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Episode 20: Self-control. It's a precious skill that can help us in every area of life. From leaving behind unhealthy habits to being more loving toward our children, and even breaking free from addiction.  In this episode, we'll be exploring a little-known secret to taking back our power from cravings and urges and emotions of all kinds.

These teachings are made possible by people like you. Learn how you can help on my Patreon page. CLICK HERE.

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"Desirelessness is not the absence of desire. It's the absence of the compulsion to act."

Welcome to Real Yoga, a podcast dedicated to helping you use yoga's ancient wisdom to unlock your life of radical happiness, connection and meaning. Right here, right now. I'm your host, Eric Walrabenstein, and I'm glad you're here.


Many of you have heard me share this quote before. It's one of my favorites from the Great Sage Nisargadatta Maharaj, and the reason I'm so fond of it is that it points to, well, to an opportunity that so many of us are blind to.

It's an opportunity for more ease for self-control. An opportunity to leave behind habits and addictions. And to live with more joy and real.


Now, if you've been following along in our recent episodes, you know, we're exploring the nature of desire this month inside the Bright Life Yoga collective. More specifically, we've been interested in how desire, in all of its forms, can prompt us to do or eat or say all manner of things that we know we really shouldn't be doing, eating or saying.

Now, as we saw in the last episode, entitled The Terrorist in Your Head, desire in all of its forms, from mild cravings to full-on addiction, controls us through uncomfortable feelings. And that's because when we're made uncomfortable by the feelings of desire or cravings or urges, our instinctual drive to move away from discomfort kicks in. And we find ourselves hip deep in whatever activity or action we need to take to make that gosh darn discomfort, leave us alone.

In Nisargadatta's words, we are compelled to act by the discomfort of the desire. All thanks to our instinctual aversion to being uncomfortable.

But here's the important truth.

We don't have to be compelled to action by these uncomfortable feelings because as the ancient masters taught us, we all have a little known secret weapon at our disposal.

But before we get to that secret weapon, I want to address a question that's been asked by, well, by so many of you, and here it is. "So what? So what if I'm driven by desire? Does it really matter? I mean, isn't everyone driven by cravings and desire?"

Well, it's a fair question, and the answer is that it might not matter, that is, if you don't find yourself doing things that aren't serving you. 
If you never eat more than you know you should. If you don't have any pernicious little habits you've been trying to kick for years. And if you don't ever lose your temper and snap at the people you love the most.


In other words, if you're totally happy with everything that you do and how you feel, this probably isn't relevant at all.

But if you do find yourself from time to time, giving into cravings or reacting to anger or annoyance, or even soothing yourself with unhealthy habits like drinking or sugary treats, or even spending money that you don't have, if that's you: This can change everything.

You see, Here's what the yogi's saw.


Our only real problem in life is how we feel. That is, when we feel bad, we have a problem. But when we feel good, we don't.


And that's true whether we're standing on a tropical beach or in the checkout line at Walmart, or whether we're chasing lofty spiritual goals or mundane every day pursuits.

The truth is, feeling good is the holy grail of human existence, and nearly everything we do, we do only because, in one way or another, we believe it will move us towards that.


But here's what you really want to know.


Feeling good is not feeling good, so much as it is not feeling bad.


Let me explain.


You see when I'm filled with anxiety, I say I feel bad, and when the anxiety goes away, I naturally feel good. When I'm overwhelmed with craving for a drink or a smoke or a double cheeseburger, I feel bad. When that craving goes away, I naturally feel good. And even when I'm yearning for something like communion with the Divine, when the yearning goes away, I naturally feel good.

And in case you didn't pick it up, the takeaway here is that you naturally feel good.


And that's the truth anytime we're relieved from an uncomfortable feelings or emotion, and this means that inner peace, or, if you prefer, contentment or even happiness, is not something that we create as much as it is something we uncover.

Get rid of the uncomfortable feelings, and we're left with the feeling of freedom and ease. That's always living just beneath the surface, our natural state.

Now, in case it's not obvious: This greatly simplifies our quest to live the kind of lives we want, and whether that's breaking free from habits or addiction or simply feeling more lightness and ease and joy in our lives, because we don't need to create anything.


We don't need to become better or more worthy people. We don't need to prove ourselves or conquer someone. We just need to turn down the volume on uncomfortable feelings and emotions to quiet the cravings, to quell the impulses and put the brakes on the worry or the doubt, or the regret or the shame do that.


When you've done that you've removed the compulsion to act as Nisargadatta put it, and you're free.


But, that begs the question: "how in the world do we do that?"

And thankfully, yoga has many, many practices that can help: 


From pratyahara or withdrawal of the senses that can help us minimize triggering experiences to vairagya or non-attachment, which can help us stop the creation of unnecessary frustrations and cravings to sankalpa, or intention to help us pave the way to a new and improved way of being...


Each of these practices, and, let's be honest, so many more, can help us to minimize the intensity of nagging and uncomfortable feelings that can well sometimes control us.


They help to literally turn down the volume on the craving to dial back the angst, to quiet the worry and leave you with your yes natural state of relief and ease and happiness.

But it's here where we come to the bad news.


It had to happen, right? That's because the truth is it's natural and normal for human beings like you and I to experience uncomfortable feelings. And while it's true that we can minimize how intense they are and how often they occur, it's also true that they will always occur to some extent.

They're natural and normal, and sometimes they're going to be even quite powerful. And this is true no matter how much yoga or meditation you practice.

And this is why. Not only do we want to attend to reducing the intensity of desires and cravings and such, because again, we can only lessen the intensity by so much, but we also want to do something else.

We want to increase our capacity for them, our capacity being our ability to weather them artfully with grace and ease. And without that compulsion to act.


And I can tell you from personal experience, developing our capacity is something that can unlock great ease and harmony and real joy in life.

So, just to be clear, for sure, we want to manage the intensity of our desires and cravings and other unhelpful feelings, but we also want to armor ourselves against them as well, so to speak, by increasing our capacity for them too.

Here's what you need to know.


Your capacity is the unsung hero of artful and happy living. It's that secret weapon I mentioned at the beginning of the episode.


Now, the Buddhist might call it equanimity, but we might think of it as a kind of, I don't know, an imperturbability. It's your ability to remain spontaneously and effortlessly relaxed and at ease, even when the uncomfortable feelings of desire are present or any other uncomfortable feeling for that matter, like anxiety or doubt or worry.


And yet, as important as developing our capacity is, the sad fact is most of us aren't consciously aware of how critical our capacity is for our happiness and for our self-control. In fact, most of us don't even recognize that capacity is a thing at all.

Even so, as blind as most of us are to our capacity, we all experience its effects every single day.

An example would be: think of a day when you got up on the wrong side of the bed. You feel irritable, crotchety, and altogether not at your best. And you notice as you make your way through your day that everything seems to be, as they say, pushing your buttons:


The traffic on the way to work is infuriating. The slow-poke barista who is chatting with his buddies instead of making your latte is irritating the heck outta you. And even your best friend trying to help you decide what pair of shoes to buy is driving you nuts.


And to be clear, it's not because the circumstances or what is happening in that day is really all that much different from any other day.


Your irritation is all because you're having a low capacity day, and as a result, everything is triggering you.


But here's where it gets really cool.

Because if it were possible to grow our capacity through certain practices or exercises, we would begin to find ourselves more relaxed, more happy, and yes, more in control, in more and more circumstances even—and this is important—even in the midst of the same habits or tendencies or even addictions that we've found it difficult or impossible to shake, maybe even for years.

And yes, I'm here to tell you that there is, in fact, a way.


The truth is there are a wide range of things we can do to grow our capacity, and in fact, much of yoga is designed to do just. Primarily through soothing and nourishing the nervous system back into its natural, relaxed state, allowing to be at its best to artfully navigate the challenges outside of us—and the challenges and uncomfortable feelings inside of us.

So, it's here that the invitation becomes to work to minimize the intensity of the disturbing desires and emotions you experience, but to remember not to neglect the critical aspect of your capacity to remain relaxed with those same desires and emotion.


Start by being interested in the moments when you're easily perturbed and prompted into unhelpful habits and behaviors.

And then be interested in the moments when you feel more spacious, at ease and in control, even when faced with similar circumstances and begin to notice how things like tension, agitation and stress seem to be the enemy of your capacity. While relaxation is your friend. Ease is your ally. And use the power of gratitude and appreciation to unlock your most joyous and empowered self at ease and in control, even in the midst of life's difficulties.

Well, that's all the time we have for today. I hope our conversation here has helped to reveal a pathway to more ease and joy and self control in your life. As always, thanks for listening and please remember this podcast, and so much of my work, is made possible solely by the generosity of listeners like you.

So, please, if you can, support me over on my Patreon page, and when you do, I'll gift you with some of my most powerful yoga practices and guided meditations as my personal thank you.


Check it out now at, and of course, don't forget to hit subscribe or of listening on YouTube hit the like button so you don't miss out on future episodes.


Finally, if these kinds of teachings are something you want more of in your life, consider joining us inside the online BrightLife Yoga Collective where each week you'll join me to go even deeper with yoga's ancient wisdom. Plus you'll get weekly yoga and meditation practices to transform not only your yoga practice, but your entire life.

Learn more at my">


So thanks again for being here. Remember, I'm here to serve, so let me know if I can help and I'm wishing you all the best and I'll see you next time.

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