“The 6-Point Method for Breaking Unhealthy Habits” was written by Rod and originally posted on the Huffington Post website in November 2011.
When I first started teaching yoga, it was hard not to notice that students tend to practice in the same spot every time they come to class. The first time they enter the classroom, they carefully consider their options before putting their mat down. Taking in the room, they measure their surroundings to find the best place to practice. Their next class, they usually drop their mat in the exact same spot. Years later, most students are still practicing in the very same spot as the first time they came to class.
Habits start innocently enough; rarely does it occur to us that even a harmless habit may be affecting our future. Where you place your yoga may seem inconsequential, but the fact that you are so faithful to this or to any other habit conveys an important lesson: Your past exerts itself on your present. If you don’t consciously choose the direction of your life, like it or not your past will choose it for you.
The implication of this is that if you want a different future (materially and/or spiritually)––say, to find love of your life, a more meaningful career, or to have a more fulfilling more spiritual life––it is vital to consider a core teaching of the yoga tradition, which has long emphasized the importance of avoiding unconscious action or doing things simply because they are familiar.
There is, in fact, power in learning to let go of even a single habit, a kind of power that can generate real momentum toward achieving either a specific desire or simply more of the life you truly want. The peril of not doing so or simply ignoring the sway of your habits is that you will most likely be propelled to more of the same life that you have been leading up to now.
In my book, The Four Desires: Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity and Freedom, I detail a simple yet profound process for increasing your capacity to positively shape your future and, more specifically, for achieving your intentions. I developed this process based on the ancient teachings and a simple truth: one way to affect real change is to break a habit––not necessarily even a habit that seems in any way related to any specific change you want to achieve, but simply any habit that you recognize as being unhelpful or counterproductive.
I call the first part of the process a Departure Point. The crux of it is simply to refrain from doing a “less-than-constructive” habit. I call it this because the very action of ceasing to engage a particular habit allows you to depart from the momentum that has been shaping our life in the past. The next step of the process is called Seeding the Gap. Applied in conjunction with Departure Point, it refers to “planting” an intention into the mental and physical “space” that opens up each time you avoid indulging in the habit you have chosen to give up.
The Departure Point technique is based on the principle that by giving something up, you create space and, as I have said and perhaps even more importantly, you separate yourself from the momentum of your past. In the process, you create the possibility to see, think, and act differently, and to attract new opportunities.
Here’s why: Each time you pause and choose not to indulge habitual action you enter into are able and establish a clear and/or empty state of mind, you create a “gap,” which is, by definition, free from the distortion of your unconscious, where doubts, contrary beliefs, and/or misapprehensions of all kinds are stored. In addition, this silent reflective space is an ever-present link to sacred and sublime intelligence. While resting in it, if only momentarily, your can reestablish your connection to a place of boundlessness that is free from all the unconscious “stuff” that often times obstructs you from taking greater control of your life or even achieving your goals.
This point is essential. From a yogic perspective, stillness, coupled with expanded awareness, is by far the most powerful medium by which you can affect your destiny. From the perspective of the ancient traditions stillness is a far more compelling force to influence and attract, and thereby help you fulfill your desires, than is desperation or even willpower alone.
Break free of old patterns enough times and you will create a new and different future. This may sound too simple to be life-changing, but I’ve seen people accomplish incredible things, achieve profound changes in their life, simply by letting go of a habit and placing a new positive, life-affirming intention into the space vacated by their habit.
The following is the six-step process I created for creating a Departure Point and Seeding the Gap
Step 1: Choosing A Habit to Give Up: Your Departure Point
The habit you are going to give up needs to be one that you deem non-constructive and that you are prepared to let go. It also needs to be something you do on a regular basis, perhaps once or several times per day or at least that you think about doing several times a day.
It’s important to know that giving it up is doable and that you’re willing to give it up. Giving up a habit that is deeply engrained and has a powerful sway over you will give you maximum leverage if you succeed––but if it’s too hard, you may fail to give it up.
You know best which habit will be the most effective for you to give up. Examples of habits that students have successfully given up include sugar, excessive internet use, fingernail biting, gossiping, high-fat foods, coffee, pornography, wine, shopping sprees, listening to talk radio, “salty snacks,” watching late-night television, and self-condemnation.
Step 2: Using Your Departure Point to Seed the Gap
After you have decided which habit you are going to give up as your Departure Point, here’s how the Seeding the Gap method works.
- At some point in the day, you will have an impulse to engage in your habit.
- Rather than satisfy the impulse, stop.
- At this instant, turn your attention away from your impulse to engage in the habit and toward to a higher source: either an inner source of peace and calm, an infinite intelligence outside of you, or, if you prefer, God, nature, or even a remembrance of the love and support of people to whom you are closest.
- For an instant, rest in this experience. Relax. Surrender into it. Be nowhere other than right there.
- Now, mindful of that experience of a higher source, remember your resolve or goal––think and with full feeling invoke the sense of a new and better future. Have the certainty and confidence that this intention has already been fulfilled.
- Give thanks.This is the entire process of Seeding the Gap. Its six steps should take you less than a minute and can be done any time, any place; no one ever has to know you’re doing it. Simply repeat the steps each time you find yourself thinking about or craving the habit you’ve chosen to give up. It is ideal to do this a minimum of once or twice each day, more often if the impulse toward your habit comes up more often. There may be no more accessible or far-reaching method for creating new and powerful momentum toward achieving an intention.
Granted, giving up a habit is not necessarily easy, but the fact that you may feel some resistance to stopping it is also a signal that there is untold power in sacrificing your habit for the sake of something better, something you really, really want. As simple as it may sound, the technique of Seeding the Gap makes you increasingly capable of achieving your goals and shaping your destiny by one, helping you break free from the negative pull of your past two, enabling you to more effectively engage the power of resolve and three, by providing leverage to regularly remember and to connect to your source––a boundless power greater than yourself.