Yesterday was a rare day – a day spent outdoors with my sweetheart. We walked the wooded perimeter of a small cove he’s traversed for 30 years, surrounded by the sights and sounds of Mother Nature in full gear. Carp were spawning where the reedy grasses were partially submerged at the lake edges. Beaver families had abandoned some lodges that either broke away in heavy torrents or were left high and dry last season.
Evidence of a new lodge was a welcome sight, and the clear pond they’d dammed off was home to at least one Great blue heron, a Canada goose, a multitude of syncopated frogs, daredevil dragonflies, bumbling bees, and one scolding Carolina chickadee. Those are the creatures I saw up close and personal but the pond, woods and wetland teemed with life beyond my ken.
I learned that each season water levels in the cove vary greatly due to man-made dam releases, cycles of rainfall and drought, and to some extent beaver engineered projects. The watery pathways sometimes navigable by float boats or canoe may change course, or merge, or dry into deep ruts. In yoga terms, the Sanskrit word for being in a deep rut is Samskara – specifically a deep rut of the mind. It’s a long-held belief or pattern of behavior that may or may not be beneficial to us anymore. Many times we’re not even aware that we’ve created such a deep rut on a conscious level. But if it’s deep enough, we might notice we’ve gotten stuck in it. Again. As individuals and as a society.
On the road to simple living, I’ve tripped over several of my own deepest ruts. Especially this week. Like if I give my stuff away, I might regret it someday. Like if I move out to the country, I won’t find work and will starve to death. Like if I opt out of owning a television, that I’ll be left craving Grey’s Anatomy . See a pattern? It’s about the fear of letting go of the known for the unknown.
The best way to change a thought or habit, in my experience, is not by trying to erase it, fill it in with more stuff, or beat it to a pulp. It’s by being gentle with it, exploring its origins, realizing it’s not in my best interest to go that way anymore, and choosing a healthier thought or habit. Yes – the healthier thought or habit is also a Samskara. In other words, the water is going to flow somewhere . . . so why not direct it where you’d like it to go and put it to work for you?
I tend to direct the waterways of my own life down the Middle Path. In fact, if you asked me what my main philosophy of life is, I’d answer “Sorta Buddhist”. Not too far left or too far right. Not workaholic or lazy. Not fanatical or apathetic. Sorta right down the middle, most of the time. That said, my teeny cabin in the woods comes with electricity. And wi-fi. And Grey’s Anatomy reruns.
Think: What deep rut do I keep getting stuck in? How and when did that thought or habit get started? Is it still working for me? What thought or behavior can I adopt that will move me closer to health?
Say: Whatever you chose for yourself, write it down. Post-it wherever you’ll see it often. Say it out loud to someone else.
Do: Take a small step towards your new choice. Today. Set up a way to chart your progress, like putting a star on your calendar whenever you move in the right direction. Draw or write what your life will look like when this new pathway actually becomes how you live your life. Repeat as necessary!