Friday, October 21, 2016

Need to Clear Out Old Patterns and Start New? Try These Practices!

In yoga we talk about Samskara as actions taken to clear out the old and bring in the new.  Sometimes we say we want something in our lives to change, but there is actually not space for that to happen.  Maybe there needs to be physical space, mental space, emotional space, or all three in order to get something new in place.  Think of the goal of getting in better health:  make space in the pantry for healthy choices, make space in the schedule for exercise, and make space in your mind for a new routine and a new way of approaching meals, the body, and daily life.  That is what a renewal practice is all about.

The body and the mind are set up to follow patterns.  Everything we do in a day is a pattern the mind and the body have been trained to do.  Don't take this amazing fact for granted!  How hard would it be to brush your teeth if you had to think about every movement, if you had to calculate the aim of the brush getting to your mouth, even all the actions needed to spit?  The brain and the body have memories that keep all of this so easy for us.  But, these same patterned ways are sometimes detrimental.  In these instances it is really hard to change the pattern.  The first step, however, is to make space - clear out the old and make space for the new!  It is a process.  It takes patience and time to retrain the patterns, so be kind, be aware, and be persistent.

1)  Breathe:  The breath is always a great tool for change, because the automatic processes of the system are called into conscious thought.  In other words, they become less automatic.  Use the breath to be aware of the processes you want to bring in and those you want to release.  Inhale through the nose, thinking of what you want to bring in as a pattern/habit.  Exhale loudly through the mouth "haaaaaa" thinking of what you want to release.  For example, "breathing in, I bring in patience and compassion, breathing out, I release frustration and impatience."

2)  Meditate:  A great way to make a habit become active is to get the brain ready.  Get the pattern set in the brain and your actions and behaviors will then more easily follow.  Sports psychologists use this all the time:  The brain changes to accommodate the imagery you create.  We will take it further with this meditation.  We will use imagery, words, and feelings to change your brain in the direction of your new pattern.  In this meditation, you imagine your new way of being.  Then, you feel what it would feel like.  Then, you create words to match and encourage the feeling.  Try it with help from this video.

3)  Relax:  Patterns are not just what we think and how the nervous system reacts.  We have muscle and structural patterns.  We have temperature and other regulation patterns in the body.  The brain and the body and all of these systems are continually communicating about these patterned processes.  Brain/body communication is just beginning to be an area of research.  We don't know a whole lot.  But, we do know that the bio-chemicals and neuro-transmitters in the body are doing alot of the communication.  We can affect some of these communicators!

Lie down and get comfortable and decide how you want to feel.  Maybe today's pattern has been to run around from one busy task to the next.  Maybe you woke up feeling anxious and that anxiety has not left. The communication so far has been cortisol, epinephrine, adrenaline.  Choose a new feeling.  Think of things, places, people that make you feel what you are choosing to feel.  Then, imagine those neuro-transmitters flowing through your body (this really does happen!).  Imagine each cell from the tips of your toes to the top of your head feeling this new feeling.  You are changing the communicators from cortisol and his friends to maybe a nice mix of serotonin and dopamine or a bit of oxytocin.

4)  Cognitive Behavior Therapy:  Thought patterns are really strong.  People tend to give up on changing them pretty quickly.  We have this deep belief in free will - if I decide to change, I should
change.  If I can't, then it must be that my willpower is not strong enough.  This belief makes change incredibly hard.  The decision to change is really important, but then the efforts toward actually making the change need to be routine and regular, patient and persistent.  Not because you don't have free will, but because the brain and the body need you to train them into the new pattern!  It's not just a decision, it's a process.

Begin by being aware of what you are saying to yourself now.  Take one or two negative things you are saying and begin to make the effort to change those to something more encouraging.  For example, "I am just _____________ (fill it in) and I will always be _______________"  Not helping and not true.  You have no idea what you will be in the future, but certainly your actions will follow your thoughts and if your thoughts are saying you will always be ______________, then, yep, you probably will.  Change the negative thoughts as often as you catch them in your head throughout the day,  Do this for months.  Yes, months.  That is how long it will take to change the persistent strength of brain patterns.  Be patient.  Be persistent.

5)  Power Pose:  Let's go back to the research on power posing.  Yes, there are questions about it's efficacy.  I'm willing to wait the researchers out, because Power Posing is so darn easy and takes so little time and because it seems so plausible.
 If I want to feel really confident, I tend to wear what makes me feel confident in myself.  If I need to feel comfortable, I do the same.  Not to mention that the idea of "fake it 'til you make it" is a real thing.  Go back to patterns.  How you stand reflects how you feel.  So, practice standing strong, confident or whatever it is you are trying to feel.  Do "as if" until you DO.

6)  Affirm:  Repeat, hang it somewhere easily read, say it out loud to yourself in the mirror (really!), and respond to denials in your thinking with this:  "Today I choose to believe in and experience my strong, motivated, and capable Self."

7)  Chant:  This chant has a lot of syllables.  Syllables that are not familiar to many of those reading.  But, it is worth the effort to learn.  It is a mantra for new beginnings.  Om Vinayakaya Namaha (Om Vee-nah-yah Kah-yah Nah-mah-hah).

Put your practice into place regularly and you'll soon feel that clearing out of old patterns.  Then, you have room for those new patterns of thought and behavior.  Contact me at:  OR check out my website or Facebook page for more information and guidance!

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