Conditioning and Determination
In remaining determined there are different factors that can affect us. Let’s first look at a big one: creating the proper environment in your life to support your determination. If I am determined to not eat sweets, but I stock my house full of sweets, that will likely work against me. Rather, I would do better to stock my house with foods that satisfy my desire for sweets. And, it would be important to read articles and books that reinforce my determination to refrain from sweets.
The problem is that we are often our worst enemy. We often make it difficult for ourselves by being in environments that are not aligned with our desires. Sometimes we are the ones that create the very environments that work against us.
Our activities need to be aligned with our goals. For example, if we are determined to chant our japa well, but don’t rise early enough to be able to peacefully chant in the morning, then our lifestyle isn’t supporting our goal. If this is the case, it would be accurate to say we are not really that determined to chant good japa. If we say, “I would like to chant well, but…,” it probably means we are not willing to do what is necessary to chant really good japa. Commitment and wanting are not the same. If we are committed, we make something happen. If we just want it, there is no guarantee we will do what’s necessary to make it happen.
Some environments are not in our control. In these cases, we have to control, as far as possible, our response to those environments by controlling our own internal environment.
Here’s another way of being determined that I personally find effective. Krsna says to control the lower self by the higher self. One way I do this is to constantly remind myself what my higher self wants and what my lower really doesn’t want (although it thinks it wants it.) When I find a conditioned response to a situation, I remind myself this is not what I want, this is not the way I want to respond, but this is just my conditioned side responding. I then reinforce to myself how I prefer to respond, to this situation. What this does is keep me in touch with my devotional side. As Srila Prabhupada says, the devotee and demon are in the same body.
So feed the devotee and starve the demon.
I like to see those conditioned responses coming from what I call my “past self”, as opposed to my “current self”. I came to Krsna consciousness as a conditioned soul who wants to be an unconditioned soul. When the past conditioning tempts me, I see it as the old self-acting up, the past trying to influence the present. Then I remind myself of the present, that I am a devotee, and that I want Krsna not maya. This helps me become more centered on what I came to Krsna consciousness to achieve and what I really want in my life.
Doing this helps you get more in touch with the sincerity and purpose that brought you to Krsna. The sincerity and purpose that brought to Krsna are also what will continue to keep you here. If you allow that to become weak, you are weakening one of your lifelines to Krsna.
There’s a problem with not overcoming our conditioning that we may not be fully aware of. When we allow our conditioning to motivate our actions, that conditioning is reinforced. When we act in Krsna consciousness, it reinforces the desire to serve Krsna. So the problem with sense gratification, or any action that is not Krsna conscious, is that it reinforces the desire to perform that action. To counteract this, we must act in Krsna consciousness, even when we don’t feel like it. Those actions will create the tendency to repeat themselves.
If you wait to feel like acting before doing the right thing, that’s not intelligent. You just need to act. The act itself will later produce the feeling to act that way again. Sometimes you are not able to think yourself into a new way of acting but you can act your way into a new way of thinking.