The mind is like a baby. A primitive, fetus-like, naïve consciousness in my head that gets addicted to anything it likes. It is only concerned with instant gratification and not much after that. Of course we can program the mind to not think like that. We will ourselves to not get tempted by a certain pleasure or desire, but the mind can’t help itself. And it’s a baby after all, it likes what feels good. It craves for food, drugs and good feelings. I end up seeking these because the primitive nature of the mind is controlling us.
Obviously, I’m aware that I down beers because i like the feeling or my mind does. But it is eye opening that the mind attaches to anything it likes. It can’t help itself. It doesn’t know any better.
You may be wondering why I’m separating myself and the mind, which is a valid concern. It’s something that I’ve been trying to use as an affirmation in my daily life. I separate myself from my thoughts, and therefore, my mind is not me. And I truly believe this. I’m surprised at how a simple reminder of this will bring me back to the present moment and out of my head. It pops me out of a train of attachment in my head. My mind is tempted by pleasurable things and I’m the one who recognizes that.
Why shouldn’t we give the mind what it wants? If it’s seeking pleasure, why not not just give in. What could be so wrong about that? I didn’t realize the following points up until about 50 hours ago.
1. I’ll start with the obvious point. The source of the pleasure could be something harmful. I could start to rely on doobies, online shopping, and blue moons for happiness, but then I’ll need these things to be happy. I really don’t like the thought of being reliant on anything for happiness, let alone activities that are bad for my health. These are just fine in moderation but I’ve found that my mind attaches and becomes instinctively addicted to things that I like whether it is harmful or not. Which brings me to my next point.
2. What’s so wrong with being reliant on anything at all? This was something that I was genuinely curious about. What if celery tasted unbelievable, for example. (Trust me I know it tastes like tap water engulfed by a dry leaf, but what if it tasted like candy and was healthy for you?) Would it be bad if my mind was addicted to it? What would be the problem if my mind looked forward to something healthy every night? The answer is nothing, unless it was the only thing I thought about. If I started to schedule my life around eating celery, it would be a problem. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy what was in front of me. Instead of enjoying a cup of coffee at work, I’ll I’d think of is the celery at home and how excited I’d be to eat it. Eating the celery isn’t bad, but when the mind attaches to something and becomes reliant on it, it’s hard to let it go. It would control my life. This is just what I’ve found in my experiences. It may not be true for you. I believe I’m more susceptible to addiction than most. Some people may be able to enjoy things in moderation, which would mean this post would apply to you less-so, but I’ve found moderation has been difficult for me in most cases. I’m an all or nothing kind of dude. Some may call it an addictive personality, but I think of it as a sensitive mind. I become attached to things I like and repel things I don’t like.
3. The only exception to the above rule, that I can formulate, is healthy activities like reading and exercise. I’ve had times where all I could think about was the book I was reading at the time. Maybe it took me away from the present moment, but I don’t see this as a negative. Additionally l’ve had a stretch of weeks in my life where I’d go to the gym everyday and my mind, in a sense, was addicted to the gym. Yes, my mind was attached to the feeling of lifting weights, but I don’t see this as a negative. It was a completely different type of attachment, probably a healthier one. This is most likely due to the fact these activities have a clear long term benefit, unlike the others that I’ve mentioned which were instant gratification.
Ok, now what?
If I exclude the last point for a minute, then I can finally understand the monk way of live and living with accordance to asceticism with things like meditation, starvation, and no possessions. Essentially no desires, no attachment. So, if the mind has no desires, if it has nothing to attached to, nothing that it wants, what does it think about. If I don’t feed the mind pleasurable things, what thoughts does it produce? What does it want? I guess these are questions that lead people into a life of asceticism.
All I’ve known my whole life is how it feels like feed a baby-like mechanism in my head that only yearns for instant gratification. What would happen if I go to the woods and deny it buffalo cauliflower? What then?
I guess I have some reading to do on monks and Siddartha Gautama’s creation of the Middle Way, which describes a life of no extremes. I can read up on it, but I’ve learned that doing things myself is the greatest teacher and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted by the idea of trying it.
What would I learn? What would I realize? Would I like it? Would I decide to come back to a life of indulgence or would I move to the Himalayas? Would I actually have the balls to do it? How would I feel if I denied everything I wanted? What does it mean if I desire to suppress my desires, what then?
Do you have any ideas?
Stay tuned for Ben’s guest appearance on Naked and Afraid.