Today, the news is full of scandal about highly effective and intelligent people who made choices under the influence of temptation leading to their great detriment. It is tempting, too tempting to judge these people. Emotions are powerful, they motivate us, and when desire driven emotions are roaring, it feels right to be swept along. If you've ever been in the grip of infatuation, or "in love", you know that, at that time, your ability to think neutrally and clearly was severely compromised. Strong emotions destroy clear thinking. When temptation arises few can maintain sober wisdom. Rather than judging, perhaps the better path is to realize that even highly disciplined and accomplished people are subject to making poor choices when under the influence of emotions, and to let this realization motivate us to build skills and strength for when temptation comes our way.
That emotions are powerful doesn't mean that we are powerless and have no choice but to abandon our marital vows, our families, and our careers before them. We can build the abilities needed to make sane choices even when temptation is present. The consistent practice of yoga-meditation is one way to build such strength.
Yoga-Meditation practice involves being aware, moment to moment, of desires, emotions, and thoughts, and fully experiencing them while maintaining a certain neutrality and reticence of action. In this way, a meditator quietly builds strength to remain unmoving in the presence of desire.
In addition, a yoga practitioner learns the difference between shreyas and preyas, the truly-beneficial and the pleasurable, and observes the results of acting upon one or the other. Many choices in life begin with pleasure, yet lead to pain. Others are bitter at the start, yet lead to joy and peace. Over time, a meditator learns to discriminate between shreyas and preyas, and gains an increasing ability to choose between them.
Thirdly, a deep meditation with the mind remaining very still and quiet, which is a result of regular practice over time, may grant the practitioner some remove from his/her everyday thoughts and emotions. This mental space may enable a fresh perspective on an intended action, and an opportunity to realize it's unwise.
Yoga-meditation is not magic. A meditator can fall for temptation as well as anyone else. Yet yoga-meditation, when practiced consistently over a long time, can build skills and strength to assist one in making sane choices when emotions go crazy.
Thanks to Richard D. Carson, author of Taming Your Gremlin, for inspiration and wisdom that contributed to this article.