Expanding the Cone of Habit

Duff in Outer Space 091414

This bright-eyed Westie is a member of my extended family. Formally, he is known as McDuff but to all he loves and to all who love him he is “Duff.” Recently, he had minor surgery on his ears and in order to aid his healing, he wore a cone, a change of habit for him.

Change is how we form habits, forging new neural pathways for our brain to record as a new response to life’s experiences. It is how we physically open up to possibility.

Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible

(Thich Nhat Hanh)

I have been wearing my own cone of habit believing I was open to all healing possibilities. I was unaware that I could not see outside the scope of my cone of habit. It’s easier to do than one may think.

Undoubtedly, there are habits that serve us for as long as we live. Unique to each one of us, we know what they are. It is when we wear our habits as the only way to live that we create a cone, reducing our ability to see alternatives that may even improve our current practice.

Because you are alive, everything is possible

(Thich Nhat Hanh)

Thanks to impermanence, there is always another way. All we have to do is be in the reality we have and adapt like canine Duff. Ultimately, he figured out a way to use his cone to toss his ball, not far, but far enough to create a new way to continue to play ball. He was not confined by his cone.

My health issues also involve mobility. Months ago, I found myself in a situation where I could not walk to my destination and needed a wheelchair. It scared me, and it narrowed my vision regarding my mobility. I gave up walks but continued my daily, gentle yoga flow.

Although I increased my flexibility, the musculoskeletal pain increased and spread up my spine to my neck. Still, I stayed within my cone of comfort. It took a lupus flare-up involving my kidneys to expand my vision.

In opening to the reality I was living rather than being stuck in a moment that may never occur, I expanded my cone of habit and found an alternative health practitioner. Like Duff, I wanted to keep playing.

I did not have to look long or far. There is a licensed physician of Chinese medicine within blocks of my apartment. At my first appointment, I sat stunned as she revealed to me, in astonishing detail, what various teams of medical doctors had taken years to tell me.

Most of my medical history I had not mentioned for I had tried acupuncture previously with no results but I had never met a physician of traditional Chinese medicine.

Her estimation of my prognosis is geared to the life I have. As she reminds me, nothing is 100% but there is relief, and there are alternative ways, if I remain open to them.

After the first acupuncture treatment, I began taking short daily walks, sometimes including a stroll around my beloved Waverly pond. After the second treatment, the searing pain in my right knee significantly diminished and has yet to reach previous pain levels.

With food and some herbs, we are working with the lupus inflammation. There is a lot of hard work ahead but as long as I am alive, I can find a way to play ball, as Duff showed me.

Duff without cone 091414

A Note About Duff: Remarkably handsome, this wise Westie lives in Seattle with my dad and his wife.

20 thoughts on “Expanding the Cone of Habit

  1. Duff is a handsome, chipper-looking fellow. And I know you agree that our animal companions have much to teach us. Walks, however short they are, increase the qi. I’m glad you find yourself able to amble about a bit again!!


  2. I’m so glad for you. I thought of you often while hiking trails, recently. As I stood at the base if a granite boulder field, contemplating the wisdom of climbing it at 55, you were suddenly quite present in thought… and I climbed.

    Climbing, hiking, breathing deeply to fill my lungs with high altitude air… this is the medicine that saved me during the dis-ease and mental chaos throughout my younger years. It is true, still, and I am so glad to have the physical health that allows me the luxury to continue, now. I have to work for it (maintaining strength and flexibility), but that is good medicine for me, too. [I think my body was constructed to thrive on physically demanding activity…]

    Too many words later, I send you the absolute awe of granite boulders so monumental I felt like an ant crawling among them. Those boulders are so absolute they find no quarrel with stillness as clouds race and breezes tease dancing pine needles. All is always available (24 hours a day says Brother Thay). Only our ideas of duality stop us from accepting the perfection.

    For me, without lupus, inspired mind says, “move your body and your mental messes won’t be able to keep up…and now move some more for the gentle wise woman who softens your heart.”

    I carry you in my heart with gladness.


    1. Lovely, lovely Meredith. Your words bring such joy to now and in remembrance of times past in mountains, sometimes with alpine lakes, but regardless, boulders, boulders everywhere. The thinness of alpine air is so sustaining for it is proof that less is enough. I once lived in country far more than a mile high where each morning I could see above timberline. Such a ragged beauty and below, the pines and even lupine from time to time. Thanks for the remembrance and for the kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I too am at a place of trying new behaviors, ones involving slowing down, using my ability to choose, and staying open to my desire (need?) to connect with others. Your post, Karen, as usual, is a timely reminder of my own challenge. Thank you


    1. It feels as if I challenge impermanence less these days, which seems to keep me more mindful. In some recent dark moments I found myself more comfortable mentally as I worked through some physical issues. I remain astonished at own calm. But as I have mentioned in other comments, this latest challenge has had so much energy in it and still does. It is something I need to explore, and I am. I will be in touch soon, Janet.


  4. so glad you got some relief from the acupuncture. it’s one of those mysterious things. they don’t know how or why it works, but it does indeed work in many cases, and I’m glad it is working for you.


    1. Honestly, Craig, I did not expect any results but this woman amazed me at the outset. As Matthew mentioned in a comment on a previous post, science is now proving what ancient philosophy has known for millennia: the mind can affect the body. My own experience has shown me this time and again. I will tell you that I have much more energy now, and I attribute most of that to the acupuncture and the rest to food and to herbs. As always, thanks so much, Craig.


  5. I agree – sometimes the possibilities do not become evident until we challenge those boundaries. Even then, I suspect, the possibilities that they follow may only emerge step-wise, each step opening up fresh vistas and opportunities – small at first, and perhaps only ever as small steps. Certainly that’s been my own experience. But together all these steps describe a new pattern in the journey, a new present and – from that, as you say, new opportunities. That is wonderful news about the success of the acupuncture. I believe traditional Chinese medicine has a good deal to do with balances, something perhaps lacking in western medical philosophy. All the very best wishes for an ongoing improvement.


    1. It is the freshness, the energy or Qi of this that continues to amaze me even in the darkest moments. And certainly, not all moments–even of late–are easy by any means but I have energy, which is not, to be frank, something I have had much of over these last years. It really helps to have her expertise on food–getting answers to in-depth questions that I have not been able to find, In addition, using herbs in combinations I didn’t know about and being introduced to essential oils are also helping. Seems a different level of health, Matthew, and I hope so. Thanks so much for the good wishes.


    1. This does seem to be a different day, which will have its own challenges and some have already presented themselves but what is also in evidence is energy, which had been scarce. As dark as some of these moments have been, there has been an underlying energy to all of this–as you well know–it feels very new, exciting, and unknown. I’ll take it. Thanks so much, August.


  6. We do set our own boundaries. The known is so familiar and safe, and we like the comfort of feeling that we know what we are doing. That is not bad–unless we don’t know what we are doing and a better way is sitting right in front of us. But change is hard, and it takes a lot of courage to go toward it.


    1. I seem to wait until the only option is to leap into the unknown. What continues to amaze me is that it’s just such a big drop once I decide to make it, at least in these last five years it is not. As you say, the familiar is safe and the unknown is…well, it requires risk. Thanks, Adrian.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.