This 4th of July I have been spending time with my family in a place they’ve been going for 40 years. Here I am very aware of how much energy can be spent unconsciously repeating outmoded patterns from the past, and how this can hold us back.
Everyone’s on vacation in a small town, but still they find things to stress about. For example, as I write, I am distracted by my mother talking in the hallway. Apparently my 91-year old grandmother has lost her bra, and it’s very important, so four people need to look for it. The way my mom is responding, you would think she set the house on fire.
Earlier this week, my grandmother asked my husband to hang the doorbell out on the porch. This is not a modern doorbell—but literally a bell, about 6” wide, with their name painted below and a rope you pull to ring it. He looks all through the kitchen and finally finds a little bag of screws that say “doorbell screws”. Ah-ha. That took about half an hour. Then he screws the bell back onto the porch.
“Nana, why does the doorbell come down every summer?” he asks. “I don’t know,” she says. But she insists that it has to come down and go back up! Let me mention that no one who comes over ever rings the bell. Today, we asked my uncle why it comes down every year. He said, “I think that’s because it comes down every year.” No reason, of course.
Observing this, my husband told me a story he read somewhere. A man went to for his first holiday meal with his girlfriend’s family and observed her cutting the end off the ham before baking it. He asked why she was doing this, and so she asked her mom.” Her mother said, “I don’t know; that’s how we’ve always done it“ so she asked her grandmother.
Her grandmother revealed: “When I was growing up, our first oven was too small, so in order to fit the ham in we had to cut the end off.” Ah-ha. Never mind that that oven was long gone, and that they had plenty of space now. Never mind all the lost food and energy that went into this year after year. It was ritual, and until then nobody had bothered to question it.
These things may seem little, but as I read people I observe that those who get stuck on one thing like this are susceptible to getting stuck all the time. There are many reasons. Family or cultural programming is a big one. Underneath that is often a fear of really being present, or of not having control. If we constantly keep busy trying to control little details, how much energy is left to really live?
If you ever get stuck in effort, stress over little things, or simply feel you want more out of life, here are a few helpful questions you might ask yourself:
What unnecessary rituals or habits do I repeat? (Look not only at the obvious ones like addictions, but also at the subtle ones like states of mind. If you’re not sure, think of something your partner or someone close to you has told you about yourself recently. They are probably on to something.)
- Why am I repeating these patterns?
- How much is this my energy, and how much is it someone else’s?
- What purposes did/ does this serve?
- How much of these purpose(s) is based on present time desires or needs, and how much is from the past? From when?
- Would it serve me to let some of these habits go?
- IMPORTANT: What would I like to do with my energy instead?
Enjoy what you learn, and blessings on your journey forward as you reclaim your energy!
copyright 2006 Ann O’Brien- All Rights Reserved