To Know and To Not Do

Yesterday my wife, son and I went downtown to this little art/car show. We invited my mom, and she never declines an opportunity to go, go, go! As we were out my mom was complaining about her knee, and I reminded her, with a smile, that she knew we were going to be out walking around. She said, “I know and I’m sorry for complaining. It’s not really my knee. I’ve just had a bunch of frustrating things on my mind the past week.”

We began talking and my mom was concerned about (I will call this person Ab) Ab and there current situation in life. She said, “I just don’t understand why Ab just can’t get it.”
I then quoted one of my favorite quotes, “To know and to not do is to not really know.” by Stephen Covey.  We then spoke about all various programs they have undergone, counselings, and books read. We chatted for awhile about the different type of knowledge one can posses, and also touched on how Ab’s life has has been in a disarray for some time. It was a nice afternoon.

This morning I was thinking about our conversation, Ab, and the to know and not do quote. I think this quote is correct but I approached it from a different angle. This is the new angle: To know and to not do is to not have developed the habit. This is more of an Aristotelian approach/thought.

We are in an age of information. We can access the most profound wisdom known to mankind. However, this information is actually pointless. This information changes nothing. We merely reflect the habits we cultivate in our life. A lot of the time we let life, people, culture, norms, and our inner impulses cultivate us. We are the pin ball inside the machine destined to get launched by whatever we rub up against. Thus, as time passes, a gap emerges  between what we know and what we do and inverse for those that practice intentionally.

Build new habits. Sounds easy enough. Often we confuse excitement with habit but the moment the newness wears off we are left standing  with all the old urges, impulses, feelings and habits we spent a lifetime cultivating, a lot of the time unknowingly. This new building habits business isn’t as easy as the books like to tell us its. Those of us who have tired to “start anew” know the strength of our old ways.

Solution? I don’t really have one but I can share how I starting practicing mindfulness 3 years ago. How can I remember to be mindful when I’m not mindful, I thought. For my first couple of weeks I tried this mindfulness stuff but I was usually lost for the whole day before I’d remember to be mindful. I wanted to step my game up so I downloaded an application (insight timer) so I could have a reminder bell. For the first year of my practice I set a bell to chime every 10 minutes, I am not laying and I do know this is sort of extreme. 99 percent people thought I was weird, and may people would say things like, “what the hell is that noise?”, “Is that you dinging all the time?” “Oh my god, that is so annoying!”

But, hey, nothing changes if nothing changes. This is what I will continue to say to Ab and the advice I would give to anyone looking to change. There is research, and I know for my practice, that thoughts, feelings, emotions, urges only last 90 seconds (I never timed but I know they arise and fade quickly) if you do not “feed the beast”. So your only 90 seconds away from to reinforcing your new habit and slowly cultivating over the years will change many things.

Below is a book I read about 3 years ago that I really enjoyed. The link is for an amazonsmile which gives a small percentage of the purchase to a charity at no cost to you. In this case it is a local food bank called Harry Chapin Food Bank.

The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner

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