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Fall Changes & Rituals - Change Your Habits, Change Your Life

Autumn Equinox celebrates the earth’s harmony. As summer’s scorching rays are left behind, Mother Nature waves her magic maple branch and turns leaves gold, russet and burgundy. Air gets crisp, smelling of cinnamon-tinged cider. Days become shorter and your awareness of time increases… Illustrated by change, fall can serve as a natural wake-up-call-to-action. You begin to wonder... Is there something that feels just beyond your reach? What do you crave? In a way, your habits paint the canvas of your days. Either you roll along mindlessly and life just happens...  or alternatively, you look inward and choose your direction. Opportunities for growth often masquerade as insignificant moments. And each small repetitive action builds upon another, contributing to the big picture.

The Yogic Habit

Socrates once said, “The soul, like the body, accepts by practice whatever habit one wishes it to contact.” Yoga is a practice that helps you gain present moment awareness. But it could just as easily be considered a habit… It’s not about maneuvering your arms and legs into the perfect eagle pose… but more the journey of showing up at the mat, open to the process, however it unfolds.

What does it mean to approach habits in a yogic way? When you choose to do Yoga (or meditation), you set about making it a routine, or practice. It begins with picking a regular time to keep the commitment. And it’s not always easy. Especially at first. Many seasoned Yoga teachers say they still struggle with maintaining a personal practice. Part of why classes are so popular is because there’s a structure in place, involving a dedicated time and space. When you gather with others, it encourages accountability. You needn’t practice Yoga to apply these same principles to your other habits, or the new ones you’d like to cultivate.

Tiny Changes

“We are continually undergoing microevolutions of the self,” writes James ​Clear, in his book ​"​​Atomic ​Habits​: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results.” Clear has an unusual slant on habit formulation. He writes that "goals restrict your happiness" and they “are at odds with long-term process.” Because when achieved, Clear says they only “produce a momentary change." Much the way that Yoga philosophy (Raja Yoga) teaches you not to become attached to the outcome, Clear’s method of forming lasting habits is through new systems. And even though these “systems” naturally yield results, you ought not by driven by them. You might say, practicing Yoga is a kind of system, based on a desire for mind/body health. 

So… if it’s about the journey, how do you decide which habits to create? Clear says "true behavior change is identity change,” so select "identity based habits,” and “focus on who you want to become.” That might seem like a daunting question… so take your time mulling it over. Feel free to journal, meditate, or simply ponder it for a while. 

Would you like to be more health focused, travel often, or increase creativity? Once you have clarity, begin to shape new systems that align in this core direction. Instead of working to reach a pinnacle, Clear explains that a “system” is an ongoing process consisting of very small habits. Clear likens them to atoms, “Each one is a fundamental unit that contributes to your overall improvement.”

One Week at a Time

In the words of bestselling self-self author and motivational speaker, Wayne Dyer, “When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It's to enjoy each step along the way.” In that same spirit, there are many different ways to set your new habits in motion. Why only a week? Because even though “one day at a time” is a beautiful approach, a week fosters the idea of being on-going. It’s a small enough chunk of time to be manageable, yet not daunting. And once you’ve performed a new habit for a week, you can take it on for another week, and another…

Dedicate a notebook to the progress of each new habit. Beside each day, write the habit with a box. Check it off when it’s been accomplished. The first month, in your notebook, jot down any thoughts and feelings before, during, and after each habit.

Find an Accountability Partner

Pick a good friend and ask them if they will meet you at the same time each week (in person). Report back each habit’s progress, along with any obstacles or challenges you encounter. Make meetings fun. Choose a favorite setting and snacks you love. Reward yourselves when results are favorable. And when things don’t go as hoped, maintain a nurturing attitude and inspire one another to continue.

Break Old Habits in Your Sleep

As new habits are created, you may feel the need to release those old ones’ that no longer serve you. In the classic book, “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind,” author Dr. Joseph Murphy, writes about “The Sleeping Technique,” which he uses to remove destructive habits. How does it work? Similar to self-hypnosis, Dr. Murphy instructs you to come into a drowsy state. Then… he asks you repeat quietly, over and over again, like a mantra: “I am completely free of ---- habit; harmony and peace of mind reigns supreme.” According to Dr. Murphy this ought to be done for 5-10 minutes at night, and upon waking. Supposedly, this process introduces the new idea (or in this case, the end of a habit) to your subconscious mind, until it becomes natural. 

The New Path

While you experience new habits, take a lesson from Yoga, and be flexible. Allow yourself to fumble and make mistakes. If a habit isn’t carried out one day, that isn’t an excuse to stop. The next day, simply pick up where you left off. More important, don’t expend energy feeling bad about what may not have happened, or happened yet. Always create forward motion. Honor your desire to carve new directions. And appreciate your brave, open, adventurous spirit.




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