The Habit of Wearing Clothes


I’ve had a “living the life” kind of day. 

I taught an early morning yoga class, went to work for a few hours, came home for lunch, took transit into Vancouver to take an amazing workshop on the art of hands-on adjustments with Rachel Scott, and read the better part of Pema Chodron’s Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears on my journey to and from. 

Though the day is not over, I wanted to take a moment out to share a passage from Chodron’s book. I hope the depth of these words is still palpable out of the context of her book. 

Some people have told me that they find it unnerving to pause. One man said if he pauses it feels like death to him. This speaks to the power of habit. We associate acting habitually with security, ground, and comfort. It gives us the feeling of something to hold on to. Our habit is just to keep moving, speeding, talking to ourselves, and filling up the space. But habits are like clothes. We can put them on and we can take them off. Yet, as we well know, when we get very attached to wearing clothes, we don’t want to take them off. We feel as if we’ll be too exposed, naked in front of everyone; we’ll feel groundless and insecure and we won’t know what’s going on.

            We think it’s natural, even sane, to run away from those kinds of uncomfortable feelings. If you decide, quite enthusiastically, that every time you open your computer, you’re going to pause, then when you actually open your computer, you may have an objection: “Well, now I can’t pause because I’m in a rush and there are forty million things to do.” We think this inability or this reluctance to slow down has something to do with our outer circumstances, because we live such busy lives. But I can tell you that I discovered otherwise when I was on a three-year retreat. I would be sitting in my small room looking out at the ocean, with all the time in the world. I would be silently meditating, and this queasy feeling would come over me; I’d feel that I just had to rush through my session so I could do something more important. When I experienced that, I realized that for all of us this is a very entrenched habit. The feeling is, quite simply, not wanting to be fully present.