DON'T HOLD BACK !
Eleven days into the new year, have you given up your resolutions yet?
The new year comes around and it's "out with the old, in with the new". How's that going? Easy? Hard? Is that OLD stuff still around?
Let me tell you a secret. There is no such thing as OUT WITH THE OLD when it comes to human habit. It’s not like decluttering when you literally throw out items you no longer want. Things are separate to you. Habits have created you.
Sure you can have great intentions to make changes, but the systems inside of you will still exist. They are strong. Your neural systems have been customised by your life, how you think and move and work. Your OLD HABITS are unique to you. Let’s also include other factors like DNA. Those family quirks or traits can be nurtured but they are also in your matrix.
New year comes around and there is a general encouragement to leave behind that what you don’t want, in favour of something that you do want. For many it is doing something more. Adding activity to your life – walking, meditation, exercise. For others it is to eliminate something – types of food, time spent on the internet, alcohol.
These are common examples of commitments seen as worthwhile, but let us take one. The power of one, one thing. One goal is far more achievable than many. Complicating life with many intentions causes distraction and often sets up failure, irrespective of gender and ability to multi task. There may be some amazing people among you who think they can juggle more than one change, but my challenge for you is to stick to ONE thing, for now.
My example here will be time on the internet. The relatively new distraction to my here and now. There have always been distractions to here and now - TV, daydreaming, drinking. The universal invasion of beeps and vibration, or just wondering if something needs my attention, is an addiction.
I can see and feel it in me.
I pretend to myself I am polite about it, not doing it in front of people when dining or other socially respectable spaces. (“Doing it“ sounds like I’m at some lewd act.) I see the dogs looking at me, turning their heads to one side, when the attention they seek is diluted by the gadget in my hand and the way my body language goes from happy to see you, to hang on a minute you’re not so magically important right now that a tiny icon has popped up on my phone screen.
Clearly my full attention is not on the dogs in that instance. But how many times am I ignoring who and what is around me? How many times do I not even notice my distraction?
I am on my own at a bus stop. My intention is to stand and notice myself - the cool moist air on my face, how my body lines up, where I feel the cold, where in my body I feel tension… There are always many fascinations when I turn my attention in.
But it’s cold and I have to wait. Out with the phone. How much power do I have? Maybe I should turn it off to save energy. Ah sure 35%. We’ll have a little nose around facebook. Did that. Oh I remember an article on back pain I was reading, let me see if I can find that. After scrolling for ten minutes my neck is sore. Where is this bus? OK I’ll just check the bus times and then I’ll put it away. Another twenty minutes. Awww. Just five more minutes on the phone, but we’re down to 20% now. Put it away. I have still hours to get home.
Back to me - what is OLD that I want to throw OUT?
I am distracted by the thing and not looking at the self. The habits are in me. The phone makes a noise when someone else somewhere in the world does something in an effort to contact me or share something I may be interested in. I don’t want to throw out my phone. It has many valuable uses, never mind the expense of it. But again the hot little product in my pocket has a life of its own and many connections to the whole world. This slender piece of technology has a better social life than I do. To throw out the phone would be a folly.
The HABIT is in me. It’s not the phones fault. I have been trained to answer it, gaze at it, check it, look for more out of it, turn it off, turn it on, change the settings, take pictures, share pictures etc. I then notice how frustrated I get when I blame technologies for vamping my time. Again, it’s me and my time management that are the issues. The gadgets just beep according to their simple design. They are not trying to manipulate me. I let them manipulate me.
So here is the habit of frustration showing up. This is probably the habit that has most strongly prompted me to check and manage this habit. Obviously unless I want to live on another planet (and maybe not even then) the phone is a necessary tool for our lives. The reason for my wish for new is in the OLD. It is my habit that I am dissatisfied with.
So what other information do I get from OLD, from my habitual self?
When standing on the crisp January day I noticed how fidgety I got, how reliant I was on the information in my pocket, the “what if there was new news!!!!” It was all my mind. I had lost what connection I had to my body. My mind was overactive, wanting to split from the delicious dark weird cold day, wishing for distraction. Distraction from the cold? The wet? It’s cold and wet Fiona. That’s the nature of a winter’s day. What are you gonna do about it???
It was the same when I wished to give up food or alcohol. It was the same when I took up exercise or meditation. The mind wants to be entertained. It’s demanding and wants bright lights, and news feeds or laughs and giggles. It wants to feel different and warm and cosy. It wants to feel better, dissatisfied always with how it is. But often continuing the line of behaviour I am in, does not offer different or better.
But back to the task in hand – to leave the phone alone.
What is my body telling me?
It’s unsettled. It wants to split, leave here. These feelings of frustration and wish for distraction are where I have to start. Not run from. That, in itself is a great challenge. “It” is my body and the sensations in it. Huge amounts of information. (How could I not be entertained?!) “It” is the vehicle that moves me around, from dinner table, to car, to work, for work, to the park, to play with dogs or kids, to home, to bed… “It” is my body.
I know my body needs more attention and respect because I am absolutely sure I want to be master of my movement for as long as I live. And that’s just moving. Keeping my autonomy and natural ability. What about enjoying my body? Enjoying flavours and smells that satisfy an appetite or enjoying activities that entertain or feel physically good, elating.
I have forgotten all that. I am standing stiff and cold. There are aches in my back. My neck is pulled in so as not to be exposed to the cold and my shoulders are up. No wonder I want to be distracted. It’s painful standing here. But I know better. I know I can release my shoulders free my neck and let blood move around me. As I do I begin to appreciate the beautiful sky and notice that the cold isn’t that cold. It’s fresh rather than cold and the rain has subsided to a mere drop. Ah yes! It is nice to be in my body and feel this day.
People come and ask about the bus. I deliver the information they seek and then turn to fidget, to look at the ground, swing my bag, kick the wall, take a few steps, turn around and back to my position at the bus stop. I am distracted. But this is a different OLD habit. Something rooted in shyness or social anxiety. This one I have worked on but my fingers went for the phone. After all, the new people at the bus stop were using their phones. It’s what you do at a bus stop.
I dropped the phone back into the pocket and watched the changing skies. A dark grey was spreading from the west. The bus should be coming from the west as well. I took the phone out, just to check the time. 7 minutes. I put the phone back. I listened to the noises of the traffic. I turned away as a heavy truck approaching created spraying fountains in its wake. My body scrunched in anticipation, and released joyously when it had passed. That was fun. I opened my ears to birds and the hum of a motor way beyond the traffic on the road. I could hear the bus. I could feel it. I couldn’t yet see it but my senses were more alive now and something big was coming.
The bus was warm. I found a window seat for me to distract myself again with passing views. I played with the phone again.
It’s such an addiction. The habit. The OLD. But without visiting it and sitting in it and recognising it, the new won’t come. The more we use the body sensations to tell us where we are at, what is happening now, the more we keep ourselves on the track we wish to go. Honestly noticing I’m distracted and calling myself out on those old familiar feelings is where I start, and restart, and restart. The OLD neural pathways are strong. You have taken years to make them and they shape everything you do, unconsciously. They happen without you even instructing them.
Watch out for them. Respect them. Listen to them. They have much to offer you in respect of all your positive wishes and endeavours to change. When you get to know those OLD HABITS you will learn to move away from them and enjoy your new chosen ways. But know that in times of stress your OLD HABITS will be there to support your actions. They have served you till now and have plenty to teach you. Let them be your guide rather than your enemy as you learn to leave them behind.
Love Fiona x
I am Fiona and I am exploring themes of meeting resistances and allowing ways through. The constant weeding, recognising the stuff that's in the way to live easier.