When you’re looking to make a significant life shift, awareness is the beginning. If things haven’t been going well, you need to figure out where you are now, and what it is that’s been driving your choices and actions. If you aren’t happy, if you aren’t at peace, if you aren’t living a life that feels good to you, my feeling is you haven’t been listening to your heart. Maybe you can hear it, but you haven’t been heeding it. Maybe you’ve been reckless with yourself. Maybe you’re feeling so badly about who you are, or you doubt that you’re lovable at your very core, and you’ve been flailing around, either trying to prove that you’re right, or prove that you’re wrong.
There are all kinds of reasons we cut ourselves off from our own intuition. It could be that you grew up in an unsafe environment, and learned to push down your feelings. Maybe you were taught that how you felt had no impact on the people or the world around you. Sometimes we’re given the responsibility of caring for other people at an age when we really need nurturing ourselves. It’s totally plausible that you could reach adulthood with no idea at all of what you want, what lights you up, what excites you and scares you, what it is that gives you a feeling of purpose, meaning and gratitude. That happens all the time.
Maybe you grew up and were taught that everything you did was magical. If your parents fought your battles for you, or stepped in to solve things every time you struggled, you might not have the tools to see things through when they aren’t coming easily. Dreams rarely do. You might look around at someone else’s life and think they’ve had all the breaks and that’s how they’ve gotten where they are. But for most people, blood, sweat and tears are involved. Persistence and perseverance, and the willingness to fail and not let that deter you, over and over again. Sometimes we don’t believe in ourselves and our ability to bring our dreams to fruition.
It could be that you’re living your life to please other people, or to fit in, or toe the line. Maybe that’s what you were taught, and you have a loud inner voice asking who you think you are to consider doing something great. You might compare and contrast yourself to everyone around you; that’s what we’re taught to do culturally. If you’re having a crisis of confidence, or your self-esteem has taken one too many hits, it’s really hard to pick yourself up and get moving. And it’s impossible if you don’t realize that’s what’s happening. Sometimes we just feel stuck and lost and hopeless, and we don’t know why.
So there are a lot of reasons a person might drown out their own intuition. Make themselves so busy there’s no time to hear it, or numb it out with drugs, alcohol, relationships, or shopping. Run from it or reject it, because to listen to it would be to acknowledge that things have to change. Fear might be stopping you in your tracks, or it might have you on the run.
Whatever it is that’s been motivating you, it’s time to sit down and get quiet so you can take a good look at it. It sounds so simple, and it is. It’s just not easy. When I started meditating, I can tell you it was anything but easy. I would sit, and close my eyes, and notice my breath, and start to scan my body. And every time I’d get to my heart, there was a physical pain. It was as if my heart was encased in steel, or some kind of vice grip. And tears would stream down my face, and I didn’t even have a name for them. I couldn’t have told you what the tears were about, or what the grip was about, I just understood if I wanted it to loosen, I was going to have to sit there and allow all those feelings to arise, and I was going to have to lean into them. This went on for months. I’d sit, and sometimes rage or frustration would come to the surface. All these months, all this sitting, and still? But at the same time, I began to develop the awareness that I was not my thoughts. I began to witness my experience, to simply hold this space for myself to release, to let go, to have some compassion for myself. And after awhile, and what seemed like an ocean of tears, the grip loosened. The feeling of steel around my heart went away. I started to breathe in a way I hadn’t before.
The combination of the physical yoga practice and seated meditation is powerful. If unconscious forces and tendencies are driving your life, you’re probably in a lot of pain. Meditation is a way to stop hiding from yourself. To bring everything into the light so you can look at it with a little distance and decide what you want to feed. Your physical practice is a place where you can do that feeding, that nurturing. You can learn to choose one thought over another when you learn to focus your mind–that’s what the focal points in your practice are about. The ability to direct your energy is key, because where your awareness goes, your energy flows. If you keep dwelling on what went wrong, you’re feeding it. If you shift your attention to what’s going well, what you do have, you start to feed that. A foundation of gratitude is a platform from which any of your dreams might flourish. A foundation of despair sucks everything down with it.
In week 2 of our Make the Shift Challenge, (the class is above), you take what you now know about where you are, and you start to make choices. Do you want to feed those feelings and ideas that are weakening you, or do you want to focus on those thoughts and ideas that strengthen you? You use your breath to stay connected to the present moment, to stay engaged with what’s happening right now. But you do this with your awareness of your tendencies and habits, especially the ones that are bringing you down. And you kindly kick those to the curb as you feed a loving voice.
In addition to the class, your homework is to watch what you’re feeding yourself in all areas. To become more conscious about what you’re eating, reading, watching, listening to…it’s all food for your mind and your heart. And to feed yourself well. Sending you love. Ally Hamilton
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