Throughout 2021, DAAJI has been exploring habits, and how to change them from the perspective and wisdom of Yoga. Through this journey, he has offered tips to help us reset our compass to a lifestyle of integrity and happiness, and in this final article he takes it to the very practical level of the habits we cultivate in our daily routine to lead a life of inspired purpose, offering us a positive way forward.
THE ART OF REMOVING AND CREATING HABITS – Part 12
The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.
—John C. Maxwell
Thousands of years ago, the great sage Patanjali presented the Yamas and Niyamas as the first two of the eight elements of Yoga. The principles behind these two elements are very simple:
“Yama is the giving up of unwanted things from the heart, whereas Niyama is the filling up of the required qualities in the heart.1“
In other words, Yama is the removal of habits that lead us away from our ideal, and Niyama is the cultivation of habits that take us toward our ideal. Intuitively, we all know what ideal we are striving for, but we struggle to live up to it.
Why do we struggle to create evolutionary habits?
We struggle because knowing is not enough, and intelligence is not enough – not even emotional intelligence or ethical intelligence. Intelligence is only one aspect of forming habits. It is by “living” the principles in daily life that intelligence can manifest. Stephen Covey once said, “Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do).” Changing habits may start with conscious awareness, but it also requires the “how to” and the “want to” that Covey speaks about. I would say that it also requires something even more fundamental than these three things, because we can still run into obstacles even when we have the “what, how, and want.” These obstacles are the pre-programmed subconscious patterns buried deep within our psyche, which influence our feelings and our belief systems. They undermine our self-confidence and our desire to transform ourselves. That is why it is so vital to work at the inner level through daily meditative practices, with a great deal of self-acceptance. The next stage is to externalize those inner changes, in order to “live” the values and ethics in daily life. It is here that the work is done on all aspects of behavior, both seen and unseen.
The secret of self-transformation
So, the secret of self-transformation is to start at the subconscious level, removing the mental and emotional complexities we carry. Gradually, the layers of the various personas drop off, and we are liberated from their bondage. We let go of the beliefs that no longer serve us, and the ego no longer identifies with those beliefs. Gradually we move from a narrow-minded perspective to an expanded consciousness.
This comes about through a combination of inner meditative practices and outer lifestyle changes. The meditative practices refine the mind, so that it becomes purer, lighter, and untethered. The lifestyle changes allow that purity and lightness to become embodied.
Below is an outline of daily habits that will help you to refine your lifestyle in an evolutionary direction.
Habit 1: Rise early to meditate, connect with your center and regulate your mind
Rise early and meditate at the same time every day, preferably finishing before sunrise. Have a separate place for meditation and develop the habit of sitting in one posture, with limbs turned inward and back upright but not rigid. Prepare yourself beforehand by attending to purity of the body and the mind.
There is much more to meditation than managing thoughts. My spiritual Guide, Babuji, used to say that “Meditation really means the mind becomes accustomed to the Center itself instead of wandering elsewhere. Meditation on the heart is prescribed for that purpose.”
The thinking function deepens and expands into feeling, and then expands further inward to include the subtlest and lightest states possible, guided by the heart.
The intellect deepens into intelligence, then intuition and wisdom – progressing from subtle to subtler to subtlest, tapping into universal consciousness so that wisdom flows into us from beyond.
The ego is reoriented from “I” to “we.” Just this step alone would transform our world! It is then further refined toward generosity of the heart, cooperation, greater humility and acceptance, and finally to the subtlest states of identity.
As these three mental functions are transformed, consciousness expands toward its infinite state, untethered, and in osmosis with universal consciousness.
The ego is reoriented from “I” to “we.”
Just this step alone would transform our world!
It is then further refined toward generosity
of the heart, cooperation, greater humility and acceptance,
and finally to the subtlest states of identity.
Habit 2: Reaffirm your goal every day
If transformation happened through meditation alone, you would soar in no time, but generally it takes time to trust the feelings and wisdom of the heart, to become dependent on something higher, and to dismantle the likes and dislikes that have formed through your programmed belief systems. To give focus to the changes you want to bring in your life, it helps to remind yourself of your goal every day. You can do this before morning meditation through the Heartfulness practice of Inner Connect, which takes you into your heart and creates a vacuum for love to flow without obstacles. As you move toward lightness and freedom, you will experience the real aliveness of living in the heart, connecting with the universal Being.
Habit 3: Be loving
Remove violence, aggression, and anything that hurts other living beings. This is your starting point for becoming human. Peace doesn’t happen just by talking about it or writing about it. Peace is your inner nature, and it comes when your lower consciousness gives way to higher consciousness within.
By violence, I don’t only mean physical violence, but also emotional violence, passive aggressive behavior, revenge, and even the cold shoulder. Anything that hurts another being is included in this orbit of violence.
The heart is the balancing midpoint in your system and the seat of the soul, so when you meditate on the heart, you center yourself and transcend the reactiveness that happens at lower levels of consciousness. Here are a few behavioral maxims that help with this habit:
Treat all beings as your brothers and sisters, no matter how different they are from you. Unity in diversity is a law of Nature.
Learn to accept miseries and remove any expectation that things will be the way you want them to be.
When you are feeling wronged by someone, try not to feel resentful or want to get even with them. Injustice will be there, sometimes even from those you love the most, and when it happens it can be devastating. But does it help to retaliate? This was the great lesson of Jesus Christ, who lived a life of compassion, lovingly accepting betrayal from both his enemies and his closest associates.
The daily practice of Cleaning helps to remove any of these complexities from your system, so that gradually over time you will come to love all beings. And if you do something to hurt anyone else, even unintentionally, at bedtime go into your heart and feel regret, with the intention not to repeat it.
Also, mold your living to such a high level that it evokes love and gentleness in others. Even if they are not touched by you, the loving peaceful vibration that you radiate will contribute goodness to the world, whereas resentment will only pollute the atmosphere around you.
Mold your living to such a high level
that it evokes love and gentleness in others.
Even if they are not touched by you,
the loving peaceful vibration that you radiate
will contribute goodness to the world,
whereas resentment will only pollute
the atmosphere around you.
Habit 4: Be pure, simple, and authentic
Remove the falseness, hypocrisy, and multiple personas you carry around as masks for different occasions. Their removal leads to truthfulness and authenticity so that your true colors shine through in whatever you think, feel, say, and do.
You have your own perception of reality because of the complexities that have accumulated in your consciousness. In contrast, authenticity has a childlike innocence and integrity, leading to a state of flow, health, well-being, harmony, and integration. Many of your masks are unconscious, hence the need for inner practices that reintegrate you from the Center of your being to the outermost aspects of your personality and behavior.
To my heart, purity is the essence of inner transformation. What are the qualities that result from mental purity? Patanjali defines four of them: the first is happiness, the second is concentration, the third is mastery of the senses, and the fourth is the preparation for Self-Realization, which is not possible without this preparation. It requires discipline and intense interest, as well as the support of a capable Guide.
As you become progressively purer and lighter you will start to see changes in your lifestyle. The food you eat, the clothes you wear, and the habits you cultivate slowly adjust to your level of purity. There is a complete transformation when purity permeates every level of your being from the inside out. The words “plainness” and “simplicity” describe the result. The outcome of all yogic practice is this ultimate simplicity.
As you refine yourself you will uncover your human potential. It is your trajectory toward a simple life, with great awareness, great sensitivity, and great flexibility. It is wrapped in love, starting with self-love, self-compassion, and self-awareness, and culminates in becoming love itself. It is the natural result of meditative inner practices.
Habit 5: Don’t steal, don’t be possessive, and be a giver rather than a taker
To steal is to take something without permission, or legal or moral right. We steal money, possessions, nature’s bounty, and environmental resources. We also steal other people’s thoughts and ideas, and their hearts. Taking more than is rightfully ours is also stealing, including hoarding resources for the future. We steal other people’s identities when we aspire to be like them to the extent that we are no longer authentic. FOMO relies on stolen identities.
But not stealing is just the beginning. A higher level of this habit is generosity and a giving nature. When you are empathetic, compassionate, and loving, your presence is of greater value. When you give more than you receive, you start to resonate with Nature.
Through the Heartfulness practices, a natural etiquette of care emerges as universal love develops for everyone and everything. Once you are in this state, you are no longer buffeted by the ups and downs of the outside world, fame, or fortune. You are content and happy with whatever the universe provides. As you let go of possessiveness, the circumference of your giving expands until eventually your heart becomes a generator of generosity, giving to all who are in need.
As you let go of possessiveness,
the circumference of your giving expands
until eventually your heart becomes a generator of generosity,
giving to all who are in need.
Habit 6: Be moderate
This habit requires you to moderate your senses and sensual tendencies. Given that life on Earth requires you to interact with the world through your senses, it is involved in everything that you think, feel, and do, other than when you are in deep sleep.
Moderating your senses has a direct effect on your level of happiness and sadness, because this spectrum of emotions is within the sensory realm. Happiness is indirectly proportionate to the number of desires you have, and the intensity of those desires. Desires are created by the pull of your senses, and by how much you allow sensuality to develop unchecked. Through the senses you attach yourself to the world of matter, and the things you like and dislike. Through the senses you create impressions, and you are pulled into greater and greater entanglement and complexity.
When you have a constant inner connection with your Center, your attitude shifts from sensuality to sensitivity. You become aware of your inner states, and in common language this is called listening to the heart and acting upon the guidance of the heart.
As well as developing inner sensitivity, you also become acutely aware of external things, including the needs of others, and the atmosphere and environment in which you move. Compassion is a natural outcome and sensitivity becomes an asset to refine yourself on this journey of continuous improvement.
Habit 7: Be happy
Contentment arises out of purity and moderation. When all the complexities in your system are removed, consciousness is purified, allowing the soul to shine forth. The soul is the source of true inner contentment, and happiness is the result. It is an inner state having nothing to do with the pleasures and pains of worldly existence. You are a truly happy person when you are happy under all circumstances.
Contentment is how you feel when there is complete and natural acceptance. It doesn’t mean that you don’t want things to change, but it gives you a neutral starting point from which to move forward. In that moment, you are simply present. The more contented you are, the more peace and happiness you radiate to others. Contentment is infectious, creating an atmosphere. As more and more of us radiate inner contentment, humanity will be transformed.
Contentment arises out of purity and moderation.
When all the complexities in your system are removed,
consciousness is purified, allowing the soul to shine forth.
The soul is the source of true inner contentment,
and happiness is the result.
It is an inner state having nothing to do
with the pleasures and pains of worldly existence.
You are a truly happy person when you are happy
under all circumstances.
Habit 8: Become self-aware
Self-study requires you to turn your attention inward to learn about yourself. It has been the cornerstone of psychology from ancient times to the present day, in both the East and the West. Self-study goes hand in hand with meditative practices and is one of the key pillars of emotional intelligence.
The most direct ways to learn about yourself are through meditation, the practice of Cleaning, introspection, and journal writing.
In meditation you notice the thoughts, feelings, and vibrations within your mind. As you witness them, gradually you learn how they arise, what motivates them, where they lead, and many other things. When you do this without attachment or desire, you discover that the vibrations no longer generate turbulence or entanglement. They simply pass.
Through meditation, you dive into deeper dimensions of yourself. Self-study does not stay at the surface level of thoughts and emotions. You journey into layers of your being that you cannot access through conversation or a more analytic approach to self-discovery. After meditation, when you take the time to absorb the condition you have received, self-study is enhanced at all levels, not just the mental level. The condition enlivens every atom of your being so that you embody the effects of meditation, and so that it is absorbed at subtler and subtler levels.
After meditation, when you take the time to absorb the condition
you have received, self-study is enhanced at all levels,
not just the mental level. The condition enlivens every atom
of your being so that you embody the effects of meditation,
and so that it is absorbed at subtler and subtler levels.
Journaling then develops this self-awareness further, allowing you to explore it and study it in different ways. You can revisit it and see patterns over time, which is difficult to do otherwise, because the mind is always adapting and changing.
Heartfulness Cleaning purifies your mind of the turbulence, impurities, and complexities that distort your perception, and so self-study develops clarity. The heart is the key to self-study! It allows you to observe yourself with self-compassion and self-acceptance. The Light from your Center shines outward, illuminating every aspect of your character. Darkness disappears and what is left is a sense of wonder at exploring your inner universe. Self-study requires complete honesty – honestly feeling yourself and your inner panorama. When you look at yourself from all angles, with love, the unloading of unwanted ego and desires happens naturally.
Habit 9: Be open to the great unknown
The last is the most mysterious of habits – to accept and surrender to the universal divine principle known as God. This ultimate state of acceptance allows you to feel held, protected, and supported. With it comes a carefree willingness to hand over the reins of life to the infinite Being that is bigger than you. You are a small part of the whole, and you can choose to be in osmosis with the whole rather than seeing yourself as separate.
In this state, you naturally feel insignificant and approach life with an attitude of continuous improvement, experiencing the sacred in all existence. It is liberating. And it is the ultimate habit. You remain in constant osmosis with the Source while awake or asleep, aware or unaware, active or passive. This habit is known as constant remembrance, and once you learn to rest there, you are free of the entanglements caused by all the mental and emotional complexities and impurities that otherwise distort existence. You are free.
The last is the most mysterious of habits – to accept
and surrender to the universal divine principle known as God.
This ultimate state of acceptance allows you to feel held,
protected, and supported.
This is the habit that is described by all the great mystical poets like Rumi, Kabir, Mirabai, and the Western romantics. It is here that you step into the great unknown, to explore the real purpose of human existence. When you remind yourself of this goal every day, you will surely reach there eventually.
Kamlesh Patel is known to many as Daaji. He is the Heartfulness Guide in a tradition of Yoga meditation that is over 100 years old, overseeing 14,000 certified Heartfulness trainers and many volunteers in over 130 countries. He is an innovator and researcher, equally at home in the fields of spirituality and science, blending the... Read more