A Journey Within
As I was attempting to research for and write this week's topic, I discovered that the birthday party my teen son had been planning for himself (his choice) was actually a day earlier than I'd thought. This meant that I unexpectedly had to move immediately into my mindset of chauffeur, chef, party planner (because a 13 year old tends to overlook some details), personal shopper, and accountant....and out of the mindset of writer.
When I went to return to writing, it felt as if I were the cartoon character who breathed a sigh of relief ... then looked down and realized I'd actually run right off the cliff and was hanging in mid-air. And we all know what happens next.
I'm writing to you in the midst of this free-fall.
Up until this point, I had a few pages written and researched that I just needed to edit. These few pages were talking about fact, truth, and how and why it is important to examine what we believe to be factual and truthful. Hopefully, soon, I will return to those for discussion.
But the unexpected distraction in my own life created another "oh - lookie there" insight that I feel is important to address now.
The topics I've explored here for years through BeingBreath (and previously, LifeUnity) - topics such as body awareness, creativity, and hundreds of deeper questions on awareness, who you are, and how we are all interacting in life - are indescribably important. These topics are all centered around the individual - how YOU are thinking, being, creating, and experiencing whatever life you are living.
I know firsthand, and am supported by entire libraries of self-help, psychological, sociological, and medical research, how important these topics relating to self-awareness are for our well-being, our experience of daily life, and our potential for growth as individuals and as a society.
I know that when we choose to not pay attention to these questions, we default to choosing to pay attention to a life devoid of these questions ... a life that is created for us, that is lived close to, or in, autopilot.
As determined as I am to remain aware in my own life, and to share messages of doing so with you...I experienced once again just how hard that can be.
With one little birthday party, I'm reminded of how easy it is to live one more hour, one more day, one more year without turning attention towards such critical issues.
Thoughts of who you are, where you want to be going, how your thoughts are influencing your being, and what type of life and legacy you are creating, may cross your mind from time to time. They may be topics of long, wine-fueled conversations with friends, or the subject of many a book on your shelves.
But how often does this self-reflection actually permeate and influence your life?
For too many, I fear the answer is too little.
Why might this be so?
First, you need to have the desire to want to examine your own life. There are many who are happier just doing what they are told, happier to just survive than to question any further.
Second, you need to be in a situation where you have the fortune to be able to examine your life. Those who struggle daily to find food or face constant threats on their safety do not have such fortune.
Third, you need to have a sense of dedication to such examination. Your time is constantly being spoken for. Between thoughts dedicated to work, eating, socializing, parenting, relaxing, and yes, planning for birthday parties, it is easy to let days, weeks, and an entire lifetime slip by without devoting time to self-examination.
Fourth, you need to be willing to stay in a non-judgmental space of awareness during examination. Even with the desire, the fortune, and the dedication for and towards self-awareness, if you repeatedly judge the process or what you discover during the process, you will constantly veer away from it.
Fifth, you need to allow what you discover during examination to influence the course of your actions. If you discover that this isn't the job that you want to have, or that your "inside" doesn't seem to match the "outside", you need to be able to move through the discomfort of change. If you become self-aware and cling to not changing, you'll only add more suffering to your life.
Finally, you must be willing to go through this cycle, again and again, day after day after day.
Given all of this, is it any wonder that so many of us focus just on survival and momentary happiness, and sleep-walk through the rest?
If you have any interest in participating in your own life, in trying to be present with these precious moments, in understanding your days and possibly even improving them, and/or in understanding and improving relationships with others, you must participate in this process of self-awareness.
This journey involves
knowing yourself, and reintroducing your new self to your old self each and every morning,
being willing to say, "I don't know", to understand where wisdom begins,
and taking responsibility for what you are creating in the world due to your actions that arise from your thoughts and beliefs.
There is not an end goal, not a final point where you will ever truly Know Yourself. You are always becoming, always changing.
Self-awareness becomes a way of being. It is a way to dance in mindful harmony with your self and the universe.
If you are aware enough (and after reading this, you have no excuses for not being so), fortunate enough, and willing enough, it is beyond time to make this an everyday dance.
My 11-year old daughter recently asked for a journal. While she wanted it for space to do her sketches, it opened the conversation for us to discuss written journaling. When she asked if I had ever journaled, I told her, "Most definitely."
She asked for how long. When I explained that I started keeping journals decades ago - probably around her age - she stood there, rather quiet. Her eventual response?
Ignoring the reference to how OLD mom must be, it started me thinking about the dozens of journals I have filled over the years. Those pages, sometimes written and later, often typed, are records of thousands of days of self-reflection. Sometimes it was lamenting over relationship troubles, sometimes reflections on how quickly life was changing, sometimes it was just a record of the days events, interspersed with a shopping list and a few to-do's that popped into my mind.
Sometimes I'll look back through those journals. While re-reading them may make me cry, smile, or just shake my head, it isn't the revisiting of the pages that is important.
What is, and has been important throughout my life, is the process.
Journaling certainly isn't the only way I practice self-awareness, but I share this as a possible place for you to start....or to start again.
Practice writing things down on napkins, in a fancy journal, in a typed document, or even voice-recorded. Practice letting the thoughts go. Practice being non-judgmental of how you write or what you write or whatever it is that you choose to write on. Practice being honest. Practice going beyond your usual safe phrases and into deeper reflection. Practice not thinking so much, and just draw a giraffe.
In between thoughts of what you need to make for dinner, what you could have/would have said to that rude man, and how you will make the birthday party happen (yep, that's still on my mind), practice pausing to make time for a bit of self-awareness.
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.