The definition of insanity as we know it – and we ALL know it – is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”.  How many times in the course of a lifetime do we have the same thoughts (memories) that lead us to the same choices (actions) that generate a desire to repeat – or not repeat – the whole cycle over again?  Dozens?  Hundreds?  Thousands?  This is what I refer to as the karmic hamster wheel of life and, ultimately, we are all in one in some way or another.

Ever wonder WHY it is that you think the same thoughts over and over again, or that you find yourself in the same relationships having the same conversations?  Or maybe you habitually repeat the same addictive patterns and behavior cycles that you know are unhealthy emotionally, physically or mentally (most likely all of the above), and yet you continue to do it anyway. It’s okay – no judgement here. I have my own tasty little amuse-bouche of dysfunctional fallbacks.

This is the big lifestyle challenge that we all face.  There is a reason why our society is predominantly commitment phobic and that is because commitments change your life. They require an investment of your time, energy, attention, and funds and that, by definition, requires you to reorder your priorities.  When we recognize an area in our life that isn’t working anymore (perhaps it never was) and we feel compelled to create change, the obvious question that arises is “Will this commitment change my life for the better?”  The next question is probably something along the lines of “How will it change my life for the better?”  The answer is this: much will depend on your ability to see the situation for what it is, your level of self-discipline to initiate change, and whether or not you have the stamina to go the distance.

This is, in large part, what I help people to recognize and overcome in my lifestyle coaching, workshops and online courses.  But before you tackle a lifetime of patterning, you have to know what you’re dealing with and it helps to have some background into how it is that we are seemingly hard-wired.  I say “seemingly” because the matrix of our being goes much deeper than the idea of a simple, hard-wired unit but this will do for now.

According to Vedanta, we come into this existence with a personal soul that is imbued with our memories of past actions, as well as the desires that prompted them. This is known as the software of the soul.  Here, we have three components to consider: action (karma in Sanskrit), memory (sanskara) and desire (vasanas).  The result of action (karma) is saved in the memory (sanskara) and gives rise to desire (vasanas), which then leads us back to our actions. This is the circuitry that keeps the mind on a perennial chase like a hamster on its wheel.

Take, for instance, the example of coffee (or tea, or water, or love, sex, drugs or food).  At a certain point in your life, you had your first experience with coffee (or other action-turned-habit) and maybe you really enjoyed it.  You loved the rich flavor and the aroma, you liked that the cup felt warm in your hands – it was comforting – and you also noticed that it gave you a nice little kick in the pants. This action then created the memory of flavor, aroma, comfort and boost of energy.  Your memories then resurface and you have the desire to repeat that action because the memory of it created happy thoughts, feelings and sensations.  So, the cycle begins. This may seem like a relatively harmless pattern at first glance but over time, like anything done in excess, it becomes toxic and eventually takes its toll.  What’s important to know is this:  what makes each one of us different are not our life experiences but the choices that we make in every moment of every day.

So how do we break the cycle?  First, you have to notice that you’re stuck on the merry-go-round to begin with.  This can be elicited through the practice of meditation, which expands our awareness to what is known as witnessing, or the observer effect.  Even while you’re spinning out there is an aspect of you that is observing the predicament like poorly shot b-roll in a low-budget film.  Okay, that’s not a very conscious statement but you get the idea.  The next step is engaging in some internal dialogue around whether or not you’re fed up enough to make a shift.  At this very important stage, you’re aware that the game needs change and that you are the cashier, yet you still have to decide what you’re willing to actually commit to doing about it.  There’s that word again – “commit”.  Commitment implies action.  When you make a commitment you dedicate yourself to a course of action that you believe will result in the expansion of happiness and well-being.  Simply stated, commitment means moving through a door of change through which you do not intend to return.

So ask yourself the question:  AM I INSANE?!?  Don’t worry when the answer is “yes” because we’re all a little insane.  The good news is you can change that anytime you choose to.

Self-reflection + Inspired Action

1. Consider the things that you do over and over again.  Now ask yourself how are these patterns serving you?
2. What are some of your dysfunctional behavior patterns or cycles and in what ways are they holding you back?
3. Have you learned the life lesson yet (because there ALWAYS is one) or do you need to go a few more rounds?

You are as good as you believe you are. What do you truly believe and why do you stop there?