Today we ask that you not be a slave to old patterns.

Patterns are basically repetitive, self-perpetuating cycles that occur when there is a kind of mindlessness, or unconsciousness.

So: there are patterns of addiction.  Addiction is a fixed pattern of negative behavior.  Typically one feels a craving, one gives into the craving, one feels a temporary rush or high, followed by a crash.  There is usually guilt, and self-recrimination.  The addiction may go dormant for a while, but will inevitably start up again.  

Unless you break the pattern.

Anyone who has liberated themselves from addictive behaviors knows how difficult this is.  And yet it can be done.

Breaking the pattern requires an increase in consciousness.

Instead of sinking into the mindless, repetitive behavior, there is a conscious effort to stay awake and present enough to resist the downward pull, and do something different.

You break patterns by increasing consciousness.

This is true for all patterns — and not just the ones associated with classical addiction.

There are many kinds of patterns.

One very common pattern is that of “people turning into their parents.”

It may be that as young adults, individuals resolved that they would be nothing like their parents, especially in regard to their parents’ negative behaviors.

And yet, as people grow older, and particularly when they have children of their own, they find themselves “turning into their parents” — engaging in the same negative behaviors that they hated growing up.

This, too, is a pattern.

People follow genetic and cultural patterns.  They may inherit their parents’ predilection toward certain addictions, or mental or physical illnesses.  Or, culturally, they may inherit their parents’ prejudices, their religious fanaticism, and so on.  

These are all patterns.

Most people in any given generation do not break these patterns.  They may resist them when they are younger, but by middle age, they sink into their genetic and cultural matrices, and “turn into their parents.”

And yet in every generation, there are many who break free.

Patterns can be broken.

You do not have to be a slave to your addictions.

You do not have to be a slave to your genes, your childhood indoctrination, or your culture.

You can break these patterns.  And you can do it by becoming more conscious.

Becoming more conscious simply means becoming more present.  You are less mindless, more mindful.  Instead of operating on “auto-pilot,” sort of sleeping through your existence, you wake up and find yourself in your body, here and now.

In addition to increasing general well-being and focus, pattern-breaking is perhaps the greatest practical benefit of meditative practices.

Meditative practices include any practice that gets you present and grounded within your body, in the here and now.  This can be traditional meditation, or physical practices like yoga, tai chi, or other gentle, grounding forms of exercise, massage, or energy work.

The more you cultivate consciousness in a meditative practice, the more you can stay conscious in daily life — and that means not getting trapped in your old patterns.