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Some may say that to tear oneself away from habitual thought is easier said than
done. However, I think if we can identify the origins of habitual thought, it will help
us overcome the difficulty. It is belief that governs habitual thought, and belief
comes from our environment, society, schooling, and our parents’ teaching and
example. Let me give some examples so we can understand it better.
I remember a couple years ago, I helped interpret for a group of Chinese who came
to the United States to interview several inspirational speakers. As we spoke with
one of the speakers, he mentioned that habitual thought does not necessarily
represent the truth. I remembered that, but I did not quite grasp his meaning at the
time. I think this is because we always regard habitual thought as something that is
definite and unchangeable, we somehow subconsciously assume it is true and do
not think there is any need for change.
One day, after this interview, I saw an Epiphyllum oxypetalum in bloom before I left
home. The Japanese call this flower “Beauty Under the Moon,” and it is known
as “Night Queen” here in the States because it blooms at midnight and has a
powerful fragrance. In my garden this flower always blooms between midnight and
4 a.m. But there it was right in front of my eyes at 10 a.m., still blooming in broad
daylight. I had never seen that before. As I was taught, Epiphyllum oxypetalum only
blooms in the middle of the night for a short time. Moreover, for several years that
had also been my experience with this plant in my own garden. I had even written
an article about it. (Reference) So the fact that it remained in bloom during daylight
hours surprised me and made me understand that in fact, “habitual thought is not
necessarily the truth.” Well, if it is not always the truth, then we should be able to
break out of habitual thought when circumstances call for it.
Epiphyllum oxypetalum bloomed at midnight and closed during daytime.
Epiphyllum oxypetalum bloomed at daytime.
And in fact, I have done exactly that. Here is what happened. Recently my iPhone
suddenly went dead. However, I need to have it on all the time so I can always be
available for my patient welfare marketing services. As it happened, at the time my
phone went dead, a plumber was on his way to a rental property I own to fix a leak,
and he needed my instructions. When I told my son I had to rush to the Apple Store
to get the phone fixed, he said I would probably have to wait two or three hours to
be served since I didn’t have an appointment. Since I had no choice, I dashed off to
the Apple Store, 25 minutes from home. As I stepped out of the car, I realized I was
wearing only one shoe, a slip-on. I looked everywhere around my seat but couldn’t
find the other one. I had left in such a hurry that I must have lost it in the driveway.
My thoughts quickly turned to what I needed to do – wear one shoe and look and
walk funny, or hold my remaining shoe on my hand to show that I’m just missing the
other one? Instead, I decided to go barefoot. How could I do that? I knew I had to
break out of habitual thought. I started giving myself a pep talk, repeatedly telling
myself, “Who says I need to wear shoes? I don’t need to wear shoes in public.” I had
to keep saying this to myself because I would be walking on a very busy street in
Pasadena, California. I was wearing a formal suit, and normally I would need to have
my shoes on. After reassuring myself with this pep talk, I screwed up the courage to
walk to the Apple Store. Pretending that nothing was amiss, I felt very brave as I
charged right in. I was promptly taken to the supervisor who fixed it for me in five
minutes. When I walked back out of the store, I realized nobody was paying
attention to me.
When I later told my son what happened, he said, “Oh, my goodness, Mom, how
could you not wear shoes to the Apple store?” We take it for granted that wearing
shoes with a dress is the right thing to do. But in these circumstances, I had no
choice, so I had to get out of my usual way of thinking. I had to get out of my habitual
box. Sometime things are not universally applicable … are not necessarily the truth.
We are accustomed to them, they become our habits, and we let habitual thought
guide and govern us. Unknowingly, we let them trap us and take away our freedom –
freedom to think differently, to act differently, and most important, to be different.
Our minds are chained to a certain way of thinking and we do not realize that we are
nonetheless free to observe and create our choices and be ourselves. Everyone is
different and unique and beautiful in his or her own way.
Apple Store in Pasadena, California
Lesson From The Epiphyllum Oxypetalum