What would it look like to stop analysing what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong?
How would it feel to not have a list at the end of each day assessing our successes and failures?
To close our eyes each night with the joy of moments in our lives instead of regret and think with disgust that once again we didn’t do what we were going to do and not have that second helping, second glass, fourth cup……
I stumbled across a paragraph in a book on yogic wisdom (The Wisdome of Yoga by Stephen Cope) and it said this,
(I am paraphrasing to keep it short)
“A chain of events described by the Yogis: Appraisal. Impulse. Action. An object came into contact with my senses – a smell of a muffin. I recognise the smell. A pleasurable sensation enters my consciousness and on the heels of sensation I have a reaction to it – I like it! The appraisal turns into impulse I want the muffin and then action – I am eating the muffin.
It’s almost unconscious. The yogis found that we make poor choices when caught up in the action of it all, or rather we make no choices at all.
The yogis then studied the chain and wondered if it were de-linked, could we end our suffering? They found that impulse is highly influenced by our habits and patterns and conditioned by our experience so therefore can be de-conditioned.
If we become aware of the link, through observation of self and being in the present moment, then we can break the chain and overcome our bad habits, therefore ending suffering.”
Because you would have noticed that eating that chocolate, drinking that third glass of wine or having that fourth cup of coffee has not satisfied you. It has not ended the suffering which is why we inevitably want it the first place. To end the suffering of wanting. After we have experienced the item/thing we then experience a loss of the item/thing. More suffering. Then the guilt of actually actioning the want. More suffering.
But even more than a want, its a habitual patterning. We do not want to yell at our kids and yet, when triggered, we yell, we scream, we say things that we did not know was inside us.
We cannot be with the pain of everyday life, we cannot be with the pain of the constant whining, we cannot be with the pain of boredom, with endless options, with craving and not receiving, so we impulsively act and the actions cause us suffering.
You can have pain without suffering, if you do not act.
- Use your awareness to observe your patterns, triggers, suffering – the internal chain of events
- Let your awareness penetrate – be here now.
- You will find that in light of your awareness the experience that you are feeling a loss of control over is not a foregone conclusion. Its feelings are fleeting, impermanent. The cravings go, the impulse leaves you.
- Finally, exposed to the light of your awareness, the craving and aversion evaporate.
Can you imagine this to be true? If you are about to yell at your child, but hold yourself back, take a few deep breaths, become aware of what you are doing – do you continue to yell?
I bet you don’t. I know I don’t. The anger subsides right? The feelings that well up in you dissipate and you are free to have a normal, much more productive conversation. The pain is there for seconds. The disappointment, the disbelief, the disapproval and then the love floods in.
Sometimes I pour myself a glass of wine in the afternoon. Because a thought has been following me around saying wine, wine, wine. I finally pour it, the voice subsides but I am doing something else and that wine can sit there, un-sipped, for an hour.
These unconscious patterns are running our lives and we are not even aware that we have the power to stop them.
We assume that we need willpower right? But have you ever noticed that the more you think about not doing something…the more you want to do it?
So how do we take actions steps? How do stop this unconscious patterning? In real terms, not in yogi jargon like awareness and conditioning?
I think the number one point is – do not judge yourself. Just by having the intent to be better, you are on the path to something more. Do not judge yourself for something that is essentially so deeply ingrained you barely know you are doing it.
Can you forgive yourself?
Can you go to bed every night, knowing that you did your best? Knowing that what you have done today is all you could have done? And knowing that the moment has passed. That we leave the past behind, no matter how much we try to make it real, it’s gone.
- Watch yourself and learn your triggers. Can you side step the pattern? Can you get the kids moving half an hour before you usually do so they are ready on time and your not late? Can you skip the TV show or the instagram feed that shows EVERYBODY drinking wine? Can you swap a coffee for a tea and see how that feels?
- Your going to have to learn that the present moment is all we have. The best way to enter the present is to follow your breath. You’re triggered, now just breathe. Think conscious thoughts. Breathe.
- Can you change anything? Do something differently. Hug your child instead of yelling, even if you still feel like it. Busy yourself with the laundry instead of social media. Make dinner, even if it is early, just so you don’t eat the whole pack of chips?
- Celebrate the little changes and forgive yourself for staying enslaved to the patterns that linger. Just know that you have power over your life and that willpower does not have staying power. You need to shine light into your darkness not hold it under water, it will just resurface when you have run out of energy.
Do you have any tips for breaking habits? Have you had any experiences that you could share and help others? I’d love to hear them. Leave a note in the comments or on social media.
Hi Nicola, I’m so glad I came to read your blog tonight. I feel like I need a reset after settling into ‘holiday’ mentality, which is very hedonistic and based on instant gratification – wonderful short term but not great for our physical and mental health long term! The universe definitely led me here to read your wisdom. I really like your idea of sitting with pain and consequently avoiding suffering – I think the best way for me to break bad habits is to replace them with equally enjoyable, but ultimately beneficial ones. Tomorrow and beyond, I’m going to go to bed and know I did my best. Thank you for the inspiration. Your school mumma friend, Lisa xx