Mindfulness in Action


So let's say that one day I get really annoyed with one of my kids and have an angry outburst. And let's say that this outburst involves sputtering rage-filled comments that are hurtful to those around me. But I know that's not who I'd like to be or how I'd like to behave. If I recognize that behavior as something that goes against my own personal values, it shouldn't happen. Right? Well that's not usually how things work out. Often our lives don't reflect our values, creating a constant friction within.

Most of us have negative responses to certain emotions and events in our lives that we are not consciously in control of. Very often, our subconscious mind likes to run the same old program over and over again without our consent. So when something triggers our anger we tend to respond in the same way we've been responding our whole lives creating habitual behavior that is not purposefully chosen by us. Becoming mindful is a way to take control of our behavior and rewrite that program consciously.

First we have to get rid of the negative self-talk and judgment most of us employ when trying to change (see the left side of the chart above). Because negative reinforcement never, ever works in the long run. Ever. This only creates a negative feedback loop that feeds back into the undesired emotions and behaviors. There's nothing wrong with you, you're not a bad person. You're just a person, flawed and perfectly imperfect and on a journey of self-realization. It's okay to love yourself. In fact, it's necessary if you'd like to not pass on your own negativity to your children and those you love and really make a positive impact on the world.

Now it's time to own the behavior. Make the choice to accept it and try to learn from it. Be curious about yourself as though you were observing from a third person perspective. Think about why habitual behavior patterns have been formed and try to figure out where they may have come from. Nine times out of ten (or maybe even ten times out of ten) you'll realize that the negative behavior was something you learned along your life's journey as a way to cope with uncomfortable emotions. Often we learn the same coping skills of our parents or peer groups, taking on these things as our own. We think the behaviors are us, that they originated with our personality, but that's rarely if ever the case at all.

So we in some way name the source or the root cause (giving us power over it in a Rumpelstiltskin kind of way) and without blame of ourselves or others, just feel the emotions that go along with it. We sit with the feelings that make us upset. We allow the emotions to flow without judging them or trying to push them away and eventually they dissipate like a wave crashing on the shore. Then we know we are strong enough to handle the pain, that we don't have to cope by reacting to it, by lashing out and creating suffering within ourselves or those we love. This helps us understand ourselves, have compassion for ourselves, and recognize the triggers and subsequent patterns that have been the underlying controlling forces of our lives.

Once you have understanding and acceptance you'll be able to catch yourself when you're triggered. You'll be able to notice with mindfulness that you're drifting into old habits and patterns that are not in line with your values and then pull yourself back to consciousness. Stopping the old behavior then creates new behaviors that are purposeful and choice-driven instead of subconscious programs. This then leads to a complete rewiring of your mind where eventually you'll no longer have to re-route your thoughts but will instead have created new habits that are in line with your values and who it is you want to be. When that happens, you are finally the only one in control of your life. 

Aine: Sun and Moon

Aine may have originally been envisioned as a primary sun deity or at least one half of a sun goddess dyad with her sister, Grian. Eventually though, she was imagined as a moon goddess as well. I believe this polarity embodied in one figure speaks of balance, of a yin-yang sort of idea that is an integral part of being a human being. We all have a dual nature, light/dark, masculine/feminine, etc. And perhaps one of Aine's lessons is to teach us to be balanced in these energies.

Many people think that balance (when speaking in spiritual terms) means maintaining two separate energies at the same time, neither one changing or affecting the other. The reality is that spiritual balance is not like material balance where two objects of the same weight sit level with each other on a scale. Instead these two energies mesh together and create something new and altogether more authentic, not to mention more powerful. It's more like mixing equal parts of black and white paint. The extremes of black and white are destroyed and transformed into grey – into sometime new. This is a better way to understand the creation of spiritual balance.

Maintaining balance between light and dark does not mean honoring your dark side one day and your light the next. It means allowing the two to come together as one and becoming a whole, self-aware being. It means owning your own power instead of fearing your magnificent human potential. When we disregard or ignore either of them, we risk living life to extremes, full of drama and endless battles of ego. A large part of our earthly journey is to become integrated and whole.

Aine is a well regarded, multifaceted goddess with a wealth of attributes. But first and foremost she tends to be seen as a Goddess of Love. I find this a compelling idea when taking into consideration her balancing nature as Goddess of the Sun and Moon. Perhaps love requires balance to exist as does all things.

Could it be that without balance within ourselves we can not know real love – the love of the universe, the love that animates our souls as the life force, the love of the Goddess. Maybe working towards balance as Aine teaches may be a necessary first step before we can claim our birthright to the highest, spiritual love of self and all life.

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