An excerpt from an article in Living Metaphysics: A practical spiritual guide, 'Recognising the Choices I have'.
LIFE is full of choice points; moments when we are confronted by different possibilities…Many times we are not aware of choosing because we act unconsciously, out of habit. Habits or settled practices enable us to be efficient in our use of time and energy. A life lived according to metaphysical principles is an orderly life, and habits form part of that order. A less common meaning of the word “habit” is “clothing”. Someone going riding would put on a riding habit; a nun in days gone by wore a religious habit. Putting on a habit had implications for the way you acted. It was the outer sign of the choices you had made for your life, and it assisted you to follow that path. In the same way, we can take on habits that we consciously choose because they will be of assistance to us on our path. Creating a new habit is a matter of conscious choice in the first instance and of continuing choice until that habit is established. If we decide that it would be good to establish a particular practice, such as getting up at a certain time or setting aside time for self every day because this will help us to reach our goals in life, then we have to use our will.
We have to actually get out of bed at the time we have chosen. We have to deliberately make time and space in our day to be by ourselves. And this choice has to be consciously and willfully made day after day until the habit is established. Even then we may still have a battle on some days!
Habits can [also] stop us from exploring new and better ways of doing things. This is particularly so when they have their origin in our subconscious. Then they can become compulsive. It may be good for your health to go for a walk or jog each day. But if you absolutely must go at exactly the same time, even if it is pouring rain or someone wants to come and visit you, then the habit has taken you over instead of you using it to achieve your ends. If you normally walk or job at three o’clock, say, there will be times when it is more appropriate for you to go at two or four, or in the morning, because of other circumstances.
There are small things we can do to stop us from being locked into habitual was of acting and to remind us that we do have choices. If we always go the same way to work, then one day it may be good to take a little extra time and go by a different route. If we always buy lunch at the same shop, then we can try another one. If we then conclude that our regular route or lunch shop is the best one, then we have made a conscious choice about these things.
The Buddhists speak about mindfulness, which is a concentration on being totally in the present and performing every action in awareness rather than in a habitual way. Doing this mindfully ensures that they do not become simply automatic. This is evident if we take a habitual action like walking, or cleaning our teeth or eating, and practice mindfulness as we do it. It requires us to stay alert and conscious and not drift into the state where our minds are not engaged with what our bodies are doing.
The article also addresses our patterns of thinking and feeling; our ability to respond; spontaneity, which enables us to act in different ways and assists in freeing ourselves from old behavior patterns. The article emphasizes the importance of our will and leads us into the metaphysical principle Thinking, feeling and willing are the tools with which I build my life.