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The Battle of the Generation - Day 31

Our weekly excerpt from the book "The Battle of the Generation"

Part 5 - Awareness

Chapter 14 - How Awareness Helps

Being caught off guard by desire puts us in a precarious position. It is hard to stay in control when we are blindsided by desire. Therefore, we must do whatever we can to prevent this from happening.

When desire catches us by surprise, we change in an instant. Our desires awaken so fast and we suddenly find that we want to give in. Feelings of desire are strong enough to blind us and make us stop caring about anything else.

Once overcome by desire, we lose our ability to think rationally. It’s almost as if our brains have shut off. Everything else loses its significance and urgency. We can no longer appreciate the consequences of our actions. We don’t even let ourselves think about it, because we know that would stop us from doing what we want. At this point, it is difficult to regain control and stop ourselves from giving in. It is much easier to invent rationalizations to assuage whatever is left of our intellect instead.

Awareness prevents this from happening. We are much less likely to sin in our regular state than when we are affected by desire. If we were challenged while standing in front of the Kosel on Yom Kippur, would we sin? Probably not. This illustrates the difference between when we are aware and when we have lost ourselves.

Stopping our intellect from falling asleep dramatically increases our odds of winning. Remaining alert instead of being blown away automatically limits the strength of our desires and stops them from going out of control. That alone makes it easier to prevail.

Further, remaining awake enables us to consciously implement all our weapons. We are able to use willpower because we can still internalize the consequences of our actions and remember our commitment not to give in. We can calmly remind ourselves that the pleasure is overrated. Most important, we can make ourselves excited to win by remembering our opportunity to reach unprecedented heights. Awareness allows us to put all we have worked on into practice.

Imagine a person was being mugged, and his friend whispered to him, “Don’t worry about these muggers. I have a machine gun back home that will scare these muggers silly.” Obviously, that is foolish. A gun back home does nothing to help the person if he can’t access it.

Similarly, the greatest perspectives and techniques are of little help without awareness. If we can’t stop ourselves from being overrun by desire, we will want to indulge. Our perspective will change and we will lose our clarity of thought. We will no longer want to use those techniques or think about anything that could stop us from giving in.

But if we keep our focus, we can calmly remember what the correct decision is. We can recognize that controlling ourselves is right, and is best for us as well. Instead of being blown away by desire, we can think clearly. We can tell ourselves that giving in is bad for us and isn’t worth it. Then, we can use techniques that will keep us strong.