Wouldn’t it be great if you could change your habitual thinking and bad habits? You know, those moments when you know you shouldn’t do something, but you do it anyway.
The reason you do that is because your mind is programmed to follow habitual patterns. The voice in your head saying, “go on, it’s okay,” comes from the sub-conscious part of your unconscious mind. This is your shadow self, what Sigmund Freud called the id.
Unless you can control your emotions and overcome subconscious cravings, you will always give in to your habitual programming. And that means you will keep projecting the same energies into the ether that make your life suck.
But there is a way of breaking habits. Actually there are many methods of breaking habits. But many of the exercises are difficult to achieve over a long period of time. You may start out with enthusiasm and determination, but once that initial motivation begins to waver, you give up.
The best way to change bad habits is to reprogram your unconscious mind. Essentially, the information your habitual mind – the ego – has to base a decision on comes from your unconscious programming.
And there is good news. Neuroscientists have “discovered” the brain is like plastic and thus can be manipulated like plastic. By changing your thoughts and actions, you can change your habits. Experts are calling this “phenomenon” neuroplasticity.
In truth, neuroplasticity is not a new discovery. Ancient cultures understood the power of the unconscious mind thousands of years ago. They subsequently developed a mental system that enabled them to master their mind, emotions and actions. Today we call that system, meditation.
What is meditation?
In simple terms, meditation is another word for concentration. The practice of meditation simply involves focusing your attention on one thing. Through meditation, you can identify the false self and discover the true self.
When you hear of meditation, your immediate thought is probably of someone sitting with legs overlapped – or crossed – thumb and forefingers touching and chanting “auuummm.’
This is allegedly the traditional way to meditate and is how Buddhist monks and Indian yogis are trained. From personal experience, I know you do not need to meditate like that to benefit from the practice.
What you achieve from meditation depends on the limitations of your imagination. The more you learn to expand your mind, the more you benefit. And the more you achieve in life.
If you really want to take time out to meditate in the traditional way, by all means sit in lotus posture. But it is not necessary. All you need is to sit somewhere you feel relaxed and comfortable such as an armchair. I usually meditate laying down.
Meditation remember involves focusing your attention on one thing. And that one thing can be anything. If you are eating, notice the flavours and textures against your tongue. Use your five sense and take time to appreciate how the food looks, sounds and smells.
There are many times during the day when you can meditate intentionally or out of necessity. For example, when you’re at work, focusing completely on the task you are doing is meditating. I listen to classical music to block out background noise and help me focus.
There are also several methods of meditation. The method I will explain in this article is how you can change your subconscious programming to effectively change your habits.
You can use these techniques to reprogram your mind and ultimately change bad habits and thought patterns that no longer serve you. Let’s take a closer look.
Be consciously aware of negative or faulty programs
In order for meditation to work effectively, you need to be consciously aware of which unconscious programs need changing. If you know you have a bad habit and want to stop, this step becomes an easy exercise.
However, let’s say you suffer from stress and anxiety or are easily irritated by things people do and say. All these things are negative programs in your mind that will lead you astray.
Furthermore, the negative thinking and irritation make your stress and anxiety worse. Eventually, this will manifest as an illness or disease. But you may not realise what is causing you to feel irritated about something.
Before you can change negative programming, you need to be consciously aware of programs that need updating. So take the time to monitor how you are thinking and feeling in certain situations. Catch yourself having thoughts you should probably change.
For example, you may be judgemental. Eventually your opinions and fault picking will annoy people and ruin your relationships. Your friends will not want to spend time with you because of your constant criticisms and holier than thou attitude. Plus you are making yourself ill.
Focus or refocus your thoughts
Once you recognise faulty thought patterns and bad habits, you need to refocus those thoughts. If you’re having a negative thought about a person or a situation, try looking for a positive angle instead. You might even question whether you are being too critical.
The human brain is primed to pick out negative aspects of thoughts and emotions faster than positive reactions. This function of the brain stems from the survival instincts of the reptilian brain. But in the modern age, negative thinking and emotions are fuelled by fear mongering and disaster after disaster reported on mainstream news channels.
Therefore, the first thought you probably have will be negative. Don’t worry or berate yourself, it’s automatic. And it is okay for you to acknowledge that this way of thinking is how society is programming your habitual thinking.
So the first step is to become consciously aware of these negative programs so you can replace them with positive programs that serve you better. The universal law of duality governs there is a positive and negative side to everything.
Once you have found a positive response, you can reprogram your unconscious mind by repeating an affirmation in your mind – a positive statement that will become a fixture in the unconscious mind. A good way of doing this is mindfulness meditation.
Once the new way of thinking is filed in your unconscious mind, it is easier for the conscious mind to recognise the best program. Don’t forget, you will still receive traces of the negative program until your unconscious mind acknowledges the old programming is faulty.
Therefore, you have to physically act on your new programming in order to have positive experiences the unconscious mind can recall for the ego to accept. It is through action that you reprogram your mind and become unaffected by people and situations.
State your intention
So how do you find a new program? Sometimes it will be something somebody tells you or what you read in a book. But these are just alternative ways for your unconscious mind to reveal messages to you.
Have you ever noticed that these moments of truth are always something you have previously thought? How many times has somebody said something to you and you’ve thought, ‘I was just thinking that the other day.’
The reason you were thinking it is because your higher conscious mind had sent you a message. You asked a question through thoughts and your higher conscious mind answered you with a thought. Because you missed it, the unconscious found another channel.
When you miss answers to your questions, your unconscious finds other ways to manifest what you need to know. So to ensure you do not miss answers to problems you need to resolve, set an intention.
By stating an intention, you will resolve problems quicker; because you will be consciously aware of the question and know to listen out for the answer. Furthermore, you will know when you hear the answer.
Your intention should state your problem, then ask a question which is relevant to the problem. For example: “I keep arguing with my partner. Why do they irritate me so much?”
When you get an answer to your initial question, you will probably have to keep asking questions until you get to the root of the problem. Because every problem has a root. This is the universal law of cause and effect.
Practice Living in the Now
The exercise above seems pretty straight forward. And it is when you can perform it proficiently. However, there is a problem. The thinking mind gets in the way. Then you forget your intention and miss the answer.
To practice living in the now, adopt a child curiosity. You also have to relinquish fear. Remember when you were a child and had no fear? That was living in the now. You would try anything because you did not sense fear even though you were aware of danger.
Sometimes, a simple refocusing exercise will not be sufficient. If you have deep-seated emotions in your subconscious that are causing problems, you need to go deeper into your unconscious mind.
To get deeper into your unconscious, you have to be able to stop your thoughts. Otherwise it is difficult to relax for long enough and listen to the messages from your higher self. Eastern religions call this state of mind, ‘living in the now.’
During meditation, the unconscious mind communicates with you in various ways. Messages can come in the form of thoughts, sensations or pains in the body, vision in your mind or even sounds within your hearing range.
Clearing your mind of thoughts for sufficient periods is where meditation can be difficult for beginners, especially if you are prone to internal chatter. Buddhists call this, ‘the monkey mind’. It is mischievous, but can be tamed.
The most powerful way of changing your thought patterns is to stop having old thoughts. Modern meditation practices reveal how we can discard old thoughts. As a matter of fact, ancient wisdom teaches us to stop having thoughts at all.
Meditation courses teach you to let go of thoughts as they arrive. Let the thought occur then let it go and return the mind back to non-thinking. This is how to cultivate a continual state of relaxation.
For many people, living in the now is one of the hardest things to do. Shutting the mind down so that you do not think of anything can be frustrating.
The best practice is to choose times of day where you know you are on auto-pilot; cleaning your teeth, going to the toilet, taking a shower, driving the car, washing dishes and cleaning the house.
These are times when it is unnecessary to think. And when you practice non-thinking, emptying the mind becomes easier. When your mind is empty during meditation, you can consciously reprogram your mind.
Use The Monkey Mind To Your Advantage
If you do struggle to stop the internal chatter of the monkey mind, use it to your advantage. Take similar steps to the refocusing exercise mentioned above and have a conversation with yourself.
Whilst doing this, pay attention to one thing. Stay focused on the present question until you feel your true self give you the answer. The answer which is Truth.
Truth comes from the source of all things. You will know when you find the answer because you will feel it. Those ‘ha-ha moments’ are moments of Truth.
So remember, meditation is about focusing on one point, and when working with the monkey mind, stay on point. Eventually, you should expect to unravel the problem.
The difficulty with using the monkey mind is you don’t always know which part of the unconscious mind the thought is coming from – the higher conscious or the subconscious.
If thoughts are coming from your subconscious mind, you might just be satisfying yourself in ways you are already accustomed to. And if you accept these thoughts without thorough self-analysis, you will continue to repeat the same mistakes.
Ideally, you should be looking at problem areas of your life from a different perspective. It is important to note here that it is the fresh ideas you are unfamiliar with that come from your higher conscious.
When you reach a moment of understanding, you will notice a shift in your energy. This is obviously more noticeable if you are not distracted by the monkey. But once you reach a moment of ‘enlightenment’, it is time to reprogram your mind.