Dying Daily #182: Mindfully Impulsive

Well, this post is the halfway point in my one-blog-per-day-for-a-year thing.

Or, halfway through this post is at least.  

I thought there would be fireworks or something.

Let’s talk about impulses.

Impulses drive us all day, every day.

It takes an impulse to get out of bed, to raise your arm, to go to work, to skip work, to kiss your partner, everything.

These aren’t really much an issue though, so I won’t write about them.

There are other impulses, and they can cause us a great deal of trouble. 

I talk to people about them all week.

Drugs, alcohol, pornography, poor eating, too much television or videogames or caffeine. Being rude to someone or snapping at someone who loves you. Giving someone the finger in traffic, signing up for Tinder, meeting someone on Tinder, slapping your kid, not sticking to your budget. I could honestly go on and on with these.

They are so simple, yet they bring so much suffering and pain and self-hatred. We make global assessments of ourselves based on our inability to resist them, or we become prideful over how well we can resist them.

It all begins with an impulse.

So why do we follow some impulses and resist others?

It’s complicated.

We could talk about will power and how it functions more like a muscle and gets stronger with use, but also tires out and has to be used intentionality. We could talk about addiction and how it rewires the brain.

Instead, let’s look at the impulse itself, and see how mindful acceptance can allow us to simply sit with impulses.

Not acting, not reacting, simply observing.

Think of something you would like that’s not necessarily good for you. 

Notice how something has shifted inside of you, your brain is off on another path now, and it’s focused on getting this thing you want. The present has suddenly become less ok by comparison. We have fabricated a need.

But where is this need? Where does it exist in your body?

You may be able to trace it to somewhere inside of you, but what is really there?

What would it feel like if you didn’t buy into it as a need or something that had to be fixed?

What would happen if we were able to simply let this “need” exist exactly as it is?

Without moving to change or fix it, without even thinking it needs to be fixed?

Look, I know this sounds weird and abstract, but it is literally how I quit smoking after a really long time. I had tried and tried and failed and failed and I thought I was never going to break the habit. Then, one day, instead of running to the store to buy cigarettes, I sat down and I explored what was going on inside of me without judgment and with full acceptance.

I discovered that nothing was wrong, and I quit smoking.

For real.

Give it a try. Pick an easy impulse.

Notice an itch and the impulse to scratch it, but let it be. Just let it itch. Notice how much of the trouble comes from the desire to scratch it, rather than the actual sensation of the itch itself, Notice what happens when you accept everything exactly as it is.

We can’t control an impulse arising, but we can control our response to it, and this is all we need. 

Thank you for reading.