Habit. What a word. One that seems to fill most of us with a sudden sense of ‘Bad’ - I should give up x, I should take up y, z is just part of who I am, but I wish it wasn’t and hope you can’t see it....
Yet there wonderful habits, too. Gratitude is a habit. Cleaning your teeth is a useful habit. Patting the dog as you put the kettle on for the first morning cuppa is a heart-warming habit. Add your own - find 3 before you continue reading!
Habit came to me this evening in a new way: a habitual thought response leading to familiar fear had flashed up before I could even think consciously. But I then saw that nothing about this habitual thought was either good or bad; it was simply a response that doesn’t suit the current moment. It was one from long ago. But somehow back then I made a tag to it and the thought connection keeps on happening.
I’ve attempted to suppress it over the years. I’ve ‘ignored it’. (Ha!) I’ve tried to understand it. I talked to it. I tried over-riding it with the opposite, often in the form of affirmations, but I think brains are all wired differently and that way works well for some, but not others, and it doesn’t work well for me. I’ve told myself this thought habit isn’t true, but the listener aint heard the teller....(which intrigues me as they are one and the same!) So, I Have A 'Bad' Habit. A heap of ‘shoulds’ fly around in my head. And a lump of certain desperation to finally, once and for all, deeply and meaningfully Get Rid of It. And guess what? With all that resistance, Habit was persisting magnificently!
But tonight those words lit something up; A habit is simply a response that doesn’t suit the current moment. My thought didn’t fit what was actually happening, or not happening, tonight. And I could hold my habit, as it were, in the palm of my hand - unconditionally; able to observe it and not condemn it, and not run away from it. And if I opened up fully to present awareness of what was/wasn’t happening around me, the habit simply dissolved; it wasn’t relevant to now. The habitual thought was relevant to the memory of something past, but Not Now. And memory faded the more I was in the now - Present to What Is - and not re-telling the story and putting myself in the past.
It may be still there, but I can repeat my question to it if it reappears. And the really good thing? Each time I am in stimulus-response, if I respond to the now and not to the memory, I reduce the fear a little more, and habits just LOVE fear! My reducing fear begins to starve the habit. Once it's starved, job done.
Let’s just hope no one invents a RSPH - Royal Society for Protection of Habits.... We might laugh at that, but boy, I see I have been paying into that one for Far Too Long!