Are you one of the eight million people who currently play Candy Crush Saga?
Or are you someone who thinks “Candy Crush Saga” describes the aftermath of a sugar binge?
I was in the latter category until a few short weeks ago.
Then I read an article about how Candy Crush Saga is one of the most popular video games out there.
The article talked about how people everywhere are matching up little candies on their phones and mobile devices, partaking in the mania that is Candy Crush.
It’s sweeping the nation! You have to check it out!
So I did.
Even though I’m not much of a video game person, I installed the little sucker on my phone and gave it a whirl.
The basic concept of the game is that you move little candies around the board in order to match three in a row. When you get three in a row, you get points, more candies come on the board, the skies part and everything is groovy.
When you make particularly beneficial moves, especially ones with special candies, all kinds of wonderful things happen. Bombs go off and clear out obstacles! Striped candies explode and entire rows are wiped clean! Little fish come swimming on the screen and do-something-that’s-probably-great-but-I-have-no-idea-what-it-is!!
After a few days of playing Candy Crush, I decided to write a blog post about it. I would call it 10 Reasons Why Candy Crush Saga Is a Spiritual Teacher.
I started to compile my list:
1. You can get stuck on a level and have to persevere in order to overcome it, just like on the spiritual path!
2. You need to learn to ask for help, like asking friends for more “lifetimes” so you can keep playing. (Not that I did this. I was way too embarrassed to admit I was even playing the game.)
3. It puts you in contact with a benign and generous deity, like when the manufacturer of the game made level 65 easier because people complained it was too hard.
When I meditated, I saw horizontal and vertical lines being cleared in my mind’s eye. It made me feel like the energy of the cosmos was zooming through me, clearing my chakras.
How great was this?! A video game that made me feel more enlightened!
And then it started to change.
I had a week off and was committed to loafing. Serious loafing.
I was allowing myself to do whatever I wanted, purposely focusing on non-productive activities.
In my day to day life, I tend to be really disciplined. It allows me to get a lot done and feel good while I’m doing so.
But I also like to keep things in balance. And my week of loafing was part of this balance.
I read. I slept. I took long walks. I watched movies.
And I played a lot of Candy Crush Saga.
Looking back on it, I can see that the warning signs were there. I just chose to ignore them.
Like when I’d set an intention to read a particular book or watch a particular movie, only to have that intention hijacked by my inability to stop playing Candy Crack Crush.
Or when all sense of time disappeared when I was using playing.
Yes, all sense of time disappears when I’m doing something creative like writing or playing the piano. But this wasn’t like that. This was more like the lost time of an alcoholic binge. Like I can’t believe the whole weekend went by and I wasn’t present for any of it.
And then there was the warning I stumbled upon online.
I was trolling for tips and hints about how to play the game, and I found a list of the 10 tips to help you master Candy Crush.
The number one tip was that the game was totally addictive and you should quit immediately if possible.
This managed to send a tiny signal through my thick walls of denial, but not enough to get me to stop.
I had it bad.
Finally, the day came.
The day things got ugly.
I had planned to have an early dinner so my wife Melissa and I could watch a movie when she was done working.
Needless to say, this didn’t happen. I literally could not stop playing the game.
Must. Match. More. Candies.
It got to the point where I could barely make sense of the board. My ability to concentrate was totally shot, and yet I insisted on continuing to play.
Luckily, I do have an actual spiritual practice other than Candy Crack Crush, and it allowed me to witness my behavior from a calm, objective place.
As I was crashing and burning with the game, I said out loud:
This game is making me miserable. I am totally addicted and I cannot stop.
Speaking it out loud wasn’t enough to make me stop. Not right away. I just kept using playing, and the calm part of me kept watching.
After a few more minutes, I spoke out loud again. I think I need to delete this game from my phone. I need to step away and get my life back.
Once again, I didn’t stop. But it was a lifeline, of sorts. A connection to a part of myself that was not addicted to the game. A part of myself that was chill and loving and kind.
What happened next can only be described as a gift from the Universe.
After hours and hours of trying to beat a particular level, I finally did it. All the little candies lined up in just the right way and the little fishies swam across the board, declaring my victory.
Did I take this as my cue to walk away?
No. No, I did not.
I took it as my cue to keep playing for a little longer, just to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that even though I finally tasted victory by beating a difficult level, the entire experience was still making me violently unhappy.
When I proved my point – yes, this is still making me violently unhappy – I finally did it. I put down the phone.
Actually, first I deleted the game from my phone, and then I put it down.
I immediately reported the whole thing to Melissa and we had a good laugh. Although it was more like part-laugh, part-wince.
It was a classic addiction story, condensed into a period of a few weeks:
Everything started out great. My drug of choice helped me relax and have fun. I was able to use in moderation. Then moderation turned into excess that I insisted was moderation. Until I could no longer deny that I was hopelessly and utterly addicted. Then, and only then, could I walk away.
When I was still playing the game, deep in denial that I had a Candy Crack Crush problem, I told myself I couldn’t stop playing because I needed to do research for the great blog post I was going to write about the deep spiritual elements of the game.
Turns out I got to write an even better blog post.
One about the pernicious power of addiction. And the ability to overcome it. About the power of the witness consciousness. And the ability to laugh at our crazy human lives.
I guess Candy Crush Saga was a spiritual teacher after all.
Any other Candy Crack addicts out there? Or addicts of any sort? Share your comments below!