It is in meditative awareness that we go beyond perception and experience inner state of well-being. Here is how to make meditation a way of life.
Each one of us wants to achieve our cherished goals or those which we think are within our reach. We are constantly running after them and other things which we think will make us happier. We end up stressful and discontent with our present state of existence and want to get rid of anything that limits us. Inspite of our ceaseless efforts, the peace,happiness and contentment constantly eludes most of us.
Well-being is accessible to each one of us and our thoughts and emotions are messengers of our inner state of well-being and the key to understand them is by gaining awareness.
Meditation readies us to deal with your thoughts. It helps you gain awareness, teaches you to observe, identify and respond to these underlying emotions and thoughts in a constructive way, rather than recoil or react impulsively.
Making meditation a way of life allows you to see each thought as a messenger with information on how to respond in a way that helps you feel in harmony with yourself and world around you. Your negative notions start to fade, instead of chasing you and wearing you down.
Essence of Meditation
Meditation is a simple practice that requires commitment to stay fully aware of the present moment. Welcoming each moment keeps you connected with yourself and others. In fact, the essence of mindfulness of meditation is paying attention. In every day life we rarely pay full attention to anything, whereas if we set aside a time for meditation, you commit yourself in paying full attention.
By paying attention to the present moment, you can understand the mechanics of the mind. The present moment is sometimes unacceptable and unpleasant. Because of this many of us experience a kind of resistance during the meditation process. This resistance is born out of our inability to accept the moment as it is. A state of well-being cannot be achieved by suppressing all thoughts and emotions. It can be achieved by becoming mindful of everything that arises in your awareness and by observing and accepting thoughts, emotions and physical sensations as they arise without judgment or expectation. This process helps you to step out of your resistance patterns.
Staying connected to your experiences helps you to acknowledge your unchanging inner self which can be tapped into anywhere and anytime.
Here are some insights that you can include in your meditation practices. Each of these insights can be practiced individually or you can apply them all together, sequentially into your meditation practice.
Set firm intentions
Meditating with right intentions develops focus, determination, patience, and perseverance. Intentions are agreements you make with yourself and then express through your actions in your daily activities. if you don’t set firm intentions, you will eventually find yourself wandering and might lose sight of the reason you are meditating.
Intentions set can be small or large. Aim is to discover your genuine intentions and affirm those with certainty in your meditation practice. Express each intention in small phrases in present tense as if it is true. This enables your subconscious mind to register them as actualities. Resolutely follow and affirm your intentions for they enable you to overcome all trials and suffering.
Tap into the feeling of being
Everyday distractions keeps you away from experiencing the joy of simply being. Practice meditation not to become whole, but to connect to your existing wholeness. Realise that wholeness is your birth right and you are more than a limited individual.
Just being is a familiar feeling that you have always known, although you may have ignored it until now. Notice how, when you are simply being, you are perfect just as you are. Affirm your intention to experience the feeling of being. With a regular practice, you can learn to connect to your existing wholeness amidst your daily life. During the practice, simply experience the presence and aliveness of being. Staying focused on the sensation of being slows your thinking and eventually turns off negative thoughts.
Connect to something bigger
Meditation helps us to get in touch with universal life force that connects us all. During the practice learn to align with this force. This connection with bigger force results in a state of well-being. With an expansive mind, you are not narrowly focused on how things should be and on other small desires, but will be able to see those as part of bigger picture.
Connecting to and experiencing the universal life force enhances concentration and your present opens up to infinite possibilities. This enables you to interact and respond rather than contract and react. The expansiveness of mind gives a meaning and purpose to your life.
Practice mindful breathing
Taking hold of your breath builds concentration. Meditating on your breathing is a natural and extremely effective tool to prevent dispersion and enables you to release obsessive thinking. Observing and following breath exhalations and inhalations enhances your ability to sense and respond to the information your body is sending.
Awareness of your breathing patterns allows you to make changes where required to maintain equilibrium. You can continue to do so while walking, sitting or when you are outdoors. You can also practice to count your number of inhalations and exhalations to develop focused attention and concentration. When you recognise you are distracted, gently bring back your attention back to your breath. Breath-counting helps you to maintain a single- pointed focus.
Meditating on your feelings and thoughts makes you stay calm, grounded, and healthy. There can be many disharmonious, negative, and disturbing thoughts that arise during the process. Meditate focusing on them. When such strong feelings arise, refusing to accept and labelling them as enemies will only make them come back more strongly as if they are here to convey important information.
You need to welcome and experience emotions both negative and positive. Know that they are not your enemies but are just seeking your attention. Learn to observe and respond instead of reacting. By focusing on every thought and its opposite, anxiety, fear, and self- judgements no longer control your life. You can no longer remain a hostage to your negative emotions.
Welcome feelings of joy
Joy is an essential emotion which is already within us, waiting to be experienced no matter what the outside circumstances may be. But many of us believe that it only comes by material possessions or achieving a particular outcome. We keep searching for it outside in objects, relationships, and other experiences. When you deny the feelings of joy which is a natural phenomenon, you lose life’s meaning and its purpose.
During meditation, welcoming the feelings of joy also brings with them its opposite. Experiencing both joy and its opposite makes you realise how stressful the opposite is and how it affects your body and mind. When it feels right, release the stressful thought and let joy radiate through you. This can unearth unchanging feelings of joy irrespective of the circumstances thereby reducing the perceptions of pain, anxiety, and depression.
Contemplate on interdependence
Meditating on the interdependent nature the universe makes you realise that everything is a part of an interconnected wholeness. We normally see reality in compartments and make boundaries around ourselves. Because of this we are unable to see the interdependent nature of the world we live in. We are connected and not separate in our suffering and in our desire to be happy.
When you live the sufferings and joy of others, you start to realise the impermanence of the universe and can strengthen the positive emotions of gratitude and compassion. Experience yourself as a unique expression of life, interconnected with the Universe.
Finally, Regular practice of meditation helps you to attain an ideal state of mind. A well disciplined and controlled mind is necessary for various aspects of well-being. Nourish your intention of making meditation a daily practice.
Nourish your intention to make the practice of meditation your own. Be patient with yourself and perseverant and you will be able to notice small changes right away.
We are product of our habits. Let go of negative habitual patterns to build positive habits.
“Chains of Habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”- Warren Buffet
Our habits define who and what we are. We struggle to kick deeply-ingrained negative habitual patterns and negative behaviours as we get used to a fixed mindset on things and on our habits. As a result, we get used to doing and thinking in some specific ways that it becomes hard to be able to transcend those habits.
Most of us find it hard to adopt and stick with new, healthier and safer habits. Even when we begin to follow a new pattern, we all have a tendency to revert to previous patterns during times of stress. This is due to the comfort factor associated with our older habits.
“Comfort comes as a guest, grows into a host and finally stays to enslave us.”
Unless we let go of old and negative habits, we cannot redefine ourselves in newer or better ways.
You are the product of your HABITS
Our habits define our comfort zones. Any violation of our comfort zone brings us discomfort. So is the case with the violation of some bad habits which when we let them go brings agitation, stress and even anxiety. Many struggle with a range of negative behaviours like smoking, overeating, lack of exercise, and excessive drinking and don’t think that these habits are unhealthy because either these habits make them feel stress free or feel good factor they bring with them. You need to do an honest evaluation of your habits as to whether they are positive or negative.
While evaluating your habits, focus on their relevance and impact. Are your habits strengthening you as a person or are they making you rigid and edgy. For instance, it is very essential to see when you decide to follow a particular habit, is it bringing with it restlessness, agitation or poor health. If it is, it is time to reflect upon those habits and is better to change them. Most of the times, we fail to let go of negative habits because of the comfort we feel inspite of these habits being wrong and harmful.
If you continue to hang on to the comfort of the older ways never attempting to change, these habits tend to degenerate your personality and they become toxic.
“The battle of big dreams, greatnesses is often the battle against our own ingrained habits.”
What makes a HABIT and how they work?
Three things that make a habit.
First, a habit is a specific behaviour not an overall goal or pattern of behaviour. It is like a learnt physical behaviour.
Second, a habit is something you do regularly in a particular situation. It is like a mental mannerism which is consistent.
Third, a habit requires little or no psychological effort to engage in. It is largely automatic.
Repetition and attention is the fuel that keeps habits going, both good and bad. A new behaviour you start to engage in isn’t always a habit. It becomes a habit once you have followed it for so long that it becomes a habit.
According to Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit”, every habit has four components and they form a habit loop.
The Cue causes you to start the habit.
The Routine that you engage in.
The Reward you get for doing the routine, and finally,
The Craving that drives your desire for the reward.
Habit loop identification makes it easy to break away from your bad habits.
There are many things that hold you back whenever you want to change or end a bad habit to create a new one. These things tend to push you back into the spiral of old patterns. Here are some things that hold you back from changing your habits
Lack of determination
Nothing can stop a determined mind from changing an old habit to a new one. But, do you have the determination? Do not let your mind completely disregard your own decisions. Whether you decide to follow a new diet or give up foul language, it is difficult to keep up unless you take it seriously. Be strict with your decisions even if they are difficult.
Lack of purpose
No clarity of purpose leads to lack of inspiration and rewards. If your cue is a negative purpose, then it is difficult to stick with it longer. For instance, it should not come with the intention of making others happy. This kind of negative approach makes your determination weak. You may attempt to change your habits, but this may end up making you angry, bitter and anxious to prove yourself to others. Allow a positive purpose to push you out of the old undesirable habits.
Lack of consistency
Motivation tends to be high when we start something new, then drops off after a while. Permanent habit change requires consistency and keeps you up to date with your new habits. Being consistent with newer habits lets you form new pathways for habit change system and helps you to stick with them. Choose a new habit and provide opportunities to establish the habit. Practice being consistent with your new pattern until it becomes a habit.
Lack of substitution
Whenever you attempt to let go to of old habits, your mind starts feeling deprived of the comfort which is associated with the old habit. The feeling of deprivation makes your mind too rigid to change your old habits. So the only way you can change your habit is to substitute them with newer habits that are equally rewarding and leave you feeling complete and better.
Lack of Belief
Our belief system has a great impact on our habits. We form many of our habits based on our beliefs. We may know and understand how risky certain negative behaviours are, but we indulge in some of them because of our ingrained beliefs. We fail to change them. But if we try to change the deep driving belief, we can change the habit.
Newer ways of thinking and doing will let you change your old beliefs and negative behaviour.
Your Habit Change System
According to the research, once you have followed a new habit or refrained from an old pattern for five days, it gets much easier to stick to and the odds that you will make that habit change stick becomes very high. Here are some ways to change your habits.
Break bad habits
Break away from your old habits. One way to do this is to suppress the cue that causes you to engage in that habit. Prevent cue from happening. Second way to end bad habit is to stop engaging in the routine. And the third way can be by sabotaging your reward so it feels less rewarding and satisfying whenever you indulge in a bad habitual pattern.
Choose one bad habit related to your goal and identify the cue, routine, reward for that and as well as its craving. Select one of the ways and use it every day to break that habit.
Build positive habits
There are some habits whose impact is much broader and they are habits behind habits and are called keystone habits. Building positive keystone habits can have cascading effect. For instance, being healthier makes you more productive, be less stressed out and you spend less on junk food.
To build keystone habits you can use cue piggybacking by choosing an event that occurs on a regular basis to act as the cue for your new habit, then start doing the routine every time your chosen cue occurs. You can also use chaining to build two or more habits that you will be doing one after the other. Try routine substitution to replace a old routine with new. The new routine has to fulfil the same craving as the old routine.
Hold yourself accountable and stay motivated
Avoid getting motivated only by external factors. This makes you feel like you are forced to do, rather than something you want to do. Intrinsic motivation is better when it comes to the habit change system. An external source of motivation that reinforces intrinsic motivation helps you to continue with changing your habits. Holding yourself accountable will get you through brief periods of temptation by strengthening your will power.
Improve your environment to improve your habits
Your behaviour and attitudes are often shaped by your environment. Conformity distorts your perceptual abilities. This impacts your personal development. Changing your environment helps you to maintain your good habits or change from old ones. Put yourself in an environment that supports the person you want to be. Think of one way you can alter your environment to make it easier to maintain your good habits.
Finally, Do not justify wrong habits. Negative self talk holds you back from changing your habits. Maintain your will power throughout your habit change system. Master yourself in ways that lead you into newer habits. Practice self- love and be kind to yourself.
Perseverance is important when it comes to being successful. Right motivation and strong willpower helps you overcome the tendency to give up.
Many of us accept what life gives us instead of going out and creating things for ourselves. Those who have the determination to achieve their goals always surge ahead to chase their frontiers of success. Success largely depends on living with right intent, virtues, purpose and direction.
Successful are not necessarily smarter or more talented than their less successful counterparts. They are only more disciplined, determined and courageous to use their will power in righteous ways in getting what they want. Many smart people fall by the wayside because they strive only when there are short bursts of motivation or either they use will power without the right purpose. Perseverance is an important trait to develop in order to become successful.
Perseverance is diligently working towards challenges and the ability to maintain the effort over long periods of time despite facing difficulties in the path. Motivation and Will Power help you persist in your endeavours.
Why Motivation is important?
When you want to achieve something or when you act out of desire to pursue a habit or a goal, you depend upon the feeling of motivation or interest. Motivation is like a welcome wind at your back that helps you to stay persistent. Motivation can vary in nature depending on the factors that influence you to pursue your goal.
You tend to act on extrinsic motivation when you expect something in the form of reward or act because you will be punished. For instance, you exercise because you want to be complimented on how you look. This kind of motivation has its downsides as it only lasts as long as the external motivator is applied and you value it. Extrinsic motivators can be created in order to achieve a particular habit or a goal.
You are intrinsically motivated when you do something because you find it inherently satisfying. May be you eat healthy food because you prefer the taste. This is more powerful than extrinsic, but the downside is that there is not always a way to create it. This depends on your interests, likes and passion.
This motivation comes from the desire to help others or support a cause you care about. This can be very powerful motivation and has both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. For instance, you might want to work harder to create something that will benefit people.
Knowing why your goal is important and finding what motivates lets you build positive aspects that support your chosen purpose. Tapping into your motivational energies improves your ability to persevere.
Sometimes, when we plan to take up one goal or purpose like learning a new sport or losing weight, we enjoy motivating ourselves for short period, but after the initial gratification, when things get harder, when there are certain obstacles, most of us feel stuck and we are unable to push through. That is when you should rely on the will power to carry you through.
“Use motivation when you find it, but rely on willpower when you don’t.”
Motivation only works in the moment. In order to persist in non-windy days, you have to rely on your Willpower.
Here are some ways to strengthen your will power to move in the direction of your goals.
Sometimes failure and difficulties distort the perception of your goals. It also distorts the perception of your abilities. You should learn to endure the situations that seem to be against. Learn to tolerate the unfavourable situations and overcome the obstacles in order to pursue your goals. In the pursuit of your goal you might face rejection and criticism. Strengthen your willpower by being tolerant and to be independent of the opinion of others.
Be patient with yourself
“Patience is power. Patience is not an absence of action; rather it is “timing”it waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way.”
Seeking a goal makes you impatient with your progress. Most of us suffer from the expectation of immediate gratification ‘I must have it now.’ We don’t have the patience to wait and get irritable if we have to. Impatience is a resistance to learning. We want the answers without doing the steps necessary. Impatience weakens your willpower to persist. If you are patient, you can nurture the seeds of will to achieve your goal.
Establish a routine
You can achieve a little bit of something if you learn to follow a simple routine which requires to little or no effort. Sometimes establishing a routine with proper rest and not putting too much pressure can make the daunting process of pursuing your goal much easier. When it is broken into small steps and repeated every single day, it becomes an automatic behaviour. Establish similar routines for every goal you want to achieve.
Develop mental toughness
You can train your willpower to help you handle difficult situations so that you can persevere without losing confidence. Mental toughness can be developed by exposing yourself to tough situations. This way you can slowly push your limits and can expand your safe zone. Continuous small improvements will ensure you won’t give up on your goal. Apply time-limited and quantity-limited discipline to make yourself mentally tough.
Focus on what is in your control
Willpower involves self-control. By controlling your habits and tendencies, you can accomplish what you will. Breakdown your goal in question to those aspects that are in control. Then go through the aspects that are not in control. You will need to determine what you can and cannot control. Your behaviour is the only thing you can control by applying your will. Focus only those things that are in your control.
“If you have a strong purpose in life, you don’t have to be pushed. Your passion will drive you there.”
Developing passion in whatever you do helps you to persevere longer. Having realistic expectations and figuring out what is that you really care about and what matters you most improves your perseverance. There is no added pressure and the interest will make you stick to the goal you are pursuing.
Stop trying too hard
Sometimes exerting too much pressure causes lapses in your willpower. Like the muscles get fatigued when they are overworked, similarly your willpower can fail you when it is overworked and undernourished. Be aware of how much effort and willpower you are exerting. You must avoid situations where your willpower will be continuously taxed without rest. Engage yourself in certain activities that you find relaxing and refreshing in order to restore your will.
Transform your negative habits
To make yourself persistent at your efforts you must liberate yourself from negative tendencies. Some psychological traits or behaviour that we pick from others tend to shape our life. They produce patterns that appear fixed and automatic. We have to exert force of our will to change our negative habits. Make use of the opportunities to transcend these negative habits to gain better control of your will.
Shying away from risk and wallowing in self-pity puts you off from going after things you really want. Just going with the flow because it’s easier weakens your willpower and cannot persevere during tough times. Create a plan and stick to it with certain amount of discipline. Discipline yourself by being in charge of your thoughts to organise your behaviour towards a specific goal.
If you are pessimistic and have been reinforcing negative thought patterns your whole life, you need to make an effort to break out of those and start thinking in a more positive and success oriented manner. Mindfulness can be practiced as an intentional form of meditation to restructure your negative thought patterns and to strengthen your willpower.
Finally, In any of our efforts there are bound to be difficulties, moments of doubt, anxiety, disappointment and setbacks. But we most likely overcome if those efforts contribute to something larger than ourselves and give us meaning. Find the right purpose as it can be a powerful source of motivation for you to persevere and be patient as it can take time to overcome your negative thoughts and habits.
Try and apply the above steps to persevere in your endeavours.
Know what is it that you want to achieve. Know how you are going to achieve them. Replace negative self-talk with positives.If you aren’t getting enough, try new approaches to persevere.
“Discipline” is an important skill to achieve success in life. In fact, unless one masters self-discipline, the other tasks cannot be mastered at all.
All of us are a great deal more capable than what we can ever realise, irrespective of our age. We seldom achieve success because our sense of discipline is not in proportion to the need to make our talents blossom.
You may have the talent and intelligence of a genius, but if you do not know how to organise and discipline yourself to make the best use of your talents, your achievement level will remain average or sometimes below average.
Self-discipline begins with mastering of your thoughts. A disciplined mind let’s you think, imagine, desired dream of success and you can develop an ability to organise your behaviour towards a specific goal.
Success comes from sustained efforts towards your goal and it becomes yours when you accomplish your objectives with discipline.
As you keep attaining your goals and reaping success, you will further find fixing for yourself bigger and more challenging goals and achieving them through discipline.
Success cannot be conceived or achieved in vacuum. The main purpose to incorporate discipline and positivity in our life is to achieve our goals.
“Without Self-discipline, success is impossible, period.” – Lou Holtz
The discipline of achieving them depends overall on the following factors.
Have a Specific goal
You should have a definite aim, a decisive and time-bound goal.You should have a clear mental image of it.
Choose a Path
You need to choose the path that you need to follow in achieving it and have strong will power to stick to that path.. that is discipline.
Master your thoughts
You need to be I full control of your mind and thought process. You should bring about discipline within your mind to overcome doubts and negative thoughts.
Have a strong desire
You should have a strong, sustained, intense and burning desire to achieve it. Self-discipline is something which comes from within. Your strong desire can act as a self- motivator.
Show confidence and faith in your efforts and persevere in a disciplined manner until your goal is achieved.
Self-discipline is the basic foundation of every new goal. It improves your will-power to overcome obstacles and moves you onwards towards your goal. Don’t change yourself all at once, instead include small disciplines one at a time. Every act of discipline strengthens your confidence and helps you stay focused on your goal.