Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Afflictions of the Mind : Part - 3 (Impulses and Desires)

The Announcement by Luis Royo


3. Impulses and Desires

As we have seen in the article on Intentions, there are certain activities of the Mind, certain processes that incite action. This is an extraordinary gift, to be able to act and cause a change in one’s surroundings merely via non-physical processes. Actions produce consequences and the Mind learns from them, it evolves and progresses further. As I’ve said, everything starts with an intention. It is very important that one sees how intentions arise and cause actions. This can be done by conscious observation, and the actions can be stopped in many cases by the act of choice. 

Intentions arise as Experiencing, a continuous motion in Presence, they are mostly automatic. They arise out of the vast store of impressions in the Mind [1]. In my opinion, it is not possible to consciously stop an intention from appearing, but it is possible to either ignore it or to act on it once it is already there. An untrained Mind has very little capability to see and choose whether to act or not on an intention, and it is here that these uncontrolled processes take the form of an affliction. Uncontrolled intentions take hold of the person and make him do things of which he is barely aware, causing a lot of negative consequences, suffering and pain for himself and also for others.

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Uncontrolled intentions appear in many forms. We will discuss them in detail here. One can easily see that these forms are not very different from each other, they are just intentions. The most primitive of these are just control systems, useful for survival. For example touching a hot object makes one withdraw his hand in a split second, the intention and the action is very fast, uncontrolled, and one becomes conscious of it only after it happens. This is a good thing, else we wouldn’t survive for long. I don’t recommend messing with them.

Next are the semi-psychological hardwired processes of fight/flight, phobias, complexes and such behaviours. We can call them Reactions. In stressful or novel situations they take over the person. Action results in response to the situation. These behaviours are also there for ensuring survival. Some people, such as those trained in martial arts have a good control over them, but most of us don’t. It takes a hard practice, fit body and a long time to master these. In our modern societies, self-defence has been delegated to certain organizations (fortunately or unfortunately [2]), and dangerous situations can be avoided most of the time by intelligent planning, so it is not required to master these processes. I’d recommend leaving them alone, because once in danger, the body/mind knows best. If you find that you are indiscriminately either very aggressive in danger or always flee at the slightest hint of danger, then fear has overtaken you. Fear is a major affliction in itself, especially irrational fear, and we will discuss it later. Reactive behaviour is a trait of ignorant person. Most of us spend our lives reacting, not acting.

How not to react? I think it is not possible to avoid a reaction, unless the very being of oneself is free from survival instincts. In that case, we have left the domain of human experience already, and the matter goes beyond the scope of this blog. We become aware of the reaction only in retrospect, and all one can do is avoid the situations which cause unwanted reactions. A relative, a job, a place, anything that is making you react unconsciously, is not for you. It is a challenge, yes, and you must decide if you want to waste your life in fixing external issues or to simply avoid them, being fully aware that reactions are a part of human body/mind. If your reactions are overwhelming, and causing harm, then you are most probably in a bad situation, because reactions are triggered by external situation. One seldom reacts while sitting alone in peace.

Lady and the Demon by Luis Royo

Next are the Impulses. These are semi-hardwired, a mix of genetic and acquired behaviours. Sexual impulses are a good example of hardwired intentions, while compulsive lying is an acquired behaviour [4]. Impulses are very strong intentions to act, usually beyond the control of an ordinary person. Impulses result in action, and the person is made aware of them only after the action happens. Most of the time the person will justify the impulsive actions using beliefs or illogical thoughts. For example buying some useless thing on impulse and giving it a justification that he may need it. Impulses are not always superficial, they can also cause great harm, for example after a fight, one is bombarded with impulses of insulting the enemy or even killing him. The result is immense suffering, and a higher risk of actually harming the other person because the impulse heightens the anger. One can actually see the person acting on the impulse, the muscles tighten, respiration and circulation go up and the body gets ready for a fight, even in the absence of the enemy. When an impulse arises, it completely takes over the mind, the mind loses its rational abilities, it’s a foggy situation there, nothing is seen clearly, sometimes the person sees and hears what the impulse tells him to see and hear. The main problem with impulses is they are repetitive, they keep occurring over and over and make life miserable. One can recognize an impulsive person by certain traits, such as he is always busy, unhappy, superficial, restless, confused, looking for trouble, or is shabby.

How to avoid impulsive behaviour? Usually mother nature trains the Mind to be less impulsive with time, as impulsive actions mostly result in pain and suffering. That’s one way, but it is slow and painful, obviously. Since the impulse is recognized only after the action has taken place, for an untrained mind, it is best to note it later. Instead of giving it a random justification, just realize that it was an impulsive act, accept it as it is. This is just a start, but you will find that the impulse will be somewhat weaker next time and will be slower, because somewhere in the mind, the structures responsible for it have weakened a bit, as they no longer have the support of a justification. So not justifying it is a good way to start. Another way is to practice the control intentionally. Suppose you eat on impulse (and have an unhealthy weight as a result), it helps to keep the food in plate and not to eat it intentionally and consciously. This slowly trains the mind, and the impulse to eat starts fading. This trick can be easily generalized. If you are irritated by a certain person and take irrational actions, it helps to consciously and intentionally face that person and try to be nice. There is another way – to set a counter intention, also known as Affirmation. A counter intention, when established, arises with a particular impulse and opposes it. So for example, if you practice a positive affirmation (e.g. repeat it all the time) that you shall not hate a person, who is a source of suffering, when an impulse to hate that person arises, the affirmation arises too and you become aware of the impulse, and can kill it there and then. Positive affirmations are a very powerful tool. Use it wisely [3].

These are obviously somewhat mechanical tricks and are recommended when nothing works. However, if you are on a path and have some inkling about self-observation, the recommended method to kill an impulse is to simply observe it. One has to be very aware, intently conscious round the clock to be able to do this. When you are so aware, you can catch the impulse in action, analyse it logically, and terminate it if you wish. It also helps to be very aware of bodily feelings, because an impulse usually causes perceptible feelings and sensations in the body and when you are so aware of your body, you know that an impulse is coming. In my experience, an impulse comes as a whiplash; it completely occupies the mind, takes over the senses and tries to push the body into action/speech. Not exactly a nice feeling.

Now we move on to desires, also known as wants or cravings. These are mostly acquired, an influence of outside environment. Desires are intentions to act or to be or to possess objects/people, and are motivated by the ephemeral pleasure such actions cause or once caused. They are also motivated by seeing others getting pleasure out of an act or an object and believing that the same would bring pleasure to oneself. As you must be aware, desires come in millions of varieties, and I’m not going to list them all. Everyone has desires, so what is wrong with having them? Desires are fun, spring us into action and are agreeable as long as they don’t cause suffering and harm. They become an affliction, as soon as they cause actions that are harmful, cause suffering or retard you on your path. Strong desires lead to Obsessions, and make our lives very narrow and shallow.
So I have a desire to live, desire to be happy and desire to do good for others, are these desires also afflictions? That’s a good question. A better questions is – are those stated desires causing suffering when they are not fulfilled? If they are, then they are afflictions. Its not the desire itself that causes suffering, it’s the unfulfilled desires, they throw us into suffering. One needs to think about the consequences an action based on a particular desire can cause, and then decide whether it is an affliction. One can argue that the desire to live and be happy etc are not actually desires because they come built in, they are the desires of the universe, if you will, or in our terminology, these are the fundamental attributes of Presence. However, one still must consciously categorize these “meta-desires” when they are causing suffering and retardation in your path, and yes they can. For example, if you suffer from an incurable disease, say its very painful, and the treatments are simply keeping your body barely functioning, you are just a useless pile of organic matter, this situation is obviously causing huge amount of suffering to you (and loved ones), so the desire to live must be given up here.

Am I not entitled to a desire? I’m obviously free so why can’t I have any desire and why can’t I act on it? Oh yes, yes, free….hmm. The real freedom lies in choosing to execute a desire or to throw it away. If you are compelled to act on a desire, it is not freedom, is it? As I said, by definition, desires are accumulated programs, outside influences. One is not born with desires (e.g. a desire to be a doctor or some such). Desires get installed by random occurrences and experiences of life, there is hardly any freedom to choose one’s desires. They happen. In modern world most desires can be traced to TV commercials and such brainwashing activities of “civilized societies”. Can one not choose to desire something consciously? One can, but then it won’t be called a desire (does not fit the definition), it would be a conscious intention, and yes, a conscious intention is a better substitute for a random desire acquired from nowhere.

If I don’t desire, how will I progress, how will I improve and how will I get things done? This is a frequently asked question, and people are totally confused about it. The answer is simple actually – If a desire is positive, the action is harmless or beneficial (depending on your path, life goals), then go ahead and act on it. However, if you fail repeatedly to fulfil it, and it has become a source of misery, terminate it, do something else, life is vast and one need not stick to just one narrow itsy-bitsy desire. Once it becomes a source of suffering for the self or for others, or is just a waste of time, its an affliction and it’s the right time to kill it. It all depends on your meaning of progress and improvement etc, if you are not on a genuine path, these words are merely borrowed ideas from others. A monkey see monkey do thing. If you are on a path you will find no desires there, it is just your life to progress and improve. Desires are something that is just distractions on the path of improvement, the definition changes. Please clearly see this.

Ok so how to get rid of those pesky desires? This is an involved affair, especially for those who are not on a path. Firstly, one needs to categorize the desires, there are so many, it can take a while. Are they harmless or harmful, can they cause suffering or happiness, are they important or useless, are they long term or instant, etc, etc. It is recommended that you keep a dynamic list of desires, write them down, old fashioned way, with the most important and necessary ones on the top. A priority list of to do things. Remove those that cannot be fulfilled or are causing pain, promote those that you see are more important now compared to the past. Assuming that most desires will not take up a lifetime, you will get a very dynamic list, ever-changing. Just reading this list will make you aware of things about yourself. It should be easy to see which desires are not needed or are causing suffering. Cancel them, intend not to act on them. Plan something else. This will kill them. If they arise again from dead, these are not desires, these are then impulses, and you need to kill them using anti-impulse weapons mentioned above.

There is no limit to desires, when one is fulfilled another arises. For some people, life is nothing but an endless pursuit of desires. When to stop, where to stop? The list, if you desire to list them, should show you this clearly. Your Mind keeps desiring. What’s wrong here? It’s the nature of the Mind, it has experiences, it has structure, impressions, it has programs, and these produce endless intentions and desires. It is not a problem, the problem is not being aware of the nature of Mind. When desires are let loose, they govern you, you are a slave of desires, and there lies the problem. Can we limit them? Possibly, but I think there is no need, just become aware, realize that this will happen as long as you are bound to an earthly existence, to a human experience. This realization should propel you on your path. Once one is fully aware of the processes and causes/consequences of desires, one is freed from them. You can either waste your life killing them in whack-a-mole fashion, or just let them be, not acting on them, or acting consciously whenever needed.

Lastly we come to Wishes. A wish is a synonym for a desire in common language, but I’m deliberately going to define it as something else. A Wish is an intention that lasts for a much longer time compared to a desire, can be a life time, or many life times. I’m defining it so just to keep things clear. So we see that the intentions can be categorized based on their time durations.

Short term <-- Controls < Reactions < Impulses < Desires < Wishes --> Long term

Usually the resulting actions should also follow the same pattern in time. So a wish is something that can last for years, and continues to produce actions, until it is fulfilled. Usually a wish is not replaced by another wish, unlike desires, that are endless. Once a wish is fulfilled, you are done. There is another major difference, an unfulfilled wish will not necessarily cause suffering. Wish is more conscious, there is a bit more wisdom it in and there is more control on what one can wish for.

Examples of a wish can be – to live a certain kind of life, to discover things, to explore, to rule or earn wealth, to acquire powers, to learn and acquire information, etc, etc. Wishes govern the overall lifestyle of a person. Be careful what you wish for….

Can a wish become an affliction? Yes, it is also a construct of the Mind and can go out of hand. For example a wish to be a powerful person, such as a king, can make you assemble armies of dudes who randomly kill people and destroy entire civilizations. This lasts for a lifetime, and is obviously not fun, especially for peaceful people. A wish can also become an obsession, difficult to get rid of. Even a positive wish, such as to serve humanity or to develop new technology, is a bondage. We are not here to do that. We are here to be free, a positive act can happen, but it need not become your entire life, it’s a small sub-goal at best. So if you find that your wishes (as defined) are consuming your entire life, it is wise to become aware of them and limit them. Should not be a problem for a wise person.

Well then, is my path not my wish? No, not by definition, unless you are not clear about it. Wish is a structure in the Mind, a program, an intention, a plan to do/get something in ones life. A path is life itself. You don’t wish to be on a path, the path wishes you to be on it. Subtle, you see.



[1] The impressions are structures formed in the Mind as a result of its experiences. They can be genetic, social conditioning, personal experiences in this life or accumulated experiences of other forms of Self. We will not go into past lives and incarnations here, because these are beyond the current experience of most of us. If one has clearly seen that the Self is only one, it’s the same for all life forms present or past, one can easily infer that all life forms are just “incarnations” or avatars of the one Self.

[2] Delegation of self-defence to other agents in exchange of money (tax?) has both positive and negative consequences. Positive because you don’t need to worry too much about security and danger, there is an illusion of security which keeps you at peace. The fear of security agencies keeps petty criminals away and makes ordinary people behave better. On the other hand, it makes you totally helpless, incapable of self-defence, incapable of fighting or killing others when needed. So when danger strikes you are on the mercy of random chance.

[3] It works because the brain has a tendency to recall all associated information when in a particular situation. What you are doing here is programming a hook, a link or an association that can arise as soon as the related impulse arises. Affirmations can be used for general improvement of the self. For example, in overcoming lethargy or inertia, overcoming nervousness and fear of social situations etc. If you are weak and need some muscle, but cannot motivate yourself to work out, an affirmation saying that you are doing so and you are getting stronger, helps. Of course, you need to actually work out. Mere affirmation is not magically going to grow the muscles. It simply makes you want to work out. It is best to terminate the affirmations once their job is done, else they become habitual and take up mental energy.

[4] Sexual or procreative impulses are the strongest ones in the entire universe. These have been very well studied and experimented upon under various scientific disciplines. Procreation gets more weightage in almost all situations. Human lives, majority of them, are driven by procreative impulses. From clothes to marriages/relations, ideals, behaviours, love, likes, most of our thought, talk, actions and even creations (movies, fiction, houses etc) are a result of procreative impulses. People spend their entire lives on the leash of these impulses. Usually at the end of the life, when hormones lose their strength and the person has gone through all impulse traps, one realizes that he has spent his entire life living below the belt. These are strong and are difficult to get rid of. Various strategies have been proposed to deal with them and these range from extremes like celibacy to Tantra, or somewhat simpler four staged lifestyles. These are found easily in books, so please refer to any suitable books, if interested.

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