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Impulse or Inspiration?

“Cleanse your emotions, passions, impulses, attitudes, and reactions. That is the essence of spiritual discipline as laid down in all faiths.”
~ Sri Sathya Sai Baba, South Indian Guru and Spiritual Teacher

Crossroads in the Wilderness

While you are walking the path of spiritual development, slowly building a greater awareness of your spirit, personal motivations, actions and your effect upon the world, you are also learning to recognize the difference between a spirit-thought and an ego-thought.

The easiest way to phrase this is that you are learning to discern your impulses from your inspirations.

Sometimes these impulses are big things like the impulse to drink a case of beer at lunchtime or the impulse to jump in bed with a beautiful stranger behind your wife’s back. But often what we are faced with are the collection of small daily impulses that, when followed blindly, drain us of our energy, our focus and our self-esteem.

For instance, this morning, between the moment of waking, kissing my beloved, taking a sip of water, then using the bathroom (a sequence which took roughly 4 minutes) I had a total of four self-defeating and/or distracting impulses. All of which were completely unrelated to what my true spirit or a healthy, happy mind and body would desire in reality.

These consisted of several old friends such as: the go-back-to-bed monster, the fear-of-falling-down-the-stairs demon, the ghost of sugary-cereal-for-breakfast and the sucked-into-the-internet-inferno dragon.

Why do any of these concern me? Quite simply because each of these thoughts carries with it an energy or, more specifically, a desire for energy.

Thoughts that desire to eat up a bit of your energy tend to give a kick-start in your mind to exactly the kind of energy that they are hungry for, amplifying its presence and its hold over your thoughts. Which would be fine, if the type of energy they ask for was one that feels good – like watching a butterfly on a sunflower or being a kid on Christmas morning or falling in love. But impulse thoughts, more often than not, are feeding off of fear, desire, desperation, discord and sluggishness.

Though I prefer to use positive language in my articles, I must be honest here and say that, when it comes to impulses, working to reduce their hold on you can seem like a battle. One where the battlefield is won on some occasions and then lost to the opposing side on other occasions.

The approach for achieving success here is really two-fold.

First, you must become aware of your thoughts and impulses, learning to tell the difference between inspired motivation and defeatist impulses. In other words, knowing which desires are truly the real divine you and which are power-based mind illusions. The best way to do this is to develop a practice of meditation, having daily bits of silence and calm in which you deliberately listen to your mind chatter and work on quieting it. Also, it may be helpful to institute a 30-second delay between motivations (thoughts and desires) and their respective actions (speaking and moving), just to give yourself time to gauge their true origin and value in your life.

Second, you must find a way to silence our disempower the illusion-based impulses and only act on the truly divine motivations. This is a game of constant mindfulness and willpower. What you need to have are a set of inspirations and intentions for yourself and your life. For example, knowing that you want a fit body, and articulating why it is that you want this, will give you a ready-made shield for the moments when ego shoots its French pastry ammunition at you. So, take the time to make note of your hopes and true inspirations for your life, whether it has to do with how you spend money, how your relate to your parents, or even how often you do your laundry. You can use your inspirations to help you stay on track.

For instance, I have some long held intentions and positive desires that helped the divine me win in the spirit & ego tug-of-war this morning.

1. I am trying to move closer and closer to waking up at the sunrise, despite the change of seasons or the silliness of daylight savings time.

2. Though I have an old knee injury, my intention and affirmation is that my joints are getting stronger every day and that my trust in them to support me is unwavering.

3. With a past of food issues, including anorexia and obesity, and the desire to build a body healthy enough to carry a baby in the near future, I now walk on a path that consists of organic, whole, vegetarian foods with the occasional indulgence in (not the every day gorging on) something sweet or cheese laden. Knowing the difference between occasional and habitual, I aim always to be mindful of the fact that what I put in my mouth becomes a physical part of this mortal body which houses my divine spirit.

4. My partner and I have both come to our own realization that we tend to disappear into our computers and forget to live life in the real world. As a joint decision, we now have three days a week that are “unplugged” days – days for hiking, gardening, canoeing, cooking, knitting, reading books, etc. Therefore, I can stimulate my intellect and need for information on “plugged” days. Hence, I have no need to run to the computer on a Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday.

So, with a few moments of awareness, armed with these above intentions and a small snippet of willpower, I was able to silence each of these defeatist impulses and carry on with my morning. I opted to actually remain awake, to walk confidently down the stairs, to eat whole rye toast and old-fashioned homemade oatmeal, to steer away from checking my email and to instead focus on our planned morning hike.

Will spirit and positive intention always win the tug-of-war with ego, fear and imbalanced desires? Most certainly not. But today, this one fine morning, my spirit takes the prize.