It can be difficult to recognize an unwanted habit while we are in our usual movements in life. Sometimes we can see the habit but we are too busy to actually stop and consider our choices in the moment. I know this is true for me even though I have been practicing the Alexander Technique for over twenty-five years. Learning to be mindful does not mean we are mindful at all times.
Of course, opportunities always arise and I was lucky and blessed to have the opportunity to go overseas for a month this summer. I began my excursion by stopping off in London and visiting family. It was my first visit to London and was thankful to have someone to show me around and join me in exploring the city.
London is a large city but doesn’t have a large city feel. The city is made up of smaller neighborhoods that have their own character. It is a great place to explore habit, given that the British drive on the left side of the road and the driver sits on the right side of the vehicle.
I was immediately tested when I walked out of the airport to get in the car. I was told to ride in the front and went to the front right side of the vehicle. Woops! Wrong side. I tucked that experience in my mind and continued to the other side of the car. Of course, the next time I had the opportunity to ride in the front, I still went to the wrong side of the vehicle but now I was laughing. In fact, I laughed a lot at my wrong thinking, my habits. I was in a new environment, enjoying each moment, thrilled with visiting London, with no thought about minding my habits.
When walking around the city, it’s very important to stop at the lights and wait before crossing. Looking down in front of the curb, you will see in large block letters, “LOOK RIGHT”. Every time I read that note, I could feel my wish to look to the left, in spite of the warning! Again, I found the whole experience amusing. I had to stop, take the time to become mindful and recognize my want to look to the left and pause. I could only look to the right if I paused. My habit was strong (still is).
I looked to the right, even though it felt wrong because we know that feeling wrong does not mean we are wrong. In order to appease my strong need for safety, I also looked to the left – just in case…
This is why changing habits can be so difficult.
This is a series on practicing mindfulness in new situations.