During the time that I call Last Winter (the winter of 2012-13, spent living in the basement of our old house), I shared a great deal with you, about my journey and the challenges I faced. I continued to share with you during our move and adjustment to our new life in Texas.
But what you don’t know is that the journey has continued since then.
I’ve been working very hard, for nearly two years now. My journey began when one of my readers called me a Linchpin,and I would like to share with you the places it has taken me since then.
Here are some things I’ve learned in my travels:
1. Reality is a very simple, painless thing. If you’re experiencing anything other than that, it’s not reality. When I read Linchpin, after being told that this term applied to me, it brought to light so many assumptions I had held about myself–so many limiting beliefs. That was what started my journey. I realized that I was not what I had thought I was. I’ve since learned that anything that causes fear, anything that doesn’t “feel” good, is based on misunderstanding, not reality.
2. Willpower is not the answer. Like flowers turning toward the sun, we all are always turned toward the light. We want to do what is “right,” and we are always trying our very best. If we’re stuck in a “bad” habit, then there is a misunderstanding or a reason why. We need to look deeply at that, and figure out what is preventing us from doing what we’re trying to do. Forcing ourselves to do anything, ultimately won’t work.
3. Your mind is likely stuck in a loop. I had the same patterns coming up over and over again. I thought I was unworthy. I thought I couldn’t handle the intense fear I sometimes felt. It was the same messages, over and over. And the solution lie in redefining those messages. Over and over.
4. Never underestimate the power of a good teacher. Learning to move beyond fear and to see reality is like learning to speak a new language, and it helps to have guidance from someone who has traveled the path already. While I had many mentors along the way, the smartest choice I made was to seek help professionally. I ended up finding a counselor who works via e-mail and used a technique that I recognized as a variant on cognitive-behavioral therapy. She worked closely with me and helped me learn methods for doing that repetitive redefining. After nearly two years of almost-daily contact, I am no longer experiencing those looping thoughts and am seeing a great deal of freedom from fear. If you’re interested in pursuing a path in this direction, here is a good place to start.
5. You are not what you think you are. I have learned that I am more than the challenges I have faced, and I am certainly more than my reaction to fear. We all face fear, and it manifests differently for each of us. Some people react with substance abuse, others become depressed or anxious, and others overeat or indulge in retail therapy. These are all reactions to the same thing. Don’t mistake your reaction for who you are.
6. Self-love is always beautiful. Early in my journey, my therapist said, “Your only obligation is to love yourself.” I didn’t understand this at the time. I thought caring for myself and turning inward was selfish. But it is not–it is actually the opposite of selfishness. It is through knowing, understanding, and loving our own minds, with their tendencies and misunderstandings, that we learn to understand and therefore love all of humanity. If we misunderstand our tendencies, we are going to misunderstand the same tendencies in everyone else.
7. Narcissism and martyrdom are the same thing. Or, at least, they are manifestations of the same misunderstanding. In both cases, the person sees themself as separate–from all of humanity and from God, the Universe, Love, etc. Putting yourself before others and putting others before yourself are both based on the assumption that your “self” is separate from “others.”
8. Nobody has an opinion of you. We take what people claim to “think” of us as meaningful feedback about ourselves. When people don’t really have opinions of us. They might misinterpret our fears and the way we act upon them, but that’s not a opinion of me. They might misinterpret our fear-based actions based on their own fears. But that’s not about us. And we’re probably not even seeing this window into their inner life. Because our minds are picking out bits of and pieces of their actions (which are based on their own fears, etc.) and using them as evidence for what it already believes. So “feedback” and “criticism” are just our mind’s way of proving itself right. The other person is just a messenger.
9. Labels are limited in their usefulness. It would be easy to pick out labels from my experience. “Anxiety” and “depression” stand out, amongst other things. But how helpful is that? These are all just names for manifestations of fear and misunderstanding. We all face fear and misunderstand. If it’s an “illness,” it’s one that EVERYBODY has. That’s the journey through this life–seeing through the illusions.
10. There is no past. There is no accurate record of it, at all. Everything I’ve told you, about my “back story” is just comprised of memories with meaning attached. There is no way for anybody to know what REALLY happened. It’s gone. It doesn’t exist. This moment–with all the baggage we carry to it–is all that we can ever have.
I could go on with lessons, but I think this is a good starting point. It’s been a very busy two years, and I look forward to growing–and resting–more in the years to come.
What are some lessons that you’ve learned on your journey?