March 20, 2014
Each of us is not just one of us, but two of us, a human (primate) with a reptile (lizard?) inside us. Not a very pleasant thought, perhaps, but we all know about the tussle between our "angel" and "devil", our two 'natures'.
We have this push-pull between our lazy self and the other which drives us to our future goals. All this is easy to understand using the simplistic model of the Triune brain (which I've also discussed in DOF in detail).
Recent literature on will power suggests that ordinary "will power" has a "quota" and if one exhausts it early during a day, it can reduce by the end of the day (e.g. see this PDF report for the layman from the American Psychological Association). But I believe this only partly fits with my experience. There have been times when I've driven myself to extreme self-defined goals, without ANY respite. And at others, I've allowed my body/mind to slacken and lose control. There is not just a 'fixed' amount of will power, nor anything 'fixed' at all about anything in our lives.
We are just TWO OF US. Once the primate within us decides to do something, the primate can quickly overpower and control the lowly reptile that lives within us, regardless of whether our "quota" of will power has been used during the day.
This piece of research suggests that our INSTINCT (which is always most powerful) is our "animal" self, our "reptile" self, and will drive us into the ditch, if allowed to take control.
The way out is simple: to imagine that our body is a PET DOG, to be tightly controlled. Treat the body well, but realise it is merely an animal. Imagine you are a human perched atop an animal.
And at that point, once the animal is brought under control, the HUMAN within us can start functioning for his/her goals.
Btw, this makes far more sense to me than Advaita, which merely refers to ONE self. I disagree with that approach (for practical purposes). I've seen even the great proponents of Advaita slip up and get into trouble. That's because while they thought they were a great "spiritual" self, their ANIMAL body overpowered them and drove them into a ditch.
INSTINCT IS ALWAYS MORE POWERFUL. It is up to us to treat our instinctive response as an ANIMAL response, and to aggressively tame it under all circumstances, like we tame our pet dog and keep it on the leash.
INSTINCT IS IMPORTANT
I do not mean to suggest that instinct is irrelevant. 95 per cent of our body runs on instinct (breathing, heart beat, etc. etc. ). Our 'gut' reactions are also mostly accurate (Thinking Fast and Slow, Kahneman).
Our instinct kicks in when we are walking in a dark night on a lonely street and we perk up on hearing footsteps. Our instinct kicks in when we withdraw our hand from hot water. These are all critically important. But our instinct fails us when we are faced with abundance of food. It over-eats, like a lizard gorging on insects hovering near a light bulb.