Changing How We Show Up In Life
By: Kathy Best, October 1, 2018
I was reading the book, “What’s in the Way is the Way,” by Mary O’Malley recently and it got me thinking about how I spent so much of my life not really experiencing it, but analyzing it and looking at it through a lens of preconceived notions and childhood programming. This book extrapolates that you can live your life with ease, trust, openness, and curiosity instead of judgement and fear by simply reconnecting with our capacity to be in the moment instead of projecting our childhood stories onto every experience. Having the full experience of each moment, in the moment, instead of allowing our brain to analyze and judge every occurrence based on predefined criteria, thereby taking us out of the actual experience and conceptualizing it with prior knowledge that may or may not apply to the current situation.
Your mind wants to compartmentalize everything so it can contrast and compare every encounter to previous encounters without ever being fully aware in each new experience. That is what every moment of life is. A singular, unique experience of the infinite stimuli surrounding us, encompassing us and engaging us at any given moment in time and space. Your mind is like a supercomputer that analyzes data as fast as you can type it in, not taking into account the subtle nuances or the myriad intricacies in every moment of human existence.
Have you ever been fully engaged in the experience of the moment in your adult life? Do you even remember what that was like as a small child? Do you remember what it was like to just live in the present without your mind creating stories or trying to determine what every interaction says about you? Should you be offended or flattered, angry or amused, or any number of other reactions your mind determines would be appropriate in each new situation based on your previous responses to similar contextual data?
When you were a child everything was new and wonderful. You were excited to discover the world, touching, tasting, and feeling everything. You had no shame, no fear, no judgement, and no stories clouding your experiences. You were full of curiosity, wonder, joy, and confidence, reveling in every moment as if it were your first with no need or desire to label each event and interaction as good or bad. You could find fun and happiness watching the rain fall, staring up at the clouds, or sitting in a pile of leaves and enjoying the unique colors and shapes. You were just being fully present in the moment, experiencing all of the sights, sounds, smells, feelings, and flavors. You let everything flow around, in, and through you without attachment to the end-result. You laughed, cried, threw fits, expressed anger, frustration, irritation, excitement, joy, love, compassion, silliness, sass, silence, gentleness, kindness, consideration, selfishness, curiosity, and a thousand other emotions and behaviors with wild abandon, letting each one take its course and then releasing it when you filled yourself with the depth of each experience. You got over perceived unfairness and insult rapidly and where ready to open your heart wide again in the very next moment.
Life was so much easier, happier, and fulfilling when you lived from your childlike senses and viewed the world and life as mysterious, exciting, incredible, amazing, and fun. Why do we let go of these ideals? Because life throws us curve balls, disasters, sorrow, and challenges? No, we let go of these ideals because that is what we are taught to do. Think about all of the things you were told and taught as you were growing up. Grow up. Stop acting silly. Don’t do that. Stop crying. Stop acting like a baby. Stop being ugly. Listen to me and do as I say. You don’t know anything. You can’t do that, be that, or act like that. You can’t trust people. Don’t talk to strangers. Stop being stupid, etc. None of it supported you in loving, trusting, or accepting yourself or your feelings.
It’s time to get back your faith and trust in yourself and your love and respect for yourself. Your life has been a series of events, experiences, and decisions that has gotten where you are today, but it is not the reason you believe, think, or act the way you do. All of your behaviors, thoughts, and actions are based solely on the stories your mind has created about the experiences and events of your life. It has nothing to do with the actual events, which may have been traumatic, painful, and fearful at the time, but are now in the past and can no longer hurt you. All of your behaviors, thoughts, and actions are based solely on the stories your mind has created about the experiences and events of your life. It has nothing to do with the actual events, which may have been traumatic, painful, and fearful at the time, but are now in the past and can no longer hurt you. You see, the adults in your life trained you to use your mind to analyze every little aspect of your life so you could get it right the next time. You had to improve everything you did. Nothing was ever good enough, so in order to improve you had to keep those movies of everything you did and everything that was done to you playing over and over again and again so you could find ways to do it right the next time. Not make the same mistake again. Make people proud of you or make sure people didn’t want to hit your or hurt you. It was for your protection that you let your mind take control, because you were too small and too weak to protect yourself.
What you need to understand and recognize now is that you are no longer that defenseless child. Whatever abuse you suffered as a child you absolutely did not deserve and there was no excuse for it. Now, because of those experiences, you have more compassion for others that suffer abuse. You can relate to people on a deeper level. Because of those experiences you may have decided to become a counselor or a teacher, or a social worker, showing kids the compassion and love they need to heal. Because of your childhood trauma maybe you chose to take parenting classes before you had children to learn better ways of disciplining and interacting with your children. Because of that childhood pain you dedicate your life to helping others. It is our most painful experiences that put us on the path to our greatest rewards.
You can release the stories and the mental movies that keep you stuck in the pain, resentment, and fear of the past. You can break the pattern of sabotage and shame that prevents you from living a life of love, joy, confidence, and courage. The first step is to become aware of the constant mental chatter that defines your responses and reactions to everything in your life. Most of this chatter is pre-programmed, self-defeating, conflict creating nonsense that your mind created long ago to protect your fragile ego. Once you become aware of these you can start to develop a sense of curiosity and become an unbiased observer of the thoughts and stories that run through your mind daily. As you become more comfortable looking at each of these stories and beliefs without judgement or criticism, you can start to make decisions whether you should continue to hold onto any of these thoughts. Do they serve you highest good in your adult life? Do they support your growth and expand your awareness or do they stifle and limit you? The next step is to take each story that you wish to release, view it through the lens of love and gratitude for the protection it provided you as a child, thank it, assure it that it has done its job well and you no longer need to rely on it as a strong, confident adult and let it go. Allow any feelings to surface and run their course as you work through this release process. Do this as often as you can to release any last remnants of emotional energy associated with each story. This may take some time and it is best to do it with someone that can guide you through the process and give you a safe space to open up.
Once this process is under way you will begin to notice your heart becomes softer, your thoughts and words become kinder and you develop more compassion and forgiveness for everyone. You start to recognize that everyone is truly doing the best that they can with the baggage, stories, and wisdom that they have at any given moment. People that criticize you, hurt you, abuse you, take advantage of you, or dismiss you are all doing so from their own pain and wounds of the past which they haven’t figured out how to release or forgive. Many react and behave in unconscious patterns because they continue to view themselves as victims and abused children, instead of survivors and healed adults. Accepting people exactly where they are in their journey is healing and cathartic for both you and everyone around you. Stepping into conscious living and showing compassion and love for your fellow humans can be a challenge to say the least, but with practice and attention it can become a habit that has unexpected and inconceivable effects.