Life is a journey composed of many steps on our personal path that takes us down a winding road of constant evolution. And each day, we are provided with a myriad of opportunities that can allow us to transform into our next best selves. One moment we are presented with an opportunity to react differently when yet another someone in our life rubs us the wrong way; on another day we may find ourselves wanting to walk away from a particular circumstance but are not sure if we can. Eventually, we may find ourselves stuck in a rut that we can never seem to get out of. We may even make the same choices over and over again because we don’t know how to choose otherwise. Rather than moving us forward, our personal paths may take us in a seemingly never-ending circle where our actions and choices lead us nowhere but to where we’ve already been. It is during these moments that awareness can be the first step to change.
Awareness is when we are able to realize what we are doing. We observe ourselves, noticing our reactions, actions, and choices as if we were a detached viewer. Awareness is the first step to change because we can’t make a change unless we are aware that one needs to be made in the first place. We can then begin understanding why we are doing what we are doing. Afterward, it becomes difficult not to change because we are no longer asleep to the truth behind our behaviors. We also begin to realize that, just as much as we are the root source behind the causes for our behaviors, we are also the originator for any changes that we want to happen.
There is a freedom that comes with awareness. Rather than thinking that we are stuck in a repetitive cycle where there is no escape, we begin to see that we very much play a hand in creating our lives. Whether we are aware of them or not, our behaviors and choices are always ours to make. Our past and our present no longer have to dictate our future when we choose to be aware. We are then free to move beyond our old limits, make new choices, and take new actions. With awareness, our paths can’t help but wind us forward in our lives while paving the way for new experiences and new ways of being. It is through awareness that we can continue to consciously evolve.
“Study author Kristen Syme, a recent WSU Ph.D. graduate, compares treating anxiety, depression or PTSD with antidepressants to medicating someone for a broken bone without setting the bone itself. She believes that these problems “look more like sociocultural phenomena, so the solution is not necessarily fixing a dysfunction in the person’s brain but fixing dysfunctions in the social world.”
Edit to add: It’s essential to get proper treatment and medical advice, and not leave mental suffering untreated.
Often, when we’re unhappy, we fall into the habit of thinking that, if only one or two particular things in our life would change, everything would be fine. We might focus on the fact that we need a new car, or a raise, or a change in our living situation. We dwell on this one thing and strategize, or complain, or daydream about what it would be like to have it. Meanwhile, underneath the surface, the real reason for our unhappiness sits unrecognized and unaddressed. And yet, if we are able to locate and explore the underlying cause of our discontent, all the surface concerns have a way of working themselves out in the light of our realization.
Maybe we really do just need a new car, and maybe moving to another city would improve our life situation. However, it can only help to take some time to explore what’s going on at a deeper level. Sometimes, when we take a moment and stop focusing on external concerns, we get to the heart of the matter. We might realize that all our lives we’ve been dissatisfied, grasping at one thing after another, only to be dissatisfied about something else once we get what we want. Or perhaps we’ll notice a pattern of running away from a place, or a relationship, when things get too hard. We might then wonder why this keeps happening, and how we might work through the difficulty rather than just escaping it. The point is, slowing down and turning our attention within can save us a lot of energy in the long run, because it is very often the case that there is no external change that will make us happy.
Once you’ve taken the time to inquire within, you can begin to make changes that address the deeper issue. This can be hard at first, especially if you’ve grown used to grasping for outside sources in order to quell your discontent, but in the end, you will be solving the problem at a deeper level, and it will be much less likely to recur.
The idea of fatherhood is both personal and universal. We all have ideal concepts surrounding fatherhood, and we also have our real fathers; fathers who were there or not there for us, fathers who provided financial support for our families or failed to do so, fathers who loved us or neglected us, fathers who were our role models or gave us someone to rebel against. Our father may have been there for us sometimes and not there for us at other times. The process of reconciling the ideal father that resides in our minds with the father that we actually have is a fertile one that can teach us a great deal about ourselves.
Our relationship with our father will often affect our relationships with the other men who will come into our lives. You may have learned to behave and think in certain ways because those were the ways that your father acted and thought. Certain talents that you possess may have been passed down to you by your father. There also may be personal issues that you inherited by virtue of who your father is. Understanding how your relationship with your father has influenced you can help you better understand yourself and the life that you have created.
This is why being a parent is the most important job there is.
By example, you are showing the little eyes that watch you how to interact with others, and the world. How to respect life. Teaching them about priorities and about themselves. You literally set yourself aside for this little person so that you can ensure that their needs are met; that they learn cleanly and clearly how to walk in the world.
All this requires a parent to be very steady inside; to work from that perspective of something larger than themselves.
This is why it’s said that the work we do on ourselves is the most important thing that we can do for anyone else in our lives. By example, let’s give our kids the most opportunities we can to be the best people they can be.
Though it is human to evaluate people we encounter based on first impressions, the conclusions we come to are seldom unaffected by our own fears and our own preconceptions. We see the world as we are, and not as it actually is. Additionally, our judgments are frequently incomplete. For example, wealth can seem like proof that an individual is spoiled, and poverty can be seen as a signifier of laziness — neither of which may be true. At the heart of the tendency to categorize and criticize, we often find insecurity. Overcoming our need to set ourselves apart from what we fear is a matter of understanding the root of judgment and then reaffirming our commitment to tolerance.
When we catch ourselves thinking or behaving judgmentally, we should ask ourselves where these judgments come from. Traits we hope we do not possess can instigate our criticism when we see them in others because passing judgment distances us from those traits. Once we regain our center, we can reinforce our open-mindedness by putting our feelings into words. To acknowledge to ourselves that we have judged, and that we have identified the root of our judgments, is the first step to a path of compassion. Recognizing that we limit our awareness by assessing others critically can make moving past our initial impressions much easier. Judgments seldom leave room for alternate possibilities.
Mother Teresa said, “If you judge people, you don’t have time to love them.” If we are quick to pass judgment on others, we forget that they, like us, are human beings. As we seldom know what roads people have traveled before a shared encounter or why they have come into our lives, we should always give those we meet the gift of an open heart. Doing so allows us to replace fear-based criticism with appreciation because we can then focus wholeheartedly on the spark of good that burns in all human souls.
It’s good to take a few minutes each day to unwind, but I include Sunday evenings to my daily unwind time.
Every culture uses something that pleases the senses to help in their prayer or meditation practices. Incense or some kind of fragrance is helpful, because it alone can set the tone of a room. And smells are one of the things that we remember and associate experiences with often. Lamps or candles are often used too; I prefer oil lamps because the flame is steadier than the flicker of a candle; inviting the witness to slow way down and come home for a little while.
Early on, I developed a way to learn by just observing. What to do, what not to do.. Observing is a way that I try to use to see things around me. Something that I learned about a long time ago has been coming up a lot for me lately; in all areas of life. It’s a statement that goes “People don’t see the world as it is, they see the world as they are”.
I see this showing up all over the place. Mostly between people. One of my favorite exercises to help slow down involves going into the woods and noticing how different all the trees are. And realising that we don’t judge the trees for being tall or short, straight or crooked, thick or thin. We just accept the trees for what they are and move on. We don’t get hung up on the fact that one tree might not have gotten enough sunlight and therefore grew a certain way, we just accept the tree for what it is and we move on.
I think that this is a practice that is desperately needed now with how we’re seeing each other. Chances are, we don’t know someone’s story and how they’re managing their life as a result of their story. All we see is how they’re managing their life.
I think we need to see people more like trees, and less like how we think they ought to be.
One of the most powerful and honest images there is.
If we find ourselves repeating the same behaviors in different jobs, with different partners and in different situations; and if we don’t go back and examine how it all began, we’re just treating symptoms instead of the cause.
This photograph is of myself, maybe around 8 or 10 years old. Probably around the time when I was deciding that I needed to hold back and protect myself because I didn’t have the confidence or support system to help me see that I could be accepted and loved for just for who I was and that I could do anything in life that I set my mind to.
It may sound counterproductive, but sometimes when we’re working on ourselves we can hit sort of a plateau. Or, sometimes its more obvious and the thing we hit is like a wall. We just can’t seem to get past something. Its as if we’re putting the brakes on our growth process.
Sometimes, we can come up against a part in us that doesn’t want to heal or change. As a result, we can participate in self-sabotage. It actually makes a lot of sense. We all have a part of ourselves that is scared. And because when we start to heal, when we grow and our hearts open more, this can make us feel vulnerable. The part of us that is scared and wants to keep us down isn’t really sabotaging, its simply trying to protect us from pain. This part of us can be scared for many reasons, but often it comes back to knowing our own value. For example, if we don’t know our own worth, we can unconsciously think A), that we’re unworthy of whatever opportunity that is at hand, and/or B), that we’re keeping ourselves safe so that we won’t have to show up and risk experiencing an unwanted emotion.
It can be that we don’t have the confidence that tells us we’re able to do anything that we set our minds to do. By realizing that we’re not broken or that there isn’t anything wrong with us, that we’re just trying to protect ourselves from what we perceive as pain, it can really lift a veil on life and help us to welcome challenges in our lives.
Getting a little more clear and learning to know our own value. Just because we’re here and for being whoever we are, we are worthy of all of the love and grace the world has to offer.