Explorations with the Instincts

  • Consider meditation as a time to practice listening to your instincts and giving them a chance to listen to each other.
  • If we consider the chakras to be instinctive centers, then much of what seems like mental and emotional noise we experience in meditation is the chakras talking to each other and working out their coordination.
  • Make a list of all the thoughts you think in meditation and consider each one to be an instinct or combination of instincts, just doing its job trying to keep you safe.

Questions to Explore

What happens when you ignore your instincts?
What happens when you follow your instincts.
What do you do when instincts collide or conflict?
What skills are involved when engaged in a particular instinctive activity? (shopping, making love, cooking food, putting on a party, exploring a new city).

Practices with the Instincts

Review the senses and your sensory awakening walk. Carry over the great stuff you have discovered about your senses, and relate them to the instincts.

Develop an instinctive awareness walk that you enjoy, and start doing it every day.
  • Observe notice enjoy savor the floor of instincts through your body
  • Be amazed by the wisdom of the instincts and dogs birds animals people
  • Your instinctive walk could be very simple –– you just name each instinct as you see it.

Look at each instinct and make a mantra out of it for example: With the homing instinct, you could say or whisper to yourself,

“I am at home.” Use this as a mantra to breathe with.

Expect opposites to arise and welcome them as a sign of success. When you meditate on feeling of being at home, it may bring up the pain or distress of not feeling at home. This is success. That pain has come up to be healed. Worries have come up to be cleared out and dissolved. There are several dimensions of opposites: feeling at home vs. traveling and being on an adventure. The opposites love each other – Traveling and adventure on the one hand, and feeling at home on the other.

While doing walking meditations – explore this kind of mantra:

  • "I am at home here"
  • " I am at home in my body."
  • "I am at home in the world."
  • "I am in wonder, I am exploring, I am seeing the world as a for the first time."
  • "everything I see is new to me"
  • "I am at play. The world is here for me to play
  • "I am nourished by this breath

Train yourself to recognize the innate wisdom of the instincts. They are self-balancing, self-healing.

  • watch babies
  • children
  • athletes
  • musicians

Addiction Exploration

  • Do you have an addiction?
  • what instinct is driving it
  • what instinct is corrupted
  • What are gamblers doing?

Journal exploration: What is your instinct to meditate?

  • self care
  • tending
  • resting
  • nourishing
  • healing
  • preparing to succeed
  • rehearse action

Journal exploration with THOUGHTS and impulses.

MAKE A LIST OF THOUGHTS AND TYPES OF THOUGHTS. When meditating, just list all your thoughts for 5 or 10 minutes. Note what instinct the thoughts are related to or expressions of.


Notice thoughts as action sequences in your internal asana flow. Notice the flow of thought as internal movies or video games.

Extra credit: Correlate the R's with the Instincts. RELAX AND REHEARSE. Look at the R’s as instinctive. Look at the rhythm of instincts.

Journal exploration: When have your instincts felt superbly tuned? When have you felt like a healthy animal? This is called remembered wellness. What is the most fun you have ever had with the instincts?
- shopping, sex, food, traveling, making a home, being at home, grooming, being adventurous, feeling safe. When have you felt DELIGHTED by an instinct, SCARED by an instinct, ENJOYED BEING SCARED.

List of Human Instincts (from the Mead Project)

" . . . We find the generally recognized instincts in man to be as follows: Fear, anger, shyness, curiosity, affection, sexual love, jealousy and envy, rivalry, sociability, sympathy, modesty ( ?), play, imitation, constructiveness, secretiveness, and acquisitiveness.

Many authorities would add hunting to this list, and it must be admitted that in many races, and in many individuals of all races, it gives strong indications of a fundamentally instinctive nature. It is, however, so honeycombed with the effects of experience, and so irregular in its appearance, that it may fairly be given a position among the disintegrating instincts. Walking and talking are also included by many writers. Whether they shall be counted in or not is, as we have already observed, simply a question of classification. We may call them either chained reflexes or instincts, according to the criterion which we adopt for our divisions. James has added cleanliness to his list, and there are some facts which point to the correctness of this view, both in its application to men and to animals. But it is at best a very imperfect and erratic trait, as any mother of normal children can testify, and we may omit it in consideration of the necessary brevity of our discussion. We shall similarly forego any description of sympathy and modesty.

A perusal of our list brings at once to notice the union of instinct and emotion. A part of the terms apply primarily to acts, and so connect themselves with the common implication of the term instinct; whereas the other part suggests much more immediately the conscious feelings characteristic of the several forms of emotional experience. Imitation, play, and constructiveness are examples of the first kind of term; fear, anger, and jealousy illustrate the second. A few comments upon each of the instincts mentioned may serve to emphasise helpfully the typical conditions under which they appear."

from –– A Mead Project Source Page has more.

Lee Child on the instinct to tell stories, in the New Yorker.

Ten thousand fathers ago, we would have said nothing, because we didn’t yet have language. We didn’t yet have much of anything. A passing U.F.O. would have written us off as a certain dead end. Our contemporary competitors, the Neanderthals, would have got the nod. We were weak and slender, and often sickly, and shabby toolmakers. Then we developed language, and everything changed. We had grammar and syntax, which turned out to be the best tools of all. Now we could plan, and discuss, and theorize, and speculate. We could coördinate ahead of time, with a plan B and a plan C already in place. A coöperative pack of early humans was suddenly the most powerful animal on Earth. So that if the U.F.O. came back today it would have to admit that its first impressions were wrong.

But along the way something extraordinary happened. At first, we prospered by planning and speculating based on what we knew to be true, or could reasonably and responsibly infer to be true. In other words, we lived in a nonfiction world. We still do, in every practical way. My wife might tell me that her phone says it’s going to rain, so I should take my umbrella, and every step of that transaction would be meaningless without the fundamental assumption of truth. Most of life is like that. It’s a great strategy. Ten thousand generations ago, our bones were piled high in hyenas’ dens. Now Voyager has left the solar system. Or not, depending on how you—reasonably and responsibly—interpret the Oort Cloud. These are the things we talk about, and this is how we talk about them.

At some point, though, we invented a parallel option. We invented fiction. We started talking about things that hadn’t happened to people who didn’t exist. Why? Not for entertainment during our leisure time. We were still deep in prehistory. We had no leisure time. Everything was a desperate struggle for survival. We did nothing unless it had a chance of keeping us alive until morning. Fiction evolved for a purpose. Warnings and cautionary tales could be sourced from the grim nonfiction world. A sabre-toothed tiger will kill you. O.K., got it. Fiction pushed the pendulum the other way. It inspired, and empowered, and emboldened. It said, No, actually, there was a guy, a friend of a friend, who came face to face with a sabre-toothed tiger, a huge one, and he turned and outran it, all the way back to the cave, safe as can be. So don’t panic. It doesn’t always turn out bad. Then, perhaps a hundred generations later, the story evolved, and the friend of the friend killed the tiger. The action hero was born. Strength and courage would save us. And it worked. Fiction in its various forms proved just as powerful to our survival as any other factor. Some would say more powerful. Some would name us not Homo sapiens but Pan narrans: the storytelling ape. Would Voyager be leaving the solar system if we hadn’t long ago formalized and mythologized our inchoate desire to wander?

But the bad things would not be happening, either. Every bad thing depends on the same two components as every good thing: people prepared to lie, and other people prepared to believe them. The habit of credulity, bred into us, albeit inspiring and empowering and emboldening, has led to some very bad outcomes throughout what we know of our history. From small things, like a father believing a son, to much larger things, like a billion miserable and terrified dead. All balanced against the good things. Is it fifty-fifty? Or worse than that? And what about babies and bathwater? Could we give up the stunning joy that the good side of storytelling brings in order to erase the appalling horrors of the bad side? Where does the balance lie?


Patterns of Instinctive Expression in Humans
self preservation