Everything changes yet some things stay the same.
Do you have a habit you just can’t break or a behavior that manifests in such a way that you feel powerless over it?
We all do.
How do we even know if a habit serves us or doesn’t serve us? How can we know it is a problem? Then what do we do to break habits and behaviors that don’t serve us?
We can ask these questions:
- Is it harmful? Is this habit or behavior harming your body? Is it harming anyone around you?
- Is it numbing you? Is this habit or behavior covering up emotions or sensations that are unpleasant?
- Does this habit or behavior make you feel ashamed? Does the idea of someone knowing about you actions scare you? Does it make you want to hide?
- Do you want to change? The golden question. The question that trumps all others. Do you want to change?
In order to begin this process of changing habits and behaviors, the answer must be YES.
Where thought goes, energy flows. Our desires and intentions steer our actions. We must want to act differently. Our desire is the fire that fuels our transformation.
When we desire both change (for the habit to change) and to stay the same (to keep the comfort and familiar experience around) - this is when we feel stuck.
This “stuck” phase can last a really long time. So, how do we unstick ourselves?
Some basic neurology can be helpful here.
Imagine your brain with all sorts of grooves and pathways in it. These pathways are the roads that our neurons travel. Neurons are the cells in your brain that carry information. Neurons fire and travel along these pathways communicating every thought, emotion and experience we have.
Repetitive thoughts and actions form deep pathways in our brain. Think of a train on its track - a single thought can activate that train to run autopilot down that track.
Because our brains, with its neurons and pathways, are literally supporting set habits and behaviors, changing our habits means changing our brains. We have to create a new track, new neural pathways that quite literally lead us down a different road.
So how do we do that?
You might have noticed, if you’ve tried to change a long term habit, that just stopping is almost impossible. We need to replace it with something. In order to create that new neural pathway, we need to have different experiences because is our combined mental, emotional, and physical experiences that create these pathways to begin with.
Because these pathways took years to form and solidify, creating new ones will take attention and effort, and most importantly self compassion. To change our neural pathways, we must practice loving-kindness and genuine patience with ourselves.
Cultivating loving-kindness is the first action to take in creating a new track that becomes the pathway for healthier habits and behaviors.
One of the most sacred meditations is called the loving-kindness meditation.
Everybody, everywhere will benefit from this meditation. I’ve created a guided version of it for you to experience. You can get it HERE.
When we actively cultivate this quality and recite these words “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be free from suffering” - we begin to see things differently. More softly. We begin to make different choices for ourselves.
Perhaps we meditate more.
Perhaps we practice yoga or exercise more.
Perhaps we alter our food choices and eat healthier for our bodies.
Perhaps we are kinder to ourselves in our minds.
By practicing loving-kindness towards ourselves, we begin to make more choices and create new habits that are beneficial to us and make us feel good.
When we create a new track, however, the old one doesn't just go away. It’s still there. And, perhaps, our old habits and behaviors are still there too. So, for a while, it may feel as if you have two concurrent tracks happening - because you do.
Here is when the fire of our desire plays a key role.
We now have a choice. With two concurrent tracks of potential experiences, there is a choice point. We are AWARE of the alternative path and how it goes for us.
Before, a single thought initiated the automatic train ride of your behavior or habit.
Now you are aware of that thought.
Now you can think another thought.
New you can initiate a completely new train on a newly forming track.
You can choose differently, little by little, more and more, over time. Choosing differently and having different experiences solidifies that new track.
And then, one day, you'll look at yourself and you see how you’ve changed.
And you'll feel good.