One of the very first steps in changing ourselves is studying our habits and letting go of the ones that no longer serve us. Easier said than done. This quote from Pema Chodron says it all:
“But habits are like clothes. We can put them on and take them off. Yet, as we well know, when we get very attached to wearing clothes, we don’t want to take them off. We feel as if we’ll be too exposed, naked in front of everyone…”
For some, habits are like clothes. They can simply be removed when they no longer serve us. For others, habits are more like armor than clothes. Some of us developed habits just to survive. I’m not talking about habits like watching tv while surfing the web and eating ice cream or leaving the cap off the toothpaste. I’m talking about the habits that those of us who live or grew up in toxic homes developed just to make it through the day. Habits like shutting down emotionally, doing whatever it takes to avoid confrontation, lashing out when we feel stressed or sad or angry or lonely. I know about habits like this because I’ve had all of them. I know what it’s like to have to live that way every single day. In situations like that, habits don’t feel like clothes; they feel more like armor. And Pema’s right, we sure as hell aren’t taking them off. She’s right, we do feel exposed. We do worry about being seen through, about being torn apart if we open up and try to live lovingly, compassionately, peacefully.
But we have to. If we’re going to change ourselves, let alone the world, for the better, we’re going to have to get rid of that armor. Whatever it takes. I don’t know about you, but I’ve reached a point where my old armor does more harm to me and those around me than it protects from. I’ve realized that my old and deeply entrenched habits that were supposed to protect me from anger and fear, from sadness and depression, from failure and rejection, just cause more anger and fear and depression. So I’m doing my best to get rid of them. I sit on my cushion every day and do my very damn best to let go. I often feel exposed. I often worry about being seen through and taken advantage of…again. But this is what it takes to change, and so every day I take off another piece of my old armor. Some days it’s one step forward and two steps back. But I’ll keep at it until I walk away with my old armor just lying in a rusty heap. I’ll get there, eventually.