Habit transformations


I’ve been going through one of my down periods. What makes this down period a bit different is that I knew it when it started and I now understand how to begin breaking it. Down periods is just natural and part of being in the unsteady devotional process. There’s no use in fighting it, it’s better to accept it and use one’s abilities to figure out how to turn the tide.

I was having a strong period with chanting and the likes when I went to on a small hiking trip with a friend. It was a small mountain close to where I live, and it was just a four hour hike. It was a great hike, I loved it. Of course, my legs were unaccustomed to the beating, so they hurt a lot. For some unknown reason that was the beginning of my down period. One should think that a beautiful trip in nature would inspire Krishna consciousness, not hinder it.

So what hinders Krishna Consciousness?

If you engage in sense gratification, it’s like choking whatever little enthusiasm and determination you have with the weed of sense enjoyment.

Radhanath Swami

I don’t understand how a nice hike turned into a down period, but it doesn’t matter. Krishna consciousness is about kindling habits that are positive for spiritual advancement.

Every habit has three components: cue (or a trigger for an automatic behavior to start), a routine (the behavior itself) and a reward (which is how our brain learns to remember this pattern for the future.)

The Golden Rule of Habit Change

The cue was the hike and that my legs were painful for days afterwards (I suspect the real reason was my tiredness and pain). The routine was me not performing my daily sadhana and the reward I guess was not doing my sadhana. Let’s face it, it’s easier to not do sadhana and just instead do something else – exist unconsciously. Watching tv.

So how can I change this habit?

I can’t do much with a trigger of tiredness and pain, since that is something I experience often. I have to change the routine. The thing is, not doing something isn’t much of a routine. Not doing devotional service is the standard for me and comes natural for me and 99% of all human beings. The routine and reward is really the same.

If I want to change my trigger, I have to find something pleasurable within devotional service. I have to figure out my reward. So for me this is a no-brainer. I love to read.

So if I’m tired and in pain, I need to open up a devotional book. The best thing is to have a book I want to read available, so it’s easy to pick it up when I’m thinking “I should do my sadhana now”. So what is my reward?

Whenever I read a book, I relax. I transform into another world of wonders. Reading is very pleasurable to me. And usually, reading inspires me to chant.

So I have to make reading into a routine. Not only for when I’m tired, but whenever I’m thinking “I should do my sadhana” and not feeling it. The “not feeling it” is really the trigger.  That little thought and feeling that you so easily dismiss and go do something else.



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