Making changes

I’ve been running men’s groups in Portland for a few years now and as we progress, I come to see more and more the importance of spiritual practice.

The theme of my groups is “Pushing our Edges” and those edges can be in the realm of relationship, work, creative endeavors, or intra-psychic processes (dealing with mood swings, anxiety, obsessiveness, etc).  We all generally live within our edges, the boundaries that are comfortable to the ego.  And many of us also have a desire to move beyond those edges and to have a bigger life.  I have found that the best way to move those perimeters out is to make a practice of it, and  to come at it with similar attitude that you would with any spiritual practice.

The first step is to get very clear what about what it is you want to change.  The second is to determine what you want the new behavior to be.  The third is, with consistency and kindness for self, to start to practice the new behavior.


 These desired changes may be in the form of a meditation practice, walking or other exercise, how you speak with your wife, how to eat better, or how you carry yourself around your co-workers. Better self-care is a need for so many people today.  I see a lot of people who are taking care of other people (either in a parental or professional capacity) and most of them are exhausted.  How to reclaim some time for themselves is a big necessity.

My experience of spiritual practice comes from my years of Buddhist meditation.  I did Vipassana (Insight Meditation) retreats for over a decade, and carried on a daily meditation practice for years.  The point that was always emphasized by my teachers is that you just do it!  To really get the value out of the practice, you get up and do it rain or shine, whether you feel like it or not.  This is great training for the mind which is so used to equivocating: “Oh, I don’t feel good, I’m tired, if I don’t get my sleep, I’ll get sick”, etc. etc.  When you really make your practice (your self) a priority in this way, and you persevere with it, you develop mental muscles that you are able to apply in every arena of your life.

 New brain research is showing that our behavior is encoded in the brain through neural networks that get established as we repeat activities over and over again.  The research is also showing that the best way to change a “bad habit” is to start a new “good habit”, in other words, to start to lay down some new neural networks.  When we repeat a new habit for anywhere from three to five weeks, we literally get in a new groove, and that new groove (habit, neural network) helps us to continue with the new behavior.  The longer we continue with the new activity, the easier it gets to maintain it.  So this is true for spiritual practice-a meditation practice in this case:  When you get up and do it consistently, the easier and easier it gets.

 As I said above, I’m coming back around to seeing the value of approaching any behavior change as you would a spiritual practice.  Determine what the behavior is you want to change, figure out what the new behavior is going to be, and practice that behavior in a compassionate and consistent way.  Making these kinds of changes in life is very empowering and you’ll start thinking about yourself in a more positive way.  Try it, and experience the benefits for yourself!

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 14th, 2012 at 11:23 am and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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