It is said that we teach best what we most need to learn. I am a pretty good teacher on a number of things, but particularly on self acceptance!
I am embarking tomorrow on a 7 week online mindfulness course. I am doing this for a number of reasons.
- I realise
that more often than I would wish, I run away from being kindly present with myself and I wish to change that.
- I am a single parent with an only child and parents who live on the other side of the world. As such, I find this run up to the ‘Festive Season of Love and Light’ challenging.
- It is also said that ‘We are what we habitually do.’ I know that I often have great intuition, insight and sensitivity, and I also know that I find it difficult to maintain those qualities on a habitual day to day basis and I need help with achieving a daily nourishing reminder.
Compassionate Presence vs Running Away
I have worked long enough with people to know that I am not alone in this. What I know is that when I scratch below the surface, almost everyone has a place where they face the challenge of themselves, more or less successfully. And I think it might help me and others for me to articulate some of the challenges I face in myself and seek to overcome.
In many ways, I love my life. I row, play tennis, sing, hike, camp, body surf when I get the chance, and much too little dance and play music. I have a job I love and a wonderful daughter and good friends.
How is it, that with all that, I can run away from myself? Well, I do. I notice that when left to myself, if I am not careful, and certainly if I am not thriving for any reason, I run away from myself, tune out, self numb or whatever you like to call it. Occasionally I tell myself I am not so bad, because the activities I choose are relatively innocuous – I watch other people live life on film instead of living it myself (under the heading of chilling out), I play rather a frightening amount of sudoku and free cell (under the heading of keeping my brain active), and rather less innocuously, from time to time, I smoke (under the heading of, well, it only harms me, and I don’t have vices like getting drunk or having loads of sex with random people, and I need some form of sensual outlet).
One of my favourite authors, Salley Vickers, talks in her book, ‘The Other Side of You’, about what passes for love often being a decidedly mixed bag: lust, anxiety, lack of self-worth, sadism, masochism, cowardice, fear, recklessness, self-glory, simple brutality, the need to control, the urge to be looked after; most dangerous of all, the desire to save. There are other, happier, ingredients: kindness, compassion, honour, friendship, sympathy, the wish to help, the attendant wish to be good, though these finer impulses can often wreak more havoc then the more blackguardly ones.
I cite this, because I think it is worth looking at in terms of relationship to others, but also because I think that ‘innocuous’ ways of running away from ourselves can also wreak more havoc than more blackguardly ones. We can convince ourselves that we are doing really important work that needs our time and attention, we can do charitable works or do sport, music or other things that are good in themselves, but can equally masquerade as ways of avoiding being quietly and compassionately present with ourselves.
‘Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.’
—Carl Gustav Jung
As a parent, I am painfully aware of the truth of this statement. If for no other reason than to enable my daughter to live a full and happy life, I would like to truly live my life. And I have done enough work on self awareness to know that those ways I have of trying to escape myself, whether seemingly innocuous or not, will have, and have had, and impact on her. So I am doing my best to find strategies for facing myself, acknowledging my vulnerabilities and giving myself the love and compassion that I need to thrive.
We are what we habitually do
I also know from my work, that it takes 300 repetitions to create a new neural pathway, and 3000 to repetitions to break an old one!
I see it as no accident that all the major religions have about 5 calls a day to prayer. It seems that we all need help and reminding to come back to ourselves, to loving presence, and the means to live fully.
In my work I have developed a great sensitivity which enables me to tune into the pain of others, be that physical, mental, emotional, spiritual or energetic. But as Brene Brown says, we cannot selectively numb. I have told many of my clients who are deeply sensitive that sensitivity brings many riches, but if we don’t pay it attention, care for it and manage it well, it can wreak havoc.
I am a person who feels the highs and lows of life, and do not naturally flow along on an even keel, so I need to take care, and to develop the daily management of my sensitivity.
I am going to pay it attention in the next 7 weeks, and will report back on my progress!