Every January many people set “New Year’s Resolutions”, some with much success and others with less. Either way we are all aware of how hard it is to break old habits. In a way, consciously or unconsciously, we are all “victims” of our old conditioning. Many times we have tried to stop doing something, or start doing something new, but somehow we keep repeating our old behaviours, over and over again.
Hindu philosophies of ancient cultures called the various conditionings of the human being “vasanas” (which literally translates as conditioning or subconscious tendencies). And for the people of that period these “vasanas” were considered to be one of our greatest obstacles we had to overcome to evolve.
When we better understand the nature of vasanas, we understand that the longer we have had the habit, the harder is to break it. An example I like to give my students is of the riverbed of the Ganges. Over tens of thousands of years water flowing along the same path has created a body of water that is on average 20 metres deep. To pick up the Ganges and change its direction would take an enormous effort. Our habits are ingrained in our psyches in much the same way over time, so to amend them, or to create new ones, we have to do the new behaviour, or stem the flow of the old behaviour, over and over again until the new habit is as familiar to us as the former one was. We must be consistent, and persistent.
Another solution is to introduce small changes in our habits, incrementally, rather than going straight for the most difficult of our habits to break. For example, if you always eat the same thing in the morning, start to change for a different breakfast a few times a week. If you always wear the same colour, start to introduce some new colours on your clothes, even if it is just your socks! Even the most insignificant habits help, as for example changing the brand of your toothpaste, water, etc. Basically you are teaching your subconsciousness to break habits and get used to change.
Of course that is not everything you can do, there are more specific techniques. But those techniques should be guided by a professional. At the DeRose Method we use several breathing techniques (pránáyámas), yôganidrá (emotional reprogramming), and concentration / meditation (ajapa-japa / dhyana). All of these techniques work deeply, from the inside out, and many of our students describe how, after a period of time practicing, unwanted habits dissolved with no conscious effort at all.
At the end of the day nothing is so powerful as your will, your resolve to make it happen. Choose resolutions and set intentions that really matter to you, and the discipline to incur change will be much easier. Accept that no one is perfect and sometimes you will fail too. Tomorrow you can try again!