Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Gems from the Forums III: Kicking the Habit

From the same private message exchange as the last post. My correspondent writes:

I really LOVE doing [certain actions], however I "know" ( or I think I know) that they are not good for me or my true self in excess: that´s why my question was: Can these things/habits which I really enjoy doing really be my actual true self? or not??? (because I actually enjoy them so much). [...] So in a way restraining yourself is helpful or not for the true self??

My response appears after the jump.

Well, it's like this. For the sake of convenience, the Thelemic model of Self assumes that your Self is not identical to your body or mind. As a result, sometimes the will of your Self requires you to thwart the will of your body or mind.

Thus, we could say, for example, that it's the "will" of your fingernails to grow, but that if they grow too long, it could interfere with the will of your Self. It's perfectly in line with your True Will to cut your nails and "restrict" the will of your body in that regard.

Similarly, it's the "will" of your mind to tell you all kinds of stories about yourself, but if you start believing them, it could interefere with the will of your Self. It's perfectly in line with your True Will to shift your attention away from these stories.

To take, for example, the habit of eating junk food: your body has been programmed by evolution to eat as much food as it can whenever it can (because our ancestors evolved in an environment where food was scarce). In the wild, it's a good rule of thumb to eat every last bit of food you can find; in an environment rich with resources, that rule of thumb starts to backfire.

In your last message, you more or less said that in your younger days you tried out a different, more "balanced" pattern of behavior (whatever you exactly mean by that) and found that you were happier. So it's not a bad idea to give it a go again. The only thing you have to watch out for is telling yourself stories like, "I'm doing a good thing for myself," or "I'm so much better than those lazy slobs," or "Achieving balance is the goal."

There's no virtue or vice here. You've found that X pattern of living suits you best. Cool. Someone else is going to be different. That's all there is to it.

[My correspondent also writes:]

For obvious reasons, I think disipline is necessary and is A MUST (but you keep on mentioning how we think we "should " behave and do things)

Well, it's not actually a "must" -- you don't "have" to do it. There's nothing good or bad about it. It's just that you're a lot happier when you do it.

The point is to be honest about what it is that's actually going on. As much as you like X, you like doing X in moderation even more. You make X a tool, a vehicle of your will, rather than your master. [And incidentally, approaching any activity from the perspective that you *want* to do it is going to make it a lot easier to do than approaching it from the perspective that you *have* to do it]

Of course, keep in mind that you're a human being, and you're probably going to have days where, for example, you don't feel like doing much -- don't be too hard on yourself when it happens. Just observe your laziness. Observe your anger at your laziness, if any arises. Observe any desires to get up and do something if they arise, too.

Just observe and watch it all happen in the Now. Then try doing something else and see if you like it better. That's really the only advice -- you just keep it up until you get better and better at it.

Hope that helps.

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