It's Hard to Change Your Habits and Behaviors But Meditation Can Help AND is Part of the Solution
Did you know that by the time you are age 3, your brain has formed up to 15,000 connections per neuron. However by the time you're a teenager, this number of neural connections will have dropped in half.
In other words, the brain initially forms twice as many connections between brain cells as it needs. Then it prunes this neuron tree to get rid of all the excess.
The question arises then, what exactly happens during this time period?
During this interim period, new brain connections continue to form (and old ones are strengthened) because of repeated thoughts or behaviors. These are the ones that last. If you frequently use a neural connection it becomes stronger but the ones you don't use and don't reinforce slowly fade away. Those are the ones that get pruned.
"Use it or lose it" is therefore one of the rules of brain development.
What this means is that learning that makes use of repetition tends to carve deeper and more permanent pathways in the brain. A thread becomes a string becomes a rope becomes a chain.
And the implications of all this?
Science says that the carving of these pathways helps form the individual's character because the mental (neuron) pathways you carve with your mind form a portion of an individual's behavioral matrix. For instance, if you get angry easily when young and this tendency isn't checked, you'll tend to carry this tendency over into adult life. If you have a rich emotional life when you're young, you'll tend to carry this over into your adult life because of the many neural connections you formed as a child.
This doesn't mean that change is impossible as you get older. Cultivators have no problem keeping their brains young and flexible to learn new skills. And as to lost skills, you can always reactivate old neuron pathways if you try, like doing bike riding again after years of inactivity.
What this does mean, however, is that learning and change tend to become harder as you age (did you ever notice that children have an easy time learning a foreign language but most adults have a terrible time). Furthermore, character changes become sluggish as people get older.
If you married someone with the hope that you can change them in a major way, you already know the truth behind the statement that it's hard to change other people. They change themselves when and if they want to change. In fact, a recent best selling business book on managing people, called "First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently" found that the best managers in the world commonly recognize the following ditty about people:
Okay, so changing your thoughts and behavior can be a difficult task, even for those who want to do so. After all, we tend to order the same foods every time we go to a restaurant, take the same route to work, wear the same type of clothes day after day and wish we were different all the while. The status quo is the preferred path of behavior, and the brain reactively produces a jerk response of "No!" to all but the most familiar of requests.
That is, ... unless you consciously always open yourself up to new experiences. Unless you consciously cultivate flexibility and openness and the willingness to try new experiences. Unless you learn meditation that changes the chi flows in the body, for the habit energies that flow in the body are related to chi circulations, not just to neural pathways. Cultivation science says this, but it's something science has to catch up with. What's so strange about that? Twenty years ago they weren't even talking about such things!
While you may want to shake things up and institute change in your personality or life, it will initially be hard because your brain is wired through all of your past behavior to do exactly what it has been doing in the past. That's why we have a tendency to constantly slide back to old behaviors ... it's because those neural pathways are deeper than the others due to their continual reuse. Those deeper furrows equate with repeated behaviors that are the pathways of least resistance.
When you look at the big picture, it would be better, then, not to start bad habits in the first place. That's what the sages tell us. It would be better to learn good habits in their place, and also learn to like them. In fact, that's what Aristotle maintained. Aristotle said that virtue is a sort of habit and that the key to life and happiness is (1) to learn what is good for us, (2) to develop good habits to practice it (like athletes practice for their sport), and (3) to learn to like what is good for you.
In trying to live a better life, you must also consider that a new habit does not erase an old habit. An old habit will gradually fade away from disuse, but its underlying pattern will still remain in a dormant stage and you have to practice constant vigilance to make sure it doesn't rise and gain its previous prominence of aliveness.
Therefore you need awareness and willpower to go against habit energies and change them. Otherwise it's hard to stop smoking, quit eating sugary foods, and to stop all sorts of behaviors we'd like to get rid of. You're always going to have to struggle a bit until you consciously and intentionally repeat a new behavioral pattern over and over again so that it becomes the preferred pathway for the brain to follow.
To change your behavior, you literally have to forge new neural pathways in the brain and once you have them, you've got to keep reinforcing them over and over. You need awareness to make a choice, and will to put it into effect. Awareness, or the clear mind of seeing, you cultivate through meditation. Will you cultivate through any trick you have that helps with motivation.
NLP helps you form any new behavioral pathways you may want and so does self hypnosis, but meditation does this as well. In fact, I'll tell you the truth. Meditation is the only mind technology that helps you detach from your habit energies so that you can form new behaviors with ease because you practice being a third person watcher or observer who observes your impulses without getting caught up in their doings. That's why you can detach from them and have a hope of changing them in the first place.
As Confucius taught many centuries ago, in order to change your character, fortune and behavior, you must first practice awareness and then practice stopping, and from there things will prosper.
Research has also showed that 90% of self-talk, which is that internal dialogue we have in our heads, tends to be negative. We can use all the mind technologies we want to help change self-talk but only meditation helps us reach a mental state where the self-talk gets down to zero. People recite mantras to tire the discriminatory mind and help jam self-talk, and in time self-talk does die down through this method as well.
People also use affirmations to substitute positive self-talk for negative self-talk, but in the purest forms of meditation people learn to detach from self-talk all together. They don't block thoughts from arising in the mind. They just detach from the internal dialogue and thereby gradually become mentally free of impulses that would normally impel them.
When you let go of thoughts and stop feeding them energy, but let them arise when they have to, they will automatically die down over time and cease to impel people along the paths of their old behaviors. That's when you can effect real change in your behavior, fate and fortune.
Meditation is the technology that lets you do this, so keep meditating. It will change your chi energies that have a life of their own and keep impelling you to react in certain ways and do things you don't want to do. Just stop following those energies, like refusing to use an old neural pathway, and you'll eventually change your behavior. Practice vipassana, or cessation-contemplation practice (see "Twenty-Five Doors to Meditation") and you'll get it.
It won't happen instantly, but after you meditate CORRECTLY then in time you'll be able to get a handle on instituting change as you would like it. The HOLOSYNC meditation program is one that helps you do this expertly and with great gusto. You can find out more about this technology by clicking on the word: Holosync .
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