Changing Bad Habits Through Awareness
Many people think Karma is unavoidable and follows us from lifetime to lifetime. However, Karma is a pattern of behavior we engage in so often it becomes a habit. You produce your own Karma, not anybody else.
When we first engage in an action – like telling a lie – we plant a seed in our mind. If we choose to refrain from lying again, the potential to do so will stay dormant, and nothing will happen. However, the more we choose to lie, the more we water and nourish that seed of action, which will eventually develop into a habit, followed by a pattern of behavior, resulting in Karma.
Building Your Character Subconsciously
When you continue acting in a certain way, that pattern of behavior continues to grow, becoming a part of your character. This eventually causes you to function this way from your unconscious mind. In the first instance, when you planted that seed, you consciously chose to lie, but the more you water that seed, the more it becomes an unconscious way of being.
It is now a habit, your behavior, your character. It has nothing to do with a higher being or anybody else — it has everything to do with you.
We all have learned behaviors we don’t like — which means we can unlearn them.
Changing Your Behavior Involves New Action
To change our lives, we need to analyze the behaviors we don’t like and think of different ways to act. To help with this, I have written an acronym called AWARE that we can use during our meditation sessions:
While sitting in meditation, concentrate on your breath for a few minutes. This will help calm you down and focus your mind. Think of a behavioral pattern you wish to change. Then bring an incident into your mind when you behaved in that way.
Now use the AWARE practice:
• Attention: Identify the behavior and assess whether it originates from your conscious or unconscious mind. Did you knowingly choose to act this way, or were you on autopilot?
• Why: When we look at the “why,” we’re asking: What was my motivation? What was my intention in acting this way? Why did I behave like this?
• Assess: Now, we assess whether the action was ethical. Did I cause harm to somebody else or myself?
• Reality: Often, when we are on autopilot, our actions are not based in reality. Here, we need to ask ourselves if we are generalizing or catastrophizing.
We now understand whether our behavior stemmed from our conscious or unconscious mind. We know why we acted that way and assessed the experience to see if it was ethical and based in reality. Next, we need to explore a better way to act in the future.
• Examine: Explore skillful, ethical, and kind ways to engage with the experience in the future. In doing so, you are planting seeds that speak to the behavioral changes you seek. Remind yourself to engage with kindness, and your behavior will change. This is a slow process that requires time and effort.
We all have many behaviors we would like to change — I recommend starting with a simple one. Once you begin to see adjustments, it will motivate you to alter more-ingrained behaviors.
Prioritize what behaviours you would like to change in this guided session, Morning Meditation: Set an Intention with teacher Alison Hutchens.
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