So I sit down today to read Iyengar's Light on Life book and voila! There's the answer to my question from yesterday! :) (how do I change my conditioning to events and react positively?)
He talks about our habits and how to dissolve them (pages 131 to 138; samskara in Sanskrit). Basically he says that every time we give a negative reaction to an event there is a ripple created in our mind, like the surface of a lake. Over time these ripples translate to the bottom and create ripples at the sandy surface. Then all of a sudden, whenever there is a similar event (related to the original event or not), we create new ripples from that wavy surface, and react in a certain way. Let's say for instance that you get angry at work when you are given a project with a tight deadline, and this repeats itself over time. Then when you get a new project, you immediately feel stressed and angry, even though the time you have for it may be more than enough!
Another example Iyengar gives is smoking. He says that smokers associate smoking with both good and bad stimuli thus making it a very complex habit. And over time the ripple is engraved in you even more (btw. I've never been a smoker but I can empathize as a nutella addict :). To dissolve this bad habit, he says start with an intention and action every day. So for instance today, say that you won't smoke (or eat nutella) and don't smoke! This won't mean however that you're free of the habit or the craving, the engraving in the sand of your soul is still there. It took you mostly years and repeated events to create that habit, it won't be gone in a day. That's the bad news, the good news is that you can start making a change, today! :)
So in short, habits (samskara) or ripples in your lake's surface take a looong time to form, and you should be patient when you're trying to dissolve or change them, and don't expect your reactions to change in a day!
Take my yesterday's post for instance. Who knows how but I'm somehow programmed to respond with sadness when nobody shows up in my class. So next time this happens, I can say to myself 'I'm happy for the opportunity to be a teacher, I will have many students over the years. I will use the time I have for this class as an opportunity to meditate and hone my skills'. Thus change my attitude to something positive.
Iyengar also says that creating a positive habit to replace the negative one is also a samskara or a ripple in the bottom of your lake (also will take time to form and will create a certain reaction to an event). Ultimately he says, you want a lake which has a smooth surface (with no negative or positive ripples) so that you are free to respond in a way appropriate to the situation, without any past conditioning, without the limitation of good or bad habits. I know that I'm waaay too far from that scenario :) But I like this approach of looking at our lives, thinking of how we can change our ways and working on them every day.
So I hope this inspires a small epiphany in you too! :)