A Change of Habit

Autumn is my favorite time of year, in particular the week before Thanksgiving. For some years now, this is the time I assess the current year in preparation for its final toast on December 31. I love the season; it’s such a time of good feeling. There were years that I watched all the holiday programming television could provide. This year, I’m marking the season by not subscribing to any television programming for one year, perhaps forever. It’s a habit I’ve wanted to change for decades, and it seems the season to do so.

For me, most television programming is noisier than any form of social media on its worst day. And my limited engagement with social media is more free than not. Frankly, I can “click out” of either one quite easily but the television has held sway over me–admittedly, attachment–that social media does not have, yet. Television provides hours of images, day and night, and all I have to do is watch, mindlessly.

Cooper’s TV Reaction

Yet, for all of 2012, I have been exploring consciousness–being aware of being aware–by studying various ancient traditions, including the practice of meditation. Since July, I have been meditating daily, having missed only a handful of days in five months. Meditation is yet another change of habit that is a long time in coming.

In the posts I have written about meditation, specifically about being “in the gap,” I acknowledge my difficulty in learning to accept what is. Yet, it is that acceptance, the moving away from duality–not labeling a moment as this or that—that has allowed me to connect to consciousness, producing changes in my physiology as well.

The benefit of any habit is its consistency; in fact, that is the power of habit. Nowhere is this more apparent than in meditation. My daily connection to “the gap between thoughts”—where stillness or consciousness resides—always provides moments of calm, even relaxation. The more that I practice meditation, the less attention I pay to the constant chatter of my mind. Without attention, my thoughts do not attach.

Early on in my meditation practice, there were days the chatter was almost nonstop but there was always some point where I connected with the stillness.  And every connection affected my physiology. Frankly, when I was in the gap, I was not aware of any discomfort. In five months, I believe my discomfort level is significantly less, and while I do not yet fully understand all that may mean, I know it to be true.

There are other reasons for my improved physiology, including a healthy diet and exercise, but if I had to single out one aspect in the last two years it would be a change in consciousness. In other words, my reality has changed because my consciousness has changed, not my attitude but my awareness. It is not a matter of positive thinking for a change in consciousness has nothing to do with thinking and everything to do with being aware of being aware in every moment.

Autodidact that I am, I have sought out the ancient traditions and continue to do so but when I began my meditation practice is when I noticed the shift in my consciousness that affected my physiology. There is no doubt that the cumulative effect of the change in so many of my habits over the past two years is finally being realized–recently, I added a few fruits and legumes to my diet as well as sweet potatoes–but beyond the increased energy I receive from extra carbohydrates there is a hardened resilience born of acceptance.

I assure you that nothing in television programming can compare with all the realms I have yet to explore.

“In one atom are found all the elements of the earth; in one motion of the mind are found all the motions of existence; in one drop of water are found all the secrets of the endless oceans; in one aspect of you are found all the aspects of life.”–Khalil Gibran

 

31 thoughts on “A Change of Habit

  1. I like the fact that you tie change to seasons–an endless unmarked present may be healthy, but the rhythms of time on this particular earth are worth observing. For me the new year is always a time to inventory the previous one and set a course for the next. Knowing that the “new beginning” is artificial doesn’t hamper me in the least. I embrace the chance to start again whole-heartedly and set out on the adventure of a new year with fresh hope.

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  2. Beautiful, honest post, Karen. I’m reminded of Thich Nhat Hanh quote: “Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.” Now to follow in your footsteps… 😉 Wishing you a happy, mindful, healthy holiday season!

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    1. I love that quote, August, and did not know it. Thank you for that and for your kind words about the post. In so many ways, this holiday season feels as if it is the first of many to come, which it is of course, but there is such joy this year. Best to you and yours this holiday season and always, August.

      Karen

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  3. Hello Karen! Another wonderful post and again, food for thought. Let me first say, I share Cooper’s reaction to TV and I smile each time I see that photo. I first read about “media fasting” upon my discovery of Dr. Andrew Weil, he suggested starting with a 7 day news fast as news reports tend to bombard the mind with negative imagery. Admittedly I was at the time. a news junkie, and wouldn’t you know 7 days has turned into many years. Unless there is something urgent, I don’t even think about tuning in. I wish you luck on your one year sans TV, I suspect you will have some very interesting developments to report. In regard to meditation, I have also incorporated daily sessions into my routine and although I am diligent about sitting, I do struggle with the mind monkey (chatter). I now try to observe rather than control/cling to the chatter, which affords me mini moments “in the gap.” No matter how fleeting those moments are, I still say there is no better feeling than the connection one feels when we are able to just be; even if it’s only for a second. I’m glad you’re able to connect your practice to the positive changes in your well being and I’m sure the upcoming changes you’re adding will open up new avenues for you to follow. Wishing you the best, as always.

    Stephanie

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    1. Hi, Stephanie!

      I never was a news junkie but in what seems like another lifetime, I was involved with journalism. Thus, for longer than I should, I kept trying to find some TV news somewhere that was objective. As you’ve seen, I am the eternal optimist.

      Regarding meditation, I have my days when it is just thought after thought but it is just as you say: I merely observe them passing through. Michael Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul, has really helped me with learning to be the witness of my life, and I’ve noticed its effects on my meditation as well.

      Always appreciate your thoughtful comments.

      Karen

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  4. Wonderfully warm and gentle post, Karen. I hadn’t known about your lupus diagnosis. I was diagnosed with lupus in 1981 and immediately decided to do things I’d always wanted, like getting my masters degree. And I joined a weekly Yoga group. In 1991 someone suggested I get retested as I’d not had any symptoms since I couldn’t remember when. And poof, tests came back negative. Medical folks all say it was a false positive to begin with. I like to think it had to do with my attitude and my yoga. I am so envious of your ability to eliminate carbs from your diet. I have thought of eliminating sugar (I have a little and crave more) since reading Adele Davis (You Are What you Eat) way back when. Just never did it. And, I share you disdain for what’s offered on TV. My husband and I have pretty much stopped all network television, with the occasional exception of CNN if something’s happening. But I am a Downton Abbey devotee (on PBS). Good to live commercial-free. I look forward to more posts. Janet

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    1. Hi, Janet!

      Eliminating carbs is the hardest thing I have ever done because it is just as you say: truly, the cravings are impossible at times. However, after repeatedly becoming so ill, I finally chose health over carbs but it took a good 18 months. No one should ever underestimate the cravings from sugar for it is addictive. A friend of mine used to call it “white death.” One thing that helped me was eating more protein, particularly broccoli. Everyone’s system is different.

      Regarding your lupus, that is wonderful! My autoimmune saga is now 35 years plus, having begun as MS, which I never accepted and like you, went on to get a couple degrees as well as work. Interestingly, what always showed positive was lupus and Sjogren’s Syndrome but no one, including myself, accepted that, either, until early this century. My SLE and Sjogren’s have always been “textbook” according to blood tests and when the symptoms began in earnest, I had to consider them. Two years ago, I said goodbye to medicine for the last time (it’s always been an on again, off again relationship), concentrating on diet/nutrition and finally completely committing to meditation. Soon, I plan to begin yoga; yours is the second comment advocating its benefits. I’m ready!

      Now, over to your new blog. Congratulations and thanks for stopping by.

      Karen

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  5. Hi Karen, you inspire me every time I read your blog. I just read a previous one where you talk about “Eat to live” I will be going on Amazon to check that one out. You make us think which is always a great thing.

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    1. Hi, Tina!

      I think you will find Dr. Fuhrman quite interesting, and his book is one of my trusted resources. Mostly, I removed all sugar and all processed food from my life, and although it has taken more than two years to be able to introduce some fruit and legumes again, it has been worth it. I’ve missed you here–thank you for your thoughtful words about my blog–do let me know how you are doing.

      Karen

      Karen

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  6. What an impressive blog. I am just starting to be aware of my surroundings by adding yoga to my daily routine and watching my diet to soothe my stomach issues. Good for you. I hope you continue to have success with your meditation. Cute dog by the way.

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    1. Hi, Susan!

      Over two years ago I began eating yeast, soy, sugar, gluten and dairy free and still do, just recently adding in some fruit and legumes. For me, sugar/starch was and is the biggest offender; I no longer have stomach issues. I am working with Peggy Cappy’s yoga DVD for people with arthritis, which has really helped me. Appreciate your kind words about my dog, Cooper, who is a bit of a character but then, he is a beagle-mix…and my blog.Thanks for stopping by.

      Karen

      Karen

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    1. Hi, Pauline!

      Thanks for the kind words about the post. As you say, when I am settled inside, the external world fares better as well. What appears to be happening in terms of my health is a change at the cellular level, which is really exciting for me. Thanks for stopping by.

      Karen

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  7. 2011 was my year for major life changes, most of which were conscious. An “accidental” one was getting out of the habit of TV watching. I’d been watching less and less anyway, and when I shifted to working on my laptop on the porch during the long summer months, that was the death blow. A few months after, we realized we hadn’t even turned it on in weeks. So we got rid of our satellite and only turn it on ever few months to watch a DVD. I can honestly say I don’t miss it at all.

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    1. Hi, Jordan!

      Mostly, I watched Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) but as I have seen most of TCM’s offerings and only watch Super Soul Sunday on OWN, there seemed no point in having a subscription. However, there were those days when mindless television kept me from otherwise engaging so like you, I watch the occasional DVD now. My TV set is over 8 years old so it hasn’t had a lot of use. Thanks for stopping by!

      Karen

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  8. What an interesting post. I can’t imagine what it is like to live with things like lupus, and I am so glad that you have found meditation and better diet, and that those changes work well for you. Keep at it!
    For inspiration, here’s another tale: I have a friend whose daughter has a pain syndrome that will never go away. This poor child has to learn to manage it for the rest of her life. A year ago, the kid could barely get out of bed, and was apparently very depressed. Then she went to a pain clinic and learned to deal. Now she’s running around and engaging in life, instead of giving up. She learned to do things – meditation included – to stop focusing on the pain and get off of all the drugs. This kid was so desperate before that she even tried a horribly painful treatment with capsicum before learning the mind management techniques. The capsicum didn’t work, but changing her attitude and behaviors did. The clinic really worked with her to figure out what helped and what didn’t.
    It sounds like you have done much of the same. Great post, as usual.

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    1. Thanks, Ann, and I so appreciate learning of your friend’s daughter, as it sounds as if our paths are somewhat similar. I agree that it is about engaging in life–however that is possible–as well as somehow engaging the pain itself. Early on, I had some success with self-hypnosis and visualization but nothing that helped me change my consciousness at the cellular level, which meditation definitely has. For me, the drugs just did not allow me to engage the pain as I have learned to do over these last two years. Not all days are great but all days are possible, which is a big difference, as I suspect your friend’s daughter knows as well.

      Karen

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  9. Your words and images exude a peacefulness that is refreshing. And I have every confidence that you will create more, healthy habits. Happy Thanksgiving.

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  10. Good morning, Karen! There’s been a major shift in my life in the last few weeks that has put me to the test. If this had happened in the past, I’d have fought against it for all I was worth. But awareness, living in the moment, is helping me accept what is out of my control. Meditation helps. So does allowing negativity to wash over me without providing it a nurturing home.

    Like you, I have learned to be careful about diet. I don’t feel I am being deprived, so there’s no “will power” involvement. (Eurika–the will power thing is hooked up with ego.)

    I was thinking about Gibran yesterday. The phrase “Life’s own longing for itself” kept running through my mind.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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    1. Hi, Deb!

      What an inspiring comment! It really is about allowing what is, isn’t it? In particular, I like your words about willpower being the tool of ego for in letting go, willpower is not necessary, whether it’s diet or just day-to-day life. There is a strength that comes from experiencing life as it is without pulling and tugging at it. Good for you and good to see you here; give yourself another pat on the back from me. Happy Thanksgiving to you as well.

      Karen

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  11. Lovely post Karen – reflective (as always) but forward looking. Habits have their value but it is good to re-examine them regularly. From one autodidact to another, I go on and off with TV and other distractions but I think we do prioritise the things that mean most to us at any point in time, hopefully anyway. Good to see some Khalil Gibran – it is a long time since I read anything by him. Very apposite!

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    1. Thanks, Diana. Habits are really quite interesting, I think, as there is a fine line with them, easily crossed in my case. Like you, it had been some time that I had read Gibran; there was a time that I read him daily.

      Karen

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