Why is it so difficult to change outdated and unconscious behaviors and habits?
What keeps us from making the changes we know will help us feel better? Even when we see how our behavior is eroding our relationships, our career or our health, many of us are unable or unwilling to change. Our inner rebellion story may say ‘I can do what I want’. Yet, all that story actually gets us is a chance to be ‘right’ while others are ‘wrong’. For some of us, the story may have us so focused on everyone else and making sure ‘they’ are OK, that we rarely pay attention to ourselves or even notice what is going on inside. At a deeper level, some of us may believe we are unworthy of feeling good in the first place which keeps us from focusing on ourselves at all.
Many of us don’t make the space or time to look inside and experience what is happening because we feel too vulnerable or out of control. We don’t know what we will find in there, and the ego can create terrifying stories about how bad it’s going to be. Many of our addictions are tied to this avoidance of our in-the-moment experience. This keeps us distracted or muffles what we hear, see, taste, touch, feel, and know. We avoid our inner space by keeping ourselves overly-busy, overscheduled, overcommitted, overtired, or over-dosed with chemicals and alcohol.
Unless we are focusing on what is actually happening within us, we will miss what it and keep operating from our old habitual programming.
What is happening within us is an aching for our inner experience to be recognized, expressed, and honored without judgment. This is at the heart of that saying ‘it is what it is’. It’s OK to feel how we feel and think like we do. There is nothing wrong with it – that’s just how it’s been up until now. Judging ourselves for our natural reactions keeps us out of our immediate experience. We are disconnected from the important information within ourselves. Once we build up the courage to be fully present, we can receive our inner messages and have new and better-informed choices about what works best for us. It may be our body that is speaking to us when our gut tightens with fear as we face an uncertain situation. It may be our sadness or our anger rising to let us know that we are not getting what we want, or we are getting something we don’t want. It could be a unique and impactful idea that wants to be birthed into the world that keeps whispering in our ear. Unless we are focusing on what is actually happening within us, we will miss what it and keep operating from our old habitual programming.
If we really want to change, it’s critical to build up the ability to ‘witness’ what is happening inside while it is happening. It is like having space between your higher/objective/neutral self and your lower/subjective/fear-based self. This ability to witness let’s us step into the present moment where everything is actually happening. We spend so much of our focus on what has happened in the past and what we anticipate happening in the future, yet the reality is the only ‘happening’ is going on right now in the present moment. The past and future are simply a function of the mind’s memory and imagination and the emotions tied to them. My favorite teacher, Leonard Jacobson, says that we need to allow ourselves to fill up with the present moment so we can step out of the mind’s illusion of time.
Filling up with the present moment feels good! When we are fully present, our mind is silent. There are no thoughts, we are simply in the ‘flow’. The more time we spend in the present moment, the easier it is to come back to it. The ‘flow’ continues to build up and blossom within us making it easier to stay in it for longer periods of time. Being present is simply giving your full 100% attention to something that is present with you. If you can see it, touch it, taste it, smell it, hear it or feel it, you can be present with it. That means anything. Both the flower and the chair – neither is better than the other. It is easiest to be present when you are doing simple things that require no mental effort. Taking a shower, driving the car, washing the dishes, walking in nature, looking at a candle, petting the cat or dog. Being present can be as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on your breath, or walking in the garden and focusing on a flower.
Once you are present, let yourself just ‘notice’ what is happening in front of you, around you, and within you without judgment. There is nothing right or wrong about what is happening right now. Everything is just is as it is. Including YOU!.
Once we have built up a little presence inside of us, we can begin to recognize and listen to what is happening within us. What we really want and don’t want. What does and doesn’t feel good to us. The feelings that arise within us. We can start to empty out the old ‘pool’ of stored emotions from the past so they no longer ‘trigger’ us in our day-to-day experiences. We can begin to make choices that honor what feels ‘right’ for us and let others do the same for themselves.
How can you make the ‘inner space’ for change today?