Friday, February 10, 2012

Reflections & Musings: The old ideas we hold onto so tightly.

"If you do what you've always done,
you'll get what you've always gotten."
-Anonymous

What are the beliefs that hold you back from pursuing your most fulfilling life? What are the dialogues in your head that chatter incessantly and cause you to become distracted, lose focus, lack confidence? What are the myths you've told yourself about why this simply can't happen or why that just won't work?

Where did those ideas come from? And, how are you choosing to live them daily? When we shine light on the fact that we actually have a choice about what we believe, it seems our conscious minds would readily and firmly deny that we actively choose to hold ourselves back, "Well, of course I'm not choosing to believe that negative thing about myself!"

Yet, Malcolm Gladwell noted that when you ask the majority of Americans how they like their coffee, they'll say, "Strong. Bitter. Black." After doing extensive studies, the way most Americans actually like their coffee is mild, sweet, creamy. Why won't anyone own up to it? Does it not sound as "hardcore" as we've been trained as a society to believe we should be? Gladwell concludes that "the mind knows not what the tongue wants" and in a way, our active consciousness may not have a clue as to what our hearts need.

I loved learning that in most Eastern philosophies, it is believed we human beings are born divine and complete, yet in many Western philosophies, it's believed that we are born lacking and we need to "do more" in order to become whole. Ram Dass observed, "If I see one dilemma with Western man, it's that he can't accept how beautiful he is. He can't accept that he is pure light, that he's pure love, that he's pure consciousness, that he's divine."

Recently, I've noticed that all of the self-help guides seem to come from an angle of, "There's something wrong with you! You should fix it!" versus "You're great! And here's how you can be even better!" I grew up in an environment that perpetually reinforced the idea that there was something wrong with me. The adults would constantly say, "How could you get an A and not an A+? Why did you practice piano for an hour only, not an hour and a half? You're flat footed — you'll never get into gymnastics! This other kid's Chinese is so much better than yours!" and the criticisms would go on.

Makes sense then, that I would think there was always something about me that I needed to fix. When the outside vocalizations became a bit quieter, I had already internalized and integrated them in various ways. I became obsessively dissatisfied with my physical appearance and would go to the extremes (eating disorders and then some) to be more "perfect." When people tried to love me — friends, significant others, colleagues — I wouldn't believe them and would further prove my point by testing them until they couldn't handle it anymore. Or, in the quiet of my own apartment, my mind would suffer through repeated regrets and thoughtless abuse.

The more I practice yoga and meditation, the more present I become in my life. But, being more present isn't easy! It involves truly taking stock of what's happening, examining my role in the matter whatever the outcome or feedback, and then making conscious decisions in all of my thoughts and actions. There's this prevailing false belief that elevating one's consciousness means that life transforms into a magical play-land where anything you've ever dreamed is now a living reality and learning lessons the hard way or getting one's feelings hurt is a thing of the past — that's just not true. Becoming more aware means that no matter what's happening, you can always find your center. It's the ability to navigate life with a stronger True North, whatever the weather and the conditions.

The more I'm in the here and now, the more that I am grounded in my life. When I first came to my yoga teacher training program, I felt that I was living in the ether, in the scenarios of how I wanted my life to be versus the way it actually was. Because the two were not connected and because I felt so disenfranchised from being worthy of attaining my hearts desire in a shared reality with anyone else, I was painfully unhappy. Throughout my life, when I was forced to be present, I felt that I was plucked out of the "safe" space in my head. In order to cope, I turned to behaviors that took me away again. It became an endless cycle of misery that I was able to break with amazing teachers, a sangha of caring souls, incredible friends, a huge amount of personal grit, and a genuine openness to learning how to change.

In my growing, I can see that I still have several not-so-healthy beliefs that I've brushed so deeply under the rug of my awareness, it's as though they've created a whole new foundation. Lately, I feel as though I've been standing with a sledgehammer above these concretized stories, and I'm currently gathering the strength to pick the sledgehammer up in order to bash a huge crack straight down to the fault line. It could be an earthquaking kind of change or it could be the easiest bulldozing I've ever done — I just won't know until I've done it.

What beliefs do you hold so deeply that they may not even come to the front of your mind upon first focus? What patterns have you become accustomed to living? What types of thoughts have become grooved into your mind? And, how can you see yourself doing or being differently in order to encourage a distinct outcome from the ones you've always gotten?

I'd love your thoughts. Together, we change the group ethos and redefine what it means to be happy in this digital age.

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