Meditation and Habit

June 21, 2010 at 12:51 pm (Benefits of Meditation, Why do we meditate?)

This post is about habits. Much of what we do is by habit and they can help us make ourselves what we wish, or they can bind us down to patterns of behavior that we don’t want. It’s our choice.

What is a habit?

A habit, simply stated is a learned pattern of behavior or a conditioned response. For example, we have physical habits, like the way we sleep, or a certain way we walk. We have emotional habits, like certain things that make us angry, or phrases that make us smile. We have intellectual habits, like certain subjects that are interesting, or certain things we read or watch.

We reinforce a habit every time we follow that pattern of conditioned behavior. It becomes more and more ingrained in our neural and mental circuitry. Many, if not most of our habits are unconscious patterns that we don’t even recognize or realize that we do.

This thought can be a bit scary if you think that you don’t have control of what you think, say or do, but fortunately, there is a brighter picture when we realize that habits are of our own creation.

Who’s in charge here?

While habits may seem to control our behavior, we have to remember that we made them and we can change them. A habit is formed by repeatedly engagind in a physical, mental or emotional behavior. We order a piece of toast a certain way and it becomes a habit until we can hardly think of having it any other way.

Food preferences, clothing preferences, and all these kinds of things we allow to be controlled by habits, and this is not all bad. If we had to actively think about each thing we did or every move we made, we would be paralyzed. The issue is in identifying those habits that we have that we don’t want, and changing them.

I say changing them, because it is nearly impossible to simply get rid of a bad habit. Instead it is far more realiztic to substitute a new habit for and old one. That way, the old stimulus gets a new response. For example, let’s say you have an annoying habit of using a certain stop word, like ‘ya know….. If we just try to say to ourselves ‘no, I won’t say that old word we will find it impossible to think of anything else.

If instead we say, every time I catch myself saying that, instead I will say ‘I think that….. or some other more appropriate phrase, it will be much simpler to change our behavior.

Create your own habits.

The above discussion and examples are simple and routine, but the principles apply to every habit that we have. Getting angry at certain situations, smoking, overeating, yelling, procrastination, and on and on. Any habit we want to change is possible to change. We can replace it with a new habit.

Meditation is a Key

Meditation is a tool that will help us identify habits we want to change. It offers a perspective on life that helps you see things differently and more clearly. Meditation will also help you in the process of changing the habits you want to change. This is because meditation helps you access your mind in deeper states of consciousness and in a more powerful way than normal awareness.

However, learning to meditate is just like anything else we want to learn to do. We actually have to do it to learn how. So the first habit we need to establish is one of meditation. I invite all readers to comment on their own experiences of learning to meditate. How did you learn to meditate?

How did you establish your own meditation practice? Please share you thoughts in the comments section.

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