Hello and welcome to this glorious Friday, February 26, 2021. Today is a rare and precious day that will never come again.
How we feel about anything in particular changes from moment to moment. For instance, maybe your boss approached you and suggested that you change the way you file your documents. Realizing that you’ve been doing it the same way successfully for years, your first response may be one of defense. Maybe you find yourself angry at her suggestion and feel justified in your position. Later, however, once the initial emotional reaction has faded, you begin to see the wisdom in her guidance. Another example: You see your doctor and discover that you have high cholesterol. You’ve been thinking about changing your diet for the better for quite some time. This lab test is just one more confirmation that it’s time. You’re motivated. You’re inspired. After a week or two of planning and psyching yourself up, you make the decision to start on Monday. You go to the store and pick up the ingredients for healthier meals. Mon, Tues, and Wed all go great. Thursday morning rolls around and you wake feeling tired, a bit discontented with no real explanation as to why. Because of your recent changes in diet, a thought arises which implies that maybe you initially overreacted and that you don’t need to go to the extremes you planned. You feel a little uncertain about this thought, but because you’re not feeling the same motivation, you justify your mom’s favorite biscuits and gravy recipe – something you’ve sworn off. Within a couple weeks, you find yourself eating the way you have been for years. Except this time, there is an increased feeling of remorse.
Just because we may not always “feel” motivated, does not mean that our intention is no longer important and valid. Emotions and their associated thoughts are changing all the time. These thoughts and emotions are driven by habit. When we try to adopt new and healthier habits, we are confronted with a mind that persistently does everything it can to convince us to revert to what we’ve been doing all along. What I find amazing is that the very same mind that tries to persuade me to let go of my new healthy intention, is the very same mind that later beats me up for not following through with what I set out to do in the first place. Our mind does not always have our best interest in mind.
In my mindfulness practice I have discovered this truth: I cannot think myself into right action, I must act myself into right thinking. Regardless of any new intention, I start out with fervor and determination. Nevertheless, my mind soon kicks in. Shortly, maybe days or weeks, I start listening to the persuasive thoughts nagging me to return to a state of normalcy. I lose momentum, and interest. It is at the precipice of these initial thoughts where we can successfully create the neural pathways which foster meaningful habits.