Navigating The Terrain & Becoming More Self-Aware
The last day of January! I couldn’t be happier to see this month come to a conclusion. There has been a consistent influx of good and bad this month for me, and as I understand, many others are feeling the overhang of some clouds. I had been yearning for the new year and the start of January for a while, feeling that 2014 is going to be MY YEAR! I know a lot of people who’ve felt/feel the same way, proclaiming, “2014 is going to be my year!” And it is! This is the year where we finally see things start settling into motion. We’ve been building, building, building and now all that work is paying off, FINALLY!
Yet for some reason, things kept coming up – relationship issues. Not the romantic kind, just tests on the interpersonal. Issues, almost completely having to do with communication and/or my interactions with the people around me. As a result, confrontations ensued, for better or for worse. Let’s just say… when it rains it pours. So what could I do? Wallow and be sad? Well, yes. I definitely did my share of that. But when I would realize what I was doing, I’d ask myself, “What did you learn??” The more I would ask myself this, the easier it was to process. So while I am sad for the hiccups, the break-ups, and the changes along the way, I’m learning a lot of good lessons.
From the moment life begins, we are watching and learning as we develop relationships – first with our caregivers, and later with friend, lovers, and business associates. Every time we interact with other people, we have an opportunity to exchange thoughts, ideas, dreams, and emotions. The way we interact is an opportunity to learn something new and evolve the way we think and communicate. I liken this to that good old saying, “Check yourself before you wreck yourself!” Here’s what I’m learning:
Don’t take things personal. If you can step outside of yourself (your ego), you’ll see that we are all struggling somehow. Even the people who look so happy, they have issues too. We all have them, different ones, some worse than others and that’s life. “Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering” (Source: The Four Agreements, ToltecSpirit.com). How do we create needless suffering?
Sometimes others take things out on people who don’t deserve it. If you can understand that their outward projections are just a reaction to their own life, you won’t get upset as easily when your friend hasn’t called you back yet or the woman working the register doesn’t say hello. Because in reality, your friend is busy with work and family, and the woman at the register just got news that her mom is in the hospital. If you don’t take it personal, you won’t question your friendship and it’s stability. You won’t think the woman at the register dislikes you or is being rude.
Speak your truth. I don’t like confrontation. I’m not good at it and I am defensive by nature. But if you are just upfront with your feelings and beliefs – from the outset – you avoid issues down the line when these things come up. And they always do come up eventually. It’s not always easy, but learning to just say how you feel, in a way that is not offensive to others, you’ll find that people are more willing to hear your truth and not take it personally. Maybe it doesn’t go well, but if that’s the case, do you really want to pursue this relationship if you can’t be honest?
Be compassionate. If we practice “self-empathy (defined as a deep and compassionate awareness of one’s own inner experience), empathy (defined as listening to another with deep compassion), and honest self-expression (defined as expressing oneself authentically in a way that is likely to inspire compassion in others)” (Source: Nonviolent Communication, Wikipedia), we might find that we are more compassionate and have an easier time communicating with others.
Look at every interaction as a mirror to yourself. Sometimes what you see isn’t very pretty, sometimes it’s downright heart-wrenching. But it’s a beautiful opportunity to learn something about oneself so that you can fix it or develop on it in a positive way.
Don’t react. Sometimes this can be extremely difficult but it’s easy when you get the hang of it. When you approach a situation with a level head, you take deep breaths, you listen – it becomes simple. Hear what’s being said to you. Allow the other person the opportunity to speak their truth, while remembering to not take it personally. Then take a deep breath and truly digest what that person is saying. You’ll find that your response is more grounded and is coming from your heart and not from the instinct to defend.
Always do your best. “Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret. “ (Quoted from The Four Agreements) If you are constantly learning from the good and the bad in your life, taking the lesson from every interaction you have, you’ll find that things get easier. You’ll speak your truth sooner, you will respond rather than react, you’ll look for the opportunities to improve on yourself, and you’ll always be learning. And if things don’t work out, you know you did your best.
We are all students in the school of life and I certainly have my fair share of slip-ups. These points can be difficult and a life-long challenge to master, but the key is to try to be aware and to be conscious of who we are. I think we’d all be less hard on ourselves and on each other.
Here are some books that have helped me along the way:
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz (1997)
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg (1999)
The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield (1993)