“Every disciple should always remain busy in some work for Krishna. We shall not allow our mind to remain vacant, and if the mind is always filled up with Krishna consciousness activities, there is no chance of Maya to sit on the mind and force us to act under her spell.” – Srila Prabhupada (Letter to Mukunda, May 06, 1968)
We’ve often heard how the mind tricks us, but have you ever wondered how you could fool your mind as well? I learnt this technique from a dear friend Ananda Gopal Prabhu. I was upset at my inability to cultivate the habit of yoga, daily listening to Srila Prabhupada’s lectures, and book writing. Years ago I had practiced ‘stupid small steps’ as advocated by Stephen Guise in his book ‘Mini Habits’, and managed to write two books in a year. But with the power of time, lethargy crept in again. Then I read ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear and learnt the method of ‘Indexing-Linking-Tracking’ and was inspired again. But somehow I couldn’t translate my inspiration into action – I had all the good intentions but still couldn’t do yoga. As they say, there’s ‘many a slip between the cup and the lip’. Then Anand Gopal Prabhu helped me see the mischief played by my mind.
Principle of Simplicity
“It’s not yoga that you need to make a habit now; rather it’s the energy of Yoga that you need to connect to,” said Anand Gopal Prabhu, “It’s your subconscious mind that needs programming.”
I was interested as he explained how my desire for perfection or the need for an hour of yoga, makes it practically impossible to start the yoga practice. The mind dismisses anything that is less than perfect. “It’s simply an excuse given by the mind so that you don’t do yoga,” said Anand Gopal. “So come to terms that you are not perfect and you don’t need to do one hour of yoga daily.”
He was teaching me the principle of SIMPLICITY. Keep it simple and achievable. “Pull your yoga mat out, lie down on it, get up and just smile,” said Anand Gopal Prabhu. I couldn’t believe what he said. “This is simplicity in action and by doing this you are entering the energy of yoga. You are declaring to the universe that you want to do yoga.”
But there is a second equally powerful principle which can’t be ignored – CONSISTENCY. “You can’t afford to miss this one-minute yoga ritual even one day. Even if the sky falls on your head, you’ll do this” he declared.
I wondered if I was very sick, how I can follow the principle of consistency. As if anticipating my dilemma, he said, “On days you have a fever or you are hospitalized because you’ve broken your leg (God forbid), you can watch a YouTube video on yoga. Remember, you are entering the space of yoga.”
As the sceptic within me doubted at the efficacy of the process, Anand Gopal instantly pulled out his phone and showed me the forty-plus habits he had systematically tracked and cultivated over the last two years, and how he had internalized them.
Impressed, I looked at him bug-eyed. I was now all ears. He continued to share the most important aspect of Habit cultivation. Besides the two principles of consistency and simplicity, there is a system of three tools called ‘Indexing – Linking- Tracking’ or ILT for short.
Indexing is when you write down all the habits that you wish to cultivate. I had over twenty in mind but I mentioned to him only three of them; I sought to test the waters before surrendering to his process. After all, I still had doubts – it was all too good to be true. He then asked me if I could link these new habits that I seek to cultivate, with the existing habits that I have.
“Progress is impossible without change and those who cannot change their minds, cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw
To be continued…