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Lions Roar : November 2014
aRi golDfielD and RoSe tayloR are Buddhist teachers, counselors, and co-directors of Wisdom Sun, a Buddhist com- munity based in San Francisco. They were delighted that their most recent meditation retreat was attended by both their nine- month-old son, Oliver, and his grandmother, Bridget. them requires time, persistence, and patience. But if we do persevere, the changes that come can be powerful and satisfying. We come to see that relational difficulties are both opportunities for our own awakening and for our relationships to become stronger, more stable, and closer. From this perspective, relational difficulties are precious opportunities. habitual patterns in relationships When we act out of habitual pattern, we are not fully present to the situation or to the other person, because our feelings and actions are coming from an old habit from our past. in relational patterns, one person often plays a particular role—the listener, complainer, enter- tainer, supporter, child, teacher, or critic, to name a few— and the other person plays the complementary part. there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these styles of engagement; the problems come when we automatically fall into a role and feel unable to behave in another way. this prevents us from experiencing the full range of our being and the other person’s too, and dis- connects us from the fluidity and changing needs of each fresh set of circumstances. as a result, we can feel bored, dissatisfied, and frustrated. even though they make us suffer, it takes courage to examine our habitual patterns and to begin to change them. to foster that courage, it is helpful to hold yourself in a space of loving acceptance. practicing Self-compassion Jeff, a counseling client, was completely exhausted. He had overextended himself with commitments to friends, family, and volunteer organizations. He felt compelled to keep these commitments without regard to his own health or energy level. after careful examination, Jeff realized that he had unconsciously believed it was his fault that he did not receive affection from his parents. So he had to work extra hard to erase his guilt and make himself deserving of others’ 5 Ways to Get Free here are five techniques you can use to work with habitual pat- terns as they arise in the moment. In the same way that detrimental habits can become ingrained, they can be replaced with new behav- ioral styles that feel more wakeful and sane. The key is not to expect any quick fixes—please be patient and kind with yourself. 1. expand awareness Gain familiarity with your habitual pat- terns. Notice how you feel when you act out of a habitual tendency. Notice how particular areas of your body may feel uncomfortable. The more you do this, the sooner you will be able to identify your habitual behavior once it starts. 2. make Space Simply breathing, relaxing your body, and moving into another stance may be enough to shift from, or slow down, a habitual reaction. So when you notice you are acting out of habit in a relational situation, slow down and take some space. Pause to breathe a few times. Feel how your body posture and sensations reflect your reactions to the situation. You may want to delay interaction by suggesting another time to talk, or by letting the other person know you need some time to think and you will get back to them. 3. explore choice When acting out of habit it can be hard even to imagine there are alternative ways of doing things. So it is important to spend some time exploring what other options there are in the situation. Even if these choices seem outrageous or unrealistic, allow yourself to be free and creative. You are not going to act on any of these options yet, so have fun with it. If this step is difficult, imagine how other people, or even characters from books or movies, would act in the same situation. 4. Step into choice From those options, choose how you want to act. Do not expect a particular result; simply act from the convic- tion that this is what feels right for you to do. When you first start challenging your habitual patterns, you may feel awkward and wrong-footed, but that lets you know you are in the right place. Even if you choose what you would have habitually done in the first place, it will feel different because you are acting voluntarily and with awareness. 5. re-run If you find you have completely played out an interac- tion from the stuck place of habitual tendency, do not get discour- aged or self-critical. It is significant that you noticed your pattern, and you can still work with the situation by re-running it. When did you become aware you were falling into the habit? What could you have done differently? Imagine how that would feel to act in that new way. Doing this will build the power of choice around this habit for the next time it arises. ♦ —R O SE TAYlOR AND ARI GOlDFIElD PHotoByaNDyKaRRPHoto©CHRiStiaNRiCHteR/StoCKSyuNiteD SHAMBHALA SUN NoveMBer 2014 54