September 29, 2023

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Meditation – Breaking Away From Past Conditioning

Regular practice of meditation can actually help you break out of past conditioning. But, what is past conditioning? Classical conditioning was founded by physiologist, psychologist, and physician Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) when he studied the digestive functions of dogs in the form of associative learning. When the dogs would ‘see’ the food they would begin to salivate, therefore their digestive juices would be set in motion to begin the process of digestion.

Through associative learning, classical conditioning was set in motion. In the beginning, Pavlov would only bring out the food for the dogs and they would salivate at the sight of food. Later, Pavlov added the sound of the bell to the bringing out of the food. Eventually the dogs would begin to salivate at just the sound of the bell without even seeing the food.

And so it is with us humans. We may call it ‘jumping to conclusions’ in our everyday language, however, the reality is that we have been conditioned through past experience and assume that what is happening is real, when it may not be. Here are a few examples of past conditioning that may be bringing up negative things from the past.

Our lives are filled with past conditioning examples, but here are just a few:

o Someone raises their voice in a restaurant and you may automatically assume that they are angry. It makes you feel uneasy and want to leave the area because now you just feel very uncomfortable.
o You feel threatened when somebody gives you the ‘evil eye’. That stranger doesn’t even know you, but you already know he or she has a strong dislike for you. You have seen that look in the past and it was unnerving.
o Your stomach got queasy after those appetizers at that particular restaurant. Now every time you see that advertisement your stomach feels queasy. You tense up and reinforce that experience by telling others about that bad experience.

With consistent practice of meditation you can learn to access your deeper levels of awareness causing your ‘jumping to conclusions’ mechanism to be weakened.

Here’s what really happened:

o That raising of the voice was a surprise birthday gift.
o That stranger was intently looking for his or her keys.
o Your stomach got queasy from the aspirin you took on an empty stomach.

One of the goals of meditation is to learn to act in the present moment instead of reacting from past conditioning. Past conditioning doesn’t have to ruin your day, with consistent meditation practice you are offered the gift of present moment awareness.