Our Two Life Long Friends
Our mind has a lifelong friend, you know one of those friends that comes up with the worse ideas. This friend is called Excuse.
There is another friend called Deep Listening. This friend is a keeper! Sometimes we make plans that need to change due to unseen circumstances. Other times we haven’t been honest with ourselves when we made our to-do-list or to go through pile or our should-do-list. When we are about to embark on these lists, often our body calls forth Deep Listening, to guide us in the right direction. And when we take time to let Deep Listening in, we get to feel our body which might lead us to wisely change the plan we made or move something from today’s to-do-list to tomorrow’s. Often we overestimate what we can do in one day, but underestimate what we can achieve in a year.
Let’s get back to Excuse because this friend often takes us away from the right path into a dull, dark area where Ignorance grows as dark flowers on the trees, where Numbness flutters around like moths and Regret pours from the sky like a forever ongoing monsoon. But how to recognise Excuse from Deep Listening? How do we know who’s knocking at the door, Excuse or Deep Listening? And if Excuse stands by the door, how do we stop it from slipping into the house without an invitation?
Getting To Know Excuse
Firstly by understating Excuses visiting-patterns we enable ourselves to predict its arrival and make the necessary preparations. So when does Excuse arrive? There are two times Excuse are almost sure to arrive:
1) Excuse is an early morning riser. When we want to get up and out of bed early, then often Excuse stands ready with all the good reasons to stay in bed.
2) Another favourite time for Excuse to arrive is when we are trying hard to change unwanted habits and infuse our lives with other more nourishing habits.
At these moments we can almost be certain that Excuse will arrive. Now the question is: how do we prepare for its arrival?
When waking up early in the morning, we depend on the choices and preparations that we've made the previous night. Creating a plan that we won't keep, will weaken us. We get stronger only when we decide to do something and then do that something. This means that the more you decide to do and do, the stronger you get. Filling your life with many success rather than one big failure. This means inviting your friend Deep Listening into your life more often to enable you to make promises to yourself that you can keep.
Action plan for Excuse's Early Morning Rise:
5 easy steps that will help us to have steady, nourishing morning routines.
The night before:
1) When you go to bed, take 5 minutes to check in with yourself and find out how you are feeling: Go through your day and contemplate on what feelings were invoked and why and notice what feelings remain with you right now as you are laying in bed: overwhelmed, tired, exhausted, nourished, relaxed, calm, hopeful, sad, angry, worried, happy, love or joyful.
2) Notice how your body is feeling as well. We need a different amount of rest at different times in life or throughout the week/month.
3) Then look at the time and make a possible decision of when you will get up. Not deciding from a place of should or use to. Because everything is in constant change. Allow yourself to change the time of the alarm clock if you need.
4) Make an appointment with yourself 15 minutes after the time you set the alarm clock for. It gives you time to drink a glass of water, pee and brush your teeth.
5) Have a morning routine you begin at the time of your appointment. This way you will not lay in bed thinking what you should do, which gives Excuse a perfect opportunity to engage in your conversation and come up with all sorts of ideas why today is the best day to have a lay in. Knowing what you will do when you get up will help you to get up. Whether it is preparing breakfast for the family, yoga and meditation or something else, know and plan your morning. Go through your plan before you go to sleep. Then leave the plan for the morning and come back to your body and be with the present moment, relaxing and get a good nourishing sleep.
When you wake up, if Excuse it still there, then set your mind to the thought, that if you need to go back to sleep, you are free to do so. You are not restricting yourself to a routine, you choose it and are always free to change your mind. With this mindset embark on your morning routine, get up and away from the bed and then take a moment to check in with yourself, invite Deep Listening. Are you ready to get up? Or do you need to make a wise change to your plan? It is all about being soft but with discipline.
Good, so we got that down, now what about when Excuse arrive when we are trying to change bad habits into good habits? And why do we even have bad habits?
Action plan for changing habits:
Habits and routines can be great because they offer our body something known. Therefore habits and routines help our body to relax and keep calm. Likely most of the habit patterns we have right now are ingrown from childhood. Often we don't remember how they even came about. But the fact is (and this counts for any repeated action or habit we engage with) that they remind us of something that we, or our body, associates with "good". The body is programmed to remember experiences in order to steer us towards feeling good and away from bad. This is enabling us to survive. This means that we are constantly, if we are not aware of this, trying to recreate the past. Perhaps the body remembers the smoke of cigarette from our parents, and associates that with being safe, secure and being loved. Or perhaps cigarettes reminds us of our first kiss. Eating sweets might remind us of cosy evenings watching a good film or wine might remind us to relax and let the experiences of the day settle. When we were served a burger for the first time, it might have been a moment where someone treated us kindly and the smell and taste of the burger now remind us of that experience which we perceived as good. It can also be that the first time we read a book our parents had a fight and since then we have, on an unconscious level avoided reading books becuase we associate it with that moment, that we percvied in a negative way.
It is very hard to change habits because they are set into neural-pathways in our brain. And creating new ones are like cutting a new path in a dense forest. It takes time and a lot of effort. The good thing is, that you already possess the strength to change. Remember the idea from above: take small steps and have lots of successes rather than one failure.
1) Think above what you would love to do in your life, and not what other people do and what they and you think you should do . It sounds big and it is big. Taking some time over the next few days or weeks to make clear intentions, write them down. Hang them on your fridge or mirror in the bathroom and look at them every day. Think about what really makes you happy and that which you would love to add to your life if you had more time.
2) Add it to the already exciting habit. Can you find a moment before the habit and add that thing(s) you would like to do instead of the habit? But add it in a small scale. For example, if you would like to meditate for 1 hour, then to begin by sitting down for just 5 minutes. If you would like to do yoga, run or go to an exercise class, then, to begin with, walk just around the garden or the area you live in. Or just get your sports clothes on. Before you sit down on the couch after work with wine add a small version of your wished habit. Slowly your brain will associate that good feeling you before got from wine or cigarettes with the new habit. It is so clever. It really is all about learning to be in charge of your body rather than your body controlling you.
3) Recognise that it is very hard to change habits and give yourself a high five every time you become aware of habits that are no longer serving you. High five yourself when you notice the things that make you smile. High five yourself every time you manage to implement some of these things into your life, keep hold of them. It is just awesome. (If your habit is about eating the wrong foods, then change your breakfast first, because the way we start sets the tone for rest of the day, get more plant-based protein in from the morning, fresh fruits and avoid overly sweet breakfast, as you will therefore just crave sweets the rest of the day).
4) Also, acknowledge the power of exercise and moving the body. If you don't move it, you will lose it, is true. Find healthy and enjoyable ways to move and exercise. It is also proved that people who are active are more likely to choose a healthy lifestyle.
5) Keep practising awareness to the point where you notice the bad habit sneaking up on you before it even has manifested. There is always something that triggers us before the habit manifest. It can be a smell or a way of moving the body. It can be an emotion, a word, a temperature. Practise mindfulness and expand your awareness until you understand why these habits have developed. What is the habit trying to shift in your body? When you become aware of it, simply observe and even write it down. It is quite interesting to see what memories are evoked on an unconscious level that are quietly controlling us and our habits.
Another thing to keep in mind is that a habit has developed from past experiences and your body and mind remember. This means that another way to build new neural-pathways is by engaging in new experiences. This is when we talk about getting out of our comfort zone because the brain has no previous reaction-patterns or habits to lean on when we embrace new in our life. Challenging your brain by starting a new hobby or by going for a walk in a new area. That way you make space for new thoughts and habits.
And finally, I want to say that really Excuse doesn't know how you are feeling. Excuse speaks to us using words, and this language is coming from our Cortex in the brain. Different areas in the brain are in charge of different aspects of oruselves. The cortex is responsible for language and putting words on what we experience in the Limbic System.
The Limbic System is where the friend Deep Listening is residing. Here there are no words, simply feelings. You know Excuse from the langugage it choses. Is your inner voice using words in your native language, it is Excuse trying to convince you to do something that doesn't leave you feeling nourished. If you get a sense of something or a feeling, then it is Deep Listening trying to reach your awareness.