What is meditation? Meditation can be regarded as the practice of resting attention as plainly as possible on the present situation, taking as little action as possible that would unnecessarily complicate it. The practice lends itself to seeing and knowing reality in its most fundamental, unadulterated form. Consistent practitioners of meditation develop a keen eye for spotting fixations: thoughts, feelings, and other perceptions that seem to be real but, upon closer inspection, are not actually happening or are happening because action is being taken inadvertently. And once spotted, fixations can be dropped to increase awareness of what had been obstructed by them, of what is more fundamentally real.
Addiction is a strong need or desire for something. Addiction can range from being a minor, tolerable distraction to being a highly disruptive force, compromising the ability to function effectively or causing outright debilitation. To aid in relating meditation to addiction, it would help to use the concept of habit: a prevailing disposition. If a person unnecessarily furrows his brow while closely observing what is happening, he has a habit of contracting muscles while paying attention but, more generally, is taking action inadvertently. Likewise, if a person becomes depressed every time it rains based on a preconceived notion that rain is undesirable, he has a habit of being depressed and, perhaps more generally, of making set judgments that may not reflect the reality of the situation.
How does meditation relate to habit? Because attention is focused on what is presently occurring, greater intentionality is brought to bear on the present situation. Habits, such as involuntarily contracting muscles or automatically reacting in a set way to a particular stimulus, are broken down into smaller sequences of actions that are each considered and controlled separately. This penetration into the present moment undermines the pull of habit. Stated another way, the progressive shedding of fixations results in a mode of experience where habits are less prevalent and jaded repetition gives way to a changing panorama of unexpected, fresh perceptions and spontaneous actions. Through meditation, the capacity for this groundlessness increases, and this has clear implications in the area of addiction.
Addiction can form abruptly or develop gradually from a habit around which there is desire or a strong liking. But if the tendency is away from the formation of habits and toward the freedom of groundlessness, addiction of any variety becomes less and less likely: Meditation, the careful moment-to-moment attunement to habitual or addictive tendencies and the consequences of succumbing to them, enables and facilitates a stable, enduring presence that is free from addiction.