Over the past few weeks I’ve been brought back to the same awareness: Just move on. Similar to letting go, what I mean by moving on is that sometimes we are so conditioned to responding in a certain manner that it can seem like it’s the only response we have, and it’s time for something new. In other words, we can become so habitual in our reaction to certain triggers – mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually – that it can create a sense of being stuck. Moving on can open the door to a different approach.
Usually, my first response to a familiar emotional reaction is that there must still be some aspect that needs my attention. Otherwise, why would I still be creating so much energy around it? As someone who is devoted to self-awareness, I start digging through the layers in an attempt to heal. Often that is fruitful, but it can also support a deficiency focus. Underneath the drive can be grasping that maybe – just maybe – this time I will find the magic piece that heals a particular issue once and for all. Even though I know better than to believe that, I have to admit that my ego tries to convince me that there is more work and processing to be done. Egos do seem to enjoy fostering insecurity and a lack of confidence.
After having an issue come up that I have processed in every imaginable way to me, I was feeling a bit frustrated when my emotional reactivity presented in an all too familiar manner. Then I realized: Just move on. As with all mind states, observe without attachment, judging, and ego. I can stop pushing myself to evaluate and process, I’ve done all I can do, it’s just habit.
Habits can be tricky. They can take incredibly broad and varied shape and form. What starts as something innocent and new, maybe even a bit uncomfortable, transforms itself into an automatic response built on an illusionary promise of comfort. We grasp, cling, and attach without even realizing it. Or, we realize what we’re doing, but still feel powerless to stop. Even when we feel empowered, the challenge to make a different choice can be fraught with anxiety and fear.
Realizing that I am reacting due to habit creates space for me to observe. Instead of hooking into the energy and then distracting myself with the desire to “do” something about it, I can just move on. I can acknowledge that my response and the energy are conditioned based on past experiences. I know there will still be times when there is more work to be done. Yet, when I allow for habit, I create space to be in the present. I do not have to assume that the past is still driving my state of being. I can come into the moment, be present, and then evaluate whether something is deserving of more reflection and attention or not.
It is also important to support ourselves with loving-kindness and encouragement. Not with the hope of being happy someday, but by opening our hearts and awareness to being happy now. I hear teachers and monks say that it is of crucial importance to be familiar with states of well-being, happiness, and contentedness. Their encouragement is to use that awareness to focus and build our practice; that mindfulness comes with greater ease with happy and peaceful states of being than with suffering or dukkha.
As I try to make more skillful and wholesome choices, especially in regards to habits, I know I have a long way to go. I am encouraged and more hopeful due to greater clarity regarding habits. The avoidance that creates and sustains a habit will need to be tended to, but the habit itself may be a conditioned response that has worn out its usefulness. When that happens, I can just move on. Then, freedom and peace prevail. And, that’s how I know my reaction is habitual because I actually do move on. Instead of feeding the delusion, I am tranquil. Who knows, maybe letting go of the habit will follow.