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No practice of ethics without a practice plan

pen and logbook

If ethics is about principles, practicing ethics is about method. In this field, we can assume that not just any method will do. So we have to figure out which method will be the most efficient to get us closer to our goal of progressing towards spiritual perfection.

For the purposes of this post, I will assume that the reader is familiar with the various psychological forces at play in the paradigm of the process of perfection, and in particular with the concept of imperious self (IS), which may be defined as an impulsive force systematically opposed to spiritual progress. The IS is protean—it creeps in through the cracks created by our moral faults or lack of attention. It takes on different looks depending on the person and the circumstances. One day it will oppose itself to your spiritual work head-on, and the next, like a chameleon, it will pass itself as a spiritual thought and deceive your reason.

Wanting to reach spiritual perfection is akin to being a student. When you go to school, you sign up for a course to receive instruction: that’s the theoretical part. But to assimilate the concepts you are taught and effectively prepare for exams, the first thing to do is to come up with a study plan. And when it comes to this, however brilliant you may be, if your method is shaky or not adapted to start with, your chances of succeeding in the end will be limited.

A good plan should not only take into account our personality and objectives, it should also be set with honesty and circumspection. Because at this decisive stage in our spiritual agenda, it is quite likely that our IS will show up. Indeed, what better strategy for our IS than to undermine the very foundation of our practice, that is, the plan we will have set for ourselves with great confidence and for several months?

Our first exercise will therefore consist in putting together a plan that will be both relevant and realistic, while at the same time locating and defusing the “time bombs” our IS will most likely try to place. The aim of this article is to provide some tools to allow us to be one step ahead on the starting line when the time to take out our blank sheet of paper comes.

A. The bombs of the imperious self

1. Aiming too high

The simplest trick to undermine our chances of success is to devise a plan that is too ambitious. This happens when we tell ourselves things like: “I can’t stand this fault anymore; what I need is a radical plan that will eradicate all traces of this nasty character trait within me!”

How is that a problem? Well, by setting such a high aim for ourselves—to become a paragon of generosity, will, altruism, or anything really—we are likely to quickly realize the extent of our weakness and therefore of the distance that separates us from our ideal.

But why do we still give way to this tendency? First of all, because it flatters part of ourselves and preserves our self-esteem: “True, I have this fault, but I am aware of it.” And mostly: “I will get rid of it once and for all.” Further, “raising the game” has sort of a bonus effect: while the long term risks are discouragement and giving up, in the short term, the challenge has a rather galvanizing effect. If you have ever subscribed to an unlimited gym pass, you know the kind of excitement such a subscription provides during the first (couple of) weeks, and also how unlikely you are to maintain the same rhythm after a few months.

In order to stay realistic and optimize our chances in the long run, we have to aim small and allow for variation; go crescendo (start small and then increase the difficulty). In this regard, exercises that require too much time (compared to the time actually available to us), means and conditions that are specific and difficult to create, overweening efforts (going from nonchalance to martial discipline to fight against laziness), etc., are all to be avoided. If we follow this first rule, we will avoid the depression and discouragement inevitably created by such over-ambitious programmes.

2. Picking a practice that suits us

When we finally decide to grasp the nettle (our most salient faults), our IS comes and tells us that the “nettle” is not where we think it is: it is going to suggest that we should focus on this other problem we have (which is minor), or worse, suggest an exercise that pleases us. The purpose is to please our ego and avoid confronting any real fault at the same time. But it is not only because of our IS that we pick the wrong target: we may do so because of poor self knowledge or lack of experience.

Let us take the example of Silvia: she cares about her appearance, but also has a tendency to backbite a lot… While the priority for her would be to fight against backbiting, she decides to work out for 5 minutes every morning. The loudest voice in her head tells her: “Very good plan: you need to take more care of your health since you let stress from work affect you so much!” Another voice, somewhat muffled, whispers to her: “Very nice… Perfect occasion to finally get rid of these extra 6 pounds!” Yet another voice, deeper—the voice of her conscience—replies: “Dealing with this weight problem is absolutely secondary and postpones dealing with your number 1 problem: backbiting.”

This touches upon one of the essential differences between the self-management approach and the spiritual approach. In the former, the aim is to “feel good” and reach a balance essentially measured by a subjective feeling of well-being. In the latter, the goal is to become more human and more ethical by fighting against our moral weaknesses, which often implies sacrificing our ego or some immediate benefits.

The solution: take your time and consult with people who are close to you. Let us face the facts, a friend, partner, parent, anyone who knows us well enough, will be less biased and accommodating in picking the fault that should be our priority. Maybe you will learn that this tendency to be slightly muddle-headed or this “artistic” aspect of your personality, that you personally find rather likable, can become a real ethical issue when it makes the people close to you go through hell in situations where they really counted on you.

3. Picking an exercise that is too vague or too generic

We have mentioned the impossible exercise, the convenient exercise, now, the blurry exercise: “Avoid negative thoughts throughout the day”. What a beautiful manoeuvre, both ambitious and vaporous. What is a negative thought? How can you not have them? And for the whole day? This exercise is quite simply impossible to manage—it is too vague, not specific enough and cannot be quantified.

A better way to formulate this exercise would be: “If I realise that I am having a negative thought (hatred, jealousy, resentment, complaints…) or a vain thought (unproductive or futile daydreaming), replace it with a positive or constructive thought, or by a prayer.”

These three tricks of the IS are the most common, but they certainly are not the only ones. I encourage you to share your experiences in the discussion that will follow this article. Going back to some of the ideas mentioned above, I will now touch upon a few methods that could significantly improve our chances of success.

B. Let’s go to war!

1. For every exercise picked, provide the means for assessment

It is not a matter of having the best intention in the world. The exercise we choose must be described in sufficient detail and allow for easy evaluation. In other words—it has to be easy to say whether or not we have succeeded. A good way to do this is to accompany each exercise with a quantitative or numerable constraint. For example: “do something useful for someone else three times a day” or “do at least 10 minutes of spiritual readings”. Going back to the example of negative thoughts, we can add a quantitative notion: “spot a negative thought at least once a day”…

2. Favour frequency: ideally, the exercise should be daily

Getting into a habit is not as easy as buying a pair of shoes. For true change, repetition and perseverance are key. We cannot hope for any deep transformation otherwise. Becoming a true human being is not a matter of one day or one action, however exceptional they may be. It requires quiet, meticulous, long-term work, free of swagger; successive small steps along a discrete yet clearly defined road.

In order to change our primal nature, get rid of our faults, develop qualities and, God willing, have these become a second nature, we must develop habits: the habit of observing, of fighting, of evaluating. And when it comes to this, the time factor is essential. A good plan will favour exercises that can be accomplished at least weekly.

3. The key to success: self-assessment

This, I believe, is the most essential point. Forgetfulness is the IS’s ally. And with the hectic lives we live, our time-consuming jobs and the constant solicitations we have to deal with, there is a real risk that our plan will fall through due to lack of… monitoring.

A good plan will therefore allow time for self-assessment. Such assessment can take place at different levels: daily, to assess our punctual success or failure, and weekly or even monthly, to measure the overall progression and the difficulties encountered. The latter type of assessments will allow, if needed, to redefine the exercise or modify certain aspects of it.

But the first bastion against the IS is to set it as a rule to make an assessment every night or every morning—to mentally go through our experiences of the past 24 hours in one minute maximum (“flash” type of assessment) and prepare for the day to come. It is a simple strategy: divide time into units of 24 hours, that are fixed and non negotiable. The benefit is multiple: renew our attention and remind ourselves of our goal, get motivation as we take note of our successes, or take responsibility as we review our failures, but most of all, make a mockery of the IS, which, let us recall, will do anything, absolutely anything, to make us forget our nice resolutions.

Now, these are fine ideas, but their value fully depends on their implementation. I therefore invite you to send your feedback and experiences. Did the above tips help you build an efficient plan? What kind of practice did you pick and most importantly, how did you pick it? Was it difficult to do so? Did you notice difficulties that are not mentioned here? But also, how is your self-assessment going? Are you able to evaluate yourself on a regular basis? Lastly, please share your successes and victories—we all need motivation.

Start typing!

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  1. ilana Feb 14, 2012 12:56 pm 1

    One of my character faults is that I get over-emotional or take things personally. I have found it difficult to practice the point I set myself-to catch myself once a day at least and try and counter the emotion through reason or a sort of redirection of the emotion. One of the solutions I tried was to determine if the emotion was legitimate or not. And then fight against it if that was necessary. But I continue to fail. I think I am so overwrought with emotions of all kinds and thoughts connected to emotions that I do cannot see clearly.
    I am trying to find a way to transform the practice.
    I know I need to mature and progress in my “management” of emotions as they cloud my reason, but I know my emotions have also often been a very good input spiritually and in my material endeavors.
    I am quite frustrated at the moment. I think I need to narrow the problem down to a specific sub-problem. But don’t know what or how.

    1. adissam Jul 16, 2015 12:56 pm 1.1

      … to «narrow the problem down to a specific sub-problem» , I’ve found the 5 steps method suggested here to be useful in my case (https://ostadelahi-inpractice.com/).

      For example, the reflection phase was an important step for me ; and the first day (even the first hour) was crucial for the rest of the lab.

  2. MM Feb 14, 2012 1:24 pm 2

    I very much like the example of Silvia, because I find myself in the same situation. I now must seriously rethink my exercises.

    Here is an experience to share:
    The last four days I was home with a cold and flu, nothing serious where I could say I was disabled to move or be mentally active. After reading this article, I came to know how easy I was convinced by my IS that due to my sickness I am off from practicing my exercises. Well, maybe this is what was ment by “honesty and circumspection”.

    Thank you for the article because I found myself in every aspect mentioned, and was motivated to start acting. Lets hope it will last for some time. I will keep you posted 🙂

  3. MA Feb 14, 2012 10:14 pm 3

    Thank you for this article. First, because I have been slacking at recording my assessments on a daily basis. Second, for making me realize that I need to re-assess the flaws I have chosen to work on. As in the example above, I had chosen to work on my laziness or lack of going to the gym. But, a much bigger problem for me which is coming to light in recent days is my mis-management of my finances. This had never been a problem because I was single and didn’t have any long term goals and was free to spend as I wished. But now that I have a family and have long term goals for my children, I am being forced to re-assess my spending habits and I have been not been doing such a good job so far. I now realize that it is a very important flaw that I must focus on and devise a serious plan to begin working on it! Thank you for the reminders!

  4. Jimmy Feb 15, 2012 4:44 pm 4

    Many thanks for the wonderfully pragmatic article. Another possible pitfall to working on a short-coming is changes in environment or circumstance while maintaining the same goal and plan for working on the short-coming or negative character trait. For example, based on my previous job stress, I decided to tackle controlling outward manifestations of irritation and anger with my loved ones. However, after changing jobs, I found that instances for working on these traits are less frequent, partly because of some reduction of stress associated with my job environment. In such a case it may be useful to, as part of the evaluation/monitoring process, re-adjust the specificity of our plan in accordance with these changes.

  5. nel Feb 15, 2012 5:19 pm 5

    This article came just in time for me. I was giving up to my IS and convincing myself that I don’t have time for evaluating myself on a daily basis. My practicals were too vague and hard to assess and I needed clarification. Does anyone has a good suggestion for managing finances, I also have the problem of mismanaging my finances and I haven’t really succeeded in implementing my plans.

  6. Vv Feb 15, 2012 9:19 pm 6

    First off thank you so so much for the suitable article. Just on time to rescue me! Although I knew many of these techniques in theory but I only used them causally. it is a big challenge for me following the self assessment every day. My attention is most of the time towards spiritual aspect of every scenario in my daily life but I forget about them in just a short time. At night when I should record the result I can’t recall the details and can’t measure the success. One problem might be that I look back at all the scenarios in my daily life and want to get some good lessons or experience out of them. For me the platform is too broad and I mix the importance of being specific. Another difficulty that I have is my expectations are not compatible with my abilities and yet I feel I don’t have time to work on small things. After reading this article I realized that all of justifications are coming from IS source. I also see that self assessment and recording are common problems and others (mentioned above) have the same challenges as I have. I have decided to get back to habit of recording and evaluating my practicals in daily and weekly bases.My second attempt is narrowing the practicals down making them measurable!

  7. Nov Feb 15, 2012 11:19 pm 7

    Great article!
    This is very much like the story of my life during the last three month…

    I started a practice plan with focus on these areas:
    – Having attention to the Source, 3 times a day- 1hour/day spritual reading – helping others with the right intention at least once/day – being more deciplined – accepting criticism….

    But after reading this article realized that I picked too many things. perhaps its better to focus on quality than quantity… for example 1 hour/day spritual reading is too long for me, specially during the week days with all work & … .

    I always wanted to be more diciplined, but this was very generic and i couldn’t manage to have any progress with this one. Didn’t even know where to start!

    Another interesting thing was that I decided to work on “accepting criticism”, but it was too vague and it wasn’t happening everyday, then realized one of the reasons that ppl don’t criticize me is that i never give them the chance as I’m the one who criticize Them … so I changed it to “not criticise others and try to see good in people”… it wasn’t easy at all.. because I was always having negative thoughts about them so again changed it to “Avoid negative thoughts”, which was again generic and difficult to measure, so finally a week ago i changed it to “fighting against backbiting” (3 times/day), so far i’ve been successful with the last one.

    I did register most of my daily results, but unfortunately didn’t spend any time in analyzing and evaluating them; due to laziness and having too much pride (I don’t like to see my failures)

    Of course i learnt a lot during this time, but without the right method it’s easy to give up!

  8. Mat Feb 16, 2012 6:18 am 8

    Thanks for this article. I read it twice, taking notes on the parts that seemed to be my problems. Certainly the practical that I have chosen goes under the category of high ambitious, and vague at some points. For example, for reading my goal was to read one page in the morning and pay attention to what I have read through the day, while I am not a morning person at all, and usually leave to work in a rush. Having said this, I ended doing the first reading sometime around noon, or any chance from morning to the end of the day at work. For practical exercise, I have chosen three general positive attribute, that I have to pay attention all day, at the end of the day, when it’s time for assessment, sometimes it’s hard to measure, and I also had set goals toward organization and punctuality, one was getting to work on time, as of today which is 109 days passed beginning the exercises, there are only 32 days marked “on time” in my tables. Luckily, at this job we don’t need to punch in or so, it’s just the principles that we have to consider, and I feel guilty myself otherwise.
    I did take notes on the part that when we have a failure we should replace it with a positive behavior or a prayer. I think this will help to defeat the IS to some degree. The other suggestion in the article that is very helpful is to remind ourselves with our goal constantly by doing the assessment, even though I was doing the same every night before sleeping, but I didn’t have any strategy for the failures. But reading this article is giving me a chance to break what I had set into more manageable, and measurable pieces. Thanks again.

  9. holly Feb 16, 2012 11:59 pm 9

    thanks for the wonderful reminder of how the IS [ or as I call it at times temptation ] can trick us or make us assume that we are doing the right thing!
    In order to improve my skills and overall performance and attitude – I have in the past asked my close friends, family and have even had my boss tell me as to what areas I need to work on in order to either improve my work performance or overall attitude and personal goals/targets.
    I have on many occasions tried hard to listen to other peoples opinion and have also on many occasions agreed with them in principal – however, when it has come to practice and act on the comments that were given to me – I have most of the time failed – unless I have been forced to do it – as my job might have depended on it! e.g. improve my planning folder or my IT knowledge etc.,
    However, anything which has been about my attitude , thoughts or the things that I sincerely believed that I should change — I have always struggled with and have failed numerously.
    I have for many years in the past tried very hard to change my attitude , my thoughts [ e.g. judging people so much ] laziness, and being unorganized as well as so many other things ! and have succeeded for a very short time and have failed in long run!
    The only time I have managed to genuinely make some sort of progress has only been the times that I have been A ] very honest with myself , B] remembered what spiritual rewards that i might gain C] how God would be please with me D] and most importantly simply imagine his lovely simile and acknowledgement .
    A very quick example of one of my experiences was when one day I came home absolutely starving – I was so hungry that I simply stuffed my face with what ever was
    in my path in the kitchen! I started to just use my hands and fill my mouth with massive portions of food! BUT – all of a sudden I realized how disgusting my eating manner was ! and that how would I eat if he was next to me ! I felt so ashamed ! so disgusted with myself – and straight away – washed my hands , put clean cutlery out ,
    and set the table very nicely !! as to the way I ate ! well ! what can I say ! I simply ate like a Queen – extremely , extremely , well ! as you can all imagine – I was now eating in the company of the beloved.

  10. HR Feb 17, 2012 1:54 am 10

    Thank you for an excellent, easy to understand and practical write up.

    I have decided that recording the result at the end of each day is as important (if not more important) than doing the practical; because for each category I will give myself 0 or 1. Therefore, with 0, I remind myself that I was defeated by IS (SHAME on me and, God is not happy with me) and with 1, I remind myself that I defeated IS (GOOD job and God is happy with me).

    I have selected practicals that allows for no room for IS to negotiate with me on whether I accomplished it correctly or not. If a child looks at the result will be able to tell if it was accomplished or not.

    For example, one of my practicals is every morning to read one paragraph or section from spiritual books, find a practical that apply to me and then at the end of the day while I am recording my practical to remember it. I have either accomplished this task or not.

    Another example, is to do something good for others during each day with reminder of spiritual intention and my daily practical. If I don’t remind myself about my spiritual intention and daily practice before acting on this good deed then it does not count toward my success in this practical.

    Last but not least is starting my day (before any other activity) by saying hello, good morning and how much I love him (God of our time) in the morning and at the end of day by saying goodnight and how much I love him (God of our time).

  11. YE Feb 17, 2012 4:04 am 11

    Thank you sooo much for such a helpful post. It truly is the story of my life! I was kind of familiar with some of the imperious self tricks but something very interesting was mentioned here that I never thought it would be another trick of the imperious self and that is to keep switching from one fault to another. I’m having a “aha moment” now thanks to this post. This has been one of the reasons why I haven’t fully concentrated on working on the most salient fault of mine. Now that I’m deeply thinking about it, every time I decide firmly to work on my most prominent weakness, all of a sudden I encounter all these other faults that make me think maybe I should work on those as opposed to the initial one. The power of the imperious self is beyond imagination!
    Again thanks a lot for providing such a detailed and practical article.

  12. Pourya Feb 20, 2012 5:18 am 12

    I actually thought about this subject last week and it’s amazing to see you also gave it a more detailed attention. I see this whole practical subject according to two orthogonal axes. The first axis being time, as you mentioned, and the second being the weight of each item we pick to work on. The weight of a work item can be defined in terms of how generic that item is. For example, I picked “Negative Thoughts” as a primary subject to work on but finally I gave up after a few weeks of attempts because it was too “Heavy” and has to be refined into “Lighter” sub-categories, such as: “Negative thoughts related to people”, “Negative thoughts related to Work”, …. Finally I decided, as you also mentioned, to limit my practice to only one countable work item e.g. “Fight against One negative thought about colleagues at school every day”. This seemed to be more practical for me and I record my success only if I can remember my deal when there is an attack of the imperious self. I also realized that I need to update my work items attentively, since the imperious self does really want to see you keep doing “Lighter” things than “Heavier” work items that can make more impact on your spiritual strength. So after two weeks of relative success I started to add other sub-categories to my deal.

  13. Mat Feb 22, 2012 10:53 pm 13

    I’ve been thinking on my practicals and the best way to apply them with the schedule and my life style since last week. The more I thought, the more I got suspicious that it was not me writing but it was my IS talking for me. The fact is that I was making every excuse to do what my IS wanted me to, while I think I am back here not because who I am but because who I should be, and this depends on my effort. So not only I did not cut any of the practicals I had chosen, but also added another one with a system to measure at the end of the day. For example for organization, I have listed three things: 1) to leave whatever I use back where it belongs, 2) do not postpone what it needs to be done today to the next day, 3) take care of two things each day based on a “to do list”. On the ethical matter, I have listed 3 items as well. If I succeed, will mark with +1 and if I don’t succeed will get a -1, my attention to the practical throughout the day is marked with 0-2, 0 for week attention, 1 for average attention and 2 for a good attention. Thanks for giving the opportunity to revise our practical with this article.

  14. wire Feb 23, 2012 3:07 pm 14


    Another way of adding weight to your existing practical could be to “fight against 3 thoughts regarding a school colleague everyday”…that way you must be vigilant 3 times instead of once? Just a thought….

  15. Juneone Feb 29, 2012 6:39 pm 15

    “Forgetfulness is the Imperious Self’s ally” wow—that one sentence is strong enough to make me be honest with myself about how much I am letting these precious daily lessons slip away.

    Thank you

  16. niggi Mar 11, 2012 8:31 am 16

    I had forgotten all about self-assessing regularly. From now on I will hopefully look at my practicals in the morning and remind myself of the day before’s results.
    Thank you so much for the great tips!!

  17. Cyrus Jul 10, 2012 9:03 pm 17

    I found the article helpful, particularly for its emphasis to consider a one minute time for evaluation.
    I decided to consider the assessment regularly,
    I need to stop my personal dislike of being responsible even to myself for regular checking, regular assessment and “discipline” in general
    I hope I can remove the problem I have with discipline, by obliging myself

  18. Wire Nov 25, 2012 11:57 pm 18

    Does anyone have advice for how to work on stopping to use foul language? I have been struggling with this for many years, and I cannot think of a practical way to work on this flaw…

    Thank you…

  19. k Jan 29, 2013 5:16 am 19

    @ wire: Maybe you should just stop using bad language? See the story bellow…
    This is based on a true story: there was a brother and sister who both tried to practice spirituality. The brother unfortunately had started to smoke cigarettes at a very young age, and although he had tried to stop several times, he had not managed to stop permanently. Anyway, every time he talked to his sister she kept telling him that he should stop smoking. After he had read this article the next time his sister started to talk about quiting smoking he said: “it is aiming to too high and I will just fail again”. The sister did not think it was a valid argument and said: “This is not a matter of aiming too high or low and it is simply a matter of “NOT DOING”. And she continued: “That it is like saying: I only steal a little bit. But one should (of course) simply NOT STEAL ANYTHING”.
    So is the brother right or the sister?

  20. AA Mar 26, 2013 6:52 am 20

    Hi Mat – thanks for listing your practicals : “1) to leave whatever I use back where it belongs, 2) do not postpone what it needs to be done today to the next day, 3) take care of two things each day based on a “to do list”.

    I’ve actually had trouble with defining anything specific for myself, so I loved yours and am using them (and they are definetly areas that I need to work on).

    Thank you very much.

  21. ilana Jul 14, 2014 6:54 pm 21

    It’s amazing to look back and compare how we see and tackle a question now in comparison to a couple of years ago. I haven’t read this article since 2012 and feel I understand it much better now that my experiences, retrospectively, give me more depth or clarity.
    Concretely, the example given in “3. Picking an Exercise that is too vague or too generic”: fighting against negative thoughts, is exactly what I had set as a practice a couple of weeks ago. My objective was to fight against feeling blue, seeing things from a biased, negative angle and most of all being hence ungrateful! I tried to think a particular positive thought every time negative thoughts or feelings entered my head or heart…and I just felt worse and worse. The vagueness itself contributed to a feeling of unease and even nausea…Until someone close to me said: Just stop saying that you have the blues (and one word in particular describing this state that she said I kept repeating, every single day). Just never, ever say it again! That is the practice. And I felt an immediate wow-moment. I had not noticed the power of my words and how they shaped my thoughts. I can control the words I say: it’s something I can actually do. And I have been observing how this has affected my state of mind. In part simply due to the satisfaction of succeeding in the simple practice of not using that one word….(I have slipped about 4 times in the last 2 weeks, but I caught myself every single time and analyzed in what situation I forgot myself in order to avoid it in the future).
    In addition to this I also have set as a practice: do not complain. This same person who knows me so well brought my attention to a story Ostad tells in “Bargozideh” of a crippled man he used to visit in one of the towns he was assigned to as a judge. He says that despite the fact that that man was so severely handicapped, he was so joyful or optimistic, that Ostad always felt he was in heaven when he visited him. Ostad goes on to say that he likes when his children don’t complain.
    Now I can write in my notebook in the evening: -Don’t say “…” and “Don’t complain” and put a check in the box behind it. (And of course if I slipped, I will know it and I will get myself back on course as I want to be like that man Ostad spoke of).
    In the light of these recent experiences, I can understand the points made in this article better than I did before and can use them to more consciously reinforce my practice.
    I will remember also to check in with a person who knows me well, to make sure I am not deluding myself in my choices.

  22. Naghme Jul 29, 2014 5:39 am 22

    From ancient philosophers such as Socrates and Plato to modern philosophers many thinkers have struggled with the issue of why we do what we know is not the moral ideal.
    Socrates and Plato were among the first to attempt to wrestle with the question of “akratic” action–that is, why people believe they should do action x, but do action z instead!!!

  23. TZ Aug 18, 2014 3:39 pm 23

    @Wire and @K:

    Bingo! I have the exact same issue and just loved the simple, albeit powerful advice! I’ve worked around men most of my life and picked up some nasty habits, such as cursing, which I have vowed to stop many times. Hopefully, this will do. Thanks for the advice!

  24. Mike Mar 31, 2015 10:47 am 24

    It’s really unfortunate that I am only reading this article 3 years later. Maybe I read it when it was posted, but didn’t notice how valuable it was. It’s amazing to realize that some thoughts, which I was sure were coming from my inner guide, are actually from my imperious self. For instance, when I pick practices that are too vague, generic or aiming too high.

    Can anyway share an idea or a suggestion of how to have a proper daily practice for prayer?

    Thank you for this article and to those who shared their experiences.

    1. kbld Apr 05, 2015 1:06 am 24.1

      You can find a lot of materials on a proper daily practice on prayer. You have especially Chapter 29 of the Path of Perfection and the answers to the daily questions on OstadElahi-Indepth.com, “An exploration of the Bidimentional Self”, Cycle 2 “Personalizing the Infinite” (in particular days 14 and 17 but not only).

    2. ami Jul 11, 2015 11:11 pm 24.2

      At first, I was doing it as a duty, a form of daily discipline. Over the years, this has progressively become a natural “rendez-vous” with the One.

  25. Mike Apr 09, 2015 9:50 am 25


  26. tom Jul 27, 2018 1:04 pm 26

    I have been trying to work on time-wasting on my cell phone/internet. I realize that I can spend an hour watching videos on YouTube or reading articles that are not meaningful at all. Sometimes, I do this in addition to reading useful things, but in this case, because I spent time on something useful, my imperious self ‘lets’ me do even more things online that are truly wasteful. Here are some practical exercises I tried:

    –> Did you stop wasting time at least 3 times today and try to use the time to do something good for your soul?

    This didnt work. It can’t be that just because you navigate away from a site once or even three times a day, you can spend the rest of your day wasting time. I think you need to do this proportionally. How?

    –> There are clearly days you do it more than others (weekend v. weekdays).
    On weekdays-for every hour, spend max 20 minutes on a site
    On weekends-for every hour, spend max 30 minutes on a site

    This didnt work either. Not sure the score for time wasting is quite right. It still seemed like enough time wasting.

    –> I think you need to limit the TOTAL time you are on a site. Need a way of monitoring it. I tried to do this via apps that track app usage (i think parents like to use this to track what their kids use) and i hoped it would tell me how many minutes i was on certain sites, but it didnt work.

    My issue is trying to find a quantifiable way of defining time wasting v. just relaxing and reading for fun.

    Does anyone have any insight?

    1. pzlz Aug 02, 2018 2:17 pm 26.1

      @tom, I hate summers. I have noticed this downward spiral pattern every summer and then it starts getting better in September. Another thing that I have noticed is disregarding and conveniently forgetting the importance of continuous small incremental steps. I don’t care how much time I waste, let’s just put aside 15 minutes every day to do research on the things I find useful. Do this EVERY DAY for a month and then increase it to 20 minutes EVERY DAY for two months and then increase to 30 minutes, or something like that.

    2. kbld Aug 02, 2018 11:47 pm 26.2

      Regarding time trackers, RescueTime (https://www.e-ostadelahi.com/eoe-en/benjamin-franklin-art-of-virtue-a-user-guide/#comment-216746) provides pretty good statistics.

    3. Yan Aug 04, 2018 7:30 am 26.3

      Tom, I am in the same boat with you on this. I think you are being hard on yourself. I belive if you did the “at least three times today” method, you would get fruitful results in the long run. The goal here is to develop your sound reason and to get one step closer to Him. Don’t let the littleness of your “small incremental acts”, as mentioned by @pzlz demoralize you.
      According to the Final self-assessment on Part IV of Words of Truth (saying 301-400) on OstadElahi-inDepth.com : “one of the ways of developing our sound reason is to act upon that which it discerns to be correct”. So, every single little act against your imperious self is counted towards the development of your sound reason, even if you continue your old behaviour thereafter. I am not implying that after resisting three times against your imperious self, you should do whatever you want, but I believe even if you did this, you would still get one step closer to your goal and it is counted towards the development of your sound reason.

      P.s. I use an iOS App called “Way of Life” to track my daily progress. You can indicate with red or green if you were sucessful. You can also take notes on each particular habit on a daily basis and later review your notes for further reflection.

      1. tom Aug 06, 2018 2:26 pm 26.3.1

        Thank you so much, Yan!! This is extremely useful feedback.

        I will keep trying!!

    4. Anna Nov 04, 2020 5:58 pm 26.4

      There is a great resource/book called “How to Break Up with your Phone”. I highly recommend.

  27. tom Aug 03, 2018 1:20 pm 27

    Thanks to you both for wonderful ideas!

    @pzlz: Do you think it is ok that I spend 1 hour reading/researching, and then the rest of my free time doing leisurely website surfing?

  28. pzlz Aug 04, 2018 6:30 am 28

    @tom, you are asking the wrong person! I am just trying to keep my head above water right now. I hope others can jump in with better ideas. I just leave you with one or two pieces of advice. Get used to scheduling your day, and schedule it ahead of time. Then build it in a way that when you review at the end of the day, you would be pleased by the way you spent your day. Also in your scheduling, be humble and cognizant of your strengths and weaknesses. Wish me luck, and I wish you the same!

  29. tom Aug 05, 2018 5:21 pm 29

    Thank you!

    I think there is something also very personal about this. If I sincerely feel like what I have done is my best to overcome this character weakness, then I think it is ok.

  30. Bob Nov 18, 2023 3:54 am 30

    I tend to think I am superior to others in spiritual studies compared to people I know who are either following a guru or involved with drugs like ayahuasca. I know that these techniques are not ideal and have serious drawbacks for long term spiritual growth. I am on good terms with them but I do not like the feeling that I am superior or exalted in any way. My recent path, past 30 plus years, has been studying teaching stories by Idries Shah and writing daily comments and observations over this time as a way of self study. I believe I have made some progress with my imperious self, but overall my superiority tendency is becoming more evident since I have been using these wonderful labs and reading Fundamentals of the Process of Spiritual Perfection. I love to read and write comments and try to see weak points and flaws in my behavior. and thinking.
    I had a small success the other day when I admitted to a friend that I was wrong when he made a statement about Grace doing everything in his life and I tried to contradict his statement that effort is also needed. Well I wrote back and told him that I applauded his sense that Grace is the primary driver in his life and confessed that I may be too focused on on effort. It felt good to admit that maybe he needs to to emphasize Grace for his current needs and that I do not know what he really needs and to downplay what I think he needs to practice. He responded very positively to my comments and we are closer as a result.
    Any comments would be appreciated.

  31. coque Dec 28, 2023 9:41 am 31

    I am a daydreamer and the negative thoughts since I have gotten into family challenges cloud my objective mind. I also suffer from dependency on my sister and brothers that make some of them abusive toward me. Therefore I have chosen to practice the following:
    1- think of the last time I engaged in backbiting to correct myself the remaining of the day.
    2- Remind myself that past life experiences are over and that I should clean them out of my mind and move on positively.
    3- Stop politely the person who talks negatively to attack others.

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