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In last week’s discussion on Inner Workings of the Mind, we had started an exploration of the mind and its multifarious ways. We asked some questions, got some answers, and, like any good research project, created more questions in the process. One aspect of the working of the mind is its conditioning and one of the consequences of this, which is the formation of our habits.

Let us go back to the analogy of a calm mind, a possible container for consciousness, and its similarity to that of the surface of a still lake. As a part of our daily life, the stillness is disturbed by inputs which create ‘surface waves’ of disappointment, irritability, anger and such. These ‘surface waves’ are visible on the outside, as they form expression in our interaction with our near and dear ones, or even complete strangers. In addition to the visible ‘surface waves’, every disturbance also creates a cumulative effect in our mind. This cumulative effect of inputs becomes our “inner conditioning”, and can create triggers points in our mind.

What is the effect of such trigger points? They become activators of conditioned reflexes – any encounter with the trigger, however innocuous, will set off a distorted, exaggerated, reactive, inappropriate response… of disappointment, irritability, anger and such. For instance, there is an irritation in the response that isn’t warranted. Your spouse or sibling or child may say something totally innocuous, and it create a disproportionate response from you – because your ‘disappointment’ with them is just waiting to be triggered. This is true of physical responses too – you have a bad day at work, and you come home and eat a gallon of ice-cream… the food trigger.

We have talked so far of triggers which set off ‘negative’ inner conditioning reactions. One role of our spiritual practice can be to attain freedom from this negative inner conditioning, our ‘negative’ habits. As we replace our negative triggers with positive ones, we can move from a default response state of ‘things just make me so angry’ to a response of ‘things just fill me with joy’. However, it takes inner work, and in most cases, inner work done with self-discipline over a period of time to reverse our habits. If you have ever tried to make a lifestyle change – say, give up smoking, or give up too much coffee, or eat healthier – you know what I am alluding too. Positive change which brings long-term positive effects, takes time, work, and patience.

Good habits, triggering positive inner reactions, are a reward of practice, cleanliness, contentment and process of self-reform. The payoff of moving towards positive inner conditioning is tremendous. As BKS Iyengar says in his “Light on Life” book –

“Those with good habits of Life are agreeable, able to make their way in Life.

We need tools. Tools that will help us move towards freedom, by liberating us from the unwanted ingrained patterns. Tools that will help us identify, acknowledge and progressively change our patterns, our habits. Yoga is one of these tools, that is all the rage these days. Meditation is a component of Yoga, and there are many ways of doing meditation and Yoga. We have to find what works for us! Some use writing and journaling as a tool – ingrained patterns emerge as we write – and we can identify the ones that we want to get rid of. And the list goes on.

What conditioning-reform tools are on your list? What habits are you trying to change and replace with better ones? What are your triggers, which set off negative reactions within your ‘lake’? Is freedom from negative habits enough? Is it possible that we may be equally ‘bound’ by our positive habits?

Join us in #SpiritChat Sunday August 24th 2014 at 9am ET / 2pm GMT / 6:30pm India, as we discuss the subject of inner conditioning and habits. I hope you will give some thoughts to the ideas suggested here, and share openly with the community. We can all grow towards unconditioned freedom in the process!

Namaste, and Be Well.


P.S. This topic was inspired by, and dedicated to the Yoga Master, BKS Iyengar, who ascended the physical plane on August 19th 2014. Though I never met him personally, his writing strikes a unique chord with me. Peace.

Ready? Q1. Inner conditioning - what idea does that phrase convey to you? #SpiritChat

Q2. How does our inner conditioning develop? How does it impact our Life? #SpiritChat 

Q3. If inner conditioning creates #habits, what are some that have served you well? Not so well? #SpiritChat 

Q4. Disappointment, irritability, anger. How would we identify the trigger? Is there a common trigger?  #SpiritChat 

Q5. If you could, what would you replace disappointment, irritability and anger with? Why? #SpiritChat

Q6. Imagine that you only had 'life-affirming' habits. What would your life look like then? #SpiritChat 

Q7. "Good habits may be as (spiritually) binding as bad ones" - Agree or disagree? Why or why not? #SpiritChat 

Q8. Habits, serendipity, spontaneity. Is there a conflict? What is/are the connection(s)? #SpiritChat 

Q9. What are some 'tools' that have worked for you in changing your conditioning, your habits? #SpiritChat 

Final Q10. This question belongs to you. What would you like to ask the community about #habits? #SpiritChat 

Full transcript link: http://bit.ly/sc-tr-0824

Storify summary link: http://sfy.co/hqzf