Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The "Problem" with Good Habits

Genkaku made an interesting post this morning that I think highlights the way many of us obsess about what we perceive as "bad," but seem to forget the impact of what we perceive as "good."

Your good habits will come back to haunt you and require a hard, sometimes hellacious, effort to clarify. This is not just some sissified theory or philosophy.
Habits by their nature leave traces and shadows. Bad habits, good habits ... traces and shadows remain.

Seems to me the operative word here is "habits." I'm reminded of my yoga teacher's frequent comments about "choosing the path of least resistance" and how, that might be the easiest way, but what does it teach us? He often comes up with new approaches to age-old yoga poses, and I think this is in part because he's witnessed how all of us, himself included, get stale and mindless about our lives. I'm also reminded of the times we have changed the translations of chants at our zen center, and how, in both situations, we're offered the opportunity to hang with the confusion, irritation, and not knowing that arises.

I don't think the above means we have to toss out positive habits. But maybe it's an invitation to break the groove, any groove, at least once in a while. Isn't that what Buddha taught us when he said the teachings are to be let go of once we cross the river?


Unknown said...

as a child i was always impressed with the term habits:--articles of clothing worn by a religious order.

Habits are the clothing of our lives.
We dress in them. they identify who we are, and our affiliations.

the nuns of my childhood didn't always look comfortable in there habits.. but were slow to give them up. i think sometimes the habit reminded them of how to behave.

Habits are interesting.

spldbch said...

The thing about habits -- good or bad -- is that they are comfortable. That's what makes them so hard to break.

Sara said...

Do you take all the photos at the top of your posts? I really like them - they're always a bit quirky.

I've been looking at some of my habits lately and realising how hard they are to break. It really feels like I've been going around and around in the same groove - and when I try to move that record needle to a different groove it feels really strange for a long time.

I've realised that those old habits really had a sense of comfort to them.

Nathan said...

Hi Emma,

Most of the photos are mine. When I started the blog, I felt it would be a good place to mesh both my interest in writing and photography. Sometimes , the pics are just hanging out with a post, and sometimes they're a part of it.

Jennifer Campaniolo said...

Hi Nathan,

Letting go of good habits...hmmm. That would mean taking risks, daring to look foolish or silly. But it's when I'm doing something for the first time that I feel most alive. Have you had a hard time breaking habits? I think first you have to notice it's a habit, then figure out how to change it and actually follow through. I read somewhere that it takes three weeks to form a habit. I wonder how many weeks it takes to UNLEARN one.

Thought-provoking ideas here. Thanks.


Nathan said...

Hi Jennifer,

I can't say I'm the biggest struggler in the world when it comes to habits. I quit meat over a six month period without much fuss. I have learned Buddhist chants by heart in a matter of weeks. But I still see how easy it is to slide into comfortableness - even if it's something like reading Buddhist books for example.