How do we know what is good for us?

In response to why we don’t do the things which are good for us, Marc asked, reasonably, how do we even know what’s good for us? What a wonderful question!

What is it that you really want?

The conventional wisdom

The lifestyle which our conditioning and society pushes on us is not conducive to awakening. It’s a product of collective and individual egos. We strive for status, money, our mixed ideas of beauty, and certainty. If we look deeply, we see we are conditioned to strive for control, security, approval, and completeness.

We get very used to this and we come to believe that what the ego wants is necessary. We don’t think we will be happy unless we strive for and get what the ego wants.

And so the conventional thinking on goals and desires goes something like this:

  • You must have goals.
  • Make a list.
  • Break it down.
  • Develop mind-power like visualization, motivation, self-discipline, passion, integrity, perseverance and will-power. Stir up your emotions about it.
  • Struggle and achieve
  • Repeat

What Essence wants

With this, can you know what you want is aligned with what Essence wants?

You have had the experience that when you want what Essence wants, there are no conflicting beliefs. The mind is unified.

But when you are not of one mind, you are full of conflicting beliefs. Then, you look for ways to trump the limiting beliefs. And this is what most of conventional self-improvement is about. It’s the movement to build conviction in particular beliefs with the hope that when the conviction is strong enough, it will overcome the limiting beliefs we have.

For example, we struggle to recognize the benefits of being thin to conquer all the limiting beliefs we have about our body image. We struggle to accumulate spiritual beliefs to conquer painful and confusing beliefs we have about our past and purpose and existence. We struggle to accumulate the conviction that we want to be wealthy when really all our other beliefs tell us we are undeserving. We desperately search for love with the limiting beliefs that we are unlovable or incapable.

Most of our endeavors to become clear actually are about more accumulation and more beliefs, and therefore more confusion.

In fact, if you look closely, in awareness, you can see that most of our goals are not just thwarted by opposing beliefs, but they are often made up of opposing and limiting beliefs. The desperate search for love, for example, often comes from the limiting belief that I am not lovable or I am not capable of relationships.

Wanting is a thought. The thought “I want…” comes from lack. It is made up of lack.

So how do we release these confused and limiting beliefs around desires and goals?

Deeper Wisdom

Deeper wisdom comes from allowing and patience and love. We are afraid of allowing because the ego thinks without the feverish energy of striving, we will become lazy and disengaged. This is the ego’s fear.

Meditation Red Sun

credit: h.koppdelaney

Still, it doesn’t serve us to give up desires. A great deal of spiritual wisdom tells just that—give up desires and aversion. But the energy of forcible giving up is the same energy of the ego, and it too comes from a feeling of lack and the confusion of conflicting beliefs.

I’ve found it much easier to let go of the limiting beliefs around desires.

From my own experience and in working with people, it seems the three most common desires we westerners have are about money, relationship, and health. I want to be wealthier and have more things and more security. I want a meaningful relationship. I want better health or fitness or attractiveness.

If we look a little deeper we find that these are really driven by the ego’s need for approval, control, security, or completeness.

Often, because of the beliefs of rebellion, it is the opposites of these that drive the ego. Sometimes we seek disapproval, we seek to give up control, we seek danger, or we seek separation or death.

Releasing the drivers

In stillness, make a list of your desires or goals.

For each desire, note whether you think it comes from a need for approval, control, security, or completeness, or from their opposites. Often, it is a combination of drivers. Simply note down what the components are.

Can you release these needs? Can you release the need for approval, control, security, completeness, and their opposites?

If you have tried the beyond-karma release method, you know that releasing is not difficult—it’s just a little delicate. At first we don’t know what it is that we are trying to release. Then, we may not know exactly what it means to let go. The process, however, is so natural to us that with simply trying it a few times, we remember that we have always known how to let go.

Each moment is a choice

Every moment is a choice.

Love yourself enough. And make every choice from awareness, not the ego. And life will know what to do.

Live easy.

29 thoughts on “How do we know what is good for us?

  1. Marc Winitz

    Well, glad I asked 🙂 you’ve packed a lifetime of inner self discovery into one post, a lot to chew off and consider here. Your points on what Western thinking prioritizes can’t be ignored. It’s not that they are not important (in varying degrees they are) but the need to balance that off against something greater for yourself should help you make decisions about what is important to you and what to focus on. Just taking some focus off of the “expected” priorities can make a personal difference. Thanks for the post!//Marc
    .-= Marc Winitz´s last blog ..Mind Pushups – Understanding Focus =-.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Marc,
      Western thinking permeates the whole world. The ego-based thinking, that is the thinking around the thought of “I” possibly started with the advent of civilization or agriculture, or perhaps even before. It’s strange that people have been concerned about happiness in the same way for at least throughout written history.

      In our usual mode, it’s just very difficult for us to know if what we think we want is the same as what we want. Desires (and fears) will always feel so real and so fervent. We have desires because we want to be happy, and the ego misses the truth that happiness comes first.

      Thanks for expanding the discussion!

      love and peace,

  2. Brenda (betaphi)

    Hi Kaushik

    One reason I love your site so much is that I share your “live easy” perspective. “The energy of forcibly giving up something is the same energy of the ego.” Yes it is.

    During the early and mid-nineties I was teaching in an inner-city school when gangsta rap began to emerge. That was a tough time for all teachers, made tougher in my case by the sudden death of my husband. My children were 8 an 9 at the time, and we had no relatives or close friends in our area to call on for support. I didn’t think life could get any harder but it did. It got much harder.

    But we survived it. My kids are grown now and physically and emotionally healthy. I’m experiencing the easy life I’d always imagined. If sites like yours had existed fifteen years ago, I doubt I would have had time or energy to follow them, yet the release message you keep repeating here is one that can truly help people who are experiencing difficult times.

    I’ve developed a new mantra of sorts lately. When I sense that I’m constricting in the face of some outside mechanism, I say “love it.” Just that — love it — and the constriction goes away. Looking back, I think that’s what got me through the gangsta rap years. They were just children after all, and I had to keep saying to myself, “love them.” Just love them. 🙂

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Brenda,
      You went through a very difficult time.

      It’s strange that most of us are either struggling to survive a crisis or struggling to achieve something.

      There is of course nothing wrong with desires and goals and achievement. The ego simply misses the point that happiness is not at the end of achievement. If we can be happy and peaceful first, it’s much easier to know the goals and desires that truly resonate with us, and we are no longer dependent on the outcome.

      And you’re right, the energy of asceticism is very much the energy of the ego which has grown tired and so now wants to try the opposite. I think much of the movement of “positive thinking” is this frenetic lurching to get away from what is.

      I was discussing this with a friend. Why is it that we resist releasing so much? With the slightest experience with it, we come to know that it is natural and it is not necessary to hold on to painful emotions and conditioning. We can simply be still, be present to what is happening inside us, love, allow and release. But it’s difficult for the ego to accept this.

      That’s wonderful–say “love it.” That was my lesson as well, when I struggled with the low times, I realized I can simply be patient and allow and love, and the constriction is released.

      Thanks, Brenda for compassionate insight. I hope you are well!

      love and peace,

  3. Lana-DreamFollowers Blog

    Kaushik, I loved this post and I think what I’ve written in my latest post is very similar. I also believe that starting with goals in mind is wrong approach to live a meaningful and fulfilled life that makes you happy. I believe we have to find our Essene, our True Self first and only after that come up with goals that are aligned with who we are. Then we won’t struggle, then we’ll be in the flow. When we align everything we do with who we truly are, limiting beliefs are not an issue any more. We let them go easier. Brilliant post as always!
    .-= Lana-DreamFollowers Blog´s last blog ..How To Get In The Flow or How To Connect With Your Inner Genius =-.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Lana,

      Yes, absolutely, it’s a matter of getting into flow. Possibly, many people think that this is out of their reach. Or perhaps we ‘re just so used to being driven by the ego that we feel there is no other way.

      You comment is very insightful. We already intuitively know, and we’ve all had the experience that when we are of a unified mind, life knows exactly what to do!

      love and peace,

  4. Masi

    Dear Kaushik,

    I’ve been struggling with this topic for the past while!! One of my childhood dreams is to obtain my PhD. Now that I’ve been accepted, I feel confused as I wonder whether obtaining this degree is an ego-need or whether fear is holding me back from committing to this step. I am not motivated to study and I come up with so many excuses to avoid it. I’ve tried releasing the needs, I’ve tried finding out what it is I want, I tried just sitting with it and accepting it all just the way it is…. I asked for a 6-month deferment on my start day from the University but I still feel stuck. I can’t seem to focus on my studies and all the while pressure adds to meet deadlines.

    These days, I am taking baby steps… I spend most of my day observing my thoughts and releasing and then once in a while I’ll get a burst of motivation to study until I feel resistance and then I put it aside. I’ve told myself not to worry about the deadline for now.

    How do we balance our spiritual homework and our other obligations?

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Masi,

      In the last few posts, this is really the question we’ve been exploring. There aren’t any easy answers. The world we live in and very often the lives we create for ourselves are not conducive to awakening. The ego wants certain levels of comfort, power, security, approval, material accumulation, and the feeling of completeness. It can be difficult to know whether what we think we want is what we really want. It’s difficult to know when and how to get through temporary hardships for greater gain, and when and how to distinguish between ideals and the practical demands of life, and as you say, balance obligations with what we consider spiritual being.

      Often, the very reason we want to awaken or be spiritual, is because we feel stuck. We are unhappy with work, goals, activities, the people we know, and we feel unhappy with the life we have, and we want to awaken to feel happier about our circumstances. But awakening is likely to stir things up.

      I think it works both ways. Awakening can help us find resonant goals but this is not always a comfortable transition, and working towards goals which are resonant rather ego-based can help us awaken, but it’s not always easy to know what they are.

      Of course, none of this seems helpful during the low times. You are looking for practical answers, and many other other people are as well, and I did as well during the doldrums of awakening. What I’ve found to help the most is that we must love ourselves. We can be patient. We can develop awareness. And we can allow and watch and release. During the low times, I’ve found it helpful to simplify, even simplify ruthlessly, and when practical, defer major decisions.

      It’s good to hear from you!


  5. Masi

    Namaste Kaushik 🙂

    The last paragraph is what I’m trying to do. I’ll try to bring more awareness to it. I realize there is still resistance and fear to release and that this situation is helping me peel off those layers. And like you said, I’m trying to defer taking any major decision regarding this at the moment and see where it takes me.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Excellent, Masi. Of course making decisions is one thing. The other that seems to grip us is our level of energy. Depression, low energy, insomnia…these problems I think manifest from the exhaustion of turning emotions inward. Again, what we can do is be patient, allow, fully experience, and release.

  6. Amit Sodha - The Power Of Choice

    “Love yourself enough. And make every choice from awareness, not the ego.”

    Well Kaushik, we think very much in tandem and I love that last line. From experience I can say that I probably haven’t made the best choice, or at least that’s what I think, as we can never know the results of the choices we haven’t made, only create fantasies about what may or may not have been. That alone puts pressure on us. If we could only make decisions and then let go and realise that no matter the outcome just to remain inspired to cotinue living from the point of awareness.

    Awesome writing!
    .-= Amit Sodha – The Power Of Choice´s last blog ..The Best Kind Of Product Is One You Don’t Need To Sell =-.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Amit,

      That’s an excellent insight–we can never really know, looking at the past, whether we made an optimal choice. “If we could only make decisions and let go…” is great, and we can do just that. We can love ourselves enough, and make choices from awareness without worrying about it too much, and let go of the attachment to particular outcomes. That takes a lot of pressure off.

      Thanks for important insight!

      I hope you are well.


  7. Nadia - Happy Lotus

    Hi Kaushik,

    To paraphrase Marianne Williamson….the devil is not some guy hanging out in a far away land. He is in between your ears.

    I think the ego is the devil because it takes perverse pleasure in keeping people stuck and miserable. Of course, the same is true of fear, doubt, arrogance, and ignorance. People are capable of so much but the ego gets in the way.

    There are no limits to what we can do in life. Yet many think that there are limits which is a manifestation created by the ego.

    There are no boundaries and there are no limits. How I wish more and more people would recognize that reality.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Nadia,

      Yes, indeed, the only devil there is, is in us. It is our conditioning and the ego and the limiting beliefs which bind us.

      It’s difficult because even when we have this insight, the ego continues to thwart us. Social pressures and conditioning and old beliefs and fear keep nudging us. What we can do is love ourselves, be patient, allow, watch and release.

      Thanks for the great insight!

      I hope you are well!


  8. Masi

    Thank you Kaushik 🙂 I find taking special care of myself (exercise, eating healthy, massages, spending time in nature) really helps me. Spending time with friends and family and being kind with others also helps me to get out of my mind and cultivate positive energy. And, of course breathe, release, breathe. At times, my mind wants me to feel guilty for “playing” while there’s a “crisis” going on in my head! I used to ignore my mind but then I’d fall for it eventually and bring on the depression, panic, guilt etc. These days I try to observe the thinker instead of ignoring it or turning it into the “bad” one.

  9. Patty - Why Not Start Now?

    Hi Kaushik – I love what you’ve written here. The quest for self-improvement is so often an action that moves us away from what is asking to be seen. Since I tend to view things through the lens of story, I see those things you mention – approval, control, security, completeness – coming from an ancient archetypal story: the one that says we are not enough. And its a really powerful story. But I think building a strong frame with wisdom, love, and awareness can keep the story out, long enough for it to recede and lose its power. Thanks for the wonderful post!
    .-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..Meaning Mondays: The Purposelessness Edition =-.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Patty,
      What a wonderful perspective–to see this as the story of the human condition. Yes, awareness and release and love keeps the egoic stories of lack out. It’s a beautiful way to see it. Thanks!

      love and peace,

  10. Masi

    I was going to write over at Takuin’s that my ego and thoughts help me see myself more clearly, when I allow that is…. and it’s a beautiful feeling.

    I love how the two conversations are coming together for me…. hahaha

    And I love Patty’s description, a beautiful reminder.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      As the saying goes, when the student is ready…
      It’s funny how what we need shows up over and over again when we’re ready.

      Thanks, Masi.

  11. Walter

    Very enlightening post you have shared here Kaushik. Unfortuantely, in my own observation, we can only open our eyes to Essence when our conventional wisdom has failed us. This usually happens in the events of great tragedy.

    But as you have said, every moment is a choice. 🙂

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Walter,
      Yes, that is my personal experience. I opened up when I was exhausted from conventional wisdom. But from what I see, awakening is happening all over the world now, and people seem to be more and more open.

      Thanks for visiting and thanks for the insightful comment!

      love and peace,

  12. Paul Maurice Martin

    Goals, self-discipline and so forth… I share your view that as a society – and as people who write in the areas of personal development – there often seems to be an emphasis on these sorts of active, conscious, controlling abilities that comes at the expense of being willing to take direction from our sources of deeper wisdom.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Paul,
      Yes, exactly. And yet, it isn’t easy for us to distinguish between deeper wisdom and egoic movements. Thanks, very insightful.

      I hope you are well.

      love and peace

  13. Liara Covert

    As you let go of doubt, you know what is good or you. You always know but do not always choose to accept your own inner knowing. External messages encourage you to suppress that you are source energy in physical body. People keep ‘the secret’ from you because they do not think you are ready to hear it. When you feel you know what is good for you, what prevents you from aligning with it? You do. Why? Only you cn answer it.
    .-= Liara Covert´s last blog ..What if everything is always well? =-.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Liara,
      Yes, there is conflict of conditioning. Thanks for the visiting and thanks for the insight!

      love and peace,

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