Have you ever played jenga, the stacking of wooden bricks within a set foundation only to see which one you can remove without bringing the stack tumbling down? If so, have you ever noticed that each brick is as seemingly innocuous as the next, the same material, dimension and purpose as the next? And yet, dependent on the surface and the finesses with which each brick is finished, each has the potential to threaten the very integrity of the entire stack, just by being in the mix.
Habits seem much the same to me. Each as seemingly innocuous to the person, of whose mind the habits have sprung, and yet, unless you pay attention to how it lies within you, you’ll never know if it has the power to threaten your integrity in some way.
I awake every morning alive. I know that sounds daft, but it’s still a habitual pattern to which we pay no heed. We pay no heed that we wake set to cyclical rhythms, air filling our lungs deeper, eyelids fluttering open to the day, muscles resetting themselves for movement after rest. And as our body brings a sense of ‘alive’ back to the physical, we are in charge of bringing ‘alive’ back to every other aspect of our being. Our habitual thoughts, words, and actions compound what we do with the body that greets the day with us and what kind of life we experience.
I used to wake habitually to a thought of lack: I’d not had enough sleep or I couldn’t remember my dreams or I didn’t have enough energy for the day. It was a habit to which I was oblivious until I started having a morning routine of yoga. Because, to get me out of bed initially, I had to push the thoughts of lack aside with thoughts of gratitude that I had a choice. My body was healthy enough that I could choose to get up and do exercise. My body and mind communicated well enough that I could do a home practice without having to worry about showing up to a class. And so with thoughts of gratitude, I found a different energy to propel myself into each day. Now, amusingly, the newly wired morning thought has knock-ons for my evening thoughts. Now I remind myself if I get up promptly and mindfully to my alarm, I can fit 45 minutes in before work. And that brings me joy.
About a year and a half ago, I started to honour the life in my words by starting this blog. My intention was solely to empower my own voice, find it and use it. You all, by your mere presence, let alone comments and likes, have affirmed that I can speak something of value and of worth, for which I am eternally grateful. And this blog has helped me to learn to do the same face to face too, quietly, cautiously learning to say what is important to me to the people who are important to me, perhaps the hardest of all habits for me to install.
To my mind, habits that include physical aspects are the hardest to set and unpick. Because, for it to have set in action, it’s got to have lived solidly as thought, been filtered as word and then become ingrained in body. They are a culmination of the conscious and the unconscious, the active and the passive and, unless you understand your thought triggers, your mind patterns and your biochemical and muscular responses, they can be hard to unravel alone. For example, as a grown adult, I should know better than to still bite my own nails, but I still do it. Not because I’m not mindful enough to watch what I am doing but because I still need to unearth exactly what the sabotage program is. To those of who who may suspect that I’m overthinking this one, my habitual action is nibbling nails, yours might not be, but I’m pretty sure most people have one!
I’ve always found breaking old habits, I find setting new habits easier. So my intention behind setting new ones is that, as my brain focuses and wires something new, it lessens the hold on the old, redundant patterns that I no longer love. My intention has been, for years now, to create new, beautiful building blocks of habits that will stand me that nestle in and nurture each other. My hope is that a consciously built stack, building high and removing the erroneous ones as I go, will stand me in good stead for the rest of my life. It’s not easy to be so deliberate, but it’s fun. Here’s to never having to shout ‘Jenga!’