If your automatic patterns of feeling, thinking, and behaving are limiting your personal growth, you can become more conscious by learning how to study yourself more objectively.
Doing this takes consistent effort, but the payoff is personal freedom. The practice of looking for your automatic patterns will over time build a capacity for self-awareness that is separate from these patterns. In this way we can watch our automatic thoughts, feelings and behaviors without judging them as good or bad. You need this separation in order to detach from these habits of mind, and let them go.
The first step is to learn how to pay attention to what you are paying attention to (and not paying attention to). Both psychological and spiritual methods point to meditation as a way to expand our capacity to exercise conscious intention. Like everything else in life, this takes determination and practice.
Paradoxically, meditation is both incredibly simple and at the same time extremely difficult to do. It involves a straightforward activity that you can do anytime, but it can be challenging to sustain the consistent effort it takes to actually do it. In setting aside as little as 20 minutes a day to sit in silence, you will see over time that your mind will go from jumping all over the place, to eventually just relaxing into the silence.
Fortunately, we are living in a time where individuals from all fields of study are beginning to see this basic act of self-awareness as a vital ingredient in personal development. Articles on the benefits of meditation can be seen anywhere from the news stand to medical journals.
It has entered the mainstream of thinking about what it means to be human and how we can develop capacities to achieve greater freedom and happiness. Listen to Joseph Goldstein, and expert on meditation, talk about it:
One of the reasons it is so difficult to change our patterns is that nerve cells that wire together fire together. The more repetition, the stronger the connection. To change negative thought patterns, we have to make new connections, and reinforce them until they are stronger than the old ones. Eventually, the old ones will actually disconnect. This video has some really cool footage of this actually happening:
I write about human behavior, meditation, body awareness, and a variety of other things that pique my interest.