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  • Writer's pictureHannah Marsh

Recognizing our habits

Before I sit down to write, I make myself a cup of tea. It doesn't much matter what kind - breakfast, jasmine, mint, or iced in the summer months. Some days, the cup feels like a security blanket or a stalwart companion that gives me the courage to write. Most days, I don't think much about it. It's habit - familiar, comfortable, automatic. I've tried sitting down without a cup,'s fine. My eyes or hand might search absentmindedly for a cup that's not there, but it's no great hardship. I can write without tea. But usually, I prefer it.

Tea is a pretty innocuous habit. But what about other habits - patterns of thought or behaviour in our creative practice and our lives? A habit can be so automatic that we aren't aware of it. Even if we're aware, it may feel unavoidable or necessary. Perhaps it's a tendency to harshly judge ourselves that leads us to shut down and avoid a creative activity or a person we love. Or maybe it's a tendency to hide our work or ourselves from others until we feel it - or we - are "good enough." Or maybe it's a tendency to get lost in reverie or pleasant distractions. Our habits may be ways of coping with difficulty that served us well in the past, but now limit us - avoidance, perfectionism, reverie, self-judgement may have helped us survive our childhoods, but now make it difficult to thrive.

With a kind curiosity, you might ask yourself: In what ways am I governed by habit? In what ways do I cling to the familiar - even when the familiar hurts me? What other possibilities could I explore?

These are big questions - a lifetime of inner work - that call for a great deal of patience and self-compassion. It's also important to recognize that some habits are helpful. By becoming familiar with our habits, we might appreciate the habitual ways we support ourselves and others - like going for a walk when feeling stuck, or reaching out to friends when they need help. But we can't know how well our habits serve us until we recognize them. Then, we can get curious about their effects, open to the possibility of other options, and discover new ways of being.

Image by Sergi Dolcet Escrig

In our March Mindfulness & Creativity drop-in, we'll meditate and playfully explore what it's like to step out of a simple habit and do things a little differently - an everyday act of creativity!

P.S. If you're interested in further exploring your habits of mind - while also receiving support to help sustain a daily mindfulness practice - I highly recommend the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program.


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