Yesterday I was writing about the experience of doing this blog, and in particular, the effect of habit. I’m interested in this because of the ways my mind works. One of the common analogies about our minds is to speak about “the monkey mind”; the way random thoughts and anxieties take over and run away with us. Another very good analogy is to envisage the mind as an elephant ridden by a mahout; the elephant is the subconscious mind, the mahout the conscious mind. In both cases the analogy describes how our minds and thoughts are not under our conscious control. The mahout can ride the elephant and try to direct it, but s/he can’t force it to go anywhere, and if the elephant decides to take off towards or away from something, there’s little the mahout can do to stop it. Similarly, monkeys are not civilised or particularly conscientious, and thus are very easily distracted. However, there is one way to ensure that both the elephant and the monkeys behave themselves, and that is by training. In other words, by establishing a habit.
When I started writing the blog it took effort. Every day, on the train, my monkey mind wanted to run off and play. It wanted to go on Facebook or Twitter, it wanted to read the paper, it wanted to do ANYTHING rather than write the blog. But I persevered. I thought about it, and I wrote it, and eventually, it ceased to be such an effort. I had established a habit of writing a blog every morning en route to work. I had trained the monkey mind to expect that every morning, we would write the blog, and it stopped fighting me and got with the programme. Now, writing the blog can be one of the most pleasurable parts of the day. The monkey had come to regard it as fun.
Don’t get me wrong. The writing itself can still be deadly hard work, especially when me and monkey aren’t enjoying it, the words aren’t flowing, the muse hasn’t visited and in short, it’s not going well. What has become easy is the ACT of writing. I no longer have to fight the monkey to get it to write. It knows we do that every day, no matter what. It has ceased to come up with spurious reasons why I might not need to write, or why I shouldn’t, or why it would be a good idea not to. I have trained it to write every day. I have successfully inculcated a habit.
And, that being so, there will be more tomorrow.