Could It Be That Simple?

Three days have elapsed, and I went to bed when I was tired without much fuss or friction. Why did I ever make a problem out of going to bed? Could the tentative experience of observing what was going on in mind when I was on the point to go to bed have worked so readily?

It is, of course too early to say, but let me share two patterns I have observed. The primary one is that before going to bed, I have a strong feeling that something is missing and I have a strong draw to seek the comfort of social interaction. Probably related, the second pattern is that I am attracted to the dopamine boosts provided by the virtual world of social networks or online entertainment. Lastly, there is the feeling that I have not managed to do enough during the day and that I would feel much better if I could cross an extra item from my to-do list.

On Friday, my partner wanted to watch a drama episode of a series that we have started following – something we enjoy doing together. Even though I had not moved much during the day, I was already tired and was apprehensive that it might stimulate me and give me a second wind. I know that sometimes watching a film or TV programme before going to bed switches my thinking on! But I decided to go with it and remained curious to see what would happen if I was more conscious about the process. Once the show was over, I took a cold shower and did not think about the show I had just seen. I went to bed at around ten o’clock but tossed for a little while. After resisting the urge to get up, I somehow found a balance between observing what was happening in my head and letting go of the day.

On Saturday, something similar happened. I had a conference call which I was committed to attending. Because of different time zones, the call went on until quarter past ten, and I was anxious that it would interfere with my experiment. I relaxed into the call and stayed tune to my body – I could have left the call before the end, but chose to finish with everyone else. Once the meeting was over, I went to bed pretty much straight away – without taking a cold shower this time. I fell asleep quite soon after hitting the pillow.

Was it just luck? The critical step has been to ignore the draw for mind stimulation, to listen instead to my body and to retire quite quickly when I felt ripe for bed. Not sure if I have gained new insights about how my mind works – but I may have dislodged a problem I had built over many years about not going to bed when I was tired.

This series of posts are part of Incrementally– a 366-day writing challenge.

Photo by Cris Saur

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Three Days to Drop A Habit


Ok, I am giving myself three days to drop a simple habit.

Why three days, you may ask? Well, because it is a piece of homework I was given when I was fourteen and I never really acted upon it. The teacher in question was J. Krishnamurti.

When I was a student at Brockwood Park in the eighties, we would meet with him quite regularly in September, February, and June, and on one of these occasions, he set us some homework! That day, he was speaking about habits and suggested that we could understand how minds work by actively dropping a habit.

It did not matter what habit we chose to drop; the important thing was to observe the workings of the mind seriously. What was most surprising is that he specifically mentioned that one could lose a habit in three days. This was unusual for him, as he rarely ever gave specific advice.

It was a long time ago and, if I remember correctly, he instructed us that the first day we needed to carefully observe the habit without any interference. The second day, we needed to observe what would happen if we stopped performing the habit and notice the movements of thought, the sensations in the body, the resistance, etc. On the third day, we could let go of it entirely and wave it goodbye.

I could not really come up with a habit at the time, and it seemed a little magical, so I ignored the exercise and never really gave it a go. 

Today, some thirty-four years later, I decided to act upon it and give myself three days to drop one habit. The habit I chose to work on is NOT GOING TO BED WHEN I FEEL TIRED. It is a habit I have been struggling with since I was a child. I have tried so many things to encourage myself to go to bed early over the years that I have nearly given up on it. Yet, I have nothing to lose and intend to focus on it diligently for the next few days and use this writing challenge to write a little about the process in the next three days.

Finally, it would be nice if you could join me with the challenge or attempt to drop a habit or your own – in three days!

This series of posts are part of Incrementally– a 366-day writing challenge.

Photo by Darius Bashar

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Lost in Books

So today, I have to confess that I got lost. I went to the library to work on my course and got distracted by the books on the shelves. It was like going through a rabbit hole. Time stopped, and before I knew the day was nearly over. An important part of fearlessness, is to admit to our errings. I need to reflect on the pattern as it is not the first time this happens – in fact it reminded me of my university days. I may write a blog post on the topic of procrastination if, or when, it comes to the fore again.

So, no blog post today – as I do not want to write after 6:00pm.

L.

Photo by Jaredd Craig

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A Good Cry

When there is resistance, the present conditions that seem to provoke us are rarely the cause of our struggles.  These are merely symptoms of underlying undischarged trauma from the past. Unless we go at the source of the original recordings, the confusing feelings that emerge will keep on returning creating more friction.

To have someone by our side who can listen non-judgmentally and help us uncover what really is troubling us is so invaluable. We know we have found the right person, when tears come naturally. Crying is usually a sign that something inside is shifting, that some emotional knot is being released.

We may have been conditioned to suppress or stop the tears, but this needs to be challenged. It is true that there are many situations where it may not be appropriate to cry and it is wise to choose a safe context to discharge and re-evaluate the source of our sorrow.

After the tears, we may feel elated and relaxed – these are the sign of a good cry.

L.

Photo by Kat J.

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Rise above

Rise above

As soon as something requires a little effort or discomfort, the mind will send a little resistance. A part of us, though, is willing to carry on. It may not be clear where the resistance is coming from, but it triggers an internal battle-of-will. We want to do such and such, but we don’t feel like it. Is this internal conflict normal and what do we do with it?

There are, of course, many types of resistance, I am just referring here to the resistance one faces when one is trying to adopt a new habit or practice. The first few days are usually relatively easy; we have the motivation, and we are noticing some form of progress. So long as we give the new activity or practice our full attention, things fall into place. Usually, it is when we meet some form of difficulties that things become a little more challenging. The activity becomes less desirable; it requires time, energy, and effort. It is at this point that the resistance may appear to be an issue. It is a natural reflex: part of us detects discomfort and will do all it can to avoid it.

Firstly, it is valuable to listen to it. It might be a useful intuition. For example, our immune system might be quite low and going for a swim may make it worse. However, the fact that it is a feeling does not mean that it right either. It could be an old fear disguised as an emotion that is not valid in the present situation and worth going beyond.

Secondly, once we have a better idea why the resistance is there, we can turn it around to our advantage. We can become grateful for having the resistance, and consciously understand the consequences of the choice we will be making. It may be uncomfortable to enter the water at the beginning, but as soon as we overcome the first sensations, the experience may be positive and beneficial.  A lot of the time it is a case of “feel the fear and do it anyway”.

Lastly, we can learn to recognise the resistances that are not useful or even that sabotages our endeavours. For example with writing, I know that resistance takes the guise of procrastination. The mind will actively seek another activity and often rationalise things like:  “you really ought to tidy your office first…” Pausing and giving it a little attention can usually help us redirect our priorities and this can even give us a lease of energy.

Resistance to change is normal. The first step is to acknowledge it. The second is to turn it into an ally. The third is to rise above it.

Until tomorrow,

Breather*

One sentence journal – day 9:
“This may be a little childish, but the beginning of a new month always excites me; June is here, and so starts my ZenPlan journey. ”

This blog is part of a renewed 42-day writing challenge inspired by Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits Book.
Photo: Lola Guti

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