Establishing a new habit is never easy and most psychologists will tell you that changing behaviour is always fraught, as anyone who has attempted giving up smoking or going on a diet can confirm from experience.
When we practice mindfulness we are also changing the way we behave and when we are seeking to include small disciplines into our lives we are faced with a legion of old habits and changes of mind that that seeks to keep us in line with the ‘usual’ way that ‘I’ do things.
After the initial enthusiasm wears off there is a tendency to slip backwards, so how to counter this effect?
Often something happens, I have a bad day, there is a minor crisis and I want to reward myself by making it easy for me. A common thought can be ‘Just this once, I won’t bother.’
In this act there is the reinforcement of a low esteem judgement that in fact ‘I cannot do it’ or that somehow I lack the strength to face this problem and also maintain the effort necessary to keep up the discipline for the new habit. But is it true that there is no inner strength? What would happen if instead of evading we change the thought to: ‘Just this once, I will bother’.
Often the thought that is off-putting is the idea that I will always have to do this, but in fact I only have to do it once, just this time. So the ‘just this once, I will’ is to make just enough effort to complete the new habit this once with no commitment for the future.
As one Zen master said: “Some look at me and think it would be impossible to get to the same place; so why should I bother? In truth, all I ever did is just put one foot in front of another.”
Text copyright to The Zen Gateway