Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Make and Breaking Habits

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. I've heard it before, I've talked with patients about it before and here I am in the thick of forming a habit of practicing qi gong every morning. Its Day 18 since I began my qi gong classes and guess what, the honey moon is over. I don't say this unhappily, I say it matter-of-factly because it seems to be a part of the cycle of rooting habits into life.

I once learned in a class taught my Joe McCue the 4 steps to learn anything:
unconscious incompetence "I didn't know I didn't know"
conscious incompetence "I know I don't know"
conscious competence "I know what I'm doing and have to stay focused in order to do it"
unconscious competence "I know so well I don't have to think about it"

I think Louise Hay does an excellent job in the book turned movie You Can Heal Your Life explaining the steps it takes to make lasting changes in our lives.

There is of course the excitement in the beginning- the honey moon stage, the "I can do anything" place.
There is the doubt in the middle- What is this really all about? Things were easier before this. Justification central.
I think its in this place where we really need to make a choice. Its the big test where you choose something new and unknown or stay in safer waters that might not be best but are at least familiar.

Before I went to the Qi Revolution I was looking for a routine. I was excited to learn something new, especially knowing that it would not only benefit myself but also my patients. I was looking for something that would give me structure and awareness and I am getting all of that and more. What I am most aware of as I create this new habit are my thoughts as well as my deeper rooted habits that no longer serve me.

For example:
I still turn the TV on to watch in bed to fall asleep to even though it now takes me less then 10 minutes to fall asleep instead of 2 hours. The sound and lights of the TV actually bother me as I drift off to sleep and yet the TV is still flipped on and a 60 minute timer is set.

I crave sweets and indulge in them even though the craving is not satisfied and I'm left feeling yucky inside. Perhaps my hardest habit to break will be the belief of how much I love chocolate even though in the moment it no longer is as enjoyable as I remember and actually leaves me feeling ill.

I will wake up before the alarm but instead of getting up I'll force myself back to sleep until the alarm rings.

The challenge of qi gong is that this practice is literally about discipline: discipline of how we cultivate and use our energy. It not about going through the motions, increasing time, sweating more, going further its just about the exact opposite. Its moving with sincerity with slower movements and deeper breaths. It could well be the best practice for me as I have a hard time sitting still or slowing down in just about every other aspect of my life. As I find myself getting anxious to be done I consciously slow my breath down more and pay more attention. Although I love the benefits I am receiving from this practice I still hear that little voice in the morning "hit the snooze and do qi gong later" (I know there won't be later and I'm also aware that this voice is yelling louder as I etch in this habit and my old habit of not wanting to wake up is slowly melting away). As I work towards moving slower and breathing deeper I can see how it can take a lifetime to perfect and refine my form. I can feel in my body more softer strength and endurance and see how this discipline is carrying over into other areas of my life.

Somedays I feel great as I move and think about adding form 2 into my routine other days I'm less enthusiastic. I'm not counting days as if just to get to 30 in a row instead I let it be the first thing in the morning, treating it more like breakfast (which I would never skip). I try to be kind to myself remembering that it is a practice and each moment is different and shouldn't be compared. I remind myself I enjoy waking earlier and having more time in my day even when the sleep dust is still covering my eyes and my old habits tell me differently.

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

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