Adjusting our state of mind works even better. By Cindy Heath
Image by the author with creative commons on canva.com
Something always bugs me about the idea of making all these resolutions. Thinking about it, I could see my only long-lasting habits resulted from a profound change in priorities. And I rarely succeed in creating a new behavior until I’ve gotten rid of the old one.
Changing deeply held beliefs means we have to dig deep into that inner yucky stuff we want to ignore.
We can remind ourselves of the words attributed to Socrates: The unexamined life is not worth living. And we do want a life worth living.
Imagine this scenario as you watch someone raise a glass of champagne at 11:59 pm on December 31:
This will be my last taste of alcohol for the coming year. I know those two or three daily drinks aren’t good for my health. Do you think that resolution will work? Doubtful.
Health matters, but not enough. I’ve found activities that provide an immediate reward of temporary relaxation and a jolt of pleasure often hide a deeper need. Changing these habits means we have to look further still, at the why. Are we hurting somewhere that’s hard to see?
Loneliness and disappointment are the roots of so much pain.Humans are innately social; we feel safer in groups and often experience a vague sense of discomfort when apart from others for too long. However, being alone can be the best time for reflection.
Learning the principles of accepting the present is essential if we hope to be content in life. Anytime dis is attached to a word, as in dis-appointment, it’s a sign that something expected did not happen. Often, it is the expectation that needs to be adjusted.
Fortunately, many great teachers offer help in evaluating our expectations.
Think of these words attributed to Jesus:
"Therefore I say unto you, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? " (Read the rest of these verses in Matthew 6:25–34.)
Ram Dass, author of Be Here Now, reminded us, "A feeling of aversion or attachment toward something is your clue that there’s work to be done."
"The more you are focused on time — past and future — the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is."
A series of unexpected events caused me to live alone, just as the isolation of COVID-19 descended. I’d become comfortable living close to people I cared about, and the loneliness of separation from my tribe overcame me. I hadn’t been ostracized or banished, though my mind insisted that I had. Not only that, a voice in my head hissed, alone means you will die…alone means you will die. This is not the life you imagined, the one you deserve.
Miserable, isolated in my apartment—eating ice cream from the carton and drinking too much box wine, the monkey mind chattered lies in my ear.
Fortunately, not for long. I knew its annoying voice too well.
Visualize the Monkey Mind It sits upon my shoulder, whispering troubling thoughts, half-truths, and downright fibs in my ear. Sometimes, I listen. Mostly, I’ve learned to shoo it away.
Monkey mind or mind monkey, from the Chinese compound xīnyuán and the Sino-Japanese compound shin’en 心猿 [lit. “heart-/mind-monkey”], is a Buddhist term meaning “unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable”.--from Wikipedia entry
Years ago, my sister told me about this annoying metaphorical critter, and I knew it was real. At first, it scared me with its sharp claws that dug into my back. Then, I was afraid of what might replace it—what if a tiger took its place?
I got used to bearing its weight and being slowed down with a chunky monkey on my back. Then, one day, I realized the monkey was growing, and I was shrinking.
Making a Choice to Embrace Truth As is so often the case, the serendipity of books provided answers. The blessing of the written word allows us to learn from those we’re not likely ever to meet. We don’t always have a mentor or coach available, but most of us can access books. And the internet—which I love to describe as living next door to the Library of Congress!
This time, when I stopped listening to the annoying voice in my ear, I found my fear of being alone was a need to be distracted and avoid looking within. Staying so busy I could always say I don’t have time for introspection had become an excuse, a part of my monkey mind.
Using my solitude to learn, write, and walk is becoming an unexpected treasure.
"It is not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do , it is that we feel the need to do too many things in the time we have." — Gary Keller
Lifelong habits are really, really hard to change. However, they are more easily dealt with when replaced with new patterns built on new beliefs.
You know, the ABCs? Always Be Changing Hopefully, none of us will stop being curious, learning new things, and changing—for our entire lives. We need to be questioning our own beliefs, assessing their accuracy, and adjusting when needed.
What do you think about New Year’s Resolutions? Effective or a waste of time? What do you do instead? Who have been your most valued authors/mentors? It is so hard to choose. Because they change over time.
And one more, just because I’m reading it right now. --The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times by Jane Goodall Okay. Your turn now. Would you please share those books which helped change your life? And your thoughts. And have an excellent NOW, and an inspired new year.