Horsey Therapist

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Homeostasis

I highly recommend George Leonard's book, Mastery. It is his writing that had me thinking about how homeostasis keeps me stuck.

Homeostasis is designed to keep things stuck, keep things the same as they have been. The Oxford American Dictionary says homeostasis is the "maintenance of relatively stable conditions in a system (such as blood temperature in a body) by internal processes that counteract any departure from the normal."

This is all fine and dandy, except when "the normal" is hurtful, limiting, ineffective, disruptive, counterproductive.

I am reading this book because a friend sent it to me, urging me to read it. She and I share two passionate interests: horsemanship and Aikido.

I am seeking to undermine my tendency to undermine some of my better urges. I have used the word 'procrastination' lavishly in the past couple of months since I participated in a Time Management seminar. To quote Mark Rashid, "We get good at what we practice." I practice procrastination frequently. Therefore I am especially good at it.

The conflict arises when I want to do other things with my time. Things like practice Aikido, trim the twenty-four horse hooves out back, write an article promoting equine facilitated mental health (EFMH), eat lunch.

Reading about homeostasis has given me a new understanding of my procrastination behaviors. I can label them now and laugh at them. I can talk about them with RNB instead of feeling ashamed. I can separate myself from the behaviors and look for other choices.

It starts with acknowledging the importance of procrastination as an expression of homeostasis. On a survival instinct level, I want to keep things as they have been -- relatively quiet, living a relatively anonymous lifestyle, sharing a little here and there when conditions feel safe. Living with some pride in my accomplishments, my awareness, my strength, but not seeking much more.

Thinking about feeling safe and procrastination has also been fruitful. Homeostasis is a safety feature, designed to keep a system intact and functioning. Procrastination is another way of saying I'd rather do something safe than try something new. I would rather listen to another book on tape when I'm driving than resume my efforts of learning to yodel. I would rather try to get past Level 21 of that computer game than work more on that EFMH article I started the other day.

What does safety have to do these choices? Pursuing yodeling means facing the reality of how much I have learned to date. It means accepting that I have not grown up yodeling and cannot throw a yodel willy nilly into any song I am singing. It means listening to those who can yodel and wanting to yodel like them and be willing to practice, practice, practice, to practice even when I am on an interminable plateau of progress, to practice for the sake of practice rather than the purpose of achieving a goal.

The same applies to Aikido, to promoting my professional interests, and perhaps -- when the weather changes and I no longer have the real excuse of unsafe footing -- to my resumption of riding my own horses here at home.

Sobering thoughts. I would like to see myself transform toward some steady practice habits rather than the stuttering in action approach to learning. Maybe this approaching Spring Equinox is prompting an Annual Review of Self. Perhaps this review is stimulated by reading Mastery and by listening to The Way of the Peaceful Warrior.

Whatever is behind it, I enjoy stepping into my life with more gusto, staying closer to my personal goals. In fact, I will head out in a few minutes -- despite the cold and windy weather -- and split wood for the furnace.

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