7 Steps to Changing Habits

As I stand waiting for a friend I feel the same sort of tightness arise in me. Where are they? Why are they late? Why can’t they be on time (like me). This cycling over and over in my mind is the workings of samskara, our conditioned way of being, thinking or behaving. The way we are in the world is the sum of all our experiences. How we act and react is the product of lifetimes of repeating the same patterns over and over again.The more we repeat them the more we get stuck. Just like a tyre going round and round in the mud, digging itself deeper until it is unable to free itself, so are our habits.

We are certainly creatures of habit. We enjoy doing something the same way because it is usually easier and we can guess what the outcome is. Breaking habits or changing the way we are requires some deep work. It requires constant practice and awareness. Often we don’t change because it is hard and we may not like what we see in ourselves. The practice of yin is a perfect breeding ground to illuminate our habits. Yin is the technology for waking ourselves up our of our conditioned slumber. The slowness of it gives us time to be with ourselves and contemplate change.

Here is a guide to working with your samkaras.

Identify what it is you want to change about yourself or what you would like to encourage in yourself.

What is your intention for this practice? What reactive pattern would you like to release? What new way of being would you like to call up?

Decide on what your practice is going to be. Maybe getting up earlier, writing in a journal, practicing yoga daily, meditating?

Slow down. Where do you need to slow down so you can observe repeated patterns? Busyness is a good cover up and a way of not looking at ourselves. We can only see ourselves in the still water.

Develop some fearlessness. This helps us face the unknown, encounter new situations, feel our way through unpleasant situations and letting them pass without resorting to the comfort of old ways.

Create a  vision. What do you want your new life to look like? How will it be for you if you are (fill in the new habit)? How will it be for your relationships?

Practice. Without practice the above is useless. We need to practice until the grip of our habit starts to loosen. We can’t  throw a habit out in one step. Understand what can trigger a relapse slide into old patterns.

Letting go of negative ways of thinking and being is a path to freeing yourself up. As we start to free ourselves up we will suffer less in our minds and create space to fill ourselves up with more positive ways of living.

Photo credit: Lesley Fisher

 

How’ve your Kidneys Been?

If we were to boil down all our actions, thoughts and deeds into two categories they would be those of love and fear. Are you doing that high powered yoga because you love it or because you want to burn calories for fear of putting on weight? Are you practicing yoga because you think you have to or because it awes you? How about your job or relationship, do you stay in them or leave them because they may not be anything better or because they are the physical ways you transmit your love. Love is expansive, fear is stagnant and contracting. Fear leaves you very stuck unable to go either way.

I experienced fear first hand this week with the thought that an upcoming course I had booked on was suddenly too hard, too far away, too different. The course was my ticket out of my comfort zone of food, family and familiarity. Fear was telling me don’t go, don’t do it.

In Chinese Traditional Theory fear is the negative dominant emotion that manifests in the kidneys. When the energy that flows through kidney meridians and also resides in the organ itself becomes blocked or sluggish we may find ourself unable to make choices or move forward. Everything can seem difficult, we may experience anxiety, our body may throb or feel stiff in the lower back region.The positive correlating emotion of the kidney is wisdom.

When we practice yin we have a chance to sit quietly with ourselves and examine our thought patterns. When we have a negative or fearful thought and don’t examine it or challenge it our brains take it up and our minds believe it.

Practice for this week. In your quiet practice take time to examine some of the thoughts that bind you to fear.We can be anxious about lots of things, people, money, heights, new places. Are these thoughts real? Where would you be without them? If we stare hard enough at our fears you might just find they weaken and are replaced by wisdom, replaced by love.