Life is full of all kinds of stresses, and each of us has habitual ways of reacting to those stresses — we procrastinate, run to comforts, lash out or distance ourselves from others, try to exit from a stressful place, mentally complain about others.
The sad effect of these habitual reactions is that they move us further away from others, and from the direct experience of the moment.
Let’s take a quick example: If you are hurt by the way someone is acting, your habitual reaction might be complaining about them, taking offense, getting angry (all of these or a combo). Then you shut them out, closing your heart to them, moving away from them.
The effect of this is that you’ve now distanced yourself from the other person. And I submit that this is the cause of most of our relationship problems, work issues, violence, racism, political strife, and wars.
Closing our hearts to others and creating distance from them out of habitual reaction to stress is the heart of aggression, violence and pain.
We do the same thing when it comes to our direct experience of the moment — if we’re bored, unhappy with our situation, unhappy with ourselves, stressed or tired … we habitually try to find comfort in food, drink, drugs, online distractions, TV or videos, shopping, porn, drowning everything out with music, and so on. We are moving away from the present moment, shutting out the world around us.
Moving ourselves away from the direct experience of this moment, out of habitual reaction, is the heart of our unhappiness and disconnect from life.
These are all based on the same problem — we have habitual reactions to stress, and those habitual reactions move us further from other people. From life itself. From ourselves.
Today, I’d like to offer you a practice that I’ve been exploring myself: the beautiful practice of moving closer.
It is scary, shaky, and transformative.
It goes like this:
Continue to move closer. Continue to reopen your heart. From this place, see what action you need to take. Not from the place of habitual reaction.
It’s an incredibly beautiful practice. And yes, it’s filled with shakiness. That makes it even more courageous.
Originally published on Zen Habits.
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