Habits: tangled and stretched
The project was to replace checking my email in the morning with stretching in the morning. I predicted it would be an easy transition because it flowed from my previous habit-training of making my mornings more pleasant and productive.
And my predictions were right, at first. Substituting stretching in the morning for turning on the internet in the morning was pretty easy, and my mornings were better for the change.
But what I didn't predict was what the stretching would do to me and where it would lead me.
I expected this
As I stretched my neck and then my feet, I felt tangled inside. My neck made creaking and cracking noises that I've been told is tension. I wiggled my toes and rotated my ankles, and then my legs, my back, my arms, my whole body felt stiff and off-kilter. I expected and welcomed that feeling as part of my habit training, and I felt confident that I can untangle the stiffness in my body by stretching and exercising it
I didn't expect this
After I got into the habit of stretching my neck and my feet in the morning and then into the habit of stretching the rest of my body, I discovered tangles in my brain and in my heart. And, those tangles that I didn't know about now felt like big barriers I could not ignore. If I left the stiffness be, I'd get stuck.
For my brain, I saw clearly that I haven't been using it enough. Just like anything else neglected, my thoughts were getting stiff from lack of use. It's not that I don't use my brain, of course. I use it all the time, but I haven't been using it in new ways, I haven't been stretching my abilities with enough challenges, and I haven't been growing like I should. It felt cruddy to accept that I'm not living up to my potential. That sounds like a dreadful comment from a school report card, doesn't it? "Student is capable, but not living up to her potential."
As I stretched one morning, I knocked over a stack of books by my bedside. I counted as I put the books back into stacks: thirty-one books sitting on the floor next to my bed. They've been sitting there for ages. For Pete's sake, it doesn't take much self-discipline to read....but I've been neglecting my reading habits for too long. It's such a silly thing to neglect reading because I love to read! It's silly and it's embarrassing.
And it's embarrassing how tangled my heart felt, once I started stretching my body and mind. Why didn't I see before that I've neglected my spiritual growth? It now seemed obvious - and painful. Faith is part of my life, but I haven't been nurturing it beyond minimal maintenance, you know what I mean? My spiritual self was getting stiff and inflexible, and that's not okay with me. Once I noticed my neglect, I wanted to scream with disappointment in myself.
I got mail, message delivered
But screaming won't do anything. Working will do something. Paying attention, stretching, opening myself up...those are the things I need to do with my body, mind, and soul. And I figured that out by keeping the computer turned off in the mornings. I never predicted that would happen.
Top photo: Subway station wall, where an advertising poster should be.
Bottom photo: Ropes on the deck of a ship docked at a Hudson River pier