How does a man become conditioned? The answer is simple. Since childhood one learns to react to outside impulses in a certain manner. This results in a certain physical action, speech, mental activity, etc. When the actions are repeated over and over again then they become habit and one becomes conditioned. The more we accumulate these habits, the more rigid and automatic our life becomes. Instead of responding spontaneously, we become a walking robot that does whatever it is programmed to do with little relationship or consideration of the life situations as they really are. One lives in one’s own little dream world. Swami Sivananda has summed up this process perfectly in the following poem:
Sow a thought and reap an action.
Sow an action and reap a habit.
Sow a habit and reap a character.
Sow a character and reap a destiny.
There are some people who believe that our entire life is totally conditioned by our personality and that there is little we can do about it. Actually this is true, but only at low levels of awareness. The more aware one becomes the less one is conditioned. The great saints, sages and yogis were definitely not conditioned, for they are living in and experiencing that which is beyond conditioning. They live in the realms where destiny and free will have no meaning. Anyone who tries to predict the actions and reactions of a person in higher consciousness is in for a great surprise. His actions and responses are unpredictable. The reason is very simple – they are not conditioned in the way that most people normally are. If you ask him a question, the answer will more than likely be unexpected. Ask another person and you will probably know beforehand exactly what they will answer. Feed in the outer impression and the automatic response will result. Most people are conditioned by ingrained and deep-rooted habits of thought and action.
How can one start to eliminate this conditioning? The answer is through yoga; in fact, one of the main purposes of yoga is to dissolve conditioning so that one becomes a spontaneous and receptive human. Remember, by spontaneity we don’t mean automatic reactions; we mean perfect perception and receptivity to the environment, inner and outer, so that when one performs actions they are in complete harmony with everything around and within and beyond. Remember also that it is impossible to either force or create spontaneity; it can only happen as a natural consequence of a free and uninhibited mind. By practising meditation, the conditioning and habits will slowly but surely be expelled. The mind will be slowly reverted to its original and normal function, namely a perfect reflector.