“Your inner purpose is to awaken.” —Eckhart Tolle, from A New Earth
To observe the seamless fluidity of a dancing pair with years of professional dancing experience float across the floor no matter what type of dance is asked of them is to observe a deep awareness and skill of their craft. Foxtrot. No problem. Viennese Waltz. Got it. Tango. Oh my, yes. Swing. Yep!
In 2017, in episode #143, the skill of self-awareness was explored in-depth here on the podcast/blog. For a quick refresher, to be self-aware is to be able to observe ourselves, accept and recognize what we discover and be honest about how we feel, why we act certain ways in particular situations, and the change that we may need to take. It is being able to pay attention and be honest about our strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivations, and emotions.
When we are fully self-aware, we gain the instructions of how to live well even though we do not know what the next minute will reveal, the next week, month, year, and so on, will reveal.
When we become self-aware, we are awake and capable of noticing when we need to grow and in what way will help us navigate through whatever life may present.
I chose today’s topic because no matter where you find yourself in the mix of stress, loss, pain, and confusion regarding our current situation, many readers have shared with me they are presented with new situations of questions, confusion, doubt, [fill-in-the-blank of an unwanted and somewhat or significantly new emotion] from time to time in a manner that perhaps was not present pre-pandemic.
“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.” —Eckhart Tolle, from A New Earth
Borrowing Tolle’s advice from the quote above, seize these unanticipated and initially unwanted moments and feelings and let them be your guide to deeper self-awareness and an improved everyday life. Assuage any grief, quandary, angst, by reassuring yourself that you have been presented with this moment for a reason. Don’t toss it. Don’t avoid it. Explore it.
Today I would like to look at six unwanted examples that may be happening in your life and how to step forward and do the latter to each in order to improve the quality of your life moving forward and through our current situation
1.You wake up in the middle of the night, your mind reeling, doubt swirling, fear temporarily winning
Course of action: As a matter of fact, take a pre-action prior to going to bed or whenever you feel most confident – write yourself a note and remind yourself of the truth of how capable you are, words of truth and strength. Place this note by your bed. Okay, back to the moment you wake up.
Take a drink of water, hydrate and wake your mind up so that it is in your control and not the other way around. Read your pre-written note. Read it again. Journal if you need to – what is causing you worry, what are you fearful about. Don’t necessarily answer anything. Save the answering and analyzing for a time during the day when you are fully awake so that you can be a good judge of whether or not what you wrote is valid as well as to accurately determine if what you are worried about is within your control. Hint, if it is not, let it go. Turn the lights off, count your breath in a steady beat – in and out. Let yourself fall back to sleep. Whatever you do, do not pick up your technology.
2. You are exhausted from work stress and trying to balance all that you think you have to do
Martyrs die. On the other hand, workers with awareness of the larger picture of why they work, live well. While putting and acknowledging work as important, the latter do not make work the top priority. I have worked with both types of people in the handful of school districts I have worked in over my 19 years. Martyrs tend to be different people in the classroom than they are away from their students or staff (if they are administrators). People who live to live well are the same in the moment of teaching as they are in their everyday life. People who live well are more content, more enjoyable to be around and know how to put work in its place and do so with clarity and a love for not only their own life but for the people who look up to them – in this case their students.
Course of action: Be honest with yourself. What are you aching for? Nobody needs to know your honest answer but you, but be honest with yourself. Do you crave at the most fundamental, sleep? Do you crave a social life? Do you crave to be more comfortable in your body but do not have the time to exercise consistently nor prepare and enjoy healthy, satiating meals? Write it down. This is when your life begins to change for the better.
Whether when given the opportunity or simply taking it, try out living the life you want to live – the schedule you’d like to have – even if temporarily. Stick to it long enough to experience potential benefits – one month, a quarter, etc.. Don’t ask for approval from anyone else as to whether what you crave is valid. Honor your own feelings, and give the new temporary schedule a try. You will come back with some answers, maybe not all of the answers, but enough, if you are being honest with yourself, to know whether what you thought what you needed was actually indeed what was lacking.
Upon choosing to make permanent changes to your schedule, if the changes involve others or require others to be involved, communicate clearly and refrain from complaining. While it is okay to vent to a friend or your partner or your journal, doing so is a means to release stress, iradicating faulty thinking if it exists due to past grievances being triggered and to ensure you move forward with a rational mind. Sometimes what we are venting about has more to do with built up stress from a variety of sectors in our lives and not just the one thing we are “cursing” at the moment.
Let me end by saying, be honest with yourself. If you are overwhelmed and exhausted, how could you have prevented the situation if at all possible? Could you have raised your voice when decisions were being made? Could you have made the smarter decision, not the easier decision? Be honest and improvement can be made.
3. Tension in relationships – personal or professional
Course of action: Answer this question for yourself (not for the people in the relationship that is in a state of tension) – what behaviors and feelings are unwanted or undesired, but seem to be a default or at the very least, unhelpful? Use your answers as a guide to what skills you need to explore and better understand. Seek out an expert (i.g. a counselor) or a book from a respected source on the subject.
4. Financial Stress not related to job loss
Course of action: Turn off the advertisements, stop or significantly reduce your scrolling on social media and start living in the present with the world, the real-world, not the virtual world, that surrounds you. If the influences for buying more, or “keeping up” are not coming unconsciously from media (and I know, you might be saying – if they are unconscious, how will you know where they are coming from? But take this moment to take a closer examination of what you feel you ‘need’ and where that idea is being presented or shown), look to your social circle – chosen or not – and start to tailor who you spend time with and if you can’t eradicate entirely unhelpful influences, reduce or limit your time with them.
5. State of the world
Course of action: Choose to educate yourself on topics that are grabbing your attention. Choose to look to experts, credible in the field you are exploring, that you may not have looked to before to deepen your clarity on an issue before you jump to conclusion. However, do not overwhelm your mind. Seek out bits of information and then go about your life, adjusting your choices, actions in which you do have control that will make a difference, no matter how seemingly small. The words you choose, letting go of assumptions and fixations, keeping an open-mind and refraining from group-think, but rather practicing critical thinking regularly so that eventually it becomes your default.
6. A feeling of agitation or lack of purpose
Course of action: find something, no matter how seemingly small which allows you to see an immediate finished, improved, completed outcome. The act of productivity need not be anything to do with your job or career, but simply needs to be something in which you can see a “finished” outcome.
For me, my garden has provided many moments of productivity – weeding, pruning, dead-heading – as soon as I tend to it, I see results. Ahhhh. It sounds silly but as Sue Stuart-Smith shares in The Well-Gardened Mind, “Two essential sources of grounding and balance . . . proximity to nature and fulfilling work” (the author is referring to the lack of nourishment to the psyche prompted by the industrialization in the 19th and early 20th century).
Each one of these life moments of challenge offers an opportunity to course correct, to grow, to evolve as Eckhart Tolle expresses in his quote above. It has been my experience that if I choose to not acknowledge that something within me needs to change – to communicate better, to ground myself in self-confidence, to be brave, the same stress, the same worry, the same event perhaps in a different form, keeps rearing its head.
The pandemic is presenting each one of us with unique opportunities to evolve forward and live a better life. Choose to find the growth opportunity that exists inside of you, and your life will change for the better.
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—Borgen, on Netflix
Tune into the audio version of today’s episode to find out more about this Danish Government television drama series, what Borgen means in English and why I am thoroughly enjoying it and highly recommend it.