Even though change is the only thing in life that is constant most of us are stuck making the same mistakes over and over again. Ironic huh? So what can you to do to escape endless repetition of preprogrammed habits? Change the routines in your head by installing a new operating system. Though it sounds very ambitious, perhaps impossible, it is not really hard. Your brain can be reprogrammed through a few simple concentration exercises. I call the new program you will be installing, "Meditation on the Virtues".
Source: Shannon Messenger
This practice requires that you have some spiritual muscle you want to strengthen. Perhaps you want to be kinder, more thoughtful, braver or enhance any other positive attribute, which could include whatever is good for you, even going from a size 8 to a size 4, or finally reading that novel you’ve been meaning to get to. What you do is identify the attribute and then sit with it in mind. You may say it over and over to yourself for a minute or two and then imagine a scenario where you embody that attribute. Really live in that moment in your mind. Imagine what you would be doing and saying and what others with you would be doing and saying. Feel what it is like to be kinder, more thoughtful, a size 4 or whatever you are working on. Do this for a minimum of five minutes each day for seven days, more if you like. You will find it is now easier to embody this virtue in real life.
Here is an example of the process. Say during your reflections on last year you noticed you were feeling lonely and isolated a lot even though you were in contact with many people most days, so you decide you want to deepen your connection to those around you. "What are the elements of deep connection?", you ask yourself. Really knowing and being known by others. For this to happen you need to share more of what is really happening in your life with your acquaintances and to take an interest in what is happening with them. You need to be open about yourself and open to hearing from others. So openness in sharing personal information is the virtue you want to develop. Immediately you hear all these voices saying, " No one cares about what is happening with me", and, "I have no time for this. This was a stupid idea in the first place", and so on. Breath slowly and realize this is why change is so hard. Whenever, we want to do something differently there are voices in our heads that seek to hold us in place. Let them know you understand their fear and anxiety and that it is important to you to try something new. Now repeat the virtue you want to manifest to yourself for a few minutes. I am open about my life and open to hearing from others. I am open about my life and open to hearing from others. I am open about my life and open to hearing from others. and so on. Then when that feels well planted let it grow into a scenario where you can use your openness.
Say, last night your kitten chased her tail in a really cute way triggered happy feelings for you and you know someone in your office is a big cat lover. It is a perfect chance to share about something. Normally you would keep this sort of thing to yourself because you would be afraid to bother someone and keep them from their work and you would fear they would just be impatient with you. Imagine a scenario where you go over and say hi and explain you had this really fun experience that you felt this person would appreciate. Imagine them being delighted to see you and attentive and enjoying your story and your thoughtfulness in deciding to share it with them. Then they confide in you how hard it is with their old cat suffering from aging and vomiting all the time and you are sympathetic. You feel closer and more connected before heading back to your cubicle.
A few suggestions before you begin your Meditation on the Virtues. Make your virtue an affirmation. Not I wish I were brave but I am brave, not I hope to be generous but I am generous and so on. And imagine positive outcomes to your behavior. Do not succumb to your fears but imagine how you would like things to go. Little by little your mind will let go of its habitual patterns and become more and more comfortable traveling the new nerve pathways you are creating and you will be manifesting your dreams. Do this everyday at least once for five minutes or more (up to half an hour). Use the same virtue for at least a week. The longer your use the same virtue the deeper you will plant the seed. When you feel like you are doing well with that virtue you are ready to move on to another. Doing one major change at a time is as much as most of us can handle.
Here is a quick checklist for when you sit down to do this:
1) Pick a virtue you want to manifest in your life.
2) Create an affirmation about that virtue being present in your life.
3) Take 5 minutes or more to repeat the affirmation to your self and imagine a scenario where you manifest the change you are making.
4) Do this at least once per day for a week. See the progress you are making.
This can be done with lots of things that we might not normally think of as virtues.
Say you put on extra weight at the holidays and you want to take it off.
Say to yourself, " I am comfortable in my body because I make healthy food choices and get regular exercise. " Then imagine yourself feeling that way and doing just that.
Say you get behind on cleaning and laundry.
Say to yourself, " I embody cleanliness by making time each day to tidy up and I take care of myself by setting time aside to get my laundry done before I have no choice." Then imagine it.
Say you live in a world where people don't take care of each other and are at war and want to do something to change that.
Say to yourself, " I am doing my part to create peace and harmony by caring for those around me and being gentle with everyone I meet. " Then create a scenario where you manifest these ideals.
Pretty soon you will be living the change you want to make, breaking the cycle of pain you've been stuck in and being a vibrant example that important change is within everyone's reach . Congratulations!
When you try this and have some positive results I'd love to hear about it. Plus, if you have any questions, please let me know.