My friend Melissa spent 3 hours yesterday digging milkweed roots out of her flowerbed. First, she dug down about a foot into clay, which she doesn't otherwise find in her garden. Then she followed the root, which can run for up to 7 feet. All along the strand of root, buds are forming, which will become plants next year.
Our unskillful habits are also deeply rooted. Rather than becoming dismayed by all the weeds in your garden, choose just one to focus on and become acquainted with.
Lust? Impulse buying? Complaining? Impatience? Zinger opinions? Wishy-washiness?
Spend an hour, or 3, noticing when this habit arises. Don't just tug on it when it comes over you--that's like pulling up milkweed. The results are temporary, and the root is still sprouting below ground. Instead, pay attention and become interested enough that you follow the root feeling. Feel how this habit feels in your body. Relax into that uncomfortable place.
Milkweed is a little bit toxic and can cause dermatitis in some people. Notice if you are "allergic" to the emotion behind the habit.
Rooting out unskillful habits takes patience. It also requires renunciation of the path of least resistance. Neurons that fire together wire together, and our unskillful habits have laid down a well-worn neuronal pathway that is actually impersonal.
Beating up on yourself for an unskillful habit only lays down the tracks for beating up on yourself. What's the use of that?
Practice the kindness of mindfulness. With mindfulness, we weed our garden, one weed at a time.