What’s the Magic Number?
Every week day for the last 21 weeks I’ve been watching the sunrise. The longer I sit the more I realise that I’m actually watching a stationary sun while I sit on a moving earth. I experience this phenomenon each day as a student of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is simply paying attention to the present moment and for me it’s a practice as the mind is often very busy – even before the sun has risen! I practice noting what arises and most of the time it doesn’t feel simple at all.
Some people say that it takes 21 days to form a habit but that’s if the habit is something simple like drinking a glass of water when you get out of bed in the morning. Others say that it takes 40 days but maybe that’s if you want to give up sugar. But this may depend on why you eat sugar in the first place.
Long held patterns of addiction may take much longer to break. That’s because these patterns were carefully crafted by us to keep us safe. Many of us (including myself) have addictions. We may have addictions that are socially acceptable like food, technology and work or our addictions may be more harmful to us and less socially acceptable like coffee, drugs and alcohol.
Addictions can be our go-to mechanism to numb sensations – to stop from feeling. We fall into the pattern of addiction to numb pain and bring a sense of safety however, feelings of shame often arise as a result of falling into the pattern of addiction because we know it doesn’t serve us and the cycle continues.
No amount of will power or the correct number of days work here to break free from addiction or to create a new habit. We may just end up overlaying an old less socially acceptable habit with a new more socially acceptable one.
What is needed is a glimmer of hope that a practice of mindfulness may open the window to transformation. Allowing ourselves to notice and move towards sensation rather than away from it. As time goes by it seems possible that those old unloved parts of ourselves find acceptance and are integrated into who we are and as part of this process habits that no longer serve us may dissolve.
Allow yourself to feel and take as long as you like!