“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
“Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”
In Part 1 of this series, we looked at how habits develop, and Part 2 describes what it is like to be locked into a habit: rigid, inflexible, uncontrollable behavior and emotions, feeling like a victim, hiding from fear. This is what I would call a recipe for suffering.
Freedom from Habits Explained
This post is the beginning of the breath of fresh air, the ray of sunshine behind the clouds. Habits fragment us. They exist to help us cope and survive in the world, and they are fueled by unexamined belief systems and emotions . When all of our experience is placed under the microscope – when we observe it in precise detail with so much tenderness – we can be free. The elements of the pattern may not disappear, but by observing them, the way in which we relate to them changes dramatically.
This is amazing! We are not trying to eradicate the pattern. Our goal is not to get rid of thoughts or feelings. This is impossible; they come and go of their own accord. All we need to commit to is an ongoing investigation of our moment to moment existence. We are so lucky – we get to be conscious and alive in our lives! We end the trying, the efforting to make something happen – or not happen. What replaces the effort is the simple and effortless act of noticing, observing.
In Part 1, we saw how when we learn patterns we move from being, our original state, to doing. Simply by observing our experience, we move from doing back to the restful state of being. The distinction between the observing and that which we are observing dissolves – there is only this, the indescribable reality of the moment.
Be a Courageous Explorer
Some of what we observe may not have been seen in the light of conscious awareness for a very long time. These are painful emotions that are hidden in the recesses of our minds, bodies, and hearts. Like an old drafty mansion with closed rooms and secret passageways, we live in the areas where the sun shines through the windows. We suspect there may be interesting finds lurking in the hidden zones, but we are way too uneasy, terrified even, to explore them.
The path to wholeness, to reclaiming our true nature, is to put on the searchlight and venture out into the darkness – to find the fragments of emotions and memories that we just couldn’t cope with before. Take your time; go at your own pace. Your hidden treasures are waiting to be seen in the light of day.
Habits are built on belief systems that need to be examined. These are thoughts that entertain a given view of the world and constrain openness to all views. In my experience, these belief systems come to light only by intentionally digging them out. They catch us before we know it because they are so subtle and believable.
When I investigate thoughts, I sit quietly and write each one down, asking, “What is my world view in this situation?” I see how the beliefs perceive me, other people, the world. What do they expect? What do they need? How are they limiting?
Thoughts Produce Stress
A few years ago, I was lying in the sun, soaking up the warmth. I decided to experiment with thoughts. I thought a thought and noticed a faint tension in the muscles of my body. Then when the thought subsided, I realized I was relaxed. I kept trying it with different thoughts, and noticed that every thought was stressful to my body. Even happy thoughts. The actual experience of happiness prior to the thought was true happiness. The “happiness” in the thought felt created and forced. This was a revelation to me!
Radical as it may sound, I have come to not believe any thoughts. Yes, they help me function in the world – where is the gas station, how does my new dishwasher work. But I have come to disregard: judgments, expectations, assumptions, wishes, hopes, beliefs in anything, even most plans. And it has become a very joyful life.
No More Belief Systems
As you investigate thoughts, please do not take on what I say as another belief system. A true study is direct, immediate, in the moment – and ultimately a solo journey.
The goal is not to quiet the mind or to banish any thoughts. You are simply investigating to see what the thoughts are saying, how they are influencing you, if they are accurate, what they need.
If you would like more resources, Byron Katie offers the four-question method of The Work to investigate thoughts. I also recommend a book by Adyashanti, called The End of Your World. Chapter 4 discusses inquiry into thoughts.
As Adyashanti says, examining thoughts with true curiosity may mean “the end of your world” as you know it – the end of being imprisoned by your habits and the beginning of living in clarity, truth, reality. It is a step away from the familiar and into the unknown not bound by mental conceptions.
In the next two parts of this series, we take a look at deeply seeing the other realms of experience: emotions and bodily sensations. This is the path to total release from the inside out!
I’d love to know how it goes as you become aware of what you have been believing? Have you had the experience of realizing a treasured belief is not actually true? Are you aware of beliefs you hold on to?