Monday – breakfast – Vanilla soymilk in smoothie. Sugar? You betcha. By lunchtime? “well, one chocolate covered almond won’t hurt”
By Tuesday, I was no longer cutting out sugar, but only feeling guilty for each time I ate it. I did use my wonderful yogic powers of observation to notice each time I did consume sugar. (BTW, it is amazing how many products have sugar. Even plain almond milk has sugar in it!) By Friday, I can’t say much has changed. My brain is still screaming out for desert and all things sweet, but I am taking the high road and choosing not to indulge.
This got me thinking about our habits. If we have a habit that we are aware of, like eating something sweet after each meal, and we choose to change it, how long until a new habit takes its place? We will always have some sort of habit or ritual for things; hopefully more positives than negatives.
In yoga, samskara refers to a habitual movement of the mind or a habit. I love how Desikachar in The Heart of Yoga refers to habits as a “movement of the mind”. If we create our thoughts, and our thoughts become our habits, than changing a habit should be as easy as changing your mind, right? For me at least, that makes the thought of giving up something that I love, but know is doing me no good, as simple as deciding to change it. When your brain is saying “PLEASE, CAN’T I HAVE JUST ONE THIN MINT!?”, just like the habit, it’s simply a thought ready for change.
Some may find that a regular yoga practice makes you notice and change some samskaras that you’ve created. A big one for me was standing with my feet turned out, one hip jutted out, and one knee locked. You know, like this. Because I was constantly being reminded in yoga to stay on my axis and keep my feet parallel, I began to notice when I wasn’t. Then I began to correct it. And then it just started to feel funny. Since our habits are just thoughts, conscious or subconscious, once we become aware, we can change them.
As Buddha said: We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.”
So I challenge you today to change a habit that is serving you no purpose. Or maybe just notice one. Sometimes just that takes you halfway there.