Winter is nearly over and yet the weather outside fails to reflect it.Being a northern girl, I do enjoy a little snow and cold.I think the bleakness of a winter landscape can be a call to slow down and look inward. A ” snow day” can be a time of reflection.I like to bundle up, brave the sleet and snow, and take long walks.I like to think that this inner journey can help prepare us for the rebirth of spring which is, truly, right around the corner.
I can’t remember why, but recently I decided to Google ” Being Fully Present ” in a search. It was on my mind.Yes, it was the title of a December 2013 post I did.For some reason, I needed to explore this topic once again.This post could easily be called “Being Fully Present Part II “.
I stumbled on a site by author and speaker John Kuypers.There were many great points he made about the subject.In fact,when I taught my yoga class that morning, I shared some of his writing during the final savasana ( which I NEVER do, by the way ).There was one point he made in a piece called “Opening To Presence ” I found especially revealing.
“We aspire to develop openness to situations as they are by practicing awareness, acceptance, and presence.We learn to relate to people and experiences without strategy or manipulation.”
Without strategy or manipulation.
That really spoke to me.I think there have been times I have had expectations of certain people or things that made me feel as though I had to prepare and protect myself.I think that this could explain a little bit about why we are NOT fully present at times.Here are some examples.
We may block out our feelings during a crisis because we need to function without breaking down.After the crisis is over,we may not have an easy time processing those feelings once we have repressed them.
We may anticipate hurtful comments or criticism so we prepare to defend ourselves.By doing so, we may not really be able to hear what the other person is saying.
We may be resistant to change and blind to the possibilities that are available to us in the present because we want things to be as they were in the past.
Sometimes I think of how our minds and hearts can be bogged down like the hard drive of a computer with too much useless data and/or viruses. Once they are deleted,we can be more aware and alert.
Coincidentally, as I looked at more posts on John Kuypers’ site, he also did a blog post on Robin Williams as I had done some months back.He argued that William’s was not “weak enough”. In other words, he was not able to accept his, as the saying goes in recovery, ” powerlessness over addiction”. As a result, he did not seek out help.This made me think that this kind of vulnerability is not only necessary in the face of addiction but as we come to grips with life’s challenges moment to moment.Somewhere along the line, we were made to feel like we are supposed to have all the answers, look amazing, and never make a mistake.If we do “the right thing ” ( whatever that is ), everyone should agree with and applaud our efforts.On top of that, if we are hurt, angry, or disappointed for any reason we should “get over it ” because our feelings don’t really matter anyway.God forbid we admit we don’t have it together and need some assistance.
I can see now how we are stifled by experiences that were painful and we have to take time to examine them if we want to move forward. In childhood, we may have been trapped in situations we had no control over that made us feel powerless.As an adult, we may hold on to beliefs that limit us. such as ” I am not deserving “, ” that is impossible “, or ” if I am successful, I will lose my friends and be alone “.
I think what I have come to realize since my last post on being present is not just why we should be present but why we are not present.The challenge to being present is when we see what is not working and need to make changes.It may mean letting go of a relationship, adjusting to a new way of doing things, facing fears.When we exercise, we build muscle after we exert ourselves, break down muscle fiber, and allow for repair and recovery.This causes the muscle to become stronger.It works in a similar fashion with flexibility and endurance.Even gaining balance can mean falling down several times before we can maintain it.We have to go beyond our ” edge ” to see the changes we seek.
The tricky part, in exercise and as in life, is not going too far and getting injured.Injury can be a result of doing too much too soon which can backfire costing us more time, Maybe you set an unrealistic goal that sabotaged your efforts.Perhaps you ignored what your instincts we’re telling you about someone else’s motives and trusted them when you shouldn’t have.This made you feel embarrassed and disheartened and undermined your confidence.Sometimes we get injured randomly, by no fault of our own.Regardless, injuries take time to heal and when we consider all the potential for getting hurt, we can easily justify staying “stuck”.
Last week, I made the decision to leave a job that I found very stressful.It was also, in sharp contrast, a situation I felt comfortable and secure in.Wow, now there is something to think about.How many times can we truly identify a situation or relationship that is stressful and yet feels secure at the same time? How can that be? Maybe we have accepted or adapted to a level of stress or discomfort in order to maintain a sense of comfort or security.A trade off.There comes a time when we are willing to leave the “devil we know” to face the unknown.There, most likely, will be adversaries on our path wherever we go even if they are within ourselves.When we get to a point where we are truly ready for change, it’s usually because we have simply had enough.
Change requires effort and action but also a shift in perception.This can happen in an instant if we are truly present.I had an opportunity to see this in “real time” yesterday.Someone made a remark that caused me to be agitated and upset.It wasn’t so much the remark as it was what was underneath it; a history of disappointments, hurtful remarks, and resentment. How can this be different? I stopped to jot down a few things.
We get angry when……
# 1 We are forced to set boundaries.We would rather if people would just ” know” our limitations and respect that.We don’t want to be the bad guy.We resent having to say no.
#2 We want to meet others expectations and we can’t.Many times this is because we have no idea what they are because they are not communicated ( or they won’t admit they have any).We are made to feel like we failed and yet we were never given a chance to succeed.
#3 When others do not meet our expectations OR they do meet our expectations in the worst possible way. For example, if it looks like a snake, it’s probably a snake.If it bites you, why are you surprised? It’s a snake.Unless you want to be bitten, avoid snakes.Sounds simple right? Even so we expect others to be what they are not and get angry at them for being themselves.
This observation, which I received as a result of being present, helped me to feel better because it helped me to acknowledge my own need for growth.Sometimes it’s them,sometimes it’s us. Most times, it’s both.We have to take some responsibility.What do I need to view differently? What are my motives here? Am I projecting my own frustration on someone or something that is not capable of being more than it is ?
The sun is out, the snow and ice are melting.Maybe it is just within me.