In normal, day-to-day experiences, resistance and discomfort are two ways the Universe asks me to change my mind. I used to live in fear constantly and I’m not being hyperbolic. I was drowning in anxiety on a daily, if not hourly basis for the first 3 decades of my life. My foundational beliefs – which served to identify who I was – had to go through a huge seismic event for me to begin to find peace because shockingly, these foundational beliefs served as a weak place from which to view the world and my place in it. While I clung desperately to each of these beliefs that guaranteed me eternal bliss, I struggled in the here-and-now in every aspect of my life. And the struggle was a direct result of the aforementioned beliefs.
I finally came to the realization that nothing was working: I had reached the end of my rope years ago, so something needed to change. For years I had been instructed to not question the beliefs that had been imparted to me and I held to that as long as I could until desperation overwhelmed me. Then I took a hammer to those foundational beliefs and threw those pieces in the air like confetti. (At that point – I had nothing to lose). As each belief rained down in slow-motion, I would reach out and grab one at a time and consider it – question it. “Is this true?” “Can I know for sure that it is true?” “No?” Shoot. “What if this isn’t true? What does that mean?”
As it turns out, and much to my surprise, setting aside my beliefs only created freedom and that freedom was very quiet and still.
The sky did not fall. The earth did not swallow me whole.
And so I sat for a while in a daze from the anticlimactic nature of what I was sure was to be my eternal doom.
For a while I really enjoyed saying, “I don’t know!” What freedom to finally be able to admit that I didn’t know anything for sure. What freedom to be able to finally admit that if I didn’t know for me – I couldn’t possibly be responsible for knowing for the rest of the world. Questions came at me fast and each one, I could just sit with, letting the words play in my mind and heart. I read books, listened to new ideas, explored, and explored some more.
But then I started to wonder, “Who am I in relationship to anything?” I couldn’t define my experiences based on a belief system anymore and that was troubling because my experiences defined ME. When the void became uncomfortable, instead of sitting with the discomfort, I began to seek out new filling. I replaced chocolate with strawberry and lime for pistachio. All those new spaces in my brainbox where the old beliefs used to sit started to get filled with new beliefs, new “truths.”
Before you knew it, the anxiety was back. Not so much the fear. But the anxiety always lurking just below the surface as I applied different labels to myself. What good is a belief if it doesn’t help define who I am?
While I dropped the identity of “evangelical,” I picked up the identity of “empath.” I dropped the identity of “responsible” and picked up the identity of “nonconforming.” Imagine my surprise when the new identities turned out to be equally suffocating! Each label comes with its own cultural baggage, group-think, and list of “cans” and “can’ts.” I didn’t realize that at first. It was confusing. Similarly to the “old” group I used to belong to, where everyone believed X, in my “new” group, where everyone believed Z, people seemed pretty happy! Yet I was not. Again.
The last ten years have been an exercise in picking up and dropping back down. As time has passed, I’ve become more immune to the picking up part. I have come to appreciate the deliciousness of taking in what is in the present moment and in not tying myself to ideas that die just as soon as they come into existence.
Now when discomfort arises, I take stock of the mental goings-on. What am I believing? What about my perspective could use a good quake? How can I change and expand my perspective?
I’m a big believer in questioning the premise and in self-inquiry. Just because my brainbox comes up with an idea, that doesn’t mean the idea is good, true, or tenable. I am liberated by my ability to sit inside a question. I am empowered by my ability to question my own thoughts and the thoughts of others. When I experience anything, and I feel discomforted by it, I have three choices:
1. Pretend it isn’t there – usually by talking myself out of what I’m feeling. (Old paradigm).
2. Recognize whatever is present and run. (Old paradigm).
3. Recognize whatever is present and be with it fully. Rise to the situation if you will.
I know #3 sounds difficult. It can be; depends on the situation really. But here’s the deal: the first two choices aren’t really choices at all. #1 is denial and #2 is denial with cardio. When I was willing to come face-to-face with this truth, my life changed in drastic ways and it all started with my mind. I had to change my perspective regarding “negativity” and “positivity” and “light” and “darkness.” I had to let go of the belief that I was an “empath” and “sensitive.” What do those words mean? Are they helpful or limiting? Do they keep me rooted to duality and therefore in conflict with myself and others? Or do they create freedom and liberation?
Easy to figure out, don’t worry. If my ego whispers any of the following to me:
“It’s too much”
“I don’t have a choice”
“It’s just the way it is”
“I was just born this way”
“No one understands me”
“No one will understand”
“I have special circumstances/needs/requirements”
or anything similar….then the belief is an unhelpful illusion from my ego who is worried about losing control or influence.
Those thoughts are signals to get out my hammer again and started banging away. Because I love discomfort? No. Because discomfort is my greatest teacher. Discomfort leads to self-inquiry which leads to liberated living. I get in my own way – rarely is it something or someone external to me who is blocking the pass. But I don’t have to stay in my way if I’m willing to question the premise. If I’m willing to release an identity. If I’m willing to look, see, and acknowledge, and then shift my perspective – change my beliefs.
When I say, “I can’t,” I want to say it because it’s true: “I can’t because I don’t want to.” Not “I can’t because something is stopping me.” To whom or what am I giving my power away? Funnily enough, it’s usually almost always ideas – these wisps of nothing that can turn on a dime and become larger than life in our minds. If we let them.
Grace and peace.
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