“It takes 40 days to make or break a habit. ” ~ Yogi Bhajan
If every one of us completely regenerates our own skin every seven days and the cells within our skeletal body are replaced every seven years, then it seems like we are born with an innate ability for change.
As humans, living in such destructive times as the “Kali Yuga” (know as the age of vice or darkness), it’s imperative to be extra mindful of our thoughts, deeds and actions, as they have an impact on the quality and depth of our lives.
In our search for answers for ways in which we could improve ourselves as a whole, we (more often than we care to count) find ourselves stumbling over the same rock(s).
We often wonder why.
Thankfully, it’s not long before we come to the conclusion that it’s simply because we did not learn the first time around. These repeated actions and reactions are, to a certain extent, seed tendencies which stem from un-resolved Karma known in Sanskrit as Samskaras.
Samskaras in Vedic thought are root tendencies which have been left as impressions from un-resolved situations or life teachings that did not fully mature, that at some point or another must germinate—aka, Karma.
All this means is that we are all serving our purpose and living out our karmic deeds. A simpler way to explain it would be, “learning from our mistakes.”
If these situations are not cleared, we carry them from one life to another and stumble across them again and again until they are.
According to ancient teachings, the best and most direct way to help break up this tendency in order to live out our Karmic deeds are the ancient practices of Yoga and meditation. Once the learning is complete, we are able to make the space for new habits to be formed and positive seeds to be planted.
In modern age scientific language, this is a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity.
In older times, scientists used to think that the infrastructure of the brain could not be altered after a certain stage of development. Modern scientists, however, have found this theory not to be entirely true, and have found that the brain structure adapts, depending on what we do and how often we do it.
This leads us to the conclusion that, although we are by nature creatures of habit, we indeed have the capability to change patters in our brain, and therefore in our psyche.
Breaking old habits could seem to us like hiking an epic mountain, but it is an opportunity to break new ground toward a much lighter and more fulfilled existence, living to our full potential.
Below is a simple guide to help us with the process of breaking up Samskaras to re-shape new habits :
1. Acknowledge and accept the pattern(s) and bad habit(s) in our lives right now that are preventing us from progressing further on the path.
2. Dig deep. Find the inherit will power to assist us in the process of a 40 day plan to kick the poor habit out! Write down with clarity all that is involved. Realize that by facing our habits with genuine acceptance and true will, we are in a much better place to be able to manage them accordingly, and are also making room for the new habits to be cemented and long-lasting.
3. Stepping on our yoga mats daily sets in motion the patterns in our brain which will assist the transformation. We do not have to practice Yoga for a certain number of hours per day for the right effects to take place. The simple act of making it happen regularly is enough.
4. Meditation. Creating the habit of sitting habitually for as little as five minutes a day is magical. The nature of our minds is to “think,” therefore we will never be able to stop the mind from the chatter. The key is to learn to observe the mind with out getting attached to its afflictions, which in turn stimulates the senses and escalates from there.
Become the observer, not the doer. This requires a lot of practice.
From personal experience, the only way I learned to quiet my Vata mind of Citta (fluctuations) and sit to observe it was to practice vipassana.
5. Keep a journal. Daily entries are of most importance as is part of process of setting the foundation for positive change, not to mention the practice of regularity. Becoming more aware of the subtle changes in our lives is also a good practice. Becoming more in tune with how our lives are improved by the settle changes is paramount. Keep writing!
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~ Lao Tzu
As we all grow at our own divine and perfect pace toward the discovery of our Dharma (our own life’s purpose), we do fall and make mistakes—it is a normal rite of passage through our journeys as spiritual beings living a human existence.
We must get up and carry on, and learn to respect each chapter in our gifted lives as fundamental elements to our transformation.
We are all here to learn.
One day at a time, one breath at a time, one mistake at a time.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Liilamaya Liliana Galvis
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Rex Boggs/Flickr