So many ideas and insights and inspiration having been coming to me lately–Where to start? I know I need to write so I will just write and see what flows.
The first step toward greater awareness is getting rid of addictions and distractions. Some people are dependent on drugs or alcohol. Other people smoke or drink coffee or take sleeping pills. Some of us watch TV, play video games or spend hours glued to our computer screens. Some eat too much, some eat too little. Some gamble, shop or exercise compulsively. We distract ourselves to avoid reality and to avoid really looking at ourselves. Life seems simple this way. We can avoid having to think deeply about who we are, what we believe and what we want and need. We conveniently escape having to deal with our own mistakes and regrets. We run as far as we can away from those unpleasant emotions like hurt, anger, sadness, guilt and resentment. What it all boils down to is avoidance and a desire to feel in control.
The people around us can be our best mirrors and our greatest teachers…if we are willing to be completely open and honest with ourselves. See who you find yourself judging and what you are criticizing them for; this will likely give you a clue to what your own dark shadows might be. Even if you know what your weaknesses are, addictions and distractions can be very sneaky strategies of the ego. They can creep into your life and fool you into thinking you have everything under control.
Just when I thought I had dropped all of my addictions and compulsions (smoking, drinking, dancing and even caffeine), I realized I was still slipping into an old pattern–when life becomes overwhelming and I feel there are situations and feelings too difficult to face, I restrict my eating. That old voice comes back convincing me that I’m just not that hungry or that I’m too tired to cook a reasonably healthy meal for myself. Thankfully, I’ve become pretty good at catching it. Now that I have more trust in myself, in my strength and stability, I feel more confident that I can handle whatever emotions or issues that are in need of my attention.
By letting these addictions and distractions fall away, you will begin to open yourself up to all that is inside you. As I have mentioned before, this might be terrifying at first. A good start is simply allowing yourself to BE still and quiet with your mind. Next comes listening to what that inner voice is telling you. Then, letting emotions flood through you and allowing everything to unravel. It is a courageous journey toward awareness.
Without distractions, I have found pathways in my brain opening up. I am making so many connections in my every day life–from my conscious waking mind to my unconscious dreaming, which is has been really trippy; words are not sufficient to describe this deep KNOWING and CLARITY that I have discovered . Of course, I have felt many disturbing emotions like anger, fear, sadness, guilt, helplessness, frustration, inadequacy and impatience. However, I’ve also felt inspired, excited, fascinated, grateful, powerful, confident, calm, happy, joyful and at times, fearless and at peace.
You can’t truly know yourself until you really allow ALL of your emotions to flow freely. I imagine trying to read a book in a dimly lit room. Yes, you can do it but once you turn on the light…WOW! All the words are perfectly clear and reading becomes so easy! It’s all so plain to see. By shining light on yourself you can begin to know and accept ALL of yourself. This knowing and acceptance is the basis of self-love and all love.
The second big step to take is letting go of the victim mentality. Like addiction, it’s another devious ego trap and it can appear in many forms. I noticed it in other people recently; again due to the mirror effect–now that I have become aware of it in myself, I saw it reflected back at me. These were my observations: I saw the ‘complex-victim’ type–the person who lets one perceived weakness, limitation or setback define him. “Oh, this is such a hardship!” I saw the ‘struggling-victim’–the person who sees things in life as a struggle. “Everything is so hard!’ I saw the Shoganai-victim–the helpless type who feels powerless to change their situation. “There’s nothing I can do about it.” I saw the ‘martyr-victim’–the one who sacrifices himself in order to feel strong or tough. “See how much I have suffered!” I saw the ‘protector-victim’–the kind of person who thinks everyone is out to get her or someone else so is constantly in attack mode, ready to strike. “I am no victim!” And then there’s the ‘alone-victim’–the one who thinks that she has been abandoned and left to do everything by herself. “Why doesn’t anyone help me?!’ I know the last one, in particular, rings true for me.
No matter what victim role you have found yourself in, they all have one thing in common–BLAME. Whenever, we blame other people or situations for our own “problems”, we give away our personal power. It’s not until you let ALL the blame fall away, that you can eliminate the victim mentality and take full responsibility for your life. We erect the blame around us like a false wall of protection. Our ego puts it there thinking it will keep us from being vulnerable and hurt. But once the wall is broken down, all that’s left is OUR life, with OUR choices, OUR actions and we can see clearly how WE have been active participants in everything–the good and the bad!
Once the blame has been stripped away, we can begin to construct REAL boundaries to protect us and then regain our power and take charge of our life. But before that, there is another essential step–FORGIVENESS. This idea used to sound corny to me. I never felt that anyone had done anything horribly wrong to me and I hadn’t done anything terribly wrong, had I? What did I have to forgive? After lot of digging, though, I realized that I did hold resentment towards people who I thought hadn’t supported me enough. In fact, deep down, I WAS still blaming others and I had used this an excuse for not living up to my potential. To stop blaming others, I had to accept them, knowing that they were imperfect and were trying their best, just like me. This acceptance will lead the way to forgiveness.
Surprisingly, after I stopped blaming others for my mistakes and misfortunes, I was painfully aware that the only person left was ME–standing naked and exposed with no false wall of protection anymore. I noticed myself beating myself up sometimes. I listened to the cruel voices in my head–Why are you so stupid? You’re such a loser, a failure! How could you have treated yourself, your body, so badly? How could you have let others stomp all over you? You’re 42 years old and you are still trying to get it together! You’re hopeless. It’s too late.–Then it dawned on me that I would never say such mean things to the children where I worked. Why would I let my ego get away with it? I found myself, crying in the kitchen and saying out loud–STOP! STOP IT!!
I knew that I had a much better sense of who I was and I knew that I was definitely on the path to loving myself as a complete human being but there was still work to be done. I knew that I had to quiet these voices that had lurked in the shadows all these years. I knew that I had to set real boundaries for myself but I sensed there was something else I needed to hear. I went to bed asking my dreams to tell me the answer and I wasn’t disappointed. I woke up in the middle of the night with the message spelled out loud and clear–
A little girl, who has become my symbolic ‘inner child’, came to me in my dream and said–Forgive yourself. I could SEE the words and FEEL them. Now the pieces were coming together. As cheesy as it sounded, what I needed to do was give myself a big mental hug and say, from the bottom of my heart, “I forgive you, Donna.”
As I move on, I believe another essential element for me will be giving up my perfectionist thinking and continually forgiving myself. I don’t have to get it right all the time. I can make mistakes. It’s okay. Actually, making mistakes is AWESOME because it means I’m trying new things, taking on challenges, taking risks and facing difficult situations. When I screw up, I need to quickly acknowledge it and forgive myself and then try to learn from it.
Forgiveness does not make you weak; it is an act of tremendous STRENGTH, POWER and COURAGE. It’s completely surrendering yourself so that those hard artificial walls come down, leaving your heart open wide and ready to love. And borrowing from a quote I read, “forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.” It’s living in the present and opening up to the endless possibilities of the future.