“Yeah, when you call my name, I salivate like Pavlov’s Dogs.” -- The Rolling Stones
A huge amount of the thoughts in our heads are there because of conditioned thinking. You remember Pavlov’s Dogs from school, right? Ring the bell and salivate. Conditioned thinking is an automatic response. Event X happens and you respond with Reaction Y, just like you learned to do in the past.
What is this means is that we are not in control of our thoughts. Our thoughts control us. This conditioning started when we were very small children. A baby is hungry, she cries and she gets fed. She gets hungry again, she cries and she gets fed again. We learn that one pretty fast.
To take back control of our thinking, we need tools to help us break the slavery to our trance-like conditioning.
Event, Emotion and Reaction
One simple but powerful technique for breaking the habit of conditioned thinking is bringing your attention back to your body.
Let me give you an example. Imagine you are driving and someone cuts you off. You get angry, make a rude gesture and shout foul words at them.
The person cutting you off was the Event and your gesture and swearing was the Reaction. Notice that you got angry after you were cut off, then you gestured and swore. This emotion is important.
Observe and Take Action
Imagine that you want to stop your habit of using rude gestures and swearing at other drivers. Again, when you are driving, someone cuts you off. You get angry.
Instead of reacting by gesturing and swearing, you take a moment to feel your emotions on your body (here, your anger). Where do you feel it? In your stomach? In your heart? In your throat? In your pinkie?
Just observe your feelings. Don’t judge them and don’t analyze them. Just acknowledge them.
Now, for only a short moment, we have stopped the cycle of reaction. Your attention has moved away from the other person (or event) to your body. This gives you chance to come back to the present moment. To feel your body, you have to be in the present moment.
Being in the present moment allows you to access the situation and decide whether or not to take action.
You are now no longer reacting, but your observing, assessing and taking (or not taking) action.
As you go about your day, be aware when you have an automatic response to anything, whether it be the desire eat that piece of chocolate cake staring at you from the table, or your response to the political statement made by a politician you don’t like.
In whatever situation you are in, take a moment to feel your body. Just observe. Don’t judge and don’t analyze. Just a take note of how your physically feel. It is easier with strong emotions, but look at the subtle situations and feelings too.
You will be surprised by how much of what we think and do during the day is automatic. That is okay. You are now on the path to change that.
Don’t Live on Auto Pilot
You don’t want to live on auto pilot. You are not a robot. You want to live from your Inner Self, your soul.
Don’t expect that you can snap your figures and overcome a lifetime’s worth of conditioning instantly. But you will be surprised how quickly you can make profound life changes when you started living more consciously. These are steps on that path.
Don’t attempt perfection. It does not work. You are a human and humans are not perfect. Just take baby steps. Make little changes daily. Trying to do it all at once is a recipe for failure.
Keep moving forward. If you fall down, then get back up. Be kind to yourself. Remember, it is the journey, not the destination.
At any moment, if you don’t know what to do, then simply be kind. It usually works.
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