During the course of the programme, attendees along with six different facilitators looked at the genesis of habits and how they can be transformed for good. It was a collaborative exploration of the possibility for us to break the bondage of habit that we find ourselves in. Man is enslaved by habits. Not only is his body imprisoned by them but his mind and emotional responses repeatedly travel down the same embedded grooves. It is one reason why we feel so suffocated. Nothing clogs and twists our nature more than bad habits. They support a whole range of human afflictions and add an attritional and enduring aspect to our suffering.
Not surprisingly then, working on them is perfect training for life. It is an important aspect to the practice of Integral Yoga. If one conquers habit, one has gone very far in this yoga. And conquer it, we must! But how can something so immoveable and fixed get taught to float away? We need to know where they come from before even thinking of dislodging them.
The programme commenced with Dr Alok Pandey’s talk titled ‘The Knot of Habits’, where he highlighted that habits are patterns of nature, created by the conscious force of nature itself to maintain itself in balance. In nature we see fixed patterns creating stability and balance, as well as a way out of these fixed groves. This is the delicate balance of creation.
At the lowest level of the human evolutionary journey, consciousness is completely lost and bound by form – the patterns created by the physical/material mind are followed completely, blindly and mechanically. However, as we evolve, certain degrees of freedom open up. The physical body with its ignorance and obscurity operates on the basis of instinctual habits which on one hand support preservation and on the other act as impediments to evolution. This is the first knot – where consciousness is completely bound up in fixed patterns and rhythms which are impervious to change. The second knot is created by the vital nature which is operated by desires which generate new patterns and habits. The vital desire pushes us to keep living in habitual cyclical patterns of pleasure seeking. The knot of the ego is the third knot. It comes with the mind – beliefs, dogmas, opinions – which further tie us and dulls other higher possibilities.
While the first knot is created by nature, the other two knots are created by us by our feelings, thoughts and actions. These two are the knots of Karma. Once we have indulged ourselves in these patterns for a few times they become habits. This is Karma -an outer action supported by a certain kind of vital and mental energy. The way out of these knots is a shift deep within in our orientation from the ego-self.
Dr Yogesh Mohan, in the next session explored the possibility of ‘Consciously Transforming our Habits’. He brought forth the idea that our focus on habits can be either on letting go of old habits or it can be on formation of new habits. Either way, it is a conscious decision. As an important precursor to this we must establish clarity of mind about our life purpose. On the basis of this fundamental understanding we must examine habits and how they either impede or enhance our life’s journey towards this purpose. We must examine our present state of life and explore habits which work for us – our health, mental well being, productivity in areas of work and social settings, etc. In a very pragmatic sense we should use these habits and try to let go of those which hampers us.
“Becoming Conscious of the Habituated Mind’, Dr Monica Gulati’s session was an explorative journey to look into the nature of habits; the need to step out of habits; identify habits that limit us and as such need to be transformed. Dr Gulati highlighted the need to become aware of our habits and nurture those which are beneficial and help us progress, while abandoning those which are detrimental. Pain and suffering are indicators towards habits that should be let go. Realisation that by following the dictates of the habit one has suffered enough brings the need to let go of these pain causing habits and patterns. Thus, pain and suffering should be seen as reminders for change. When suffering comes to us, instead of looking for someone to blame and get into victimhood, we should treat it as an opportunity to look within and identify habits and patterns within our own self that are no longer beneficial to us and as such are causing suffering and need to be changed. When we break free of the negative loops of thinking and the victim-mentality, we realise that the Universe has always been working for us and is never against us. All situations, happenings, life circumstances that we encounter – no matter how painful, have a purpose.
The power to bring about change in our habitual patterns is with us at all moments. All that is need is for us is to become conscious. It is our free-will, whether in this moment we choose consciousness and surrender or habitual existence of the ego.
Aditi Kaul in her session titled ‘An Approach towards making Consciousness-based Life-Choices’ highlighted that in order to work for our perfection, the first step is to become conscious of ourselves. To step out of a mechanical habit, the need is to become more and more conscious. The Integral Yoga premise is that the more conscious one is, the more one walks towards progress. The moment we start looking at the idea and possibility of change, we are automatically stepping out of habits – the grip of mechanical movements and patterns. It is only when we embark upon the process of Integral Yoga that the actual unveiling of what has to be undertaken happens. Not being identified with one’s actions but stepping back and observing them is key to developing an objective view of our own subjectivity. By doing so, one chooses consciousness over conditioning.
‘Working on your Habits’ was an experiential session by James Anderson. The session highlighted that in order to work on habits we have to use the torchlight available with us – the torchlight of our consciousness to radiate on the negative habits. Consciousness, when connected to our psychic centre (our psychic being) has the power to convert and change habits.
In order to transform surface habits, which manifest within us and then surface outside on our nature, we need to be very attentive and vigilant. We have to watch ourselves all the time and use our consciousness to discern these surface habits from true movements of our being. As soon as a habit appears on the surface we have to catch it with our consciousness, we have to scrutinize it, look at it, shine the light of our consciousness upon it and then we offer it.
Often there are habits which are buried deep inside us. These habits are waiting to spring up when we least expect. To unearth these habits, we need to work on ourselves inside. We can do so through a practice using our own body. We need to connect very deeply with the Mother and Sri Aurobindo and look at what is manifesting in the body with all our consciousness. We slowly watch from above the head - through the head, down to the feet. We just watch and wait for what appears. We have to look very closely with an attitude of inquiry as we scan from the top of our head to the bottom of our feet. Wherever we see a resistance we hold our consciousness on that spot. What we are aspiring for is our opening to the Divine Descending Force saturating our whole body. We use consciousness and open the entire vessel of our body to the Descending Force. We call the Mother for her guidance, her Light and her Force – Shakti.
Dr Soumitra Basu, in the final session of the programme, explored the possibility of ‘Working on the physical mind to control habitual patterns’. Dr Basu highlighted that the consciousness from which habits arise is the level at which we can deal with them. Unless the physical mind is worked upon, the other higher minds don’t have full freedom as they are constantly pulled down by the physical mind. To overcome habits a good exercise is to concentrate on the physical mind. While meditating, concentrate on the lowest part of your mind which is not connected to ideas, emotions, aesthetic sense, etc. Concentrate on the physical mind – the part of your mind which controls your habits and daily life mechanical activities. With concentration of your consciousness see the physical mind alleviated above your head, then spread it and link it to the Cosmic Physical Consciousness. Visualise that your physical mind is getting illuminated by light coming from high above.
About 30 people registered for this event and the sessions were all beautifully received, with many participating enthusiastically, sharing their own insights and seeking answers to various queries.
“Thank you for all the love and dedication you all put into this wonderful seminar.”
“Grateful to all the facilitators for holding space for us in this journey.”