Darren has been teaching yoga for over 22 years. He’s the author of numerous books, including “Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic,” an excellent book about how to balance the demands of modern life with a solid spiritual foundation. He sat down with me to talk about his upcoming Desert Spirit yoga retreat and share his thoughts on urban living. I try to keep my videos under 10 minutes but this one went WAY over as we got deep into the nature of negative habits and how to break them. Darren would know: as a kid, Darren found his “God” in drugs and sex only to hit rock bottom and confront life or death. Yoga helped him embrace his natural impulses and manage them in a healthy way.
- Negative behaviors are often the result of bad habits
- Habitual behaviors arise form childhood, from traumatic experiences, and from day to day interactions
- Your behavior is a product of your ego validating your subconscious belief systems
- To change the way you feel, you must change the way you think by bringing awareness to the root cause of your actions
- Yoga lets you practice interrupting thought patterns in the classroom so that you can apply that discipline outside the classroom
- Yoga gives you freedom to engage in behavior based on conscious choice
Negative behaviors are often the result of habit. Habitual beliefs can come from your childhood, traumatic experiences, or general interactions (driving your car is a habit). Your experiences generate reactions which may be appropriate for the experience but grow into unhealthy habits. Unless you identify the root cause of these behaviors, the underlying thought patterns, it can be almost impossible to break free.
This can take an almost counter intuitive perspective. For example, you might eat a greasy hamburger and say, “I feel terrible because I ate a hamburger.” A yogi might say, “You ate the hamburger because you feel terrible.” In that sense, we seek out experiences to validate our underlying beliefs, whether it’s relationships, diet choices, who we have sex with, or the jobs we have.
You feel terrible first on an subconscious level, then you seek out choices that reflect that belief. Your ego mind takes your natural need for habit and turns it into something negative based on your beliefs. If you have a subconscious belief that you’re not worthy of feeling good you’ll find habitual ways to manifest that negativity in your life to validate that belief because your ego wants you, and your beliefs, to be right. You think you’re in control of your choices, but really your choices a product of your habitual thinking. Ultimately, there’s nothing good or bad about doing something like eating a greasy hamburger. It’s about whether that action is part of a free choice or a choice directed by habit.
To change the way you feel, you must change the way you think. A regular yoga practice can help you become aware of your underlying thought patterns. As you struggle through a class your brain starts kicking up habitual responses – how the instructor is torturing you, how good someone else looks, wondering if you look good or if your gut is hanging out. These are recurring thoughts that take you away from the present moment. A skilled yoga instructor will bring your awareness back to your breath, back to the pose. That interrupts your thought pattern. Each time you do that you learn to become aware of your thinking and you develop a practice of breaking habits.
This practice gently erases your old patterns and replaces them with (hopefully) healthier patterns. Yoga gives you the awareness to have a choice. In this way, it’s not about breaking a habit, it’s about being able to decide whether or not you really want to do something on a conscious level.
This will be Darren’s 12th year doing the Desert Sprit yoga retreat. It started 12 years ago when Darren was on a camping trip in Joshua Tree. Hiking and doing yoga on the rocks was frigging amazing so he decided to share this gift with the rest of the world by organizing this annual retreat. You’re going to be climbing rocks, sitting in hot springs, eating healthy food, having deep meaningful conversation, meditating, waking up with the sun, going to bed when it gets dark, sitting around camp fires and looking up at the stars. All I can say is: VERY AWESOME. Check out the details here.