As I’ve written before many times, we are all born with tendencies (samskaras). These tendencies differ from our thoughts to our emotions to our physical functions. For example, while one person may have the tendency to put on weight easily, another might have the tendency to lose weight easily. Although in today’s society we might label one as being “good” and another as being “bad”, the reality is that everyone is just different. Knowing your tendencies helps you to correct yourself when you go into extremes (excess or deficiencies). Without knowing your tendencies, you are programmed to keep making the same mistakes over and over.
We feed our tendencies.
Our mind and body is great at making habits. We form synaptic connections that become stronger and more efficient the more and more they do something. Those synapses crave that habit, that steady routine, in order to be useful. If you have ever felt addicted to anything in even the slightest, then you know this feeling.
Unfortunately, when we do things that create imbalance in us, we tend to feed that same imbalance. I remember the first time I ever had a beer. It was disgusting. And not just because it was Molson Canadian. People kept saying to me, “It’s an acquired taste, try this instead”. I was convinced there was something wrong with me for not liking it. Beer is so obviously not good for your health. My body was telling me it wasn’t good for me. But I kept trying it…and trying it. I became accustomed to the chemical effect it had in my system even though I didn’t like the taste. Eventually, those synapses became strong enough that I did “acquire” a taste for it. I kept feeding my imbalance, making it stronger, rather than just making the healthier choice. Pretty soon I was drinking all the time – not necessarily addicted, but I found it difficult to say no when out with friends, or after work, or in any social setting. Now that imbalance was being fed in an even more specific way, in that my social experiences were tied into it’s consumption as well. It all happens so steadily you don’t even realize it!
I’m not saying “BEER BAD. NO DRINK.” I am just using my example as a way to understand the power of habit.
Habits form whether we are conscious of them or not. We form unconscious habits all the time. These ones are based on our tendencies. So if I was born with the tendency towards being distracted easily, I will feed that tendency, making it stronger and stronger. But the great thing is we always have something called free will which can overwrite those tendencies. I can always choose to form good habits, to balance out the extremes of my tendencies.
This is easier said than done. Those synapses that have formed already are hard to break. They don’t want to be broken. Those synapses serve a purpose, even if that purpose is not in the best interest of your long term health. It is key in shedding those bad habits to replace them with productive ones, that are working towards your good health.
It’s important to realize there isn’t just extremes – one or the other. There is always balance. Your choices aren’t overweight or underweight. Your choices aren’t too hot or too cold. Your choices aren’t sensitive and numb. There is always a balanced form to every extreme. Our tendencies just lean us toward one extreme or the other. Knowing which side you lean towards helps you use the opposite quality to find harmony (a simple example would be to treat coldness with heat).
Often we can’t seem to get out of the ruts we stick ourselves in. Some of us feel guilty, others angry, others depressed. We feel like we just can’t change. I’m here to tell you that the way you feel – everyone feels. The reason you always stay up late isn’t because you are a bad person. The reason you eat too many unhealthy foods isn’t because you are stupid. The reason we all do so many disharmonious things to ourselves is because we are born with tendencies to do so. It is in our nature to feed those imbalances. But it is also equally within our power to find balance.
It’s impossible to know the full extent of your samskaras without proper assessment and reflection. Ayurveda is the gift that can help us all to learn more about not just who we are – but why we are the way we are. Then it can help us to stop fighting ourselves and find harmony inside our own mind and body.