January 11, 2012

The near-impossibility of deep-down change (and how to do it).

I’ve been reflecting, at the New Year begins, about where I am in my life. A kind of ‘Fiona audit’.

What am I enjoying the most? How I am spending my days? Where could my behaviour *do with a little improvement?

I spend too much time on the computer. I try too hard to make people like me. I panic about money. I don’t do enough exercise. I spend too much money on books and cake. Etc. Etc. Etc.

All of these traits are as familiar to me as the palm of my own hand. Why are they still present in my life? With all the self-development work I’ve done, all the therapy, all the spiritual improvement, shouldn’t I be near-perfect by now? Shouldn’t I at least be working with a different set of problems?

Of course, I have also changed beyond recognition. I feel more confident about what I’m offering to the world. I know myself infinitely better. I’m more relaxed. I have more faith.

Both these things are true. I have changed beyond recognition, and certain parts of me (‘solidified habit patterns’ or ‘ways of being’) have hardly changed at all.

These habit patterns formed SO early in my life, and are SO deep down, and were SO crucial to my survival as I was growing up, that they are hugely difficult to budge. Near impossible. The image I often use is of deep deep foundations, made of solid rock.

The good news is that fissures do form in this rock.

Sometimes a crack appears without warning. We might have spent years working with our compulsive need to control our appearance. One day we wake up and suddenly feel able to go outside without any make-up on.

Sometimes the change is more insidouous. After a life-time of panicking about money, we realise that we’ve been giving more and more away to charity without feeling any anxiety.

So how do we work on these deep-down rock solid ways of being?

We rain love on them. We love these parts of ourselves, and we allow others to love us.

Water takes a long time to soften rock. But rock does soften.

Have patience with yourself. Let the gentle rain fall.

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* “All of you are perfect just as you are… and you could use a little improvement.”

~Suzuki Roshi

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Image by Tambako the Jaguar via Creative Commons, with thanks

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