embodied practice: seeing into habit energies

As far back as I can remember I have been fascinated by the marvelous transformations which take place when a very simple sort of magic is applied to things.

Even the most everyday transformation of something undesirable into something desirable has, to me,  a tremendous magic power back of it, and it is a power which I believe in using more deliberately and often than most people do.

Everyone marvels at such transformations when they come by accident, but it never seems to occur to anyone to make them happen at will.

I am shocked by the ignorance and wastefulness with which persons who should know better throw away the things they do not like. They throw away experiences, people, marriages, situations, all sorts of things because they do not like them. If you throw away a thing, it is gone. Where you had something you have nothing to work on. Whereas, almost all those things which get thrown away are capable of being worked over by a little magic into just the opposite of what they were.

So that in the place of something you detest you have something you can adore. And you have had the most thrilling kind of experience, because nothing is more thrilling than working the magic of transformation…It is not work at all. It is, simply, magic.

But most human beings never remember at all that in almost every bad situation there is the possibility of a transformation by which the undesirable may be changed into the desirable.

~Katherine Butler Hathaway, The Little Locksmith [p.12 -13]

As I prepared for sangha’s contemplation of habit energies, I encountered an article on Access To Insight, which included a portion of the quote above (see the bolded text). It beautifully and succinctly captures the tendencies we have to avoid, discard, or turn away from what we find difficult or unpleasant and to doggedly pursue what brings us pleasure or comfort. Neither is inherently wrong. In fact, it is a primal neurobiological instinct to assess threats (response: fight, flee, freeze) and opportunities (response: accept, seek out, multiply). The question is one of looking into whether our habitual response is skillful–does it generate understanding and compassion?

When we perceive an arising “threat,” we may flee from it–finding it easier to deny, ignore, suppress, push away, or discard it. Our mindfulness practice invites us to strengthen our compassion and equanimity so that we become steady enough to stay where we are in the midst of swirling change, uncertainty, and discomfort. We learn to greet the difficult/unpleasant with breath and loving awareness. To embrace the moment tenderly as a parent would a crying child–to tend to our suffering wholeheartedly. Nothing is left out. All becomes part of the practice of nurturing the heart and mind of love and skillful understanding.


Buddha’s Brain  ~ Rick Hanson