Self control is an illusion.
If “self” is viewed as the part of us that is pure consciousness, then the other part of the “who” we are is ego. The true self cannot be controlled as it cannot be manipulated or changed in any way. True self passes no judgement, and makes no effort to manipulate. Ego on the other hand, seeks only to control ego, to judge, and manipulate who we are and the world around us.
Yet ego does not want to be controlled, judged or manipulated. Yep, it’s the existential paradox that creates our on-going sense of conflict about ourselves and the world. Just as paradoxical is the fact that ego is vital to our very survival.
So I have decided that in reality, I have no self control. And what does lack of self control create? Bad habits, destructive thought patterns and unacceptable behavior you say? Why yes! In the spirit of no self control I have written a small confessional expressing a few things I just cannot seem to give up. When I think of doing these things, I often wish I wouldn’t do them but just won’t let it go.
Here are five things I am willing to ‘fess up to:
1. I love (capital L-O-V-E) bad words. I use them a ton, hopefully without looking like I don’t know what else to say. They are especially satisfying when used in heavy-hitting combinations such as: “Bitcha$$moth@rf#cker”, and “godd@mm-mutherf#ck”. Oh yeah. I do try not to be offensive, but sometimes I am.
2. Every now and then I smoke. A cigarette. And boy do I enjoy it. I started smoking when I was fifteen years old, and quit at twenty eight. Gee, if I still have one every now and again, I don’t know what that makes me.
3. I adore processed junk food. And I consume it secretly. Easy Cheese (yes, that comes in a squirt can) on Ritz crackers, Redbull, and (gasp) Taco Bell are at the top of the list. There are some mighty judgmental folks out there who I do not want to share this with, but there you have it!
4. I have had sex on the second date, even when I knew I shouldn’t. Okay, fine, I have had sex on the first date. I have never once looked back and thought, “Wow, that was such great idea!” On the contrary, it’s always a terrible idea with some major-league lessons.
5. I am vain, and a total show off. Always have been, probably always will be. I love being the center of attention. I love being photographed, filmed and complimented. Of all my bad habits, I have to say that this one has served me very well. A yoga teacher simply cannot afford to be too shy or quiet, and certainly should not fear demonstrating what she teaches.
I am certainly not endorsing my bad habits, only putting it out there that I too, as a committed yogi and yoga teacher have some behaviors that are considered to be pretty bad, nasty, and destructive. One thing I will tell you is that I am kind, never self-righteous and really care about the world and the people around me. I can put those things on my brag list. Bragging should probably be #6, but that was a list of five.
For anyone who is practicing self-awareness in the name of awakening, the high horse image of goody two shoes behavior is not only exhausting, it is unreal. We are all humans living in the real world. There is a reason enlightenment practices are called practices.
It is because we must try, try again. And as there is no perfect action, I find what is most obviously destructive behaviors to be a great teacher in balancing what I desire with ways I can channel my desires positively. And we can and naturally should make efforts to quit bad behavior. However, what seems more important to me is not necessarily to fall total prey to every impulsive whim or addiction, but to observe and be aware of what happens when we do.
Editor: Kate Bartolotta
Jennifer Bowen is a California native raised in San Diego. In 2006, Jennifer discovered yoga through a dear friend who became her first yoga teacher. In learning to practice breathe, observation, and awareness, Jennifer discovered a path of empowerment and potential for awakening. She primarily studies with Richard Freeman and continues to explore what yoga means to others through various talented and insightful teachers.Jennifer is a yoga teacher, former yoga studio owner, long time locavore and professional chef. After residing in Yosemite National Park for fifteen years, Jennifer relocated to Boulder because the yoga is good and the people are great.