Why Do We React? – The Inquiry into Desire and Ill Will

Why do we react? Why are we getting so emotionally involved into what’s happening?

When my own guide asked me this question after the assumptions of desire and ill will had fallen away, I had no idea.

Why had I thought my second name was God, and I could always have it my way and make others do what I wanted them to do? How weird was that?!

And yet, before the inquiry it had seemed like it was totally alright.

Do you experience the same? Do you get angry when something doesn’t happen the way you want it to happen? Or do you pursue your desires at all cost though you already found out that fulfilling them only gives birth to 10 new wishes?

In this video, I talk about why reactions come up and how you can be free of being pushed around by the circumstances.


Video Link


Desire and Ill Will

Reactivity happens because we assume that there is a driving force in us that makes us push away what doesn’t feel good and pull closer what we want. This agent that seems to cause reactions is called Desire and Ill Will or wanting and not wanting.

But do wanting and not wanting really exist?

You might say of course, I feel them every day. They make me push and pull at experience all the time.

Let’s have a look whether desire and ill will truly drive the pushing and pulling.


How to look for Desire and Ill Will

So how do you look for desire and ill will? You look for them by taking a situation where you reacted and examine it under lab conditions.

It’s too hard to do it when you’re in a red-hot fury already.

A reaction happens in a sequence.

1.  You experience a situation.  For example, you want so badly to see through these fetters but they just don’t fall.  You might become afraid whether you’ll ever make it and actually awaken.

Now you take this situation into your consciousness lab.  For that, we make a sentence that frames the situation so you can induce the feelings that come up around this issue.

“I don’t know whether I’ll awaken in this lifetime.”

You might be tempted to say, “I don’t know whether I’ll EVER awaken in this lifetime.” Make the sentence about facts only.  We only name the facts. The word “Ever” is already part of the reaction, it is emotionally charged.

Say the sentence.

2. Primary sensations arise. Which ones arise and where are they? With other sentences, the sensations might feel pleasant.

The sense of pleasant and unpleasant is already added by thoughts but that doesn’t matter right now.

3. Here is the place where the forces of desire or ill will, wanting and not wanting should come into play and start the reaction. This is the place that we’ll closely examine.

What starts the reaction? What triggers the thoughts and feelings around maybe not being able to awaken in this lifetime? Why do you react?

Don’t answer this with logical reasons. Look for what initiates the reactions.

4. The reaction starts. You become angry, sad, joyous, fidgety, excited… there are myriads of reactions that can appear.


Looking for Desire and Ill Will in the Gap

When you explore whether desire and ill will truly drive a reaction, you look for it this way:

1. You remember the situation when you’re by yourself.

2. You feel the sensations that arise. Which ones are they and where can they be felt? The sensations themselves are not inquired into. They are the bait for desire and ill will to arise. Desire and Ill will are the two sides of the same coin. We want something that’s different to what we’ve got, which we don’t want.

3. Feeling the sensations, you wait for desire or ill will to arise. Stay with the feelings and resist the pull to react. This is what we call “staying in the gap”. The gap is a dynamic state, being with the primary sensations and resisting the pull to react. Right there, you should see the trigger for the impending reaction. What do you find?

Do this inquiry 4 x daily for 10-15 min. start with 30-60 sec. just feeling the sensations and slowly increasing the time until you can stay with the primary sensations for 10-15 min. and explore whether something triggers the reactivity.


The Falling Away of Desire and Ill Will

Do this exploration 4 x daily until you experience a shift. Keep looking for the trigger, even if nothing arises. If you haven’t found anything for a week or two, you could intone: “There is actually nothing there,” stating the facts. Stay in the empty gap.

Don’t stop until the shift has happened. In the meantime, your reactivity to the issue should be gone in everyday life. If it’s not, there is still work to do.

When Desire and Ill will have fallen away, reactivity will vanish. You can still respond to situations but the response will carry no emotional charge.


These Assumptions Usually Need Several “Rounds” to Fully Fall Away

Desire and Ill will are the strongest assumptions. Usually, it needs several issues to work with until they fully fall away.

So, don’t be disappointed when the reactivity subsided for some time, only to re-appear even stronger. Once you experienced the peace and ease without the constant pushing and pulling at what is, reactivity feels even worse and you may suffer quite a bit more than you did before the inquiry in comparison to the peace you came to know.

Take the new issue into the gap as well. Again, remember the situation, feel the primary sensations, resist the pull to react and see whether maybe this time you can find what starts the reactivity.

Patiently waiting for the trigger to arise is key in this inquiry, even if you already “know” that it doesn’t exist. As long as you’re reacting, the assumption of desire and ill will can still be fabricated.

Let me know in the comments what you react to. Did you already do this inquiry? What was your experience?

Comments 9

  1. Very helpful article. I also like that you teach to start with short experience of the sensations and work up to 10-15 min at a time. I think the most meaningful tip you gave me about 4/5 was that I would know it “in my bibles” when it fell.

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      Thank you so much, Graeme! :-)

      It’s true, when a fetter falls, you’re the first one to know, you feel it ‘in your bones’.


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  2. Hi Christiane
    Thank you for sharing your understanding. I have a question. When inquiring into the sensations, looking for the trigger. What do you mean by trigger? And triggering what? Is it not the situation and thoughts that is the trigger of the sensations? Do you mean what is triggering a further reaction based on those sensations? So far I only have glimpses (hours at a time) of seeing how there is no me separate from the world. How it’s all interconnected and just unfolding. But I have PTSD from childhood and strong sensations coming up. I suspect I have lot of work to do on that. Any advice?

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      Hi Silje,

      right, I mean what is triggering the reaction to the primary body sensations. The reaction is there to make us feel better and get away from icky feelings.

      It feels like the situation or the thoughts are the trigger but is it true?

      I’m so sorry to hear that you are dealing with PTSD. <3 In this case, I would strongly suggest that you work with a trauma therapist you trust to resolve or at least lessen the impact of what happened. Anything unresolved is bound to come up during the inquiry and it is very helpful when you already worked on it.


  3. Pingback: TEST: WHERE ARE YOU ON YOUR JOURNEY TO AWAKENING? - End Seeking And Find Awakening

  4. This has been a most insightful and helpful article and I return to it time and again- thank you Christiane

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      Hi Lindsay,
      a late reply… I’m glad that you find the article helpful. Going beyond reactivity is the most important step on the journey. Everything else will be much easier.


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