We never change, do we…

We never change, do we…

This could be posed as a question or a statement, and I am not sure where I fully stand on it yet. I believe that we only uncover our true selves when we change, so are we really changing or just shifting?

Our conditioned existence poses so many challenges to us, and many of us decide that there is nothing we can do about it. Maybe we are worriers, or defenders, or yellers, or overeaters, or drinkers, lazy, pessimists…you name it, we have a label for it. But we do not need to be embody these habits, they are untangle-able, undoable, movable, shiftable. For any habit that has formed can be reformed, gently nudged, replaced, a different choice uncovered.

The key here, however, is recognizing the choice in the matter. For when we say “this is just who/how I am” we are implying that we are victims to some set of circumstances or DNA that made us who we are, when in reality, we are choosing to think or feel or behave a particular way. Or maybe you will argue that we don’t choose our thoughts and feelings, in that case, we still choose our reaction, and thus the ensuing behavior.

I recognize in myself the habit need to be right and as a result resist. For example, when a decision of mine at work was challenged and overturned, I grasped at all the reasons why the new decision was wrong. I spent hours, maybe even days searching for evidence to support my position. Over the course of that time the situation hadn’t changed, and I only found my self deeper in my self pity, anger and frustration. For every bit of evidence I collected I felt self righteous, and concluded that I was right and they were wrong – but still the situation didn’t change. So where did I find myself? Bitter and angry and stuck with all of the bits of evidence in my misery. And so when all else failed I finally surrendered and meditated. I found some space in my breath, and I looked closely at my need to be right.

Settling in, awake, alert, aware. Just breathing. Letting go. Letting be. Ahhh. What was my real motivation? Was it moral, ethical? Did I want to feel important? Had I really considered the other perspective? What would it mean for me to let go? And I found a mix of answers. Number one, It wasn’t an ethical situation, and that was hard to differentiate. Sometimes when something feels right or wrong to us we assume they is an ethical or moral implication. But really, is there? In this case the real answer was no. I wanted to feel important, that was clear – my ego was standing strong. I also truly felt the wrong decision was being made, and that other people may suffer because of it. But when I looked at the greater context it was clear what the motivations were (right or wrong) and it was clear that nothing was going to change that reality.

So I decided to surrender and to accept the situation as it was, to find a way to work within it, not against it. After all, that is the ultimate teaching of the dharma, isn’t it? To surrender to life as it is and to find a way to weave into it, not to fall down and not to push against – but to ebb and flow within.

In recognizing my habit of resistance I had a choice to make. We don’t and won’t always make the choice to behave differently, but we can allow for the possibility by;

recognizing we are making a choice
driving a wedge between the stimulus and response by cultivating self awareness through mediation (this concept of the wedge between stimulus and response gracefully borrowed from Lama Surya Das)
being as honest and we can with ourselves about why we are reacting or behaving a certain way

If we can start with those first three simple steps we can start the journey of shifting our habits to lead a happier life.

“because of ignorance our minds are obscured. We falsely divide reality into subject and object, self and others, existence and non existence, birth and death” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Comments

  1. Impermanence offers hope that eventually even stubborn habit energies will change. Be well.

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