practice

Shantideva, an 8th century monk in India, said the following:

There is nothing that is not made lighter through habit and familiarity.

Stated without the double negative: habit and familiarity can make anything easier.

This makes sense. If you haven’t exercised in years, and suddenly you decide to embark on a major fitness program, it’s gonna be difficult at first. But there is nothing that is not made lighter through habit and familiarity.

If you’re not used to wearing a wedding ring, and you’ve recently gotten married, that first week or month of wearing a ring will feel weird. But there is nothing that is not made lighter through habit and familiarity.

If suddenly you decide to swear off cigarettes forever – and then 30 minutes later you have a smoke – it’s because you aren’t yet familiar withnot smoking. You’re not yet in the habit of not smoking, so the act of avoiding cigarettes feels difficult. But there is nothing that is not made lighter through habit and familiarity.

If you’ve never had sex, the first time you experience it, it will most probably be awkward, and, maybe even embarrassing. But there is nothing that is not made lighter through habit and familiarity.

If you suddenly start shoplifting, you might be angst-ridden, nervous, and giddy. But there is nothing that is not made lighter through habit and familiarity.

The aforementioned examples are of things we do in the physical realm.

Now let’s expand that.

Other people’s characteristics or mannerisms might cause us to react a certain way. When someone does something (anything at all), we might have an emotional response to it. We’re used to reacting the way we react. We’re in the habit of reacting the way we do.

Now let’s say you didn’t want to react that way anymore. Let’s say you decide, “I’m no longer going to yell when my kids don’t eat their dinner.”

Well, you’re not used to not yelling at your kids when they don’t eat their dinner. So it’s going to be difficult the first few times you try it. It will be hard, because you won’t be able to give yourself that quick release of yelling. You’re gonna have to sit in the discomfort – the terrible discomfort of not yelling – over and over again until it becomes more comfortable.

The good news is there is nothing that is not made lighter through habit and familiarity.

  • If we’re stuck in traffic, we can use that experience as an opportunity to practice “being annoyed” – because learning to decrease our annoyance at being irritated is a worthwhile task.
  • If we have a blemish that disturbs us, we can practice with “being disturbed” – because learning to decrease our annoyance at being irritated is a worthwhile task.
  • If we order a mushroom pizza, but a sausage pizza arrives instead, we can practice “being with our disappointment” – because learning to decrease our annoyance at being irritated is a worthwhile task.

It’s only through practice – through cultivating a habit and sense of familiarity with being uncomfortable, with being disappointed – that we can become comfortable. It will only be through practice – learning to decrease our annoyance at being irritated – that we will cease to be as annoyed.

This brings us to the spiritual-religious realm. For us to be more filled with acceptance, we need to practice acceptance. For us to experience more gratitude, compassion, and love, we must practice each of those states. There is nothing that is not made lighter through habit and familiarity.

Spiritual-religious advice:

Practice.

With love,

i best

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