Transforming bad habits (and getting a brand new groove)
5 April 2021 | Becs Mansfield
Remember at the start of lockdown when many of us had intentions to introduce positive habits? Here beanddo Modern Meditation coach Becs Mansfield tells us how to make and sustain good habits:
Forced to stay at home we had time at our disposal, and we thought about how we could utilise this time? Some of us made daily exercise a new habit, some of us decided to get arty, some of us practiced self-care (even if that meant enjoying a glass of wine and watching Netflix). The lockdown gave us a shift of perspective, and a time to reflect. As we go back into the real world we may be worried about old habits and slipping back into our old ways.
Most of us have habits we’d rather not do. In yoga science habitual thinking patterns, impressions and addictions, when they become strong enough to alter our thinking process, are called “samskaras.” Repeating samskaras reinforces them, creating grooves in the mind that are difficult to resist. They’re like grooves in the mind that we get stuck in. These powerful impressions in the mind determine our personality and due to these samskaras we perceive this world in our habitual ways.
We can’t see out of the groove…
Taking a pause to stop and notice gives us the space to transform negative habits into positive ones. This is what happened over lockdown for a lot of people. We had the time to pause. Through Modern Meditation practice we can create a pause. A pause to practice making conscious action. Most of the time we’re unconsciously reacting, stuck in our habits, our patterns, imprinted in the mind. This conscious space is where we can break our habitual tendencies. And this space is so accessible. We don’t need to go anywhere or do anything. We simply take a moment of pause. We have everything we need. Through meditation practice we can interrupt our automatic habits as we start to watch our thoughts, our words and actions. We create a space between us and the action. Through this shift in perspective we can make positive change.
Most of you reading this will have thought whilst reading this a habit you’d rather not do. In meditation practice we observe thoughts or feelings that arise without judgement, without being critical. This is the space I would like you to read this article from, a space of compassion and empathy. Bring your attention to one habit or pattern that has you acting in ways that you would rather not do…
Yoga journal offers 7 steps for transforming bad habits (and getting a brand new groove). This begins with sankalpa, meaning intention, to create healthier samskaras (habits). For the healthier habits to form we need tapas, meaning intensity, a type of sustained dedication or discipline needed for change. It can be the easier option to fall back on old habits however unhealthy they may be. To get a new groove we need shani, meaning slowing. Because samskaras are subconscious and instinctual, they often happen as a reaction, before we even notice. Reacting impulsively only strengthens samskaras, making them even more irresistible. Slowing down helps us to learn how to respond instead of react.
When we slow down, we become more aware and intuitive in our actions and thoughts. In this space vidya, meaning awareness, grows. We can see clearly and we notice our thoughts, behaviours, and actions as samskara. We can get to the space of awareness and intention but we may find ourselves stuck by fear. We often resist new patterns for fear of losing the identities we’ve attached ourselves to over the years. Yet improving our samskara brings us closer to our true nature, which is the goal of meditation. Abhaya, meaning fearlessness, is learning how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable experiences of change and opening up to unpleasant experiences as simply experience and letting them pass – without grasping the comfort of old samskaras.
We can use darshana, meaning vision, to visualise our life without the interference of our samskaras to create positive change. We can use our imagination to vision our new pattern and convince ourselves that it is real. And finally abhyasa, meaning practice, helps make our new samskara more powerful than the old. The more we reinforce the new groove, the stronger it becomes.
In modern meditation we practice all of these things, and not necessarily in that order. Having a daily meditation practice gives us space to set our intentions and to regularly check in and notice the body and mind. We bring our attention to the present moment and our consciousness grows. When we’re conscious we start to question ‘why’ and we can make positive change. We learn to slow down, relax and turn our attention inward. We shine, we shine a light on the darkness, and our awareness grows. We learn to be a witness. We observe without interference or attachment. Through mediation practice we can practice non attachment to habits. When we observe habits we create a space between us and the habit.
Try my habit Modern Meditation here. It’s about learning to pause, stop and notice. We can learn to transform our negative samskaras into positive ones, and get a brand new groove.
And if you haven’t got time for meditation, taking a breath is a pause. So when you’re in the world doing your thing use the breath. The practice of taking a breath creates a pause between what we are doing in the moment – and the response. When we learn to take a breath, we connect the body and the mind, and we can take a moment before responding. Taking a breath changes you physically and mentally. It breaks the rush and the panic.
It breaks the unconscious reaction, and instead we can take conscious action.
Bec’s graduated from the the beanddo Advanced Modern Meditation Coaching TTC. December 2020.