What is reborn are our habits. ~ Dalai Lama
Sunday’s date (10/10/10) struck a chord with me. Whether it was the alliteration effect (can numbers be alliterated?), or for some other reason, something about the date made me dig out my diary from the end of 2009 and read the goals I’d written there for the forthcoming year. Habits, you see, are something I’m observing in myself, and setting goals can be a useful tool for changing or indeed developing or enhancing habitual tendencies.
On the plus side, I’ve finally stopped waiting for other people’s approval or permission to start writing, and have maintained this blog for over 3 months. This is a really important goal for me ~ but for someone who loves to write I do cringe at the thought of others reading my words ~ which tells me there is a long way to go to deal with the ‘approval’ stuff. It tells me not only that the habit is quite ingrained, but also that simply acting on a goal doesn’t miraculously make the negative habitual thinking go away. As the Dalai Lama puts so simply and directly, our habits are reborn.
So what can we do with these habits? Is there a useful way to engage with our habitual thinking?
Yongey Minjyur Rinpoche refers to this process of examination, of ‘looking at the way we look’, the very ‘essence of taking life on the path’ (Joyful Wisdom). For if we fail to see or realise how we look at life, how the filters through which we decipher our experiences can alter their very meaning (or at least the meaning we ascribe to them), then there is little capacity for insight, and even less possibility of lasting meaningful change taking place. Our habits will simply be reborn, over and over.
So isn’t this rather a bleak message? No! In contrast, taking the time to ‘look at the way we look’, whether through sitting in contemplation or meditation, writing a journal or blogging, or simply observing or reflecting on repeated patterns in one’s own life, whether alone or in discussion with a friend or therapist, can lay bare some of those habitual tendencies. This is the vital first step. Once the habits have been recognised for what they are then there is the possibility of engagement – of developing compassion for oneself, of practising forgiveness, for oneself and others where needed, and developing insights into the subtleties of these habitual tendences – in time softening the edges around some of the most entrenched filters/habitual thinking we have created over time.
Therefore our habits are not the enemy, not something to be conquered and overcome, but our allies and valued teachers on this path and in our lives.