How to overcome temptation?
An attractive proposal that I can’t take up. A bar of Belgian chocolate that my aunt just gave me, even though my doctor prohibited chocolate only last week. An alarm clock trying to wake me up at 5 a.m. after I got to bed at two. Dilemmas and temptations surround our lives. Should I give, take, do or avoid the thing that is dangling in front of me.
Let’s take the example of getting up early after sleeping only a few hours. It’s a working day and it takes more than an hour commute to get to work. To complicate the matter, it’s cold and rainy outside. The temptation to stay in my warm bed activates the inner dialogue between knowing and wanting.
– Wanting: ‘Arrrgh. I’ll put the alarm on snooze. I need more sleep.’
– Knowing: ‘Get up. I have to go to work.’
– Wanting: ‘But it’s really cold out. It’s so cosy and comfortable in bed.’
– Knowing: ‘Come on, get up lazybones. I can’t be late again. They’re laying people off at work. Don’t run the risk of being the next one.’
– Wanting: ‘Just another five minutes.’
– Knowing: ‘No. The last time I took five minutes, I slept for another hour and missed the bus.’
– Wanting: ‘Ohhh. Okay, I’m up.’
Such inner conflict between reason and emotion arises every time there is a temptation. I want something I know I shouldn’t want or can’t have. I know something I don’t really want to know about. The wanting and the knowing fight with each other and produce a sense of peacelessness that doesn’t permit me to see things as they really are. In other words, where there is benefit and where there is harm.
There are two challenges in this – the power to discern and the power of self-discipline.
For discernment, I need to develop my understanding of life and my relationship to it. I am a spiritual being going through a human experience and there are aspects to living in this world that help me and others that hinder. If my purpose is clear then living it out will help me to choose and decide which things to do and not do. I was lucky to discover my underlying purpose early in life. I had such a thirst for discovering deeper truths that I was able to define it: I am in this life to understand the rules of engagement in this world and share my learning with others wherever I am. I even was able to choose my logo: a lighthouse shining out above rough seas.
This meant I was not going to have an easy life. Lighthouses are generally situated on rocky headlands where there could be danger of shipwrecks. They do not exist in safe harbours. This meant that I had to face many trying situations. I can’t say that I always was able to understand the meaning behind what was going on.
Having a sense of purpose, helped me to discern between what was apparently true and what was really true. It worked like a touchstone. Should I pursue the thing that was tempting and easy, or go for the more difficult yet rewarding and learning-filled one.
This also helps me with my personal discipline. If disciplinare in Latin means to teach, then self-discipline is what I need to teach myself. If I take life seriously, then there are so many situations that can be my teachers. I can’t see any real progress unless I discipline myself regarding my daily routine, regularity in my meditation practice, eating the sorts of foods that can help my state of mind and so on. With purpose and discipline I can harmonise wanting and knowing.
It’s a good recipe for happiness – when I know exactly what I want, it is beneficial and I want only that, I can be happy.
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