June 18, 2015

The Cure for the Common Habit.


I quit smoking about ten years ago.

For anyone who has done this, they will know it’s very difficult. Many who begin this endeavor start with a large amount of enthusiasm, but the closer we get to the point where the habit of not smoking takes over the habit to smoke, the harder it gets.

Once we get past this point however, it gets easier as time goes on.

It’s like pushing a boulder uphill. We get tired near the top of the hill, but when we get that rock over the top, it will naturally pick up momentum as it rolls down the side of the hill.

But even though we may have pushed the rock over the hill, if we do not remain aware, we may inadvertently run down the hill and start pushing the boulder back up the other way.

In The Yoga Sutras, Shloka 2.10 states that “These patterns, when subtle, may be removed by developing their contraries“.

Shloka 2.11 claims “their active afflictions are to be destroyed by meditation”.

To put these sutras into practice, there must be an understanding about what is active and what is passive.

Active afflictions work in the present. They remain dormant until triggered by an external event, or they may be an ongoing part of our daily lives. When we meditate, these active qualities will come to the surface.

We may not recognize them at first but with further reflection, we will know them. Part of the meditative process is developing self-awareness—it’s like putting a mirror up to your mind and being able to see the mind through the eyes of its own reflection. Why are we able notice these qualities in others before we see them in ourselves? Having outside perspective makes all the difference.

When something isn’t working, do the opposite. That sums up the advice given to deal with the afflictions mentioned in the previous sutras. Shloka 2.11 states that active afflictions can be “destroyed” through meditation—I like the term “mitigated” instead.

Inactive patterns on the other hand are inherent in all of us and are part of the human condition. Our tendency is to carry out whatever whim may be in our mind at the present moment. When the mind becomes still, the Yogi notices these afflictions as they arise, and cuts them off before they become active.

To put this in perspective, let’s use the example of trying to change a habit. Habits exists so that we do not have to actively put conscious effort into everything we do. When we try to change a habit, first we must have the will to do so. After some time and effort, the scales of the habit change from old behavior to the desired new one.

However, even though we may have changed our behavior at a surface level, there will be remnants in the subconscious mind for some time.


Author: Kevin Keegan

Editor: Alli Sarazen

Photo: Lee Coursey/Flickr

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