Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lesson #32: Habits Wreaking Havoc (Part 1)

Good morning, Sweetheart. Today we return to everyone's favorite topic: bad habits. Back in May, we discussed addictions and other unhealthy patterns. As we all realize by now, these habits can wreak havoc on our lives. But what about the subtler tendencies we all have?

Think of these patterns as seeds that have been planted somewhere along the line. They may be habits we picked up from other people---parents, siblings, friends, or partners---like using certain verbal or facial expressions, smoking cigarettes, or the tendency to complain or blame others. But these examples are just the tip of the iceberg because this is a  huge category, especially when addressing the habits we grew into by living in a certain family, culture, religion, geographical location, or socioeconomic group. These influences largely shape us, but not completely.

Most of us come into this world as experienced souls. We already have a unique personality or predisposition. Add to this a biological body that has it's own genetic memories and its own natural temperament. This is what we have to work with. This is what we start out with. Everything we pick up from there on out is not who we really are, but who we allow ourselves to become.

What does this mean? Let's say that your mother's very fearful, or your father's very angry. Chances are, these will become themes in your own life just because you were under your parent's strong influence. But how you respond to these influences is your own issue.

For example, you may (or may not) follow in your parent's footsteps and develop phobic or aggressive tendencies. If you were raised by someone else, would you have developed these traits? This is an important question that only you can answer. It's possible that a habitual way of behaving is not you at all. If it's a "good" habit, like bathing regularly, then it's not a problem. But if it's a habit or tendency that causes you grief, like always assuming people are trying to cheat you, then it's worth questioning. But then how do you undo this influence?

This is a complicated issue, and one that does not have an easy solution,  but one thing for sure is that it's important to question whether this is actually your issue, or someone else's. There's a belief that as we get older we start to turn into our parents. If you're firmly anchored in middle age, like I am, you might notice how this works in your own life. If you're a woman, do you find yourself gradually taking on characteristics your mother exhibited at the same age? If so, do you just accept these characteristics/habits, or do you recognize that some of them might not have anything to do with who you really are, but are just sort of reenactments based on images that live in your head.

You might not recognize the difference right away, but if you ask the question and sit with it for a few days, I think you'll start to get a sense of what's what. For instance, you might start to see your tendency to criticize your children as more of an unconcious imitation of what your mother did, than your true parenting style. In this case, you would need to get in touch with how you really want to relate to your children while working on breaking the habit of going on autopilot and reenacting what your mother did.

Please check out my new favorite blog. It's called "Life in Z-D: A Goofball's Guide to Enlightenment." Author and spiritual teacher, Z Egloff, is as funny as she is wise, and I know you will enjoy her.  http://lifeinzd.com/