Building New Habits

If you keep doing what you’ve always been doing you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.

When I first heard this, my body felt an impact. As a pianist who practiced for perfection, no mistakes, artful execution, it struck me clearly that this could apply to thinking or behavior I want to change. Building new habits, shedding the old, really is about mindful repetition.

If I want more calm, less rushing or fear, less stress or anxiety, I need to patiently practice how to mediate them. I need to do what I want to have. At first it can feel challenging, awkward. Habits are cozy and comfortable. But I can promise you that after 21 days – the least amount of time some say it takes to change a habit – you will notice something has shifted. You will be a little softer, gentler version of you. It can help to have a support system – class or teacher – to cheer you on.   

Meditating a little each day, taking a breath before you start your car, or just standing still while waiting for the train or in line at the supermarket, or before brushing your teeth – consciously taking that single breath in and slowly out, can change your life.

So go ahead and practice.

As soon as we pay attention to our breath, as we breathe in, these three things – body, breath, and mind come together. This can happen in just one or two seconds. You come back to yourself.

Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhist mindfulness guru