Tag Archives: habit

Chuck’s Place: The Heart of Habit

Habits are precious stones that reflect the jewels of our unknown selves. Like moths to a flame we are drawn to the daily ritual enactment of our precious habits.

In the golden light of a new day... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
In the golden light of a new day…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

The unconscious draws us with compulsive fervor to realize its contents as it reflects itself upon the objects of this world. Specific objects glow with the mana of transcendence, of wholeness, of completion. Whether we are directed to obtain or avoid these magical objects is irrelevant, our daily lives are consumed with and defined by the mystical dance with these reflections of god anyway.

This habitual state of possession easily defies reason. As St. Paul abundantly made clear: that which I would, I do not; that which I would not, that I do. Had we the birthright of the East, that this material world is but maya, perhaps we wouldn’t find ourselves so easily entrapped by the spell of projective illusion. But, as Westerners, the solid world is our playing field, the waking dream of the unconscious and habits are our paths of heart.

At the heart of habit is that which we do not know about ourselves but must discover in the gold rush of our daily lives. This knowing transcends reason, which is simply inadequate at grasping our greater wholeness. How reasonable for instance is passionate love? And, in all honesty, in one form or another, is not the habitual seeking of passionate love at the heart of much of life?

The pot at the end of the rainbow of habit is as illusive as the gold it reflects. Inevitably, even the successful scoring of the habit, the magical substance or pulsating being we obtain, is but a fleeting glimmer of the true gold we seek. And so, each day we awaken with renewed vigor and resolve, reset to go off once again prospecting for that gold.

The Buddhists call this repetitive seeking avidya. It is at the root of all suffering, and yet its repetition leads eventually to knowledge, as repetition itself leads to burnout; the flame of desire simply exhausts itself in completion. The habit ends as the jewel of self-knowledge is realized: the object of my desire has simply lost its shine, the compulsion disappears; I am freed to move in a new direction. How deeply I grow from this new possibility, how daring I will be to change my life is still a function of consciousness and conscience, but it’s no longer governed by compulsion; the path for growth and change is cleared.

It could be argued, a la the Christian viewpoint, that sacrifice is a more efficient methodology to bottle up and transform the habit, but you cannot throw your habit into the fire of sacrifice if you are truly not done with it. One need only examine the notion of turning one’s cheek or immediately embracing forgiveness, which frequently only generates a shadow of lifelong resentment. If the fire of anger is not allowed its full course it will smolder and flame up anew. You are not ready for sacrifice if you have not fully mined your habit. In such a case, your habit still holds meaning for you.

Our habits eat away at us... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Not fully mined yet?
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

In repetition, I give myself full liberty to reenact the experiment to prove the hypothesis that my unconscious has proposed to me: that thing, that being, obtained or avoided, is the key to the kingdom. Having obtained that key over and over again, having lived it fully, having examined it in totality, finally reveals its treasure.  That treasure comes in many forms.

Sometimes it reveals the obsessive power of a mighty defense that promises to protect me from death. Sometimes the trail it leads me on forces me to discover a precious unknown part of myself. Sometimes it is the very thing that breaks my narcissistic shell and reveals the world beyond myself and my place in it. Sometimes it reveals the caged, domesticated animal of my physical self seeking the redemption of freely living its instinctual life. Frequently it is the trail of recapitulation itself, the journey to recover and discover who and all that I really am, what jewel I’ve come here to obtain.

Habits can be life threatening, but no journey of heart is without its dangers. And no one can truly be rescued from a habit, for habit is the habitat of humanity. We may be protected from our destructive habits, and often we must be, but until we discover the real jewel that lurks behind the habits we are drawn to our lives will continue to wrap around the heart of the habit.

Habits, gotta love ’em!


Chuck’s Place: Inhabit New Habit

Nature is on automatic pilot... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Nature is on automatic pilot…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Reasoning, or thinking, is a function of consciousness. The far greater share of our mental functioning operates on automatic pilot, in the vast realm of the unconscious mind.

Although we can consciously decide to breathe, to breathe deeper, to adjust the rhythm and length of a breath, the majority of breaths we will take in our lifetime will happen automatically, outside the purview of our conscious awareness.

Our unconscious is filled with billions of such preset programs that we all share and inherit from the evolutionary journey of our species. This was why Jung named the deepest level of the unconscious the “collective,” versus personal, as at the deepest level we all share in common the same preset programs to react and survive as living human beings.

The unconscious mind does not need to think through eons of experience in order to gain the precise knowledge of how to react to a given need or stimulus. I was once deeply wounded in the palm of my hand on a beach. I was alone. I passed out; that is, consciousness left. When it returned, I discovered my hand packed in sand, the bleeding completely stopped. I was good to go. The program to “dress” that wound lay dormant and ready in the unconscious. It was triggered to action upon contact with the stimulus of the wound as it pushed the ego out of the way and took care of business. This is the essence of instinct—inherited habits to address adaptive needs to ensure survival.

With the advent of consciousness, human beings have a new source of habit making. Utilizing our faculty of reasoning and learning, we introduce new patterns of behavior into our lives. When we learn to drive, for instance, we—with consciousness—repetitively practice a series of behaviors, such as learning to brake and drive with one foot, learning to turn the wheel, to park, and to stay in lanes with others going in the same direction. Once these tasks are consciously mastered, they slip into the realm of the unconscious, as habits that react on demand, as needed, when we drive. After awhile, driving starts to require minimal consciousness—in fact, we easily daydream while our unconscious reacts to all the stimuli we encounter as we safely take our journeys.

The unconscious is a habitual mind that reacts to needs and commands. This fact lies at the essence of hypnotic suggestion. Like the habit of driving that we ask the unconscious to perform when we enter our cars, the unconscious awaits orders constantly throughout the day. Hypnotists are aware of this part of the mind that responds to suggestion, and speak directly to it.

The truth is, we are all our own hypnotists. The Shamans of Ancient Mexico identified our inner hypnotist as the internal dialogue that incessantly barks orders at the unconscious mind, manifesting in how we see ourselves and construct our world. That internal dialogue may tell us that we are inadequate, unattractive, unfulfilled, undervalued, underserving, etc. Of course, it can also deliver other consistent messages that support a sense of worthiness and adequacy, but this is less common. We become so entranced by the habitual definitions of our internal dialogue that we construct a personality and sense of self according to its dictates. We become entrenched in a familiar definition of self that, however uncomfortable or unfulfilled it may be, persists because of the constant redundant messages and orders delivered by the incessant internal dialogue.

Ready to dive in and create some new waves? - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Ready to dive in and create some new waves?
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

The Shamans of Ancient Mexico suggest that we interrupt this automatic flow of messages by canceling the internal dialogue and consciously delivering new suggestions, what they call intent. Intent is the mantra of a new, consciously delivered, command, bent on manifesting a new sense of self, as well as a new world.

When we coin a new intention—i.e., I am calm—and repeat it religiously, like a prayer, we are delivering new working orders, entering a new habit into our unconscious mind that will activate the programs associated with manifesting that intent. We must be religious in our practice—highly repetitive—if we are to push aside the old messages, the conflicting old messages of the reigning internal dialogue, which can only serve to confuse, that is, deliver mixed signals to the unconscious mind. And mixed messages, as we know, confound the manifestation of change.

We must be disciplined and persistent in our practice. Remember, it took a long time and a lot of practice to truly master the art of driving as a guaranteed habit. It is the same with manifesting and inhabiting a new habit. Perseverance and repetitive practice will, ultimately, manifest intent in new habit!