The ideas below on releasing patterns are simply a reflection of my direct experience applying the wisdom of many great teachers to my life. They are not my prescriptions on how others should live their life. I share these thoughts and experiences not to gloat or cast judgment, but rather to feel the joy of creatively expressing myself and to potentially help others on a similar journey.
“The task that confronts the spiritual student, devotee, or aspirant is how to actualize conceptual spiritual information into subjective, experiential reality. Thus arises the necessity for application of practices and techniques that evolve progressively into that process whereby the potential becomes the actual.”
-Dr. David Hawkins
The most impactful work I’ve done in my personal evolution has been becoming aware of my underlying patterns and then either releasing or transmuting them into something more aligned with open heart qualities such as unconditional love, gratitude, and trust.
This post is an overview of the concept of patterns and the 3 different methodologies I’ve used to work on my own patterns that you can use to experiment on yourself.
Below is a table of contents to this guide.
- What Is A Pattern
- Identifying Patterns
- The Difference Between Patterns and Emotions
- Accept, Release and Replace
- Observation (Jue Cha)
- Practicing Self Inquiry
- F.A.Q on Releasing Patterns
What Is A Pattern?
Patterns are mental impressions or recollections we inherit through experiencing the world which directly influence our behavior. The hindus and buddhists call these Samskaras. Many who believe in reincarnation believe that we might also inherit and carry in patterns from past lifetimes in our current consciousness that manifest as behavioral propensities. This, along with our underlying level of consciousness at birth, can be considered our Karmic inheritance.
Think about the idea that your consciousness comes into this world as a relatively blank slate, ignorant of all the potential experiences you had in other lifetimes. And as you encounter ideas and experiences, mental impressions become imprinted on your consciousness and stored in your body. If your psyche was a computer, these impressions would be like the programs its running.
These concepts can be helpful in that they enable us to navigate life safely. For example, you are taught or experience directly that if you play with fire you will get burnt! This would be considered a helpful pattern.
At the same time, they can also be very challenging for human’s ability to experience unconditional joy and peace. Take the common idea in western society that having a lot of money is indicative of how intelligent and capable you are. This idea is something that is unconsciously imprinted on you through merely observing all the influences around you. One day you find yourself in a situation where a bunch of people have a lot more money than you. For seemingly no apparent reason, you start to judge yourself for having not having as much money and making choices that resulted in financial abundance.
You didn’t want or ask for these feelings and thoughts to come up. They just kind of materialized on their own…
Most of us go through life completely unaware of the source of all these thoughts and feelings we have accepted as part of life. We think that it is who we are vs. a collection of patterns that we inherited through conditioning.
In this way, your consciousness is conditioned not by the truth of reality, but by the programming that you have encountered in your unique life experience. This, along with our innate level of consciousness, is why one person thinks something is good and another person can think the same exact thing is bad. All circumstances are evaluated from the context of one’s experience which is inclusive of their level of awareness around reality itself.
After experiences leave an imprint, every subsequent experience that comes into our consciousness intersects with these imprints we’ve developed. This is the basis of forming judgements and even the conceptual model of the self. If a particular experience or idea meets our model, we like it and welcome it. If it doesn’t, we resist it and avoid it which causes patterns and negative emotions to be stored in the physical body. And as we further indulge in the pattern by reacting to any external stimuli, the pattern becomes further reinforced to the point where we think it’s who we are.
When many animals experience trauma, you will see them physically shake as they allow the energy of that emotion to flow through their system.
Because of our developed frontal cortex, humans have a way of avoiding or suppressing confrontation with these emotions which means the energy can’t express itself and becomes stuck in our systems. This lack of energetic flow results in disharmony of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual bodies and eventually can manifest as disease. This is the core concept behind many eastern and indigenous medicine systems such as acupuncture.
With all of this in mind, we can then view the process of spiritual ascension not as one of adding things to our being, but rather removing the impediments (patterns) that block our natural essence which is infinite light, love, and joy.
I like to think of the imagery of the sun shining brightly as your natural essence that has clouds over it. And as you transcend patterns and conditioning, the clouds fade away and the true self emerges with all its radiance. This process coincides with a greater sense of wisdom, unconditional love and well-being
I think the mental model and imagery here is powerful enough to repeat it!
So…we obviously want to avoid this entire phenomenon of accumulating and indulging in negative patterns.
Lots books talk about the process of letting go or surrendering, but don’t do the best job of teaching how to actually do this process and so you can free yourself from the patterns and return to your natural state of unconditional joy, peace, and love.
I’ve tried many different modalities over the years and have found 3 techniques to be most helpful. One is not necessarily better than the other. I’d just consider them all tools and try each one to determine which one resonates. I generally use whatever one feels right in a given moment.
In order to perform these exercises, you need to first cultivate a level of awareness that allows you to witness the pattern vs. immediately indulge in it. This is ideally done in the moment if you can become the watcher of your thoughts through meditation, but it can also be applied after the fact by reflecting on a given situation or scenario during a time like meditation. ✓
But First, How Do you Identify A Pattern?
Make no mistake, identifying patterns is a skill. To start you can work on building this skill through the methods described below or working with a teacher who can help you identify them. For the fastest progression, you will want to do both.
The easiest way to identify a pattern is to observe anytime you are disturbed, triggered, or resisting something. These moments are GOLD. They are your teachers and the key to removing all of the clouds away from the blissful sun that is you, pure consciousness.
As mentioned earlier, this is where the skill of meditation can be an excellent foundational tool because it enables you to watch events vs. be engulfed in them to the point of where your unconscious of what you are doing.
So anytime you notice yourself being triggered, you can ask yourself what is this trying to reveal to me? What is this trying to teach me?
To give you some ideas, here are a list of 10 common patterns that one of my teachers provided me:
- Polarized Thinking
- Unfounded Suspicion
- Negativity, Withdrawal, Inactivity and Pessimism
- Fixed Expectations, Preconceptions, Taking Things for Granted, False Assumptions
- Self Centeredness
- Avoiding and Hiding
- Fight for Dominance and Desire for Victory, Competitiveness
Here’s a simple example of how a pattern might play out in real life.
Let’s say a competitor in your business does something nefarious to win over one of your customers. Upon hearing about this you immediately feel anger and the desire to seek retribution by doing something similar. You can literally feel the blood boiling in your veins and all kinds of ideas emerge for campaigns you can do against their customers…
I certainly have been here!
You then start to watch yourself and have an AHA! Oh my gosh, look at how disturbed I am right now. You catch the anger and instead of huffing and puffing or finding a way to distract yourself, you just sit there with it feeling into any sensation you have in your body.
You observe that this desire to “get even” is actually a pattern of competitiveness or thinking there’s not enough. This isn’t an objective truth, and it is not you. It’s just a concept that you picked up a long the way that is driving all this reactivity.
Now that you are aware of the underlying program, you can then address it so you can be free of it and the subsequent behaviors it causes.
The Difference Between Patterns and Emotions
Now you might be reading this and be thinking, wait so does this mean I should never feel anger? Absolutely, not.
Emotions are a core part of the human experience. Our conditioning teaches us that some emotions are better then others. That we should indulge in positive ones like happiness and flee from more challenging ones like anger or fear.
What we are discussing here is how we react to the presence of those emotions.
Think back to the video of the Impala. When we don’t feel into an emotion, we store it in our energetic and physical bodies and then carry it around with us. I like to think of this like a walking around with a weighted vest that undermines our well-being.
A more beneficial approach is to recognize emotions are part of the human experience and that all emotions must be welcomed equally. Tactically, this means feeling into them as they arise so they can pass through vs. suppressing, expressing unconsciously (lashing out), or escaping them.
Patterns on the other hand, are this conditioned responses we exhibit from emotions and external stimuli. They’re more our reactions which can be supportive of our well-being or undermine it. They are intimately intertwined with emotions because they are often our coping mechanism for engaging with them. The goal is to identify negative patterns and replace them with positive ones which are mostly improved predominant states.
Eventually all patterns can be gradually transcended which coincides with greater levels of realization.
I like to think of my patterns as a barrel of tar. Every time I identify and release a pattern, it’s like I’m emptying a little bit more tar in the barrel until eventually there will be none left.
In the case of both emotions and patterns, the call to arms is to become an active witness to what you are experiencing. With emotions we welcome and feel into them and with patterns we recognize as them as imprinting and handle accordingly. All of the techniques below I have used for working with both emotions and patterns.
Let’s get into how to do this.✓
3 Different Techniques For Releasing Patterns
Accept, Release (and Replace) – Lin Yuang
The first method calls for you to first acknowledge the pattern or emotion. Most thoughts have an underlying emotion driving it, so if you can discern the emotion driving the thought form you will pretty get more bang for your buck.
Once you’ve identified it, you then feel into or welcome it. You can either say this verbally or simply move from thinking into feeling in your body.
Let’s take an example. Say you start feeling impatient standing in line for coffee. You start looking at the baristas and thinking “what the F are you doing back there?!?” Oh and of course the lady in front of you wants to go on a treasure hunt in her purse to pay with exact change vs. just use a card!
You notice you start to feel disturbed and anxious…BINGO. Underneath this internal war you’ve artificially constructed with the coffee line is a pattern.
In this instance, the pattern might be a thought and fear that “there’s not enough time.” That you have all these things to do, and by holding you up you won’t complete them. And by not completing them, your life will not be as fulfilling and you won’t realize your potential. And you might even die before you get to do everything you wanted…all because of this damn barista! 🤣
Once you observe this ridiculousness of all of this either in the moment or after the fact in contemplation, you’d say to yourself with a quiet mind:
Can you accept you feel like [there’s not enough time]
At this point, move from thinking and into your body feeling any sensations. I like to feel almost as if I am welcoming this idea or feeling with open arms. This is done without words.
Once you’ve felt the emotion thoroughly, it will either dissipate naturally as the energy runs its course or you can proactively provoke the release by asking if you’d like to release the pattern:
What would you like to do with the feeling of “there’s not enough time” – PAUSE
Can you release it?
At this point, an answer should pop up. If it’s yes, great, there’s nothing you need to do besides feel. If it’s no, that’s okay too. Not all things are always going to be ready to be released.
After you’ve done this process for a while, the release process will happen automatically and you won’t need to provoke it with any inquiry. Like any skill, it will get easier and more efficient with use.
One thing you can add as an optional step, is replace the pattern with something more empowering. The right replacement should arise naturally and just pop into your head. There’s nothing you need to do to “get it right.” Whatever your replacement is, is perfect.
In the example above, you could say “I trust all things happen in perfect timing.” Once the replacement is inserted, you can take some moments to feel into and experience the replacement.
Here is an audio guided audio recording I have created for some friends of this process:
- Letting Go (with explanation)
- Letting Go (short)
If you consistently do this every day, every time you get triggered, over time you will notice a monumental difference in how you feel and respond to life.✓
Observation – (Jua Cha)
This practice is more or less a condensed version of the letting go process I described above probably more fit for more advanced spiritual seekers. You may find that after you have done Accept, Release, and Replace for a while this practice comes naturally.
Once you become more predominantly identified as the “watcher of thoughts” vs. thinking they are you, this practice merely calls for observation.
You can’t expect to ever control all your thoughts or feelings. In fact, many traditions discourage this. They arise spontaneously as a transmission from your personal field and the broader field of consciousness.
This means that your job is to not block them, but react to them constructively.
Observation simply requires you to observe the pattern and see it as an imprint. Upon doing this, the energy behind it will naturally dissipate as you give it up to the silence.
This process almost feels like you are seated physically a level behind the thought itself.
For example, let’s say you notice negative chatter in your head about yourself when you make a mistake.
You realize that you have a pattern of perfectionism.
You would witness this happening, and then say “oh, look at this imprint that thinks you need to be perfect.” Or more explicitly, “if I’m perfect, I’ll get love.”
Just by merely observing the imprint, you separate yourself from it. I like to move from thinking to feeling during this too, but the entire process is much shorter.
This is great to do when you are in the midst of something like a conversation or in a public place where you don’t feel comfortable closing your eyes and doing a more deliberate practice like Accept, Release, Replace.
The practice of self inquiry moves more directly towards de-identification with the ego or thought itself. I learned about this through my spiritual teacher as well as by studying Robert Adams and Sri Ramana Maharshi.
Like the other practices, you must first witness or notice the thought or pattern. And then as this happens, you simply inject the following line of questioning, followed each time by silence:
“Who is this I who [insert pattern]?” – SILENCE
“Where does this (I) [insert pattern] come from? – SILENCE
It is critical to not try to actively answer the question and to submit to the silence and stillness to see what comes up.
If there is no answer, that’s great. Just continue to follow and occupy the silence, feeling into any sensations, until you feel a sense of relaxing in the body.
If there is an answer, for example “it’s me” or “the ego”, continue the line of inquiry until the only answer you receive is complete silence like there is nothing there.
Let me show you an example. Say you observe the pattern that you feel “scared that you’re going to get left behind.”
Once you realize this, you’d pause, quiet your mind and ask:
“Who is this who feels scared they’re getting left behind?”
-silence…then the word “Me” comes up
“Who is this me?”
-silence…then the word ego comes up.
“Where did this ego from (or who is this ego?)”
-silence…and then you just realize there is nothing there.
If you continue to get answers just keep going until you get nothing.
This practice is probably for more advanced spiritual seekers, but the results can be pretty profound.
I can’t claim to know the exact mechanics of why this works, but some believe that it can confuse and weaken the ego as well as continue to reinforce the idea that you are not the thoughts or circumstance but the one who experiences them.
As you will see on this path, it’s less important to know the how and more important to just trust the practices that resonate with you.✓
Releasing Patterns F.A.Q.
Here are some common questions that come up with these practices.
How often do you do them?
When I started, this was something I did during sessions with my teacher and then as part of meditation. As I got comfortable and practiced, I began to integrate them into daily life as they happened.
Eventually, this inwardly becomes pretty much all you do as you face any resistance throughout the day. You move from doing to embodying. My experience is that with enough commitment and internal desire, this shift comes naturally to the strong spiritual seeker. To get started you might want to try doing this during a regular meditation period.
When is the best time to do this?
In the moment you observe the pattern. It can also be done retroactively.
What if the same pattern comes up constantly?
This is natural. Some patterns are stronger than others and thus require more effort to release. Remember you have accumulated a whole lifetime(s) of certain programs. Unwinding them can be quite a process. I like to think of it as a barrel of tar. And each time I do this, more and more tar gets dumped out. And eventually it runs out.
How long does this take?
I don’t know. I’ve been doing this consistently for over 3 years and I am prepared to be doing it for the rest of my life because the more I do it, the better my experience gets.
How do I know these practices are working?
Do you feel better? Does that thing still trigger you? Are you more calm and peaceful regardless of what happens? Use your inner state as a barometer. David Hawkins also has a scale of consciousness which you can use to attempt to quantify your spiritual growth called The Map of Consciousness. I have worked with this quite a bit and will be discussing it more in future essays.
What’s the best method?
The one you do most consistently. The one that feels best.
This is merely my experience. I hope it helps as you embark on your own journey!!
Recommended followup reading:
Ren Xue (spiritual system)
Who Am I?: The Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi