Soft, cozy beds

My alarm went off at 3.45am this morning. It was cold… I was tired… and I had a hard decision to make. Luckily there are no soft cozy beds in our monastery, just simple mats on floors. I finally decided to jump out of my sleeping bag and scramble into the shower. As usual, I felt fine 20 minutes later. Bad habits, they say, are just like soft cozy beds – very easy to get into, but extremely difficult to get out of. Good habits, on the other hand, are extremely difficult to form but very easy to lose.

This month is all about developing good habits. In the ancient spiritual culture of the Vedas, this period around October/November was earmarked as a particularly powerful and sacred time. Any spiritual activity performed in this “month of Kartik” renders extra benefit and reward. Just as Christmas sales coax old customers back and simultaneously attract new buyers to jump on board, this month could also be entitled a ‘spiritual sale’. Practitioners make vows to immerse themselves and make extra commitments in their spiritual endeavours. It’s a month in which we break out of the routine, and try to do something extra.

Modern self help gurus talk about the “30 day trial”. This is the idea that if you change something in your life, and continue it through for 30 days, it actually becomes a habit. The ancient sages also had this insight. Maybe it’s not just about what we can spiritually obtain from this month, but rather the changes we can make this month that will carry us forward for the next year. As humans, change is something we don’t always handle very well. Slowly but surely, however, we have to chip away at all those bad habits and develop saintly character, culture and lifestyle. Spiritual practice then becomes easy and natural.

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