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.
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.
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.
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.
A human being is part of the whole, called by us “universe”; a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is kind of a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task MUST be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
Not one of us sees life as it is, the world as it is. We all see life as WE are. We look at others through our own likes and dislikes, desires and interests. It is this separatist outlook that fragments life for us – man against woman, community against community, country against country. Yet, the mystics of all religions assure us on the strength of their own experience, if only we throw away this fragmenting instrument of observation, we shall see all life as an indivisible whole.
I found this documentary inspiring and personally validating. This was my own childhood, described to the letter.
Twenty percent of the population has been identified as Highly Sensitive. And both men and women EQUALLY make up that 20 percent population. Some of most creative people in the world are also in the Highly Sensitive category.
How relevant this is today, and also very consistent with the type of work that I do with people.
So glad to see this coming into more mainstream focus and awareness.
A practice that can be done at year’s end to help usher in the new and escort out the old is to take some time and write (hand write) down some things that you want to release and then burning the paper in a fire.
It can be as simple as a single word, or as complex as you need it to be. But spend time on it; at least a couple of hours. You can do this over several days, but don’t rush or skimp on your writing time.
Then on New Year’s Eve, you can light a fire. It can be a small fire bowl, a fire-pit, or your fireplace. Safely light a fire and sit with the fire for a few minutes’ time. Don’t rush this. Close your eyes and sit with your fire and what you want to release for a few minutes. See what you want release, see how much you want to move on from it. Then see the smoke rise in your mind as you release what you need to.
When you’re then ready, safely drop your paper(s) into your fire. See the paper burn up, and the smoke rise, releasing you. Anything that’s held you back, it’s time to let it go. .Allow yourself to experience whatever you will about this as your paper burns away; anger, fear, anxiousness, sadness, loss, gratitude. Let it all out like the rising smoke from the burnt paper.
Close with an affirmation. Close your eyes again and say goodbye to the past once and for all, and to whatever has been holding you back. See yourself in your new life without what you released. Feel the relief, like a weight finally off your shoulders. Take a deep breath and let the exhale extend, like the last bit of release.
It can be helpful to write out your new intentions, something on paper as a reminder to create your new life. Re-visit in three months to check your progress. And finally, re-visit next year to see how you’ve done.
Let’s all make 2021 our best and most free year yet.
She’s the only American Buddhist nun, a renowned speaker and teacher. But she started out as typical as you and I.
Born Deirdre Blomfield in New York, she grew up a 60’s girl, and experienced life the way that many others did; marriage, children, divorces, substance abuse… After her last marriage had failed, as she searched around for some answers, she stumbled across an article written by a Buddhist monk, that was talking about using emotions for growth rather than trying to get rid of them or shut them down. That struck a chord with her, so she got interested and followed that path and ended up Pema Chödrön.
While doing a project yesterday this particular talk came up on rotation on my music. I’m glad that I keep stuff like this because I can listen now and have a different interpretation as opposed to years ago when I first caught wind of her and her lectures.
It’s about practicing remaining present enough with yourself during a highly emotional circumstance so that you can recognise that brief 1 or 2 second moment before you react.
In this split-second, you can as yourself, ” Wait a second.. I feel that I’m getting upset”. I’m feeling anxious, or triggered or whatever it is. It’s about taking that brief moment and noticing that you’re about to react.
Its in that moment that lies your choice. You can just stick with whatever you’re experiencing and ride it out, try to separate yourself from what you’re experiencing or you can fly off the emotional handle and go unconscious about it. Just the few seconds that it takes while you’re registering this process can be enough to begin to gently dissipate those high-energy emotions and allow a much clearer response to whatever the situation is.
If you’ve ever noticed a stone dropped into a lake; the initial “plop” it makes is one thing; but the subsequent ripples that the stone being dropped in the water make can actually be bigger than the initial stone created in the first place. If the stone is large enough, the ripples it makes can rock a rowboat on the other side of the lake.
Something that I thought I’d share in case it resonated withsomeone else. Your inner peace is definitely worth preservation.