Cravings: Be Less Compulsive with this Ancient Wisdom

cravings confuse me last week I was
walking through a busy part of town when I spy a pizza place and suddenly I’m hit
with a visceral craving to devour a delicate thin crust tomato and basil
pizza. yum. delicious. except I had just had a massive meal with a friend I was
completely stuffed I physically couldn’t eat another bite it struck me in this
moment my cravings are outrageous desires to consume to beyond excess yet
for most of my life most of the time I seemed to follow my cravings regardless
I don’t know if you do this be it drugs food pornography shopping gambling you
know that consuming more isn’t good for you but you seem to somehow do it anyway
regret soon follows and we feel empty and out of control. this experience got
me thinking why do we have this destructive tendency to consume to excess
and is there anything that can help us take back just a bit of control.
well since my trip to China I’ve been using their ancient philosophy to try
and challenge some of my more destructive behaviors and there’s a poem
written by an ancient sage on exactly this topic these ideas have helped me
become less reactive than ever so I thought in this video we could explore
the lessons together alright here’s the poem
the five colours blind the eye the five flavours dull the taste
the five tones deafen hear the hunt and chase craze people’s minds the sage
observes the world but trusts his inner vision. he allows things to come and go.
he prefers what is within to what is without well I’m on a walk so let’s try and
unpack these lines as we’ll see there is so much wisdom contained in this poem
first to give you an overall picture the five colors tones and flavors are
thought to refer to all the sensory stimulations in the world and Laozi
our friendly sage is advising against chasing and over-consuming these things
he then tells us how a sage has a healthier relationship to desire now
this idea of the chase I find fascinating so maybe we could start
there this poem was written over 25 centuries ago it’s easy for us to feel
disconnected from our ancient ancestors because they live so long ago and the
world has changed so much but given Laozi is advising his contemporaries
against the dangers of the chase our propensity to consume endlessly suggests
that the ancient Chinese just like us has some wacky cravings to deal with
indeed the social sciences have found that Homo sapiens do have a tendency to
stop taking pleasure in what we have and to desire more and more so why do we
have this frustrating quality well it’s worth noting that cravings themselves of
what actually keep us alive they motivate us towards the things that we
need for survival there’s some messed up experiments back in the 50s where they
blocked the dopamine receptors in the brains of rats dopamine is the
neurotransmitter that triggers cravings and the rats died because they didn’t
want anything so we need cravings for the issues for us arise because our
cravings evolved tens of thousands of years ago in a harsh scarce
unpredictable world so back then it made sense that eat as much as you could
while you could whereas moderation and being content with what you had just
didn’t make sense in terms of survival we’re still living with these instincts
which explains even when completely full I can still desire more. a medieval
funny man a Jester, yes
so George my boy what are you working on yeah I’m doing a video on my wacky
cravings cravings hey well I haven’t had one in years you want to know my secret
a crossword a day keeps the doctor away anyway but look I think what you’re
talking about is important but not just for personal issues but for societal
ones as well right well I had a friend back in the 1930s John Maynard Keynes an
economist and he made a famous prediction that by today we’d be working
just 15 hours a week he assumed that as technology advanced would be able to
make everything that we need it and next to no time so we could relax clearly
however he was wrong. while technology has improved beyond our
wildest dreams what he forgot to account for was our
insatiable appetite to consume thanks grandpa George indeed capitalism our
current global economic system has taken advantage of the chase through
advertising and cheap credit posing issues not only for our mental health
but the health of the planet too thankfully economic systems don’t need
to exploit consumption and nor are we destined to chase and that’s the first
lesson that I took from this poem just the existence of the chase itself we’re
never gonna finish our desires normally we can convince ourselves if I just have
this thing then I’ll be content but we know now that’s just not how it works
to believe otherwise is to commit ourselves to a lifetime spinning on the
treadmill deluding ourselves that we’re getting somewhere okay so that’s a
helpful idea to remember in any given day we are guaranteed to have thoughts
that we just don’t need to take seriously but you may already know this
I know that having five taste the difference cookies in a row probably
isn’t a good idea but I seem to do it anyway I lose control let me preface
when I say lose control I’m not saying that we should become Fitness bunny
control freaks even excess itself isn’t necessarily bad Brits have been feasting
for Christmas for millennia what I’m talking about
as those things that we know we don’t want to do well then do them anyway and
then feel crap about ourselves there may be healthier habits that we can learn
about loud sir our ancient Chinese sage please give us some tips so one of the
lines is he prefers what is within to what is without what could that mean
I think Alan Watts captures this idea beautifully he says that if we see
ourselves in the correct way we are all just as an extraordinary phenomena of
nature as the trees as the clouds as the flickering of the fire as the patterns
of the stars we are all just like that you see the ancient Chinese they
connected with something deeper than just our thinking mind we’re so harsh to
ourselves in our heads we say I wish I could do this thing or I don’t like this
thing about myself we routinely do not recognize our perfection in the same way
that you can’t really judge a good tree from a bad tree but we forget about
that and so to try and fill this emptiness that we feel about ourselves
we try and consume hoping that will make us feel better
the sage however knows that that’s just a delusion he can turn inward connect
with his present being and remember that there’s nothing to be fixed that he’s
already whole so in the same way if we notice the thought: if I just have this thing then I’ll feel better we can turn inwards something I like to
do is to give myself a squeeze of the hand say hello me try it now if you want
I don’t know a lot but I do know I’m in this remarkable thing that’s keeping me
alive without me really having to do anything and I don’t thank it enough the
squeeze of the hand is all it takes to feel grateful and to put our more
destructive cravings and thoughts into context turning inwards can be home a
place to return to when we noticed we’re looking outside of ourselves for
happiness but in our moments of madness it can be hard to remember so Laozi have you got any other tips for us the sage observes the world but trusts
his inner vision here I think Laozi is trying to point to another way of
relating to the world yes we have our eyes but we also have our inner vision
our ability to see the thoughts and insights that come not from the senses
but from within us and when you turn inwards like this what you notice is
that not only are we not broken but we have an immense amount of wisdom built
into us take the simple examples from this video you go to do something that
you know isn’t good for you and without prompting a part of you that cares about
your health and happiness pops up and says hey I don’t think this is a good
idea we call this our conscience and because it happens all the time we don’t
really put much thought into it but it is a remarkable self-protection
mechanism that we have built into us and it’s just one part of our innate
wisdom so why is it then if we are born with innate wisdom that we seem to make
so many silly decisions well I think this is what Laozi is getting at when he
says the five colours blind the eye if we cram every waking hour full of
sensory stimulation we numb ourselves to our own inner wisdom well I think I can
name a few examples of this if you have a sweet treat after every meal soon
enough you don’t feel satisfied unless you’ve had that sugar hit. the five
sugars have dulled your taste buds to subtler and healthier flavors. Or, take
social media if you’re someone who regularly Scrolls on Instagram comparing
yourself against the Instagram babes of the world you may the next time you look
in the mirror not like what you see the five fake bums or 6 pack abs have blinded you from your own innate beauty this idea can explain
quite a lot of our destructive behaviors we get so caught up in consumption that
we lose track of what’s good for us but perhaps the more familiar situation are
those where we know it’s not good for us but we do it anyway you see someone
smoking a cigarette on the street and before you know it you’ve got one
between your lips or you’re surfing the web and you see an advert of a sexy lady
and before you know it you’re watching pornography despite your partner asking
you not to it’s moments like these where we can feel that the world is pulling us
around that we’re not in control that our behavior is dictated by our
environment but again the sage knows that that’s not the case the sage
observes the world trusts his inner vision cravings for a sage happen in slow
motion they have a craving from the external stimulus that they can see a
thought arise in their head and they have the mental space to consult their
inner wisdom and choose their response this idea of observing speaks to the
fundamental ideas of mindfulness we can’t control the external world we
can’t control what thoughts come into our head but we do have responsibility
the ability to choose our response if we realize that thoughts and cravings don’t
have any power beyond that which we give them then we take back control now
clearly this is easier said than done cravings are powerful and we can do
practices like meditation which strengthen our ability to observe our
thoughts but even just the understanding that the world doesn’t happen to us it
happens through as via thought can help remind us that ultimately we do
determine our experience of life and it’s just a journey of a lifetime to
becoming less reactive and more sagely okay no regrets about having such a good
ice-cream but it is compulsive moments like these that all sense seems to go
out the window thankfully however we’ve got one more
line from our sage Lao Tzu and that is he allows things to come and go you
notice that your cravings seem to have this sense of urgency where does this
urgency come from the sage doesn’t feel it
she knows that feelings thoughts cravings they come and go say for
example you’re working at your desk you have this sense of hunger you get a pang
in your stomach you’re hungry right but then you jump straight into a meeting
you’re doing strategy for two hours and you come out the other side and realize
I haven’t been hungry for the last two hours curious right that’s just one
example of how transitory cravings and thoughts are we convinced ourselves in
the moment our this is really important I really need to eat and in fact if we
just wait a short amount of time that passes and the sage knows this and if we
know this and we can be like sages people who are happy to allow things to
come and go a simple tip that I use to try and develop this ability is to wait
10 minutes I have a craving I wait 10 minutes most of the time when I reach 10
minutes I no longer want to do the thing because my inner wisdom has gained back
control and if I do want it then I try and aim for moderation the other great
thing about this exercise is that it’s developing that muscle that ability to
delay gratification to not be pulled around by our external world we create
that space within to choose our response so you see even from just a few lines of
poetry we’ve been equipped with some really powerful ideas that can help us
take back just that little bit of control in our next compulsive moments
we may see our cravings as thoughts and remember that we have responsibility we
may connect with our beautiful being and remember that we don’t need anything
outside of us to be okay we may remember the chase and remember that all these
desires they’re endless we’re never going to win this so step off the
treadmill and finally we may create some space wait just ten minutes not be
convinced by our cravings that everything is urgent so who knows maybe
now that we’ve watched this video we’re going to be like sages effortlessly
observing the world probably not we’re probably going to have days of reactive
disorder and maybe some days of heightened awareness for that’s life
that’s natural the more important thing I think is that were kind to ourselves
throughout that process that’s much more important than whether or not we have a
chocolate bar but for me it has been a really interesting journey of seeing my
cravings and trying to connect to a kinder less reactive way of living so if
I can encourage you to do one thing that would be to be curious maybe try
observing your thoughts for the next three days because it’s all well and
good you watching this video and understanding I can just let any craving
go and then really experiencing for yourself wow I can just let that go so I
wish you the best on your journey let me know how it goes in the comments below
thanks for watching

100 thoughts on “Cravings: Be Less Compulsive with this Ancient Wisdom

  1. great video as always, but also the hand squeeze wasnt very convincing since the amazing thing thats keeping me alive is also currently trying to kill me with period cramps lol

  2. Amazing one man show documentary.. you are a born sage, wiseman, philosopher, do you realize that!? I love your voice and accent..I hope that you make a series of such vedioes about the wisdom of the Tao..

  3. George! Im such a big fan. really enjoy your videos…very informative. I have a question. I created a dance track on my soundcloud. I called it china but or Zhongguo I don't speak mandarin but google translated a few words to add to the track I hoping to say i love you so lets dance is what I put in the track. would you listen and tell me if it makes sense in the song ? is it correct. thank you sir….ok love this vid! moderation yup.

  4. So happy to see this video 😀 it was very inspiring! I'm probably going to get back to this video a couple more times to fully understand everything 🙂

  5. Dear George, despite the fact that I have been following your channel for God knows how long, this is the first time that I have written you. The reason for this is threefold. First, I wanted to let you know that you greatly inspired me to try to travel to China and learn from local Masters. Thankfully, I received a Chinese language scholarship to Taiwan (no offense intended, I am fully aware that Taiwan is politically not part of the PRC, so here I refer to China as the ancient China and its culture which is fully present in Taiwan) for 12 months, so my dream is coming true:) Second, I just wanted to thank you for your ever-positive attitude, the wonderful videos and all the efforts you put into them, they are highly appreciated! Third, in the last couple of months I have noticed that after a decent taiji training session (qigong, 24 and 48 forms) my cravings totally disappear and all that is left is being content with the present, with harmony and joy in my soul. It is a unique kind of happiness that I have never felt before. Keep up the good work, George!

  6. Thanks for everything George, you are truly awesome. I take the liberty of making a suggestion, if you could speak with a more "international English" pronunciation, or just a bit more slow, many more non native English speakers would be able to follow you; I speak by personal experience. And given the subject, it can be frustrating to miss even just a few words. Just an opinion, thanks again, cheers.

  7. Well done George! Another one of your great videos! I love your videos, because they are full with wisdom and you manage to present sophisticated concepts in easy to understand way. I really enjoyed watching your videos and learning from them.

  8. I needed this. I smoke. I love to smoke. But I am getting close to a pack a day and the hell with that.

  9. Great video George. You have portrayed this message beautifully. Keep it up !

  10. Can you do a video on the best books you’ve read about Taoism? Would be great to have some further reading suggestions 🙂

  11. It can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for personal development and reaching goals as well.

    A lot of people create barriers by convincing themselves they need x, y or z before they can achieve, or even start, something.

    How many YouTubers started with a £5000 camera setup? How many programmers started with a fast computer and three 27" monitors? The biggest companies in the world, especially technology, were designed and built on systems people today wouldn't even consider owning, not to mention the god-awful screen sizes they were designed on!

    It's so easy to resign ourselves to external influences when in reality they're self-imposed and largely unnecessary anyway, especially in formative stages of a pursuit.

  12. Great video George! 👍 I'm going to try to use everything you talked about. I've read that chapter of the Tao Te Ching many times but only understood the surface of it. Thanks for giving an amazing breakdown of that chapter!

  13. It seems like a lot of these boil down to looking at your own thoughts and feelings objectively, and separate yourself from them.

  14. Love the way you managed to use your experience in China, your studies to get a better person, to become so wise. And thank you so much for trying to give us your wisdom, i wish i had your courage and get to China to spend some time just for me and my inner passions, that's my dream!

  15. 50 years ago I discovered Quakers…you know those English seekers. I practice tai ji,gi gong & read TTJ, it was all there George all the time. Just sayin'. Right in your homeland.

  16. Shuǐ Mǎn Zé Yì – 水满则溢 – Water Surges Only to Overflow : Meaning : Things Turn into Their Opposites When Reaching Their Extremes.

    Thank You George 🙏

  17. hey tough guy, if you want to praise the wisdom of the ancients, you can do so without promoting an agenda or without bad mouthing something of which you know nothing. i'm going to assume you are not an expect of economics nor of climatology. capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty than any other economic system. and because of capitalism the earth is cleaner now than it has been in 300 years. also, dont demonize carbon dioxide. thats just stupid. so stick to Taoism and stay away from economics and science.

  18. The real Revolution is the evolution of consciousness 🌈 xxxxxxxxxxx

  19. Well done George!

    This is one of your best videos and a great reminder. The world needs more mindfulness, and I too am doing my best to spread the message.

    Keep it up!

  20. Wonderful video! I love that you are presenting the Tao in such an approachable way. I'm sure Lao Tzu is nodding his head in approval. 🙂 My avatar is the Taoist twin boy Immortals (twin Faces/Facets of Tao — the "He He Er Xian") who always smile and laugh and foster harmony, unity, and true fulfillment in all aspects of our lives and spirits.

  21. China become most success country today thanks to our Tradition Culture and Ancient Philosophy from our ancestor.

  22. It took me many years to overcome these cravings, a strong mind is needed ☯️

  23. Could you do a Zhuang Zi story, George? I find them interesting, but often hard to grasp.

  24. Brother, you have grown so much on your journey❤️ love from Norway

  25. Xie xie ni George
    Hen hao video
    Btw yinwei wo kan le ni de videos jin wudang mountains gen master wu mashang wo uesi zhong wen er liang yue! Thanks for the inspiration
    P.S. I really hope that one day you will go back to China and make more videos about Tai chi and other interesting subjects
    Btw for anyone else who wants to learn mandarin as I started to do two months ago I recommend the Hello Chinese smartphone app for absolute beginners. It's one of many great resources that are available in our modern world for aspiring polyglots.
    Learning Mandarin is more difficult than French or Spanish but it's not as hard as you might think

  26. Great video George. I will now close my browser — because Youtube is my biggest craving.

  27. the base exercise of Taoism that teaches is a breathing meditation. Simple counting your inhaling and exhaling as a single count of one. Level one is to be able to breath in and out to the count of 10, without being distracted by thoughts. Level two is 100 counts, level three is 1000 counts and IV is 10,000 counts of breathing. The multiplicity of this numbers are 1min, 10mins, 100 mins, 1000mins or 16 hours of meditation. (sage shit for real)

  28. What i like to do is only eat when i feel absolutely hungry because then i am always eating in balance.

  29. Amazing beautifull video explaining a beautifull poem! Verry informing i thank you with all my heart 🤗

  30. Another great, well thought out video. I think a lot of people look into Taoism but are a bit confused by it. It's great to see someone take the Tao Te Ching and discuss relevant, real world applications. I hope there is more to come!

  31. I'm gonna start applying that 10 minute rule now or maybe extend it to 30. Thanks a lot George. Also are you gonna be back in china? Because the wudang mountains are too damn pretty. Even though i am not there (although i intend to go after i finish college) i can still feel the vibes through the screen.

  32. I wish to thank you George for the amazing content your video withholds, you’re so inspiring and Your Videos got me hooked up !!!

  33. Good video George! It may be a small comfort now, but it gets easier as you get older to not get pushed around by desires, cravings and impulses. Certainly reflecting on key ideas like "the chase" helps in cultivating detachment from this same old tired mind-stuff. Just avoiding stimulating environments helps too, both physical and digital environments.

  34. Thank you George, your videos are becoming more and more beautiful and always as insightful

  35. Great video mate! I love how you interpret the Tao Te Ching and apply its wisdom to everyday problems. Your newly devoted time and effort into the channel is really reflected in the quality of this video. You're truly inspiring mate and looking forward to future content 👍

  36. Trying to stop smoking weed. The cravings can be overwhelming and definitely last longer than 10 minutes. But these things still help.

  37. Thank you so much for making this video. It´s almost refreshing to look at it from this perspective. Suddenly it feels wholesome, that it´s not about fighting myself over a chocolate bar, but more about understanding one-self and also staying grateful through the whole process. I am looking forward to the next video! ♥

  38. Timely So helpful. Thank you
    Looks like you’re ‘home’. Beautiful Bristol. Welcome back

  39. Love your videos George! You are doing a great thing👍🏾

    I’m always entertained yet in awe of the wisdom you share🙏🏽

  40. Nice, reminds of Vipassana meditation, it's all about extinguishing craving and aversion. Here's a great, short video about craving from a Vipassana meditation teacher. ://

  41. I so appreciate you! Thank you so very much. You’re such a blessing to watch on “the Path”. 💕

  42. This is incredible & insightful.
    I love your perspectives. George the Taoist Thinker. George the Taoist Teacher.
    You're one of my Favorite Youtubers. One of the best there is on this site. Keep up the good work! ❤

  43. Have you watched Charles Eisenstein? I just came across his video on Facebook and for a moment was taken aback thinking, why have you suddenly aged so much :)… He looks very much like you and has a similar way of talking
    Enjoy your videos a lot… Thank you 🙂

  44. OT I wish every native speaker were so clear as you are, George! Ok Americans are… Americans, I have to deal with it, but watching tv is a struggle!

  45. Can you talk about how you went china and got teacers and lived there and stuff

  46. Bro Bro Bro the five fake bums, wow you got me with that. I am sitting with my self here in Starbucks and I just exploded with a depth of laughter that got me looking mentally ill. Thank you for that and the video…

  47. In the end of this video tear came to say hi to my eye… Thank you!

  48. we only that endless journey to joy and delight we experied when we were young.

  49. Hi George, is Master Gu still planning on doing a seminar when he visits England? I definitely wanted to attend

  50. Video Editing skills on point 👏🏻 Lovely video man ! Keep going !

  51. George – your presentation and videography skills are truly amazing! Such great content from a fellow Taoist and Qigong practitioner. Really appreciate your bringing the ancient Chinese wisdom back to the West. Keep up the great work!

  52. Phenomenal video. Thank you so much for making this. I have a really hard time gaining control over my thoughts and actions, but I'm going to keep trying.

  53. So flow like water or not? Cuz if your cravings arent you then who are you? An image of who you want to be? I see it as conflicting desired where the bigger desire will win. I have heard time is an illusion so he still gives into craving

  54. This was awesome George – as someone who has watched you from the start, the production value and the amount of effort that went into this video can clearly be seen!

    Now – don't let all the dopamine from this comment go to your head though! ☯

  55. Parasites. This man has parasites. Whether physical or astral or spiritual. Check yourself.

  56. Have you ever heard Alan Watts interpretation of the first quote? He relates it to our tendency to define and separate things that in reality are all just one “thing” or happening. When he says the 5 colors blind you, the 5 tones deafen you, etc.: he is trying to say that by breaking colors or sounds down into divisions you are only able to hear those 5 notes when in reality sound and color are part of infinite spectrums. When you make reality into small segmented concepts, those representations become more important than what’s actually happening and so you miss out on 90% of everything going around you!

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