by Ghani Kunto

It’s Ramadhan, and as my many brothers all over the world, I observe it by fasting. The whole point of the month is not just about restraining one’s self from eating or drinking between dawn and sunset. It’s about restraint from negative desires: anger, lust, deceit, etc.

A friend had told me that this month is really also a practice opportunity for intention-setting. “Behavioral change,” he said, “is all about rewiring our neural pathways. It needs repetition—and 30 days is a good period to set new behaviors—and most importantly, it starts with a strong intention.”

“Every morning and night, those who fast should set their intention in their hearts. They should imagine what a better person they’d be if they used this month-long boot camp to replace bad habits with good ones. That imagination should come with a positive feeling. The intention should be deeper than at the logical, conscious level. It should be a believe, in fact, a conviction. If you have that, you wouldn’t feel the slightest hunger nor thirst during the whole month. If you don’t have it, then the month will feel like torture, and starvation and thirst would be the only thing you get out of it.”

Brilliant. Let’s try it.

The problem: I have a hard time trying to get that positive feeling that should come during intention-setting. I wonder why.

I suspect a large part of me actually rejects the notion that restraining desires would make me a better person.

Not a surprise really, considering that until a few years ago, my philosophy of life was an Oscar Wilde’s quote: “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.”

I was all Id, no Superego.

Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve changed that much since then.

In his book, The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt likened the tension between our conscious, rational mind and our instinctive, subconscious mind to tension between a Rider and his Elephant. The Rider has the longer-term view and the reins, but the Elephant can overpower him anytime should they clash on which direction to go.


I’m a Rider-less Elephant who’s lucky enough to be on an easy Path.