Lately I’ve been contemplating habits and what they mean to a personal growth journey. This led me to the seven deadly sense which I did a little googling on. There are a lot of things we feel pretty bad about doing! Gluttony, pride, envy, lust, greed, wrath and sloth.
Take sloth for example. I know a lot of people who cannot feel good about doing nothing. Just “Netflix and chill” is not in their vocabulary. They would like to be more relaxed and enjoy down time but they have to be doing something or they feel they are being lazy. Flip that coin and you find the slothful person stuck in the mud, constantly binge watching the next new season of House of Cards.
I relate to the sloth side a bit more but both extremes can be just as uncomfortable. I have done a lot of self inquiry as to my habits in order to develop self-awareness. What I found is that no habits ever changed with just a promise to myself to be different or better. Monday morning commitments to eat right, exercise more and stop cursing all fade away as soon as the stresses which are the root of those habits emerge. We try to tackle the manifestation which is the weight and eating too much without getting into the core beliefs and it’s too hard to do. That habit is anchored by the weight of the beliefs and the energy we have trapped holding it in place.
So by Monday afternoon all of our good intentions are out the window, we caved to the box of donuts in the lunchroom at work and because we aren’t following the regimen perfectly we say to heck with it and plan for the next Monday. And we create vicious cycles which are grooves in our behavior. The patterns are reinforced thousands, millions of times over our lives. It’s all a story in the mind and when we put our attention on it, the whole story of why repeats itself to you.
The only purpose it serves is as a distraction from the truth of yourself, the beautiful presence witnessing the story. That is You.
We have emotional habits as well as habitual thought patterns. This is the true root of all evil. The resulting behavior is just the outward manifestation of a thought process, a belief system running a story on a loop for you.
I lost a great deal of weight a number of years ago which was the result of a deep reconciliation in my relationship to myself and some very very deep habits of thinking about myself and the world. As I forgave myself and examined the beliefs driving my world, I found the will to change the habits that had kept me very overweight for many years. One day during this process I was eating a simple salad and found that I went from a hungry agitated state (because my body was really hungry and needed food!), to a very comforted and contented state.
From eating cucumbers and vinegar.
I was shocked at the level of pure comfort I felt from eating something so boring. I had long associated comfort food with bread or pasta with melted cheese. Still do really! But the switch that flipped for me that day was the judgement I had for ever being comforted by food. I suddenly saw the massive criticism for myself for enjoying food at all. I saw the self abuse that led to an unhealthy relationship with food and negative patterns that prevented me from choosing what my body really needed in any moment. Being comforted by food was accompanied by guilt and remorse and led to a vicious cycle of addiction.
I realized that as infants when we are hungry and we receive food, we are comforted by that nourishment. That comfort feels wonderful. It is my natural state to enjoy the comfort of nourishment. Its that simple and certainly nothing to feel shame over.
This awareness became like a computer virus that rewrote the entire program of beliefs governing how to beautifully take care of my body as a unique living being. What I need for health and balance cannot be compared to anyone else, although I can learn from others experience and expertise. I cannot even compare myself today from the past because my body’s needs change day to day, moment to moment.
As I was reducing my way, which took several years, there were times I felt very vulnerable emotionally. It was too much to go forward and I learned to have patience and allow whatever was in my subconscious a chance to surface, be witnessed and become wisdom instead of a wound. With mindfulness I explored the depths of what caused me to compulsively eat too much of the things that made me unhealthy.
I had to become an observer of my patterns and let the beliefs show themselves to me. Slowly new habits took hold as my self acceptance and love grew deeper. Without telling myself I had to, I suddenly wanted to move my body more. Following an idea I tried hot yoga and over five years later I’m still an avid practitioner.
My body’s needs keep changing though. I had really believed that one regimen, one strategy would suffice to keep my weight and health in balance. I created a new idea of perfection. Strict rules for a perfect outcome. Sound familiar? Pretty harsh and judgy… it must be the mind at work! Why on earth would I ever think that one way is the only way to take care of myself? Well it takes me right to my inner child, who just wants everything to be OK. What allows habits to change and bring about personal transformation is to loosen the tight hold we have on ourselves. That vice grip keeps the vices alive. When we judge ourselves we need comfort, a way to cope with the stress of those judgments. When we forgive and let the beliefs go, the emotional body can breathe again.
Without emotional freedom and acceptance, we don’t have the clarity to see what our true needs are in the moment. Instead we revert to a pattern rather than approach living as a moment to moment experience we are each choice is unique. The pain of these patterns usually has to become great enough to push us to seek solutions outside our comfort zones. Our habits are a key component to holding those comfort zones in place.
Even deeper is the notion of why I care about any of these things that keep running in continuous loops in my mind. The mind is always striving to be something different than it is. While I agree with the belief that doing activities that support my continued health and well being are great, I notice how easy it is to then create a Pass/Fail system in my mind. Then I find myself trying to live up to the image of being a good girl. When I follow that trail, it leads to nowhere. The roots of this evil are buried deeply in the psyche. The patterns of thought and behavior intertwined like an ancient tree embedded into the earth.
The answer to where does this come from? I don’t know and I no longer care.
Why is that freedom? Because it doesn’t matter where it comes from. Freedom is recognizing the illusion of it, the senseless merry-go-round and giving myself permission to get off the ride by not believing in it. Any of it. And then bit by bit the groove that habit ingrained in me, slowly smoothes out and a new action becomes possible, even inevitable because the energy trapped there is released and returned to me. Freedom to choose is restored.
Copyright © 2016 Catherine Chase. All Rights Reserved.