All habits originate in an identical way, so the specific habits or addictions you struggle with aren’t as important, as to see where this habit (and addiction) comes from. And of course, finding the most effective way to eliminate it as a source of suffering in your life.
The place to begin, I think, is always with your own thoughts. Everything starts there, the origin of all habits and addictions. So, to realize this is in essence to begin to see your bad habits and addictions as nothing more than negative thoughts that you have come to accept as truth.
We have between 60,000- and 80,000 thoughts a day. That’s a thought every one and a half seconds, but we are not our thoughts – we have thoughts. Thought is a mechanical process.
Most people don’t realize this and because they don’t understand the dynamics of their own minds, they attempt to find pleasure and fulfillment through outside sources, which can then be the beginning of bad habits.
Some substitutes for a happy state of mind are: alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, food, exercise, gambling, sex, work, arguing, proving yourself, and approval seeking.
But if you start with your thoughts and your own mind. You can access your power of calm. And in this you can eliminate your bad habits. Without your power of calm, change is difficult, even impossible.
So, let’s start with our own minds and see what we find.
Our thought systems are filled with our memories of the past (information we have accumulated throughout our lifetimes), and they govern what we see, so what happens is we keep on seeing things in the same way.
This means, we cannot trust our thoughts. Because our thoughts are conditioned and therefore never new. Thoughts are blind. Let the following words of the philosopher, Jiddu Krishnamurti help you understand.
“What do we mean by thought? When do you think? Obviously, thought is the result of a response, neurological or psychological, is it not? It is the immediate response of the senses to a sensation, or it is psychological, the response of stored-up memory. There is the immediate response of the nerves to a sensation, and there is the psychological response of stored-up memory, the influence of race, group, guru, family, tradition, and so on; all of which you call thought. So, the thought process is the response of memory, is it not? You would have no thoughts if you had no memory, and the response of memory to a certain experience brings the thought process into action. What, then, is memory? If you observe your own memory and how you gather memory, you will notice that it is either factual, technical, having to do with information, with engineering, mathematics, physics, and all the rest of it; or, it is the residue of an unfinished, uncompleted experience, is it not? Watch your own memory and you will see. When you finish an experience, complete it, there is no memory of that experience in the sense of a psychological residue. There is a residue only when an experience is not fully understood, and there is no understanding of experience because we look at each experience through past memories, and therefore we never meet the new as the new, but always through the screen of the old. Therefore, it is clear that our response to experience is conditioned, always limited.”
And if you link this with the fact that it isn’t the circumstances, but our interpretation of them that determines our level of well-being. We have a very unstable and dangerous recipe for misunderstanding and misinterpreting what is happening to us in any given moment.
Can you see, that if your internal experience of life isn’t pleasant, you are creating your own misery through your own thought system. It is your thoughts, not your circumstances, determining how you feel.
Excessive thinking about your past and your problems will convince you that you have good reasons to be upset and unhappy. You can learn from your past, but it is a mistake to continually go into your past or overanalyse life in a search for reasons to be happy.
Blaming your unhappiness on your circumstances will therefore only make you feel more powerless. And that in return will create a need in you to be constantly in conflict with those around you.
It is impossible for two human beings to see things exactly alike. Yet, many people spend their lifetimes proving to themselves and to others that their version of life is valid, realistic, and correct.
Though, if you understand the nature of thought systems, you can begin to see beyond them and even sense the value in other points of view. So, what you previously interpreted as criticism, can even now be understood as only an opinion from another person with his or her own thought system.
You may have no control over what another person say or do, but you can be immune to the negative effects of your thinking about that person. When you realize that everyone sees things differently, you can continue to maintain your inner calm and peace. Other people’s objections to you will not be such a source of hostility or pain anymore.
And by doing this you start to recognize and value many different possibilities—make the mental shift, stop habitual thinking, and return to a natural state of calm. But you need to remember that your thoughts, unguarded, can take you from a state of calm into a state of turmoil without any actual outer changes taking place.
The solution to this mental sabotage is to become aware and conscious of your mind spinning forward toward problems, deadlines, and issues, or backward toward reliving old wounds or frustrations.
As ironic as it seems, you need to stop thinking about a problem in order to see the new solution. As your mind starts to clear, answers will occur to you in ways you never thought possible.
Do you see what this means? By learning to observe your thoughts and emotions without needing to act or distract yourself from them. Within that stillness, your truest most vulnerable thoughts will arise and it is these thoughts that will show you where your healing work must begin.
Bad habits and addictions are not the problem, your thinking is. Change your thinking and bad habits and addictions will lose their power and hold over you.
In conclusion, let the words of Buddha guide you on your path: “We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”