The following post is an excerpt from my recent ignite talk at Habit Design:
Topic: Five habits acquired over the past five years, which, assembled in the proper construct, have proven to be the most instrumental in actualizing significant and enduring change in all aspects of my life from health, to happiness, to self-concept, and general outlook on the world as abundant and positive.
These habits, you might note, are quite broad. Whereas habits such as, tooth-brushing, regular exercise, and healthy diet are among those commonly targeted for improvement, consider the five habits on my list as “meta-habits”; ones that aim to change our basic operating system and allow our other goal-oriented, and often more specific habits, to simply come to fruition in virtue of our new software.
By that same nature, we can expect all negative habits, even those patterns we have been running for a lifetime and work so hard to break, to effortlessly dissolve once these meta-habits have been successfully installed. Such has been my experience…
How I went about ridding myself of Borrilia, the lyme causing bacteria, insofar as my medical protocol, was a 2.5 year saga and a topic unto itself. Suffice it to say, my condition was extreme as delineated by the manifestation of severe demyelinating polyneuropathy, cerebrospinal fluid inflamation, and multiple white matter lesions in my brain’s frontal cortex.
But biological markers are not the subject of discourse here. The interesting part, and what is relevant to this topic, is the fact that symptoms of muscle-pain, fatigue, and lethargy, persisted long after the initial infection was eradicated. What was once an appropriate bodily response, fighting an invasive pathogen, was now no longer fitting. And yet, acute physical symptoms remained – The question, I pose, is why?
The Answer: I was caught in a negate feedback loop; a Vicious Cycle Disease. Having researched the neuro-science of classical “Pavlovian” condition at this point, I gathered that the ongoing symptoms in my body were the consequence of a learned response. And if no further pharmacological treatment could quell the symptoms, I had to find a way to mitigate my body’s response to them.
Enter Eastern studies and Buddhist philosophy…
Any negative feedback loop, or set behavioral pattern, once acquired, will likely continue ad infititum until it is interrupted or over-ridden by a new one. The question now becomes, how does one interrupt the cycle?
Therein lies the paradox:
These are the tools, that when put into practice, have yielded the greatest results:
Meditation is well known for being one of the most powerful means of calming the central nervous system and letting go of resistance. This is analogous to erasing bad programs from your computer, or de-cluttering your hard drive by removing cookies and obsolete software.
But de-cluttering alone will only pave the way for proper function. You must also provide the proper new coding. As it pertains to the human being, the latter is accomplished by continuously directing and re-directing ones attention toward only desirable outcomes whenever the negative program (symptom or thought) is detected. (Think anti-virus software).
Bullet points #1 & 2 above are an essential combination. When goals, large or small, are continuously met with failure, as is the case for a broke-winged bird that keeps trying to fly, failure itself becomes a habit.
The reversal of this pattern required the precise planning, visualization, and follow through of basic actions I knew I could execute, such as; showering, sitting in meditation, and stretching for five minutes.
Through daily repetition, and the positive reinforcement that resulted from accomplishing my menial tasks over and again, the deeply ingrained pattern of failure, two years in the making, was effectively “debugged” after two weaks of practice.
Today, a new man, I continue these practices on a daily basis. With applications so vast and effective, why keep them limited to illness recovery?
Yesterday I taught myself to play a new song on guitar, I hiked in central park, and cooked a healthy meal. Today I cleaned my apartment, finished reading Dostoyevsky, and set a personal record in handstand-pushups.
Armed with such tools, and living the benefits, one can only be excited at the prospect of tomorrow…
I strongly advocate that last one because it works, and it’s true; where the head goes, the vehicle follows. Or, for our purpose here; where the mind goes, the body follows.
If you wish to learn more, or read some of what I have read, then check out these amazing links in my previous post.