Like the beauty of spring unfolding around us, like the crocus and the daffodil poking themselves through the debris of last year’s life, we may look within to find unexpected gifts arising from the fertile mulch of past experience and find ourselves changed. Yet, our habits of mind play a big role in realizing or not, the gifts that we might claim. John O’Donohue shares a little about the deadening effect habits of thought and act have on our sense of aliveness and vitality.
“… Habit is a strong invisible prison. Habits are styles of feeling, perception, or action that have now become second nature to us. A habit is a sure cell of predictability; it can close you off from the unknown, the new, and the unexpected. You were sent to the earth to become a receiver of the unknown. From ancient times, these gifts were prepared for you; now they come towards you across eternal distances. Their destination is the altar of your heart.”
Another voice, that of Yehudi Amichai reminds us that one of the most difficult places for blooms to arise is in the areas where we are “right.” That hard trampled ground will yield little growth.
“From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.”
The willingness to entertain doubts, judgments aside, to allow oneself time to wander in wonder though past experience gives space to the blossoms of realization, growth and wholeness. Love, especially the unreasonable outrageous love that can’t be contained by word or thought, is the most powerful plow turning the soil where our favorite thought path has made our minds dense and unforgiving. Often it seems to take a devastating experience of loss or trauma to crack open our shell of certainty that so frequently conspires to keep us safely protected from the pain that we fear lies just below the surface. Each of these instances, whether choosing to embrace doubt or love or the tragedy that is thrown upon us, become gateways to open ground and who we are beneath appearances and identities. The crumbling of our treasured thought structures allows new revelations, and a gentleness to arise and manifest itself in our lives. Spring indeed!
Thich Nhat Hanh relates this zen story in his book “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching.”
“The horse is galloping quickly, and it appears that the man on the horse is going somewhere important. Another man, standing alongside the road, shouts, ‘Where are you going?” and the first man replies, I don’t know! Ask the horse!” This is also our story. We are riding a horse, we don’t know where we are going, and we can’t stop. The horse is our habit energy pulling us along, and we are powerless.
We are always running, and it has become a habit.
We struggle all the time, even during our sleep.
We are at war within ourselves, and we can easily start a war with others.”
We are all surrounded by, filled with, held in the loving hands of God. May we just take a moment to lay down the mental baggage we burden ourselves with, get off the horse of habit, release the protection of being “right,” and simply allow the embrace that is ours.