Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Instinctive behavior is built-in, an “automatic” for you. Instinct is the way you are, the way you roll, how you do things. If you excel, then you on the easy path. If not, life is hard.An ash road.
“Choice architecture” makes use of in-built instincts to guide you through the supermarket of life. Scientists arrange shelves to meet up with behavioral patterns. The instinct that commonly motivates you is pleasure. Because it is “automatic, instinctive” behavior is that during which you are essentially sleeping, “going through the motions” as they say, “doing what comes naturally.” It is what makes animals migrate.
Instinctive behavior is the most difficult to change. “Muscle memory” – how you walk, use your hands, sit, jump, swing a baseball bat are very hard to change. That’s why few people are willing to put in the time and energy to attempt to change. That is why addiction is so powerful.
But, you can change. You can go from hardwired to instinctive velcro. Really?  Isn’t “hardwired” permanent? Forever? Nope. Depends on how lazy you are. You can re-model your heart after a cardiac blockage. You can build new neurons to overcome addiction or habitual behavior like smoking, changing your stance in boxing, or your swing in baseball. You gotta want it.

Instinct says: you must always remain just as you are for this to work out for the best. Just go do the same round of golf on the same golf course with the same clubs at the same time day after day. Stay with the same group of friends. Watch TV, don’t read (you don’t read very well.) You can’t learn another language, lose weight, learn to use the computer. Stay in your comfort zone. You are still that inner 10 year old, this is how you’ve always done things. That inner child would be very afraid if you abandon them. Better to suffer the fear, shame or accept your “averageness” of sticking with the past than changing something.
When things become routine, rote – when they become “automatic” you can reach a level of performance in which you are “stuck” When you feel, “This is as good as it gets.” The “trap” of instinct has got you. Animals live in instinct which for them is permanent.
Velcro? Are you kidding me?
The first step to change is the desire to change. The recognition that you are habituated, working on instinct. Velcro gives you the opportunity to make adjustments, renew, refresh, create a new attitude, altar, adjust slightly. “Make all things new.”

One must not remain comfortably in anything. One must overcome the desire to remain “good” at something. You must always find the edge of instinct, the moment when something from the past is brought into the present.
     The “Speed Bag” is how boxers change their instinctive footwork. Hour after hour they change their balance, move their feet and punch all at the same time. They re-model the neurological patterns. Baseball players re-learn how to stand or swing in the box and undo patterns learned in childhood.  “Pick and roll” exercises become instinctive for the life-long basketball player. Any of these exercises may be called a “spiritual practice” – they are repetitive, they require a certain mental attitude of expectancy, they are a preparation.
Do something like this and you will meet your worst features when you focus on changing one instinct or habit. They naturally emerge. They want you to stay as you are. This is too hard. You’re no good at it.
     When the spiritual practice you undertake gets beyond those parts of your instinctive self and eventually you do change the instinctive just slightly – then it is possible that your spiritual practice may become a spiritual experience. Surprise! A new and improved you emerges. 

© Copyright 2015, Jean W. Yeager
All Rights Reserved

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