Mindfulness, The Most Effective Treatment For Addictions: A Masterclass with Dr Judson Brewer

Do you ever find yourself stuck in unhelpful habits or addictions like overeating, overspending or drinking to much coffee or alcohol?

Ever been in that place where you try and try to change through the force of willpower again and again but find yourself right back where you started feeling defeated and stuck? In can be really painful and frustrating so be caught up in these addictive cycles when you feel you should ‘know better’.

A fact that many don’t know yet is that mindfulness is currently the most effective treatment in the world for overcoming addictions. It beats the previous gold standard treatment for quitting smoking by double! By the way smoking is, according to the experts, the hardest addiction to give up in the world. It’s harder to give up than cocaine or heroin.

This week lets take a deep dive into the science and practice of mindfulness for addiction with my latest mindfulness masterclass video. In this video I interview Dr Judson Brewer, director of Research at Center for Mindfulness and an internationally known expert in mindfulness training for addiction.

Do you know what the most powerful thing about this session is? Jud isn’t just teaching us about how to stop smoking or overeating (although those are important and included). He reveals something deeper. He shows us how this seemingly simple practice of using mindfulness for addiction, can also teach us how to untangle ourselves from what is said to be the biggest obstacle to mindful living – our attachment to craving.

He is teaching us how to become MORE present in the face of craving, instead of getting caught up in it. This is big.

This is a must see masterclass for anyone who wants to live a more mindful life.

In this session you will also learn:

– The science behind how addictive cycles begin and how we can use mindfulness to break the cycle

– Why human life is often characterised by a constant sense of wanting more (The Buddha called this state ‘samsara’ which means endless wandering) and what it means to find a deeper sense of contentment and happiness

– A four step process for how to use mindfulness the moment a strong urge or craving arises

– Where you can find further tools and apps that can be there to coach and support you the moment craving arises

I’m sure you’ll find this video both deeply insightful and very practical.

Enjoy!… and may it bring you more ease, peace and freedom. You’ll find a transcript of this interview below : )

TRANSCRIPT OF MASTERCLASS

Melli: G’day and it’s Melli here from The Mindfulness Summit and I am delighted to say that the journey is continuing.

So this is the first interview in a series that we are going to release to you, as well some audio episodes as well. You know our intention really is, we got such an incredible outpouring of gratitude and a lot of requests for more after The Mindfulness Summit last year, and we just really want to continue to nourish you on your journey into mindful living.

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Judson Brewer.

Jud is the Director of Research at the Center For Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts. And he is really an internationally known expert in mindfulness training for addiction. He is considered to be a thought leader in the science of self-mastery and he combines 20 years of his own practice of mindfulness with his cutting edge research into the neural mechanisms of mindfulness.I think you’re going to find this conversation both insightful and very, very practical.In this conversation, Jud reveals the science behind how addictive cycles begin and why mindfulness can really help us break free of those cycles. And we also speak about why human life is often characterized by a constant sense of wanting more and how we can become deeply fulfilled and content as a way of being in life. And finally, we also speak about the four-step process that Judson uses to bring mindfulness to any moment when a craving or an urge arises.I hope you enjoy my conversation with Dr. Judson Brewer.

Melli: So Jud thank you so much for taking the time to share with us here today. I really appreciate it.

Judson: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Melli: And actually, I’m also going to take this opportunity to thank you very, very much for the presentation that you did for The Mindfulness Summit. I haven’t had the chance to thank you in person. It was really insightful and incredibly helpful. We’ve had amazing feedback about it. So thanks for that too.

Judson: Great to hear.

Melli: So in that presentation that you did for the Summit, you spoke about how your research into how mindfulness can help us with addictive urges and it was incredibly helpful and insightful and I’d like to dig a little bit deeper into that today, but also just to talk about some general aspects about mindful living that you’ve picked up through your personal experience and research along the way.

So, first of all, I’d love to know how your own journey into mindfulness started. Was it something that began for you as a child or was it something that unfolded later in life? Tell us the story about your own journey there.

Judson: It’s hard to know exactly because in retrospect, you know you look back and you say, ‘Oh, maybe that was something.’ But definitively, I do know I was right about to start medical school in the mid-90s and had gone through a bad relationship breakup and was having trouble sleeping, probably for the first time in my life. And somehow this Jon Kabat-Zinn book ended in my lap and I read a little bit of it and started meditating on my first day of medical school. I was listening to his cassette tapes, for those of you who don’t remember what a cassette tape is, and started meditating right at the beginning of medical school and found that it was really helpful for me to work with my mind, work with stress and even, you know, during boring medical school lectures. I had lots of time to sit and pay attention to my breath as a beginning practice. So, that’s when it started.

Melli: Ahh, and what was one of the first big ‘aha’ moments, realizations, insights that came from your practice that you feel really had an impact on your life, a big impact?

Judson: Great question. That was a while ago so it’s hard to say what some of the first ones were but I did start noticing that during medical school and during graduate school, that I really could start to not be sucked into this or this or this in terms of my mind spinning out of control. It was really helpful in those respects. And then, you know, in terms of getting out of my own way – whether I was seeing patients or getting a review from a reviewer when I had submitted a paper or submitting a grant or working with a co-worker, just all of these aspects of my life that started showing up in a way that was very helpful.

Melli: So it sounds like it helped you to break free of being caught up in cycles of stress and kind of struggle there.

Judson: Yeah. Absolutely.

Melli: And as you reflect back now, how many years have you been formally practicing now?

Judson: It’s 2016, it’s been 20 years.

Melli: 20 years. So as you reflect on that 20 years now, from where you’re standing now, what would you say has been the biggest challenge, or one of the biggest challenges in your practice and how have you overcome it?

Judson: These are such great questions. One of the biggest challenges in my practice…

You know, I’m kind of hard-headed, so practice has always been a real go-to for me in terms of coming back to the practice. So there have been so many gifts that I’ve gotten from the practice. What’s been challenging? Because it hasn’t been. You know, I’ve been relatively regular in practicing, so that hasn’t been a problem that some of… Maybe it’s just the way my mind is. I’d grown up playing the violin, so had learned the dedicated practice everyday which is very helpful in developing any new habits. So maybe that was something that was a little easier for me then than some people find.

I’m trying to think what was it, what has been difficult in practice for me? Maybe just seeing how much, you know, when it’s really clear to me how much suffering I’ve been party to, have caused. That’s been a real challenge just to see how there’s, ‘Boy, I’ve caused a lot of suffering.’ And in that sense it’s very humbling at the same time.
Another difficulty has been trying to, you know early on, I was really trying to really intellectualize the practice as compared to just practice. In that sense, loving-kindness was a particularly challenging practice for me. You know, my fluff-o-meter went off the charts.

Melli: The woo woo meter!

Judson: Yeah, what is this touchy-feely, goofy stuff? And I promised my teacher that I would just practice it as a concentration practice and that was it. And then I started learning that it was like just so much more than that. But it took me years, it think, of dedicated loving-kindness practice to really see the doubt that this wasn’t just some woo-woo thing. So that was another one of the big challenges for me was to get over my own concepts of what loving-kindness was.

So those are a couple of examples.

Melli: Great. So, I’d love to just dig in a little bit deeper about your work with addictions and kind of dig a little deeper about some of the stuff that you spoke about in the Summit presentation.

And by the way, for everybody who’s viewing this right now, at the moment you have to pay to see Jud’s presentation, but I’m going to open it up for free for a week. There will be a link to it below this video. So you can go and watch that as a complement to this conversation so you can kind of dig a little bit deeper into this.

But in that presentation, you spoke about exactly how our addictive patterns arise and you spoke about how that loops. So I was wondering if you could, just now again, talk about what habit loop is and also how mindfulness helps breaks those habit loops.

Judson: I’d be happy to. I think that the habit loop has been something that has been described in modern psychology using terms like positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, operant conditioning, associative learning – all of these point toward that process that basically, if you break it into the simplest parts, starts with the trigger.

So let’s say we get stress as our trigger. That leads to a behavior which is, you know, let’s say we eat chocolate or we eat a cupcake.And then there’s a reward that comes from that. ‘Oh, cupcakes taste pretty good.’ So that habit loop, that’s the simplest form of it. But we can think of it in terms of positive and negative reinforcement. That in a sense, we see a cupcake and our brain says, ‘Oh that looks pretty good.’ We eat it. We taste it, it tastes very good. And then we get this sugar rush or whatever and then we lay down this memory, ‘Oh cupcakes taste pretty good.’

And we can also start to learn to associate positive mood states with cupcakes. Oh, if I’m not feeling good then my brain says, ‘Oh, I’ve a great idea. Why don’t you eat a cupcake.’

Melli: I can relate to that.

Judson: So we move from cupcakes tasting good to suddenly a negative mood leading us to having an urge to eat a cupcake because we want that negative mood to go away.

Melli: Right.

Judson: We eat the cupcake, that negative mood goes away. And then we learn, ‘Oh, just eat cupcakes when you’re sad or when you’re angry or whatever.’ And so we start to form these habit loops around all sorts of behaviors, whether it’s eating, smoking, using drugs, yelling at people, going in… You can imagine all the different types of ‘coping mechanisms’ that we have in life as a way to deal with the unpleasantness, trying to make the unpleasantness go away and trying to hold on to whatever is pleasant. You know, like ‘Oh, it’s been a great day. I’m going to take a picture and kind of hold on to this beautiful sunset that I’m watching.’ as it goes away.

So that’s the habit loop. And the interesting thing about this is that the Buddhist psychology described this 2,500 years ago in basically the same process. The only thing is they used a couple of other terms. One including ignorance where they said that this process is perpetuated through ignorance. And in modern day, we describe that in terms of subjective bias. So if I eat cupcakes when I’m sad, I suddenly start wearing these glasses that sees the world, I see the world through ‘Oh, if I feel bad I should eat cupcakes’ glasses. Right?

The Buddhist psychology describes this in terms of ignorance because we are not seeing clearly.

Melli: Right.

Judson: And what aren’t we seeing clearly? Well the cupcakes aren’t going to fix whatever the root cause of my sadness is. They’re just going to give me a sugar rush and make me feel a little bit better in the short term because I’m getting dopamine released in my brain, as an example.

Melli: Yeah and in the long term we often, it’s not going to give us, it;s actually going to lead us towards more suffering and more pain, not towards what we’re really looking for. Right.

Judson: Right, right. More suffering because eating more cupcakes isn’t going to fix it. It’s actually going to give us a stomach ache or give us diabetes or make us obese, just using that example.

Melli: So how does mindfulness, and again 2,500 years ago not only did they know those causes but also they spoke about how, the work you’re doing now, how mindfulness can break that habit loop. So can you tell us about that as well?

Judson: Sure. So it’s interesting. They really focused on craving as one of the core problems. So we get caught up in craving. We crave for pleasant things. We crave for unpleasant things to go away. And they said if you focus on the craving, you can start to break down the craving and see what it actually is.

So, I’ve had patients come into my office and say, ‘You know, if I don’t smoke my head will explode.” And we say, ‘Okay, when your head explodes put the pieces back together and call me and we’ll document it.’ Right? Because it feels so bad but these are just physical sensations.

So if we can break it down, and that’s what mindfulness is all about, if we can break it down we start to drop into our body and say, ‘Well what does craving actually feel like?’ If we can get curious about that craving and instead of trying to push it away, turn toward it, we can notice that cravings are made up of body sensations. And for some people, there’s a tightness, a restlessness. For some people there’s a mouth watering. You know it can be all sorts of physical sensations. But when we notice them, we can notice ‘Oh, tightness. Well my head’s not going to explode from tightness. Okay. Restlessness. Okay, there’s restlessness.’ And we can start to be with these sensations rather than trying to make them go away as quickly as possible.

And another element that’s often described in mindfulness practice is curiosity or interest. So if we can get really interested, what does interest or curiosity itself fell like? Does that feel unpleasant like a craving? No, curiosity actually feels good.

So we can sort of flip the balance from unpleasant craving to, ‘Oh, oh, what does this feel like?’ And we can actually start to be with these sensations as they come and go. And see that they’re not going to last forever. They’re not permanent and that they are just these sensations that we’ve become identified with.

Melli: Right. I’m so glad that you brought up as well that, you know, that these teachings have been around for so long. I think one thing that I’ve often noticed when I speak to people about something like addictive urges, it feels very personal and there’s a lot of shame and a lot of… But you’re not alone in this. This is something really fundamental about the human experience. We’re just learning how we can come to more wise relationship with it. Yeah?

Judson: Absolutely. Now I’m even going to say we all fall somewhere on this addictive spectrum.So if you think of addiction, the the far end of the addiction being continued use despite adverse consequences. So when we’re so caught up in something that we’re continuing to do it – we’re eating that fifth cookie even if we know it’s going to give us a stomach ache. You know, this is how we learn. This spectrum is how we learn and it was probably set up so we remember where food is. That’s probably how our brains were set up. But on every end of the spectrum, we learn how to form a habit around tying our shoes or we learn, if you think about the caught-upness, you know we get caught up in daydreaming all the time. Well, who doesn’t get caught up in a daydream? So you can think of daydreaming being that temporary caught-upness, stress being something that’s a little more caught-up and then addiction as being so caught-up that we’re doing all these crazy things knowing that we can’t and it’s not good for us and yet, no, we can’t stop.

Melli: Right. Yup. On your CravingToQuit website, for those of you out there, the CravingToQuit is an app that Jud has created to help in a time when you’re actually experiencing an urge. You can use this app to kind of help you be guided through that with mindfulness.

But on the website, you wrote that ‘every substance abuse from tobacco to crack cocaine affects the same brain pathways, the mesolimbic pathway that mainly acts through the neurotransmitter dopamine. And every time we do a line of crack cocaine or we feel a high from it, a cigarette from when we’re stressed out and then we use the cigarette to feel better afterwards, you reinforce the habit loop.’ So this is something that I really want to make clear here. So every time we give in to an urge we make the addiction stronger, is that true?

Judson: Yes. So every drug of abuse that’s known to humans – whether it’s alcohol, cigarettes, cocaine, heroine – all of those in one way or another affect the dopamine system, increasing the amount of dopamine in our brain.

Melli: So is it true then also that with mindfulness and what you’re teaching, that each time we don’t play out the urge we weaken the addiction?

Judson: Certainly. Behaviorally we do. We haven’t looked at the neurochemical level to see how it affects the dopamine system particularly. We found that there are certain brain regions that are involved in kind of getting caught up in our experience, that are associated with cravings and with addictions are affected by mindfulness training in particular. We found this in experienced meditators and what not.

We’ve also found behaviorally that people can have cravings and that mindfulness helps them break that link between having a craving and automatically acting on it. And it literally breaks, they can have a craving, be with it and not act on it by smoking or whatever.

Melli: Right. So it’s more that, maybe the cravings might still come but they’re just not really much of a problem over time. You get more and more skillful at just going, ‘Well it’s just a craving,’ and I can make a more conscious choice of how to respond rather than just play it out unconsciously.

Judson: Absolutely. And I just want to highlight one piece of that. It’s not that we’re cognitively saying, ‘That’s just a craving, I don’t have to act on that.’ You know if we can do that cognitively then we’d do it every time.

Melli: Yeah.

Judson: It’s really about two pieces of this. One is seeing that these cravings are just body sensations that we can be with. And the second piece being that when we’re really paying attention to the results of our actions, to those rewards that we’re getting, when we see that they’re not that helpful, we naturally start to become disenchanted with them.

So for example with smoking, people realize that smoking actually doesn’t taste very good. So they’re naturally moved, their motivation is heightened to stop smoking because, ‘Why am I doing this?’.

We see the same thing, now we have an eating program now where we’re using the same practices to help people learn the rewards that they’re getting from stress eating as well as learning to ride them out in very much the same way as the smoking cessation program. Because, guess what, sugar releases dopamine just like cocaine does.

Melli: I love that you brought up too, that there’s obvious kind of behaviors that we think about when we think about addictions, right? There’s Facebook and there’s alcohol and, you know, hard drugs and shopping and sex and all of these. And that’s what we think about when we think about addiction. But it’s striking to me that we, yes, there’s the obvious stuff but it seems like human life in general is characterized, for many of us, by a constant sense of wanting more. Like if the voice of craving had a voice, it would say ‘I need something more than what I have at this moment.’

So it seems to me that there is a, this is not just the obvious stuff that we’re working with – something much deeper about human life.

So when I was 19 years old, I worked in a nursing home as a diversional therapist and I was working with people that were getting to the end of their days and so pervasive is this part of human life that many of them felt really, really disillusioned and disappointed by the fact that they had lived their lives as a means to an end instead of really soaking it up and they urged me not to make the same mistake.

So I feel like, you know you just spoke about before how the Buddha said, I think he is attributed to saying the root to all suffering is the attachment to craving. So what are your thoughts on that? What are your comments on that?

Judson: Well I agree and our data tend to support that where every time we get caught up in a craving, we perpetuate that habit loop cycle and it’s endless. So really the Buddhist psychologists describe it, they use the term samsara.

Melli: Right.

Judson: Which literally translated means ‘endless wandering.’ And so I am wondering if the folks you were describing in the nursing home, you know, at the end of their life they realize that they had been endlessly wandering and were urging you to stop wandering.

You know it’s interesting, somewhere and this probably has happened throughout, you know, humanity but somebody described to me that somewhere in Shakespearean times, the excitement was started becoming acquainted with happiness. And you can think about this in terms of how this endless wandering gets perpetuated in our daily lives now where we’re constantly bombarded by advertisements that say: You’re not enough or You can have more of this or Increase your desire or whatever. That’s based on this notion of this excited, this excitement being happiness, you know, whether we’re on a rollercoaster, eating chocolate, having sex, whatever and not stepping back and saying: You know, is there actually a greater level of happiness that’s not based on this treadmill?

And when we step back and just rest in being rather than doing, we start to see ‘Oh, this is actually pretty good.’ And even when you want to bring it back to psychology, you know in a Skinnerean sense, you know this guy B.F. Skinner who is famous for these Skinner boxes where you put a rat in this color versus this color and then you shock them in this box. So suddenly it becomes more painful to be in this box than this one. So they prefer this box over this one.

Well in the same way, if we only know happiness as being excitement and then suddenly we realize there’s another box such as peace and joy and just an awareness where we’re not caught up in things, we can start to find situations and conditions that support this as against to this.

Melli: Right. It seems like a strange paradox in a human mind to say that finding a deeper level of fulfillment means actually stopping the seeking because we so strongly associate the seeking to the happiness. But, yeah, I think that was the Buddhist really great insight back then, wasn’t it, was actually get off the treadmill if you want and actually find out yourself by going within and just resting. That there is a deeper level that actually happiness isn’t, I don’t even think the word happiness is a kind of, I think fulfillment resonates more with me – a deeper sense of fulfillment that you can have by just resting in your own beingness.

Judson: Absolutely. And you can even, in that sense, we can even start to differentiate the types of seeking that most of us are conditioned to do which often is described as sensation-seeking.

Melli: Uh-huh.

Judson: Like, you know, looking for something novel, looking for something new, looking for more, looking for this. As compared to the seeking many of us have that’s like ‘Oh, this isn’t quite doing it for me.’ So that’s when we start turning inward and that seeking becomes more of an exploration of, and again a curiosity, a question. And those answers come from not getting but just from noticing how our minds work and resting in what is, as you’re describing.

Melli: And you’re saying that the research, the current research out there also supports that, what we’re saying here?

Judson: There’s a lot of research and it’s still pretty early stages so there’s nothing definitive. And so I’ll just speak a little a bit to some of the research we’ve done and some of the work that’s been replicated because I think it’s important to be able to replicate results to know if they’re real.

There seems to be, for example, a brain region that’s associated with kind of getting caught up. So when we get caught up in excitement or get caught up in anger or rumination or craving, there’s this brain region called the posterior cingulate cortex that gets activated.

And this same brain region gets deactivated when we are concentrated on our in breath awareness, doing loving-kindness meditation, choices awareness, you know just open awareness and even during curiosity different Christian contemplative practices. So it seems there’s a common element here where this getting caught up experience, the opposite happens when we are getting out of our own way, if you want to think of it that way. When we’re not caught up in that excitement and just resting in a more of a boundary-less-ness where there’s just awareness, just being. It’s hard to describe because it’s not about me. It’s not about the self. It’s not about any of that taking things personally.

Melli: It’s just a being deeply in touch with the unfolding present moment.

So I’d love if you could actually walk us through, give us a kind of a simulation as if we had an urge right now at this moment. And maybe some of the people watching do have an urge in this moment, so congratulations, if you do. Because you have a four-part process, don’t you, a four-part way of guiding people using mindfulness through an urge, the R.A.I.N. process. Would you be able to give us a taste of what that’s like?

Judson: Sure. Sure. And this was first, I think, attributed to Michelle McDonald who is a Western Vipassana teacher or insight meditation teacher and we modified it slightly based on some of the Burmese teachings. But basically it’s the four, the acronym is R.A.I.N.

So what’s your favorite sugar sweetened thing that you might have an urge for when you are stressed out or something or maybe that doesn’t happen very…

Melli: Oh, it happens. It happens.

Judson: So what’s your pick, we could use that object so give me an example.

Melli: For me it’s dark chocolate. So I don’t have a huge sweet tooth but, dark chocolate.

Judson: Good. Well dark chocolate’s a good one because anything above 70% is considered a health food.

Melli: Well if you tell yourself that, that’s dangerous. You see, that’s what I found out. You tell yourself it’s a health food and then you can eat more apparently. That’s what my mind said.

Judson: So let’s say, hypothetically speaking, we’ve had a rough day and we come home and we’re tired and you know, it just does not feel very good. And so we’re not really hungry but our brain says, you know, ‘why don’t I eat some dark chocolate.’ And so we see this chocolate. We look at the chocolate. It looks at us. It’s like we have this connection. It says, yes you are what I need. So we start to get enchanted, It’s like the chocolate is playing it’s little soothsayer pipe or whatever to us and we start getting enchanted. ‘Oh, chocolate. Yes, that’s what I need.’ In that moment, the first thing that we need to do is to recognize that we’re caught up in that craving. Because if we can’t recognize it, we’re just going to go along in that trance and eat the chocolate. We might eat one, two nibs or eat the whole bar without even paying much attention to it. So we have to recognize. That’s what the R stands for.

And I even suggest that we relax into it. Because this isn’t about like forcing ourselves not to do things. This is just about, okay, this is what my brain is doing, this is what my mind is doing. So let’s have fun with this.

The next step is the A which is to allow or accept or acknowledge that this craving is there. So typically cravings are unpleasant, so we want them to go as quickly as possible. And so we’ll say, “Okay craving what do I do, what do I need to do? Just tell me what I need to do?’ And it says, ‘Eat the chocolate.’ So we say okay. So instead of just, you know, downing the chocolate. You should make that craving go away or like trying to stuff that craving into a closet, we should just step back and allow it to be there. Okay, this is what’s happening. And that’s really helpful because we can’t get intimate with our cravings if we tell them to stand on the other side of the room, right? You stay over there, I’ll stay over here. We’ll be cool. Okay. We don’t know what the craving’s like so how can we work with it if it’s way over there of if we’re kind of suppressing it. So really we have to allow it to be there.

The next step is where it gets really fun. So the I is for investigate. So instead of pushing that craving away, we say ‘Okay, what’s happening in my body right now?’ And we get really curious. It’s like we put on our Sherlock Holmes cap and we pull out our magnifying glass and we just start looking just by noticing whatever the sensations are in our body. The key with the investigation is to get curious. Oh, what does this feel like?

And then the N, which is often described as non-identification as in not taking things personally, we’ve simplified that just in the sense that just simply noticing whatever body sensations are present in any one moment. So we might note that there is tightness and then the next moment there’s tension and there’s my mouth watering because I’m thinking about that chocolate. Or my shoulders are starting to get tight. So I just start noticing, oh there’s this, now there’s this, now there’s this, now there’s this – from moment to moment as I notice what my body sensations are that are making up that craving.

And in that sense, if I can follow the algorithm, R.A.I.N., so recognize, allow it to be there, get curious by investigating and noting it, I can start to see, ohm these are just body sensations that are driving my life. They come and go. They come and go and I don’t actually have to get sucked into them. So that disenchantment, so that kind of spell of enchantment is broken.

Melli: So with the noting would you kind of maybe even stand there, you don’t even really have to close your eyes, but you would stand there and actually mentally say to yourself, ‘Ah, tightness in the belly. Ah, heart’s racing. Ah, you know.’ So you would actually step through and mentally note every, just the raw body sensations that your feeling in that moment.

Judson: Yes.

Melli: And by doing that there’s a deep personalization. You suddenly realize, oh it’s not this craving for chocolate it’s actually this sensation, that sensation, this sensation.

Judson: Right. Right in that sense you can think like whatever these sensations are and these is us, they’ve taken us on a ride. But if we note, oh this sensation – tightness, tension, burning. Suddenly there’s just this and awareness of this and by definition, by observing it, we’re already changing our relationship to it. So we start to see that there’s space to respond rather than just being sucked in.

Melli: Right. So that just reminded me of that famous Victor Frankl quote. What is it? ‘There’s a space in between stimulus and response and in that space lies our power and our freedom.’ So this is really what we’re doing here, opening up a space for that power and freedom so as to make wise choices.

Judson: Absolutely. Yeah. Well that’s when freedom comes when we’re not sucked into our habits. Absolutely.

Melli: And so the CravingToQuit app, if people want to actually be guided by you through those, in real time, through those moments in the CravingToQuit app, they can use it like that. You’ll actually walk them through the R.A.I.N. process whenever they have an urge?

Judson: Yes, we have it in both of our apps. So the CravingToQuit app and the EatRightNow app which is more focused on things like chocolate.

Melli: Yup. I might have to get that one.

Judson: We have a button in there called the ‘Want To’ Meter. So any time I want, you know like I’m craving a cigarette or during the Eating app, I’m craving a chocolate, then I can click on there and it first walks me through how strong is that craving. So I drop in and start to notice. ‘Oh, this is how strong my craving is.’ And then from there it can walk me through the R.A.I.N. exercise. So I can really pay attention and ride it out.

You know, alternatively, because for example, we all have to eat to live. You know if I’m really trying to change my relationship to eating and not getting sucked into stress eating, we also have in the EatRightNow program mindful eating exercises. So people can stop and start to really pay attention as they consume that food because, you know, they might actually be hungry. Which is totally different from cigarettes because we don’t need cigarettes to survive.

But both of the apps have that R.A.I.N. exercise in them so people can really have the tools and learn this skills so that then they don’t even need the apps anymore. It’s more of a skill-generating process.

Melli: Oh, great. So I just have one more question for you before we close up and that is if you could go back now, with everything that you know now, all the knowledge and wisdom that you’ve developed through your practice over the past 20 years and you could go back and give your former self that was just sitting on the cushion for the first time just one piece of advice, what would that be?

Judson: I would say notice what you’re actually getting from your habits. Pay attention and just see what you’re actually getting from what you’re doing. That’s what I would tell myself. And I still tell myself.

Melli: Oh, cool. Thank you so much Jud. Is there anything else you would like to share with our viewers before we close up?

Judson: I don’t think so. I think I’ll just say if you folks are interested in playing with some of these practices, whether you addiction is smoking or eating or anything in between, you know you can play. We make some of the versions of our apps available to people to try them out for free for a couple of days. So I would just say the CravingToQuit or the EatRightNow programs give people a chance to start to play with some of these practices.

Melli: Great. And I’ll put links to those below this video so everybody can really easily access them.

So Jud, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. I really enjoyed this conversation.

Judson: Oh, my pleasure. Thank you.

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