BREAKING A HABIT,
MAKING A HABIT – DAY 2
Do you have a habit that you hate? Maybe one that sends ripples of shame through you (in moments when you listen in to your inner chatter)?
Those are the big ones, with emotional undertow. Just like on the beach, it’s the undertow that is dangerous, and can pull us off our feet if we wade in unawares.
Habits that link to patterns of fear, anxiety, shame, guilt or depression are a bit more complicated as we set about undoing them. The habit tends to be less about the biting of the nails, or drinking the odd drink too many. It is more about the way in which this is a coping mechanism around those tricky emotions. If we wade in and start undoing the coping mechanisms of nail biting, etc, we immediately have to face the underlying pain or difficulty.
This course moves onto those bigger habits later. But at the moment we are using mindful attention to grow the muscle of interrupting actions we perform with no conscious attention – automatic pilot style.
Once we have noticed how it is, in fact, possible to make choices over fixed behaviours, we have a transferable skill. We can choose (if we wish) to move into more tricky waters with the big habits. It is like learning to swim in arm bands – building up to the big swell on the more rugged beaches of this planet.
And so to today’s task. Emptying the bin! This tends to have some ‘yuck’ attached to it, or at the very least, extreme boredom. Becoming ‘awake’ to this activity is an excellent training ground for paying attention to unwanted stuff (our emotions and the rubbish in the bin are more than a bit similar!).
Today I challenge you to notice:
- One thing you see (is the bin clean or dirty on the inside?)
- One thing you feel through your hands (the weight of the bin?)
- One thing you hear (the sounds of the contents tumbling as you tip?)
- One thing you smell (particularly excellent for triggering dislike in this exercise!)
- Let’s leave aside tasting anything!
- But do also notice how you feel – the emotions – as you do the task.
Emptying the bin like this brings us into contact with something that’s not pleasant (but hopefully doesn’t hold too much emotional resonance). It prepares us for starting to work with the habits we really want to change but haven’t yet quite managed. On that note, mine is swearing – anyone who knows me will vouch for this! So, we are doing this course together, as always.
John O’Donohue: For a new beginning
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
From ‘To Bless the Space Between Us’ (US) / Benedictus (Europe)
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