Thursday, 19 May 2011

Homeostasis the demon of inertia or Why new rituals fall by the wayside

"Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment"
By George Leonard

The Scribbler pointed me in the direction of the "Mastery" book in this post not too long ago and it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. Rather than do an in-depth review which I’m not very good at, I’d like instead to share with you an important lesson in the book – namely the lesson of how Homeostasis affects the path to mastery.

Here is a link to the Wikipedia definition of Homeostasis. In a nutshell what it means is that a system will try to keep itself operating within certain parameters even if they are not always good parameters to operate within.

For example, here is a simple thermometer system that monitors the temperature, if it’s too low it switches on the heating and waits for a period of time. It then checks the temperature again and if it is still too low it keeps the heater on and if not, it switches the heater off. In both cases it waits for a period of time.

There’s plenty of literature on the web about homeostasis and I encourage you to read up on it. In particular please read section “6 Psychological” on the Wikipedia entry.

Homeostasis can also be applied to the “work in progress” that you do as a practitioner on a regular basis. Whether it is meditation, managing a TO DO list, ritual or ceremonies, you’re currently in pattern of behavior and changing that will meet with some resistance from homeostasis. Here is the same thermometer diagram with temperature replaced with ritual.

As you can see introducing a new ritual in to your regular practice is something that either gains traction by becoming part of your business as usual; or it gets dropped. You may experience feelings of remorse, anger, relief or a range of emotions when you do not manage to integrate something new in to your business as usual.

Comfort Zone and Being Forearmed

The main thing to keep in mind though is that homeostasis is a good indicator of the boundaries of our comfort zone. By pushing yourself that little bit further, you get a feel for the likely sources of resistance and can plan to win them over or neutralize them.

Understanding the effects that homeostasis has will not help you overcome them directly, but without this understanding it is harder to work out what are the blockers to achieving your goal. Forewarned is forearmed.