Do you know why you keep doing stuff that harms you – even when you know in advance it will harm you?
He was a diligent student. He did all the exercises and assignments in my program and benefited greatly. And one day he approached me about a serious problem he had. He was an alcoholic. He had kicked the habit numerous times but, somehow, he always relapsed.
“I know its bad for me,” he said. “I know it very clearly but I just can’t stop myself. Can you help me?”
And I thought about the numerous persons I know who have participated in Creativity and Personal Mastery over the decades who have expressed something similar to me.
I have my own thorns. I ‘know’ that salty Indian snacks are bad for me but I indulge anyway.
How about you? Are there things you do that you clearly ‘know’ are not in your best interest? Like checking email compulsively? Or being driven by overweening ambition? Like ignoring your family while you climb your career ladder?
Here is some disquieting news for you. The reason you indulge in this self-defeating behavior is because you don’t know how it is harming you. You think you ‘know’ but you don’t. You just have a vague feeling that it may not be the best for you and perhaps you shouldn’t be doing it. A very vague and nebulous feeling.
Let’s say you are walking in the countryside on a path bounded by thick hedges.
Suddenly you see an out of control car careening toward you.
What do you do?
Here’s one thing you don’t do. You don’t seek out a sage and relate your tale of woe to him.
“Oh holy one, there is a car coming toward me. What should I do? Can you please guide me?”
You go through the nearest hedge instantly. You don’t pause to think that this is an
impossible task, that it is a thick hedge, that you may get scratched or your new clothes my get torn.
The reason you do this is because you know, really know in a visceral, deep down way, what will happen to you if the car hits you.
If you had an equal degree of clarity about the other stuff in your life, you would not do what you do.
So how do you get that clarity?
Sometimes we are dragged willy-nilly into a different state of consciousness. Have you ever had someone close to you die unexpectedly?
There was grief, of course, but there was also reflection. A sense that you were far too preoccupied with trivial matters and perhaps a determination to live differently.
And then, of course, you went back to your normal life with its incessant striving and the rainbow was always over the next hill.
Why can’t you retain that sense of clarity?
Because you have been programmed to revert to unthinking ways.
There is a way to be anchored in your new realization if you choose to. But you have to work at it and employ a powerful tool.
That tool is Deep Reflection.
In Deep Reflection you consciously bring to mind and meditate on the ramifications of the behavior that is troubling you.
Are you fiercely ambitious to the point that you cannot sleep and are consumed by work to the extent that your family is suffering and insomnia stalks you?
Think about the inevitability of death and how “… scepter and crown must tumble down and in the dust be equal made with the poor humble scythe and spade.” In India seekers meditate in cremation fields and graveyards to impress on themselves that life is transitory.
Are you lustful and fixated on sex? Think of the human body and what it is composed of. Blood that pours out of cuts, pus that forms in wounds, bones and entrails. Can you really be attracted to something so gross?
Whatever it is that troubles you, there is a Deep Reflection that can rid you of that programming.
This is a very powerful tool so use it with care. I will say more about how to form your Deep Reflection in a later column.
For now, take a moment to reflect. Before you react on auto-pilot, practice self-awareness. Observe your thoughts and feelings. This is the first step to awaken to your True Self and cultivate inner peace, no matter what situation comes your way.