The Force of Habit

Thursday was the start of my 60th year aka my 59th birthday. It has put me in a more reflective mood than usual. I watched a documentary about the practice of mindfulness and was struck by what was said about habit. If we do something regularly it only takes a few weeks, so they say, to become a habit i.e. the circuitry in our brain gets used to firing up in a certain pattern and will naturally do it without us having to think about it. The brain loves finding connections between the current situation and memories of similar situations in the past so that it can follow a previous pattern of response. This is good – we automatically wash and clean our teeth in the morning without having to think about it and we don’t put our hand in the fire a second time. But the downside is that we easily become unaware of what we are doing, spending a lot of our time on autopilot and not really present and able to respond to the actual conditions of the moment.

And it’s not just habitual ways of acting, it’s habitual ways of thinking too. One thought can trigger another and another until we find ourselves in states such as anxiety and depression on a regular basis and feeling helpless to do anything about it.

The practice of meditation goes a long way to addressing our lack of awareness of our own habits of mind. But I think we are also well served by actively questioning our thinking in periods of self-reflection or talking things through with another person. We are helped in knowing when our thinking may need some attention – we suffer!

One spiritual teacher says that suffering occurs when you believe a thought that is out of step with Truth. I think that is something that is well worth investigating.

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On a lighter note, Cromford is getting geared up for the Celebrating Cromford festival that starts this evening and lasts all weekend. This is a photo of possibly the world’s only grade 1 listed pigsty (which happens to be opposite the Hermitage).

More photos next week.

 

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