We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
I just finished reading Swami Chidvilasananda’s book Enthusiasm. If you can imagine your face being lit with a warm glow when you crack open this book, that is how it felt to read. Illuminating. Enlightening. Nourishing. The Siddha Yoga Master explains in easy to understand terms how to tap into your wellspring of enthusiasm. Just like the Dalai Lama’s book, it is too profound and wise to do it justice by paraphrasing. Chidvilasananda acts as a gentle guide knowing each person’s path will be unique, but also knowing that we are all just trying to get to the same place.
She talks about the true meaning of freedom of speech, gratitude and generosity. You can’t cultivate enthusiasm without first cultivating these other virtues. The part that really spoke to me was what she said about constancy and patience. My path to be more childlike has taken me to study and practice different virtues each month. The first month was dedicated to optimism. July’s focus was awareness. August was about cultivating enthusiasm. Today, I start a month long journey of curiosity. But first I should review what I have learned. Has any of it actually become a habit? Unfortunately, not yet.
Last month I set the following goals:
1.To be present in all endeavors.
2.To wake up each day and make meditation as routine in the morning as brushing my teeth.
3.To meditate specifically on the daily thought that “This is the best day ever” and remind myself of that truth throughout the day
4.Measure my virtues/goals.
On August 5th, I downloaded two apps to help track those goals. There's an App for That So far, it is fifty/fifty. Although, there is improvement with my kids, still finding it a challenge to remain present with my husband. It really helps to keep my iPhone in my purse. It is just such a tempting distraction. But it is also my handy measurement tool and I have been ignoring my apps for the past week. What first sent me off path was the dreaded scale. After journaling my food and starting a new exercise routine with a personal trainer for two weeks, I didn’t see any progress. Discouraged and impatient, I didn’t just give up my health measurement app, I gave up measuring all the other things too. One day without waking up early to meditate turned into a week before I knew it.
Chidvilasananda uses the the bridge analogy in describing the value of constancy. You can’t cross a river on a bridge that is only half built. When you are good some of the time, the majority of your time is soon taken up trying to deal with the consequences of what was left undone. Same outcome with impatience. When you rush to get things done, it always seems to take twice as long. She also talked about how the definition of patience has become so distorted. Patience does not mean grinning and baring a difficult person or situation. Patience does not mean putting dreams and goals on hold for a better day. The guru’s definition of patience was liberating. She describes patience as true faith in yourself and in God. If you have that faith, you know all things are possible. If you have that faith, it is easy to embrace patience through diligent, consistent efforts. Like a precious gem's many facets, faith, patience, and constancy create a dazzling sparkle of enthusiasm.
Today is the first of the month. Like a Monday or a clean closet, to me it represents another clean slate to try it again.
How do you develop new habits?