There are three things that are most important to keep in mind when thinking of self-improvement. One, that the path of self-improvement is not direct, it ebbs and flows, two, awareness comes before change, and three, the Self cannot be improved.
Last week I was doing a kitchari cleanse for the change of season, in which I ate little else other than this rice, lentil dish. Then, it was Lunar New Year and my kids wanted to have a party. Something came over me, and before I knew it, I ate half the egg rolls on the plate. This is not unusual pattern as anyone who has tried to make a change in their life knows. Usually, what follows is self-condemnation (“what’s wrong with me, I’m such a pig”), and then a rejection of the attempt to change and sometimes a regression going the other way (“I’m never going to get healthy, might as well eat a whole plate of dumplings too). However, knowing the mechanics of what actually is happening in consciousness can help keep this negativity at bay.
Our individual self is always looking for greater happiness, the process of which is too evolve to higher and higher states of consciousness. Sounds simple enough, right? Not so much. Everything is One consciousness, however, our individual selves have a section of our consciousness that is ignoring that Oneness, this is the ego. This individuality thinks it’s running the show, and does not like to give up control.
And we all have patches of ignorance in our awareness, blind spots, dark areas we wish to shed light on. For some it’s drinking, for some it’s anger, for me it’s a combination of clutter habits, too much phone-use and a proclivity for tasty treats. Even enlightened people have what’s called “latia videa” or “the faint remains of ignorance,” which they cultivate because without it, they would be completely unrelatable.
The first step in changing a behavior is to recognize it and hold it out for deletion. First comes awareness, then change. There is no reason to beat yourself up at this point, though this is what we all do. There are many people who are not even aware of all their destructive, life-damaging behaviors. It is a good thing to have that awareness make it to the surface.
The next step is to do the research. This means you attempt a change and see what it’s like and then go back to the old way of doing things. We do this over and over and over. This is the zig zag part. Our big Self is pushing us to make a change, we try it, and then the individuality, the small self, pulls us back. This is because aspects of consciousness looking to be deleted sense annihilation and resist. Hard. However, even when we fall back, it’s still progress. Think of it like the tide coming in. The waves move in and out, but the whole thing is still moving forward. It may take 100 attempts to make a change, but each attempt brings you closer.
Lastly, we need to throw out this idea of “self-improvement” and replace it with “self-evolution.” The Self is beautiful at all states of its evolution. We don’t think a child has less value than an adult even though the child doesn’t have the awareness to speak properly and is still in diapers. If we truly embrace our value, then, when we happen to eat an entire plate of egg rolls, we can laugh at ourselves, maybe text a friend an adorable and relatable anecdote about it, and make different choices the next day. As opposed to falling into the trap of, “I’m not good enough, look at this empty plate where egg rolls once sat, I must be worthless.” The ebb and flow is natural, but when we fall into this trap of negativity, we tumble back into the darkness and give those aspects of our consciousness that fear their annihilation free reign. It’s better to relax, be easy with yourself, and enjoy the ride of evolution which brings you to exactly where you are.
Kristen Vandivier is an instructor of Vedic Meditation and the founder of The Vedic Method and Meditation Without Borders. She is regarded for her ability to make profound teachings relevant to everyday life and her mission of promoting meditation for social change. After completing an intensive curriculum of training under renowned Master Maharishi Vyasananda Thom Knoles, including a three-month immersion program in the Himalayas, Kristen returned to found her practice. She lives in Mill Valley with her husband and three small children.
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Originally published at https://www.thevedicmethod.com on February 18, 2021.