In life, there comes a time when you so sharply, so clearly, see your recurring patterns; you see the cost, feel the pain of doing the same thing yet again, that you can barely stand it.
You watch yourself (just for example) yet again:
- Make a snarky comment about summer tourists on the ferry slowing everything down
- Self-righteously defend yourself when your beloved says, “I thought the clothes were clean because they were on the washer,” and you snap, “No, they were on the dryer!” and then realize they were on the washer, and even if they weren’t, why snap?
- Eat half the pint of Coconut Bliss knowing it isn’t really going to make you feel good
- Check email right as your writing starts to flow even though you swore you wouldn’t ever again.
You got into this business of waking up, being more mindful and compassionate, choosing your life, because it was supposed to be better than just drifting along. At first it was better. Maybe you even felt a little smug – just every now and then – about how you were changing and maybe your sister didn’t have a clue… but now? One or 12 or 40 years into the adventure, the heat is on! And you may sometimes wonder, “What was I thinking?”
Because this spiritual growth stuff can just be so relentless.
But this relentlessness, this barely being able to stand yourself place? It is cause for great celebration!
I know that sounds so friggin peppy. But truly, this is how change happens. You see yourself getting snared again, seeing yourself making the mean comment or drinking the second glass of wine again. But not just one again – hundreds or thousands of agains. You are noticing and feeling the effects of what you are doing to yourself while staying awake! This means more and more opportunities to develop open-hearted curiosity, to relax and welcome what you are experiencing.
As Pema Chodron writes in Uncomfortable with Uncertainty:
“The most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently… It’s lifetime’s journey to relax honestly to the immediacy of our experience and to respect ourselves enough not to judge it.”
This hot messy ick place? It’s like a spiritual post-doc.
But it is also very tender because it’s so easy to interpret this relentless seeing of your patterns as evidence you have failed. That you haven’t made any progress. That you are less than. That you might as well give up on on the whole endeavor.
No! The exact opposite is true. Seeing and feeling the effects open you to greater and greater softness and more welcoming, and that is how the patterns (slowly oh so slowly) start to loosen their grip.
You want to allow getting snared to be a reminder to come home.
First calm your nervous system. You can’t skillfully choose something different if you are in hyper arousal. Your brain won’t allow it. Find your own way to calm the soft animal of your body. Make it a habit. (We do that at the Summer Oasis.)
Second remind yourself of the growth mindset with your inner talk. Something like, “Fantastic! I just snipped at Bob again. What a great opportunity to learn something new right now.” Mistakes train your brain to learn – but only if you see them as opportunities instead of character indictments.
Third welcome in whatever you are experiencing like you would welcome a dear friend who showed up at your door unexpectedly and needed comfort. When you can honestly welcome whatever you are experiencing, you can move beyond it.
So really, all this relentless seeing of yourself? It is such very good news!
P.S. Summer Oasis starts this Friday. My gift to you. Over 1000 people are signed up for our first Oasis! Bring a journal. Get call-in details here.