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The Discipline of Undoing Habits

Writer: Jace Loi

An irony of practicing mindfulness

The Discipline of Undoing Habits: An Irony

It’s an irony right from the beginning when we embark on the journey of practicing mindfulness.

You may join any mindfulness program, and the suggestion from the program is usually to come up with a disciplined routine to mess up existing ‘routines’:

Build a new habit to undo existing habits. Specifically, the habit of perpetual doing. Or the autopilot mode.

Does the mind habitually like to fix things? Let’s observe instead.

Tend to eat mindlessly? Let’s set the intention to eat mindfully.

Automatically striving and hustling? Let’s learn to let it be.

It’s the simple first step to transformation, except... it isn’t that simple.

After all, we are cultivating a habit to go against habits. Habits that have been ingrained for years and possibly decades.

Now, how is that going to pan out?

It’s probably going to turn out exactly the way it should —

Confusion... Feeling stuck or discouraged... Wondering if you are doing it right, or if this is leading anywhere.

If you are feeling all of these, trust me, it’s right.

However, if you are feeling awesome, relaxed, and calm, it’s right too.


Does the mind like to ascertain what is right or wrong? Let’s have no clear right or wrong.

If one keeps with the practice over and over again, it’s bound to pay off.

However, when you are beginning to feel proud of the practice you have established, a wise mindfulness teacher might show up and say, “Let go of the practice and just be.”

Does the mind like to grasp? Let’s learn to let it go.

All habits are useful until these take over — Over-attachment. Psychological inflexibility. Tightness & tension. Discontentment.

Allowing ironies and seeing paradoxes are just ways of developing our capacity for change and uncertainty, which translates to our capacity for growth and new wisdom.

In essence, we are not learning to be more mindful, we are cultivating a practice of becoming undone.

Develop the intentional habit of undoing habits.

Put together a routine and discard it.

Have space for both discipline and flexibility.

Be ok with both certainty and uncertainty.

We are going against the mind's usual rationality by seeing life in all forms of paradoxes and ironies.

We are cultivating the radical acceptance of impermanence, i.e. everything changes in some way at some point.

It is through this that we develop an infallible resilience, no matter what shows up in life.

Wield ironies with ease...

and somehow life gradually eases.


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