleyways and spend their days begging or stealing for their next "fix." Those people certainly exist and are in great need of our help and compassion. But they form only a tiny fraction of the number of people whose lives are negatively affected by some compulsive need they can't control, whether physical or behavioral. The hard truth is, anyone can become addicted. Surveys clearly back that up. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, "approximately 21.5 million people aged 12 or older in 2014 had a substance use disorder (SUD) in the past year, including 17.0 million people with an alcohol use disorder, 7.1 million with an illicit drug use disorder, and 2.6 million who had both an alcohol use and an illicit drug use disorder." As stunning as those numbers sound, they include only people whose substance use rises to the clinical definition of a "disorder." Plus, the figures do not include the abuse of legal prescription drugs, a growing and deadly crisis in the United States, or other substances like tobacco, sugar, and caffeine, which would add many more millions to the total. Furthermore, they don't begin to count the portion of the population trapped in compulsive behaviors such as gambling, shopping, video games, and so on, which the mental health community has only just begun to suspect are addictions in the truest sense of the word. Here's the point: if you are struggling to overcome depression and are also addicted to a harmful substance or behavior, you are not alone. And you are not flawed or inferior. Addiction is not a character defect. It is not a moral failure or a sign of weakness. It is a sign of pain. It is an attempt to meet a legitimate need in yourself that has, until now, gone unacknowledged and unmet. We'll return to that idea later in the chapter, but for now it's also important to face a hard truth: you are going nowhere in your search for lasting freedom from depression while an addiction weighs you down. The fact is, an addiction of any kind will alter your mood, and that is precisely what people want when they are feeling depressed. Since compulsive involvement with addictive substance or activity usually brings temporary relief, pleasure, or even bliss, it's not surprising that the depressed individual returns to this behavior again and again. Quite often, the person pursues the harmful habit more intensely and more frequently in order to achieve the same mood elevation and sense of relief. However, getting out and talking to strangers can be challenging at the beginning. That's why I put together some really easy ice-breakers, and exercises to help you do just that: Kill them with kindness, every time. Whether you'd like to be more neighbourly with your neighbour, or you want to be able to achieve a greater comradery at work, kindness (genuine kindness) is the best way I've found to end fueds, and get people to come together with a common goal.

Giving a compliment is one way to bring others together. Offering to solve a problem is another great way to bridge the gap between you and others. Make small talk like a pro. If you find yourself at a work related dinner party (or a social one, in which you know the hostess, but that's about it), you can easily make small talk with others around you. If you feel nervous, that's ok. Pick anything to talk about. It could be the huge menu that you feel overwhelmed by ("Have you ever seen so many salad options before? I haven't.") You can talk about anything related to the meal you're enjoying, or the restaurant you're dining at. "I've never had Cuban food before, have you? I've always dreamt of going there. Have you travelled much?" Going out of your comfort zone to play a sport or join a club or meet someone in a bar - those are hard. Being friendly to someone you just met? That's as easy as it gets. It just takes a different world perspective. Nine times out of ten, the rudeness we show to others is misplaced. No, you shouldn't be a pushover, but why yell at the woman in Starbucks after a 5 minute wait in line? It's not her fault and she certainly cannot do anything about it. You could just as easily have made a friend by telling a joke or making her feel better about what is most likely a stressful day, but instead you got rude and only made it worse. Anger is one of those things that can severely interrupt even a good conversation. Have you ever had a friend or someone you're dating get angry in the car while driving?

It's uncomfortable. They yell, bang on the steering wheel, swear and do all sorts of things that you'd never do in front of someone from whom you want to gain respect. Even when you love that person, it's uncomfortable and slightly embarrassing. While some people pay astrologers to foretell the future, and others pay stock analysts for stock tips, we, as a society, spend billions of dollars on economic forecasts. A number of government agencies and hundreds of private organizations sell economic forecasts. How good are they? A review of twelve studies on forecasting accuracy, covering the periods 1970 to 1995, concluded that economists can't even predict the major turning points in our economy.44 One study analyzed the error rates in forecasting the gross national product (GNP) growth and inflation eight quarters into the future for six major economic forecasters: the Federal Reserve, the Council of Economic Advisers, the Congressional Budget Office, General Electric, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the National Bureau of Economic Research. Forty-six of the forty-eight forecasts did not predict our economy's turning points.45 Another study revealed that the forecasting track record of the Federal Reserve was, again, worse than chance. Over the period 1980 to 1995, the Fed called the major turning points in real GNP growth only three out of six times (the same as chance), and was unsuccessful in predicting the two turning points in inflation. Thus, the Fed was accurate only 38 percent of the time (three out of eight). The turning point predictions of the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) between 1976 and 1995 faired no better, with overall accuracy rates of only 36 percent and 50 percent, respectively. These data indicate that the major economic forecasting organizations can't predict whether there'll be a major turning point in our economy. As William Sherden notes, "Economic forecasters have routinely failed to foresee turning points in the economy: the coming of severe recessions, the start of recoveries, and periods of rapid increases or decreases in inflation.... In fact, they have failed to predict the past four most severe recessions, and most of them predicted growth instead for these periods." Most economists were forecasting a severe downturn after the stock market crashed in October 1987, and yet the economy expanded vigorously during the last quarter of 1987. The bottom line is, most economic forecasts are no better than just predicting that next year will be about the same as this year. In fact, they can actually be worse, because if change is predicted, there's a good chance the direction will be wrong. In addition, the expertise of economists or the sophistication of economic models does not improve forecast accuracy. Predictions based upon large models having over one thousand equations are no better than predictions from simple models with only a few equations. No matter how sophisticated the models are, they still can't reliably predict the future. A particularly telling test was revealed in 1995, when the magazine the Economist published the results of a contest held in 1985.