137 – 7 Tips For Working With Temptation And Desire
7 Tips For Working With Temptation and Desire
Mindfulness Online Training
7 Tips for Working with Temptation and Desire
Are you ever tempted? A key part of spiritual practice is working with temptation. In this talk, I offer 7 tips to help you manage personal temptations and desires. Leading to a more skilful and harmonious life.
Within the next few days I hope to have this talk available on the free Insight Timer App without the podcast intro. You can access a range of meditations, talks and interviews on there by searching for me “Darren Cockburn” and follow my teacher profile – or through this link.
7 Tips for Working with Temptation & Desire
Are you ever tempted? A key part of spiritual practice is working with temptation. I’m talking about the kind of temptation that leads to unskillfulness. Now let me confess, I’m tempted multiple times every day in many different ways. And I know that billions of other people, maybe you, share this challenge with me.
‘Skilfulness’ through our thoughts, communication and physical action is a fruit of spiritual practice. It spreads kindness, cultivates peace and energises us. But when we act ‘unskilfully’, reacting to temptation, it causes stress, harm, and drains us of precious energy.
Many people believe they need to communicate externally or take physical action to be unskilful. But this is not the case. Unskillfulness manifests as thoughts and feelings too. Whatever form it takes, whether we’re skilful or unskilful in the face of temptation, there are always consequences.
In this talk, I’ve taken spiritual teachings, primarily from Buddhism and Christianity, added my own personal experiences, and synthesised them into these 7 Tips for Working with Temptation. It’s by no means a fully comprehensive list. However, I’m hoping it helps myself and others to take the right path and live harmoniously more of the time.
If you’re a visual person, you may wish to visit mindfulnessonlinetraining.org to access this talk in article format. You’ll also find a helpful diagram there that visually illustrates the flow through from temptation, desire and our response. The web site again is mindfulnessonlinetraining.org.
Tip 1 – Discover ‘ingrained desires’
Where does unskillfulness begin? With our ingrained desires. There has to be desire within us for temptations to affect us. It’s worth pointing out there are many positive and natural desires too. Like a desire for sleep when we’re tired, a desire to eat nourishing food, or a desire to be generous to others.
I had a problem with alcohol for many years. Being honest with you, even today, deep within me is the desire to drink. Most of the time I avoid alcohol – I know it’s not good for me. But the desire is still there – embedded deep within my mind.
Our ingrained desires take all sorts of forms. We might like to fantasise about something we know is corrupt, get angry at our spouse or children, give ourselves a hard time instead of being kind, take revenge on people that hurt us or eat food we know is harmful to our bodies.
Many desires are ingrained from what’s happened in our lifetime – including from early childhood. And we didn’t choose to retain most of them! When we identify with these desires they become part of our ego. Some belief systems claim that desires can stem from previous lives. Regardless of where they come from, it’s helpful to acknowledge and take responsibility for them – whilst realising they are not who we truly are.
Through reflecting on our temptations, we can understand our ingrained desires. In my example, through reflecting on feeling tempted to drink red wine whilst on holiday I acknowledged my ingrained desire for alcohol. It can help to make a list of our ingrained desires to bring attention to them.
There’s good news…the ingrained desires that hinder us can be reduced or removed over time, through the process of purification or sanctification. And applying the next six tips will help with that…
Tip 2 – Be kind to yourself
It’s human nature to be tempted and to give in to temptation. Temptation in itself is nothing to feel guilty or shameful about. We all experience it. The gift is to balance being responsible for our actions (including thoughts and feelings) whilst being kind and understanding with ourselves. Everybody has ingrained desires and are subject to temptation. And everybody is unskilful many times over – even the people who you think might be pure! Being a good human means acknowledging being human.
There are many ways we can be kind to ourselves. When it comes to giving in to temptation, forgiveness is the single most important component. We’re all able to forgive ourselves for unskilful actions. If you’d like to be guided through a self-forgiveness process you can access my “Forgive Yourself” guided meditation through my Teacher Profile on the Insight Timer app or via the Mindfulness Online Training web site.
Tip 3 – Gain freedom from triggers
Temptation is dependent upon triggers. Clearly, if we create situations or place ourselves where there are more triggers there will be more temptation. And therefore, more chance that we’ll give in to temptation. If we have a desire for binging on chocolate, keeping a large stash of it in our home won’t help – I know this from experience!
That said, it’s not always so simple. Take a situation where you’re working with somebody who you dislike – and every time you see them you think hateful thoughts and feel unpleasant. If you need to retain your job and work with this person, you may not be able to gain freedom from the triggers. If this is the case, you can try some of the other tips…
Tip 4 – Enable ‘choice’ through mindfulness
Temptation is a process unfolding within our minds and bodies – often triggered through external stimulus. Triggers may also originate from within our own minds. Sometimes temptation catches us out by surprise. Like an opportunity to get angry at somebody who cuts us up whilst we’re driving. And at other times we know in advance that we’ll enter a situation or environment where we’ll experience temptation – like with the work colleague example I mentioned earlier.
Mindfulness is an incredible tool we can use to expose our reactions to temptations as they arise. We can literally watch the whole process unfold through observing what’s entering the senses, our bodily sensations, feeling and thoughts.
Now here’s the magic…when we’re aware of temptation and our reactions to it through mindfulness we gain “choice”. Rather than giving in to the temptation we have the option of allowing it to pass or responding positively with skilful action. Mindful awareness dilutes temptation’s power over us. The cravings associated with it pass. We gain access to wise choices which may be finding ways to move away from temptation or preventing it from arising again in the future. We can literally reprogram our minds to respond positively.
One of the things I love about applying this mindfulness tip is the energy I gain. If I’m faced with temptation and take my awareness into the body I can literally feel the energy swirling inside of me. And then, if I let the temptation pass without acting on it, that energy is stored. It feels good and can be used for something positive and skilful.
If you’re new to mindfulness you may want to attend a course or practise meditation. You’ll find free trainings at my site Mindfulness Online Training – accessible at mindfulnessonlinetraining.org.
Tip 5 – Don’t linger for long
There’s a song from a band called Crowded House called Into Temptation. One of the lines in the song is “Lose yourself when you linger long” – and there’s wisdom in this. The longer we ‘linger’ in temptation the more chance that we’ll give in to it.
When we give in to temptation we lose ourselves. We lose connectivity to our higher self – the spiritually connected self which is wise and kind. Instead, the mind temporarily drifts off into a dream like state. We get lost in thought and react out of our past conditioning. This happens every time we give in to temptation.
If we can turn our thoughts away from temptation, applying our minds to something positive, or even physically displacing or distracting ourselves, we can act skilfully and preserve energy. Freeing ourselves from temptation.
Tip 6 – Acknowledge addictions and get support
Many addictions can overpower us even when we’re making a conscious effort to work with temptation. These include addictions like drug addiction, smoking, alcoholism and sex addition. Addictions also take subtler forms; like repetitive and unkind thought patterns.
Talking to friends is a great way to help demystify and work with addictions. Sometimes it’s good to reach out and get support from a professional like a therapist or join an addiction group. This is especially beneficial when we’re unable to manage an addiction through our own efforts.
Tip 7 – Pray
If your spiritual practice includes prayer there are many ways you can pray whilst working with temptations. Here are a few ideas I’d like to share based on my personal approach, which is Christian-based. I appreciate that if you do pray, your prayers will need to align with your own religious beliefs or preferences.
When I’m aware of temptation as it arises I’ll often pray to be free from it there and then. Making a direct request for strength and energy to do the right thing. Much of the time this gives me the spiritual boost and connection I need to work through the situation skilfully.
Often, when I’m unskilful as a result of temptation I’ll pray for forgiveness. I believe that praying in this way leads to spiritual forgiveness. This makes self-forgiveness possible. And I try to do this as soon as possible following the event. Like immediately after experiencing feelings of frustration or unkind thoughts towards others. This encourages me to take responsibility. It also has a purifying effect and helps me feel better.
I pray that I’m not led into temptation – that the universe doesn’t place temptations in front of me that trigger my ingrained desires. Generally speaking, through doing this on a regular basis, I find I’m less likely to experience temptations in the future.
Finally, I also pray more generally for support and help in reducing ingrained desires – to be purified.
I wish you all the very best with your personal practice and hope this article helps you gain more peace and freedom. In summary, here are my 7 tips for working with temptation:
- Discover ‘ingrained desires’
- Gain freedom from triggers
- Enable ‘choice’ through mindfulness
- Don’t linger for long
- Acknowledge addictions and get support
- Be kind to yourself
Copyright © 2020 Darren Cockburn. All Rights Reserved