…stubbornness and habit…

“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” –Samuel Johnson

Remember the three commands: choose, respond, and change?  (If you don’t, see …choose, respond, change…)  Well, one of the impediments to mastering mindful change is our tendency to act out of  stubbornness or habit.

Let me give you two stories.

This is a story about a man and a horse. The horse is galloping quickly, and it seems that the man on the horse is going somewhere really important.  Another man, standing along the road, shouts, ”Where are you going?” and the man on the horse replies, “I don’t know! Ask the horse!”

Needless to say there is a lack of awareness here.  Sometimes our energy runs away with us without really telling us where we are going.

Here is another story:

One day, a rat faces four tunnels.  He smells cheese.  Down tunnel #1 – Nothing.  Same with #2 and #3 – Nothing.  Finally, he goes down through tunnel #4.  Eureka! Cheese!  Next day, he smells cheese again.  Smarter now from his experience, he heads down #4 right away. Eureka! Cheese!   This happened 5 days in a row.  But on the sixth day,  he ran down through tunnel #4 – five times – No Cheese.  He was depressed.  But he could still smell the cheese.  Then he decided to go down the other tunnels.

Down tunnel #3 – Nothing.  Down tunnel #2 – Nothing.   Finally, he goes down through tunnel #1.  Eureka! Cheese! 

Habit make it difficult to consider all of our options.  We can easily become convinced that only one alternative exists even when we are explicitly facing a variety of alternatives.

So … what does this have to do with “choose, respond, and change?” 

The command, “choose” is about memory and imagination.  Memory engages us in “Call-up and Select” while imagination engages us with “Hold and Contain.”  Both stubbornness and habit put a lot of emphasis on “choosing” without ever realizing that there is more to the story.  The commands to “respond and change” get the short-shrift.   Very little attention is given to the present moment of the story.

The command, “respond,” is about self-awareness.  Self-awareness insures that our uniqueness is included in the world around us.  When we respond, we fit the awareness we have brought up from “choosing”  into what we make of the world by identifying “the-game we are in.”  If we name that “game” by default, we are never open to learning anything new.  So “respond” asks for us to appreciate the immediate moment.  This is how we become mindful and present. 

Lastly, the command, “change,” is a measure of how comfortably we can stand within the unknown.  With a mindful response, we do not rush to change the unknown into a pre-conception.  We stay curious and open, we engage ourselves in the whole situation before pigeonholing our trust. 

Samuel Johnson is right,  “The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”  A mindful change asks that we remember our endowments:  Self-awareness (choose and respond) ,  Creative Imagination and Conscience (be open to seeing more than the obvious) and finally Independent Will (action puts us into the environment).

Thanks for listening!


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