Getting your Fix
What is the effect of practice, when we are conscious, and when we are not?
Practice, any practice, is repetition with intention of refinement. We take an action, add forward-thinking, shaping, direction. We sustain focus, we create observable, sensational change. We learn the effects of our effort, and we learn how to learn.
Not all learning is conscious. This is especially true for everything we learned when we were young, or in a place of vulnerability, or in a time of heightened awareness. The simplest actions, the ones we repeat without conscious intention, take on the most profound effects in our lives.
The small actions, thoughts, beliefs, we learned unconsciously influence what we reach for, and when. We believe in set meal times, in career paths, in proper times for marriages, places to raise children, ways to save for and spend time in retirement. The patterns set and sanctioned by society are the weave of our implicit agreements.
When we don’t see our habits as practices, we are prone to addiction. And because we value freedom, which is the opposite of addictive dependencies, we create inner conflict, tripping ourselves up to the finish line.
How do we become dependent?
All repetitions create relationships. The people we see often, the places we visit, the things we like, use, reuse, replace: we have relationships with all aspects that reoccur in our lives. Frequency matters: the things we do most often are the ones that are hard to recognize, hardest to change. Frequency of action is important, but not as important as frequency of thought. When we think of something again and again, unconsciously, it looms large in the space of the mind.
When we practice consciously, we feed the will to repeat and refine our intentional actions. With or without intention, we naturally seek to repeat what brought us pleasure in the past, and when we repeat our past mistakes in our memory, we resist making those same mistakes again, though we color our interpretation of the present with the patterns we recognize from the past.
The thought-practice effect can also pull us away from being fully responsive to the present when we rehearse things we have said, or want to say. Our speech seems like a performance, which is artful rather than natural. We pose as the person we think we are, for an audience we imagined.
All of these practice effects depend on memory. We weave together our feelings with time, relying on the past to guide the present. When we intentionally train ourselves to be more skillful, our present stays fresh, and we feel closer to our purpose, our people, our places.
When we are not intentional, what do we repeat? Anything we find irresistible: the pleasures we seek to relive and repeat, as well as the patterns that were set into us at our youngest age.
When do we rely on our habits? When we are distracted, or when we dislike what is happening, or when we find ourselves bored by the present. We reach out, we reach out for change, and we reach out for what reliably changes things in the ways that we like.
And because we naturally want to like and enjoy everything all the time, our repetitions become like an itch. We scratch, but we just scratch the surface. We don’t dig deep into the roots of the minor feelings that rise repetitively, the irritations that we respond to, the reactions that we have to ourselves. We are vaguely aware of being annoyed, or concerned, or wanting something; we definitely want to fix it, and know where we can get our fix.
The difficulty is the dependency on the idea of “fix”. We presume there is a problem, that there must be a fix, and we know where to get our fix. We can be dependent on anything at all that makes us feel better, or feel more of what we want to feel.
What is the opposite of unconscious repetitions, addictive habits, dependencies? To be independent, to be free.
When we are free, we are responsive to inner and outer conditions with a sense of agency, curiosity, and some degree of detachment. We understand that situations are unique, and that we are strong, resilient, and will always be ok. There is no need for concern, or to change what is, or to fix what we are feeling. We are aware that we can leave our circumstances, or shift them. We are not caught up, or in, or by, our places, our people, our possessions.
Dependency does not occur when we feel a sense of relaxed ease and strength. When we are tired, low, weak, we drag ourselves, heavily leaning on what we think and know will support us. We settle down, we settle in, we settle on, our unconscious habits.
To come up and out of our dependencies requires high energy, real will, and the self-assurance that we are self-sufficient.