Habit

We are our habits, whether we like it or not.  Many neuroscience studies indicate that our brains are made up of about 40% (the low estimate) habit.  Meaning that as we do an activity over and over again, the decision making part of our brain starts to shut down and the routine is automated.  The good news is that this frees up our brain to do other things – the brain takes up more than 20% of oxygen, blood and energy to function, so in order to allow up to do higher functioning tasks it needs to automate as much as possible.  The bad news is that it doesn’t differentiate between good and bad habits.  That is where awareness comes in.  In order to change or shift any habit we first have to be aware we have it – the excuse that I just am the way I am doesn’t fly.  We are changeable adaptable, malleable beings.

I will be talking about this subject a lot in the coming weeks as I am working on a project that i think will eventually change the way people look at their behavior and provide the necessary tools to make sustainable change.

As I was doing my research I started to think about all the ways in which habit effects our lives and I immediately thought of my three year old son.  I realized that all the conscious and unconscious decisions my wife and I make in his life are forming habits that he will keep for a lifetime.  Whether we are talking about the basics such as eating and sleeping, or we are talking about how he interacts and thinks of himself, how he interacts and thinks of and treats other people.  Many of you have children, think of how quickly something can become part of their routine, how quickly they come to expect something to happen the same way everyday…

For example, Henry has a bedtime routine, as I am sure your child does.  He takes a bath, brushes his teeth, we read three books and sing three songs, he sleeps with his favorite love thing (he calls him baby E) turns on his lantern and goes to sleep.  We have been following this routine most of his short life.  He expects it and can rattle it off, he will even correct a babysitter if they miss a step.  This isn’t a rant about what routine any child should have, it is about being deliberate and fully aware that whatever you are doing, you are creating a routine and creating a habit – good or bad.  And if you aren’t following a routine than the non routine becomes the habit.  It is about realizing that every choice we make, in our lives as well as the lives of our kids could result in a habit.

So, as you ponder this I highly recommend taking an inventory, maybe just starting with yourself or if it is easier, think of your kid(s) or your pets.  What habits have you cultivated without realizing it?  Write them down, the good and the bad.  Now what habits would you like to cultivate?  Write those down too.  It is the start of creating awareness around how we behave.  Pick one habit from you list – good or bad.  And think back to when the first time was that you did that thing…

It helps me if I do a short meditation before I do the reflection.  Set a timer for 5 minutes –

Arrive – get comfortable and be where you are

Awake – start to hone in our your breath – breathing in on the count of 4 and out on the count of 6

Just breathe – when you mind wanders to the next thought as it will, come back to breath and start counting again

Aware – continue breathing – allowing your self to only have to do this one thing – let go, let be

Back to the breath, counting in and out

When the 5 minutes are up, take out a piece of paper and try the exercise above, you may have opened up some more space to remember more details.

We are all imperfect beings, with good and bad habits.  For change to happen we first have to come to know ourselves.

stay tuned.

 

with love,

kelley

Opening

One of the things that happens when you open yourself to life just as it is…you may have a constant urge to run the other way, or at least that is what happens to me.  Let me be clear here, I don’t have this all figured out, it is a journey, I try to do it more often rather than less.  In the same way I have a dailish meditation practice.  I attempt to have more moments in the day where I am aware that I am making a choice, whether it is a thought or action and from there try to make the choice that is the most open and real, ishishish…see what I mean?  I ask myself why I am doing what I am doing – what is the feeling behind it? Why I am resisting my boss or colleague or train seat mate or partner?  I may go right on resisting, but I try to do it consciously.  

Case in point.  In my job, the job that in which one of the the things I am tasked with is determining how we can best lead, coach and shape our people to be the best most authentic leaders possible, I also have to role model the behaviors.  Which is damn hard sometimes.  We recently had a very senior role open, one which I declined to interview for (which is a whole other story for a later date).  The final internal candidate is a person I worked with for 12 months during my stint in Amsterdam.  The “person” triggers me to no end.  Very political, extremely hierarchical, not very nice to their team…you get the picture.  The person was given the job, and in an indirect way it is part of my job to help set them up for success.  I found myself so annoyed that they got the job that I spent a good hour with a colleague complaining about all that ails our company and why they would make such a poor choice and how people are going to hate this person, blah blah, complain complain.  I found myself somewhere in my rant realizing I WANTED this to happen!  That I need to be right and I was deep down wanting him to fail.  Pause here.  Yes, this was one of those oh shit moments where I realized that I had a choice to make.  I could acknowledge the feeling, which was embarrassing to begin with, I mean what Director of Leadership secretly hopes for a new leader to fail??  I am gonna go with the “human one” as my answer, that is who.  So in the moment I acknowledged my feeling (to my wife which was way safer) and then made the choice to do what I could do to be wrong.  I decided that as much as the person triggers me, it doesn’t do me, the person, the people around the person, or the Company any good for me to be right.  

So, I am on the journey of trying to set the person up for success.  Even if it is painful.  I look at the him and see him as a person who wants to be happy, healthy, and free just like me.  Ugh.  

My dailish meditation practice and study of mindfulness is what helps me here.  I owe it to that practice that I am cultivating my own self awareness in order to be a more authentic and better person in this world.  If it weren’t for that ability to pause, I would have gone right on waiting for an wanting the person to fail.  

Don’t be afraid to be human but do try to be as honest with yourself as you can.  You may surprise yourself.

On now to your week…be healthy, happy and free my friends.Image

  The pic is just meant to make you smile 🙂

Oh how we suffer

The idea that we create our own suffering is not new, yet we haven’t figured out how not to do it. Suffering becomes a self fulfilling prophecy very quickly. It isn’t because we are all martyr’s and masochists, it is because becoming aware of our thinking, noticing the ways in which we create our own suffering is damn hard. Harder still is cultivating the honesty with ourselves to admit it, to be as honest as we can with ourselves. And then if it is going to shift or change we have to act on it, which means constant awareness and deliberate thought and action. After all, this thinking of ours has become a lifelong habit, it doesn’t just go away because we know it’s there.

I, probably like you, have discovered a number of ways in which I have created my own suffering, none more painful or difficult to face than how I was contributing to the unhappiness in my marriage.

Just over a year ago, as alluded to in my post on Roman Ruins, I almost gave up on my marriage of 7 years. I had hit a point where my unhappiness was unbearable, and my habit was to look outside myself as to what the problem was. So I blamed and blamed and I collected my evidence that I was right. That our lives had moved in fast forward for the past 9 years, moving 5 times coast to coast and overseas and back again – that when we were finally in one place and things had slowed the unhappiness couldn’t be pegged on the change or impending change – the unhappiness was right here. Or in my case, over there, it was my wife’s fault. I my mind I had a list of things I needed her to do/change about herself before I would be willing to go to couples therapy. The problem with collecting evidence to support your own argument is that you resist the truth, even when it smacks you in the face. As we are on our path of collecting we aren’t going to pick up those ideas or examples that don’t serve us. So I found myself deep in the well of self deception, drowning in my own blame.

Resentment builds and resistance increases and with each attempt on my wife’s part to talk it through, to go to therapy, to look it in the eye and see it for what it was, I ground myself in deeper. And it continued in that direction for months until one day it didn’t. Her persistence endured and I begrudgingly agreed to one couples therapy session.

Showing up to that session I was certain that I would not budge from my position that was my was at fault, she wasn’t going to change, and maybe wasn’t capable of change. And then we got arrived, to a small office building in a town just north of Amsterdam. I sat down, crossed my arms and shut down. And then our very skilled therapist started asking questions – and my very well defended wall was by an objective third party. As I left the session I had to decide just how much I wanted to continue to build resentment and to resist my life. I had to take a serious look at how I was creating my own suffering. And stop looking outside myself.

The tibetan word Sem mean discursive thinking, it is the way in which we get in our own ways. Rigpa on the other hand mean wisdom mind, it is a way of cutting through things and seeing them as they are. For 14 years I had created this story and self image of me the mindful buddhist, and meanwhile I was just as self deceptive as the next person.

Pema Chodron says that being concerned with our self image is like being deaf and blind. It is like walking through a field a beautiful flowers with a black hood over our head. I decided to take my hood off. I hope you do too.

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