Our human life is the means we have to be deeply at peace and to realize our true nature. Yet it can often appear far too full of problems, disappointments and suffering to realize such truths; we get too preoccupied with self-survival and self-preservation to reach for a greater meaning beyond ourselves. And although we may think we aren’t stressed and that everything’s really fine, just beneath the surface we see the tension when we bite our nails, play with our hair, talk or eat compulsively, tap our feet, or pace up and down. This is stress!
It’s amazing how attached we can be to a habitual way of living, even if it’s detrimental to our physical or psycho/emotional health. The old patterns are comfortable and familiar – this is just who I am! ¬- while change seems unknown, beyond our capabilities, and always seems to lie somewhere ahead of us in some other place or time. How often have you said, “I must do more exercise” or “I must stop getting so angry” but you just keep putting it off until you never actually do it. How often has guilt stopped you from taking time for yourself? How often have you longed to scream but instead put on a stoic and capable smile?
Letting go of the old and familiar may also mean going deeper into ourselves to discover what we truly believe. Parents and teachers instil many of our behavior patterns deep into the unconscious mind. We grow up absorbing their attitudes towards religion, race, sex, money, work, relationships, even the meaning of life, and may not have the emotional distance to see which of our beliefs we have inherited and which we have chosen for ourselves. It’s important to recognize this so we can find what we actually feel, even if it means stepping outside the box and shifting the images people have of us.
Become an observer of yourself for at least one week. Keep a daily journal of your feelings, and at the end of each day take a moment to reflect, particularly on those areas where you feel stuck. Observe and note your reactions, attitudes, behavior and resistance.
Do these states actually reflect how you feel or can you see where you are reacting out of old patterns, perhaps in a way that your mother or father did? Make a note of any place where you feel your response did not express the real you.
Now replay the scene and ask yourself how you would do it differently if you were following your own feelings. What would you say? What would you do? Breaking the molds of old patterns may feel a little threatening at first, but can be a tremendous sense of liberation, as if we are letting go of a great weight or burden.
Change is the essence of life. When we put off change then we put living on hold, staying stuck, entrenched in the past and fixed in old ways. But the same life force that enables a weed to grow through six inches of concrete is within us too, constantly reaching for inner peace and happiness. Rather than blaming our parents for having passed on to us their prejudiced, paranoid or confused views, we can be grateful that we now have the awareness to find our own truths.
Awareness is transformative. As we bring awareness to our psychological and emotional patterns they will lose their grip. Such awareness arises naturally when we release the inner tension and enter a deeper peace by mindfully relaxing.
Lie still and with each in breath focus on peace filling your every cell, while with each out breath watch any stress or tension leaving you.
Change is possible because inside us we know there is a free and joyful being, someone who is truly happy, caring and loving. Let change bring fresh possibilities, let us see with new eyes and new awakenings!
Extracted from The Art of Mindful Relaxation by Ed Shapiro