Welcome to part 7 in this series on letting go. If you’re new, here’s part 1 and if you missed one, here’s part 6.
Let’s bring to memory part our first session of the Mind Agility Training. I asked you: If the training field were to represent your life, what course are you going to run? What do you dream for your self? What vision for your life is growing on the inside? What do you want to give birth to? Who is it that longs to come out and show herself to the world?
Pause obstacles are spaces designed to become still, this stillness allows for self-awareness to emerge, which helps us connect to the vision we have and make choices that are in alignment with it.
To train our mind to pause we’re going to combine our mind’s ability to recognize patterns with the command ‘pause’. Imagine the dog running over the field, like a whirlwind, going over and under obstacles. When it comes to the pause box you say ‘stop’, ‘wait’ and after several seconds ‘go!’.
Let’s make the pause box a simple designated area on the ground. The first time the dog encounters the pause box, it will most likely pass it without noticing. Our job is to associate our command ‘pause’ with certain cues. As I said in the previous article, our minds are very good at recognizing these cues. All we have to do is activate our inner-Google, type our query in the search box and hit the looking glass button. After we have done that our mind will start highlighting thoughts that match our search query. There are several kinds of cues we can instruct our mind to look out for.
Cue 1: look out for words that indicate ‘over-expectation’ – should, must, ought to, have to, are supposed to, or any conjugation of those verbs.
When you hear yourself say ‘he should’, ‘they must’, ‘she ought to’, ‘it has to’, your expectations are off. You cannot control other people’s thoughts, emotions and actions, let alone the NFL Super Bowl scores or what weather it will be on any given day. You can only control your own thoughts, emotions, words and actions. Confronted with situations that clash with your expectations, ask yourself whether this is important to you or not. Are you just getting upset because you are used to getting upset when your expectations aren’t met, or does this situation have bearing on your vision? If it is the first, you respond inwardly by telling yourself that there are sides to this story that you aren’t seeing and you do your best to see other possible sides to this story. This creates empathy, compassion and understanding. Outwardly you do nothing, you just let it pass. If what happens is connected to your vision, for instance your vision on how you intend to be treated, then you ask yourself how you would like the situation to be and what you can do now and in the future to generate a different response. For instance, ‘You should listen to me!’, might become ‘I want for us to communicate respectfully.’ or ‘I want us to find a solution that works for both of us.’ By changing your focus, you change your behavior and consequently you change the outcome. You move from a place of neediness and false expectations to a place of contribution and service.
If your expectations are off when it comes to other people, your expectations of yourself will undoubtedly be too high as well. If you hear yourself say ‘I should’ ‘I ought to’ ‘have to‘ ‘need to’, you need to stop what you’re doing and get your motivation clear. Very likely you are living someone else’s vision, not your vision. Suppose you catch yourself thinking, ‘… I really, really have to go, Mom will kill me if I don’t attend her Easter egg hunt’. This is very likely a false thought. In reality, no one is forcing you at gunpoint. You may feel like you have to go so much that not going doesn’t seem an option. Still, if you feel reluctant to attend the family egg hunt, you have two options: you either change your motivation and go or you have a honest conversation with your Mom and you don’t go. Don’t kid yourself by thinking that changing your motivation is easier than the dreaded conversation with your mommy dearest. And often in life, changing your motivation is just not an option. Once we’ve become aware of a ‘false thought’, we go inside, we close our eyes and we see the person that is longing to show herself to the world. Does she love spending time with her family, is that important to her? How does she want to spend Easter? What would she do? And how would she handle this situation? And that’s what you do. In this case you may decide that you love spending time with your family, that Easter for you really is about connecting and you don’t want to have all your nephews and nieces near your carefully decorated easter tree, so your parent’s house actually is the perfect place. Or you really love spending time with your family, but you love to be home for Easter. In that case you call your Mom, or your Pa, and you tell them that you love spending time together, and you want to organize this year’s egg hunt and you invite them to your home. Or you love spending time together, but for some reason, that is important to you, you won’t be attending the Easter egg hunt this year or the next five years, and you don’t waver when you Mom starts shouting, sobbing or doing her little guilt dance. It may be quite possible, that you are actually terrified with the prospect of having to confront your mom. And that’s okay, it doesn’t have is to be perfect. And maybe, for this moment, it is too big a step, that’s okay too. Knowing who you really, really want to be, will allow you to make tiny steps and work your way to it.
I want to lightly touch on ‘I want’ and ‘I need’ These words that can indicate both healthy and unhealthy need or desire. A healthy want or need will contribute to your vision and will be a step in the right direction, the unhealthy variety is your inner-3-year-old throwing a power tantrum. The first is about trusting your inner-vision, the other is your mind trying to control your outer-world. Pausing is a way to learn the difference and get in touch with what is truly important to you an act on it.
If you’re somewhat like me, you’ll want to get it perfect from the start and you don’t like the uncomfortable feeling of doing things differently. I don’t know how to break this to you gently, but there is no perfect way to do this, unless perfect includes stumbling, falling, getting up again and being okay with it. Feeling uncomfortable is part of the process of growing, and it is something you better get used to as soon as possible, for it is the base of living your best life.
Next time, in part 8, we’ll continue with the next cue, overgeneralisation and we may even get to overreaction. For now, take it easy. Lean into it. Celebrate the cues you noticed and celebrate the cues you missed. You cannot do it wrong, you can only do it better next time.
photo by Maja Petric