Change of Habitude

I’d been waking up several times in the night feeling intense anger and fear. Weird.  No reason for that.  When I took a mental step back, I realized that I was actually experiencing a strong surge of physical energy and interpreting it as anger and fear.   Granted, I’m a 50-something female, which might be a clue about the energy surge, but what really riveted my attention was that my logic center had supplied “pain” as the default explanation of what I was feeling.  What’s up with that?  Why is my automatic interpretation of strong energy “pain” rather than “joy”?

What if you aren’t who you think you are?

Becoming watchful of my habitual assumptions about myself, my life, and the world, I realized that my understanding of myself  was based on a sort of scrapbook biography, a concoction of partial memories and anecdotes.  I was taking these shreds and patches to be the whole truth and nothing but the truth about me.  What’s more, I was expending huge amounts of energy protecting the morsels I liked and trying to erase the bits of which I was ashamed.  I was a puppeteer desperately believing that my puppet was me, believing that this piecemeal creature’s existence (and approval rating) was essential to my survival.

I was abiding by its boundaries, like an compliant child careful not to color outside the lines.  I was living a tamed identity, restricting my life, cowering in phantom shelter.

Safety by self-imprisonment.  Hence the habitude of anger and fear.

Wild Identity

Did you know that researchers believe a newborn doesn’t associate itself with a body during the first months of life?   Just for a moment, imagine your infant self dwelling in this world without boundaries.  You have all your sensations and you are unlimited, wild.

Merely supposing that I might fully inhabit the wild identity that  accompanied my infant self into this life was a liberating sensation.  How much energy would I have, how much freedom, if I just stopped pumping effort into the tatter-shawl identity I’d been so carefully curating?

But I couldn’t simply flip a switch.  I had a life-time of commitment invested in this puppetry.  And of course, my well-trained intellect was screaming, “Reckless!”  I’d depended for so long on the approved versions of myself for my safety—for my belonging.

I needed a practice, a touchstone, a way to re-call my wild self into presence.  I needed just to begin the conversation with something wider, bigger, deeper.

“And so long as you have not experienced
This: to die and so to grow,
You are only a troubled guest
On the dark earth.”

– Goethe (The Holy Longing)

Here is what I do:

I listen to music; read poetry; go to place of scenic splendor; visit artworks wherever they may dwell; I sit in a sanctified place; I spend long stretches of time without verbal input (read or heard); I savour sensations – the scent of the air around me, the ambient sounds, the taste of my coffee– and I and let the cascading interpretations of my busy intellect arise and fade without being adopted as ‘true’ or ‘false.’

That’s all.  I don’t expect an ‘answer’ or a resolution.

All I look for is a wider horizon, a broader frame, a deeper, clearer understanding from which to consider my response—to break free of habitudes, into the unbelievable freshness of an already eternal presence that is experiencing this life, this world, this participatory co-habitation of planet earth.

Engage in genuine conversation with this moment-by-moment life and the strategic plan will reveal itself.

Maybe what is happening for me in the night is just the bees in my heart, making honey.

1 comment to Change of Habitude

  • Wow … does this ever look familiar!?! I’m looking at my self-talk and assumptions a little more closely today.

    But mostly I wanted to say that this is utterly lovely … “Maybe what is happening for me in the night is just the bees in my heart, making honey.”


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