Often, we get caught up in transforming our lives. We decide that we will no longer assume an old way of being or an old way of doing. In other words, whether it is New Year’s or not, we make a resolution not only to do better but to be a better person. Just like that.
What we discover is that letting go of a habit or a behavior requires a lot more than filling ourselves with resolve. Letting go is a lifelong practice for we revisit old habits, old behaviors–neuroses we once cherished–often, we recognize them immediately but sometimes, they are disguised as something new and possibly, beneficial.
The three difficulties (or the three difficult practices) are:
1. to recognize your neurosis as neurosis,
2. then not to do the habitual thing, but
to do something different to interrupt
the neurotic habit, and
3. to make this practice a way of life
Recognizing what we no longer wish to do or be is usually obvious but recognizing all that it has meant to us–how it has disguised itself in order to be an integral part of our every day– is a lifelong practice of recognizing neurosis as neurosis.
For a while, just rising above the neurosis is reward enough. Yet, life is uneven and the rise of the unexpected often dissolves our resolve whether it lasted for minutes or months. Thankfully, life is impermanent, and we get lots of practice in letting go.
What we get to do each time we recognize that once again we have invited in a familiar neurosis is to accept that is exactly what we have done. That is the first step in letting go, accepting what is. Think of it as resolving to refrain rather than resolving to deny.
Refraining comes about spontaneously when you see how your neurotic action works. You may say to yourself, `It would still feel good; it still looks like it would be fun,’ but you refrain because you already know the chain reaction of misery that it sets off.
Even if we have begun to set off the chain reaction, we accept that we have and refrain from going any further. We set our resolve to refrain because we accept where we are. Refraining allows us to halt and not go where we have gone before and unhook from the neurosis.
Resolve serves us as long as it is to accept that life not only changes but masks itself in new faces and different viewpoints, allowing us to experience familiar habits, recognized behaviors, and old relationships through yet another perspective.
Transformation is not a matter of discarding but an accepting of all that we are and were. Such resolve is the genesis of transformation, a lifetime practice of experiencing, letting go, and when we are ready, refraining.