The Parasitic Vine of Habits

Of course there are good habits. I’m in the habit of meditation, that’s a good habit. I’m in the habit of cleaning up after myself in the kitchen. A good habit. But within me operates a parasitic vine, or several of them intertwined–of bad habits. Such is the human condition.

The grip of this parasitic vine can be challenged, and some of the ivy, some of the strangle-weed in my inner self, can be cut away. It’s got a hard bark on it, and it’s resistant to cutting, but it can be done. Or more accurately it can can be *seen* away–there is a process, called self observation, allowing us to turn some of our attention to ourselves in the most objective perspective we can manage, and in seeing a negative, problematic habit, we’re able to work against it by degrees. First, just seeing it–not just saying “I see that I have this habit” but literally seeing it as if it were physically manifest–has the curious effect of gradually weakening it.

And this means seeing it without self-reproach. Honesty but not self-condemnation. Just “Oh, there is my tendency to deflect blame onto someone else…Or: ah, once again I see my tendency to lose myself in social media…Or: yes, once again I see that I have the bad habit of spending energy defending my vanity…” Seeing it as a kind of vine is a bit of a revelation–I realize these bad habits work together, reinforce one another. And in the organic structure of my psychology they are almost literally parasitic vines. They draw energy away from me that could be used for a thousand positive experiences…When I build up the “databank” of self-knowledge, of seeing myself, I am less identified with the bad habits, less subject to their grip. By degrees I can become someone realer, and freer…