BREAKING A HABIT,
MAKING A HABIT – DAY 5
This course so far has been a training ground. We have been exploring different approaches and practising skills to tackle the bigger habits: the tougher and more tenacious ones. We are starting with one of these slowly today, then building over the next couple of days
First of all, if we are going to ‘break’ an unwanted habit, maybe it is helpful to avoid the term ‘break’!
Since when was breaking something ever good? We break bad news. When something gets broken, we feel sadness or loss. And breaking things needs energy to replace or repair them. ‘Breaking the back’ of a bit of work? ‘Breaking the will’ of a wild horse? It is an image that suggests domination over the subordinate.
If we used loaded, negative language when tackling an unwanted habit, we are immediately adopting an attitude of aversion towards it. The habit is part of our behaviour, so it means we are actually rejecting a part of our self. But what’s wrong with wanting to get rid of this unwanted part?
The problem (and this gets a bit scientific and brain-neurological) is that we humans have 3 ways of living a moment of life, or 3 ‘modes of being’:
1. We need to survive
2. We need to achieve
3. We need to rest and repair.
Ideally, we would use ‘achieve’ (number 2) to change a habit. However, when this happens, the ancient parts of our brain start focusing on ‘survive’ (number 1). On a deep level it scares us when we suddenly start to dislike a part of our self, and try to hive it off or annihilate it. Fear kicks in, and now the project of change is hounded by the brain’s need to defend from this perceived attack. So the habit tries to hang on. A fight ensues between the mind wanting the habit to die, and the habit trying to survive. Our desire to improve our life has become an internal battleground with winners and losers.
Today’s invitation is to challenge yourself to bring an attitude of friendliness towards the habit you wish to work with. For one day, gather as much information as you possibly can about it. Notice all the ways your habit has helped you over the years. What has it protected you from? When have you used it as a coping mechanism? What emotions does it stir in you? Separate out the emotions you feel as you engage in the habit (not those you feel afterwards, when you begin to regret falling into it).
By getting to know every little detail about your habit, you are befriending the part of yourself that has needed this habit, and starting to accept why it was needed. It’s demanding work, listening to the heart, but rewarding.
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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