Did you slip back into any old habits that you wish you hadn’t? Did you gain any new habits that you wish you would have walked away from? Did you discover the evils of Nutella? ‘Fess up … we won’t tell.
“Vice” is such a good, old-fashioned word. Juicy and judge-y, you know it’s gonna be good.
I’m reminded of the quote by Mae West (although it is often attributed to Helen Gurley Brown). “Good girls go to heaven — bad girls go everywhere.” Well, I’ve always wanted to go everywhere. I love a little innocent mischief, and all the pleasures of the flesh — in moderation. So alas, no vice for me. I’m too active with a busy practice and happy home front at this stage of life to have the luxury of vice and debauchery. But habits? NOW we can talk!
My work as a teacher of the Feldenkrais Method, is, in large part, about recognizing habitual patterns of action: one’s own first, and then those of others. A habit is not necessarily a “vice.” Moshe Feldenkrais said that habits are good, as long as you can break them whenever you want. Funny, isn’t it? We try to develop “good habits” over the course of a lifetime, and to eliminate or break the “bad habits.” Whether the habit is judged to be good or bad, more important to me is the element of mindlessness.
Is mindlessness a sin, or a vice? I guess it depends on the vocabulary you are comfortable with. As far as “doing things I wish I hadn’t,” well, sure. And the characteristic they all share is mindlessness. That automatic, without-thinking-clearly, default, knee-jerk, “why am I doing this when I know it doesn’t work?” state that is too often recognized in my metaphorical rear-view mirror.
My worst habit is worry and fretting, triggered in one very specific field of my attention. In almost every other domain of life, I am action oriented, and recognize worry as an ineffective strategy and a time-waster. However, with great regularity, I begin to fret. My fretting takes me out of action and gratitude, and throws me into fear. And when I am in fear – no bueno.
This fear and frustration launches a tired old story in my head, about couldawouldashoulda, and ain’t-it-so-hard, and gigantic pity party. And I have to watch myself and hear myself inside my head, and say, “Cut it out!” The sooner I change my frame of thinking, the less damage I do.
I’ll do almost anything to stay out of fear. I’ll even muzzle myself and discount my needs and desires so as not to “rock the boat,” or piss people off, or make sure that a situation remains harmonious. Those are reactive behaviors. Mindless reactivity is the habit that I am now keenly aware of. And awareness is the first open door. . .
Mindlessness is an auto-pilot. I guess we all teach what we most must learn. Mindlessness creeps in to eating, drinking, social interactions, movement through shared space — it’s freakin’ EVERYWHERE, once you start looking. But it all starts right here. Look no further. It’s on the doorstep.
Feldenkrais brings me back to paying attention. It brings me back to myself, helps me to come to my senses, and to feel effective in taking appropriate action when necessary. With that mindfulness comes a growing compassion, for myself and for others. That seems to be a pretty good foundation on which to begin a new year.
How about you? Habits, patterns, mindlessness? Please leave a comment.
[I'll be writing daily -- ish -- each day in December, as part of #resound11. Join us here.}