Q: They say habits die hard. Do the qualities you develop in the cradle only die when you do?

Sadhguru: Let us look at this from a different perspective. A habit is formed essentially because it brings a certain ease to your life – it makes certain parts of your life automatic. You do not have to think or consider anything about it. You can do it just like that.

Naturally, as a part of a human being’s defense mechanism, he forms a few habits because unlike other animals, we have not come with many of our traits fixed. For other animals, most of their traits are fixed. You notice just a little bit of difference between one dog and the next, between one cat and the next. They have their individual personality, but most of their traits are fixed. For us, extremely little is fixed. Almost everything is wide open for a human being. Because of this, as a child, you try to form a defense pattern within yourself where you try to create your own patterns.

Shaking Off the Patterns

Every child creates certain habits for the sake of survival. That is survival instinct. With these patterns, he can function with some ease. It is very relevant for a child. But generally, children shake these patterns off as they grow, depending upon the level of exposure and awareness you create around them. Either by exposure or with education, people will change. People change so dramatically – they go out for three years and come back, and parents cannot recognize their children anymore. Everything about them has changed because of a different level of exposure.

If a person takes up a spiritual path, all his habits will drop because there is no such thing as a good and bad habit.

It is those who are fearful and constantly engrossed in self-preservation who cannot drop their old habits easily. Those who are looking for excitement, life, adventure – they will drop their habits very easily because they are always remodeling their lives whichever way it is needed for the situations in which they exist right now.

Above all, if a person takes up a spiritual path, all his habits will drop because there is no such thing as a good and bad habit. All habits are bad. They may be instruments of survival at a certain stage in your life, but once you have grown up you should not have any habit, good or bad, because a habit means you are learning to conduct your life unconsciously. That may look safe, but it denies you life in so many different ways.

Habits and Karma

Spirituality is the fundamental tool to break all unconscious patterns that we have within ourselves. What we refer to as karma is also just this. Karma means you are unconsciously creating patterns for yourself, not only about your behavior, but about the way life happens to you. If people examine their lives, the very way situations happen, the way opportunities come, the way they meet people, all of it is in certain kinds of patterns. This is simply because of the kind of karmic patterns you have created.

Habit is a small manifestation of the karmic pattern. You take in a certain input and make a pattern out of it. That becomes your habit. A spiritual process means you do not want anything to happen within you unconsciously. Conducting your life unconsciously is not an intelligent way to live. Whether you picked up the habit in your cradle or in your mother’s womb or even before that, it does not matter. If you are seeking evolution, if you are seeking liberation or mukti, you have to break all your patterns – not good, not bad, but all. You do not have to wait until the grave. The grave does not break all patterns either.

Even if you go to the graveyard, even if your body is burned, your patterns will not break. That is what karma means. It goes beyond that because you do not break these patterns by losing your body. So it is extremely important that when you are alive and awake, you strive to go beyond these patterns.

Demolish the pattern and handle your life consciously. For example, I am speaking now – I can speak either habitually or consciously. That is the big difference. It does not matter if I just sit and gossip, still ten thousand people want to listen because every word is uttered consciously, not habitually. Nothing is habitual in this. Whatever may be the content of what I am saying, people still want to listen because every word is coming out consciously, and that has power. If you take every breath in and out consciously, suddenly your breath has a different kind of power. Every movement in your life, if you make it consciously, every single movement has tremendous power. If you want to know the power of life, you have to be conscious about it, otherwise it does not even exist for you.

Editor’s Note: Find more of Sadhguru’s insights in the book “Of Mystics and Mistakes.” Download the preview chapter or purchase the ebook at Isha Downloads.