I am a committed partner to my wife and father to my children. A large percentage of my energy and efforts focus on engaging with my family in meaningful ways and attempting to maintain a calm, peaceful household. I try to be present with my family members when we have time to interact. Meaning I try to put aside distractions and live in the moment with whatever is happening with them. That might mean missing the first half of a basketball game I was looking forward to seeing because I can sense that my wife would like for us to have a conversation, or I resist the urge to check my cell phone after feeling it buzz in my pocket because I’m drawing with my children.
But even during the ho-hum, humdrum, monotony of my weekly routine while I try to make awareness of the present moment a focus, life can seem overwhelming. I’m running late for a meeting and need to drop off the children at my in-laws for a couple hours. My daughter is refusing to put on her winter jacket over the summer dress that she has picked out even though it is freezing outside, my older son is inconsolable because he can’t find the toy he wanted to bring to Granma’s, the baby is fusing because he needs to be changed and the dogs are barking to be let outside. Moments like these arise and take all that I can muster just to keep my head above water.
Now, let’s combine a moment like that with a barrage of negative mental noise. Uncertainty about my future at the work I am doing, fear over the state of the world, frustration at being caught in traffic due to unexpected construction and I am left feeling helpless, disempowered and uncertain that I am able to properly care for my family.
It’s a shitty feeling. For the longest time I avoided those type of feelings in my life by checking out, I smoke pot, watch tv series, movies or YouTube videos and eat junk food. Mentally I ran and hid. This was in no way a new tactic for me just because I was married with children. It had been happening for as long as I could remember, and I continually ended up just ‘getting through’ life. Nowhere close to thriving, just surviving.
If you’ve started to recognize a similar pattern in your life as well and you are looking for a better way forward, then I believe it begins with courage. The courage to say the buck stops here. The courage to examine your own thoughts and actions. The courage to assume the warrior’s mantle (A reference to Chogyam Trungpa’s “Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior”), or as Parker Palmer puts it, the courage to live an undivided life. The courage to let your inner light shine.
This process is not easy. It is tedious and trying. And the goal must be the journey, because so very few complete it. (As Jack Kornfield has put it; there is no retired enlightenment.) The process requires that you examine your own short comings, your negative behaviours and interactions and how you are falling short of the type of person you want to be and the type of life that you want to lead. If you have the courage to begin and are willing to dance with the devil in the mirror, slowly, but surely the results start to show and the positivity that you find in your life is the reward.
When I accepted that I had a shadow side and started to come to terms with that I started to bring about positive change by forgiving myself, directing loving kindness towards myself and committing to living more closely to my own moral code. (The undivided life.)
There are many ways to do this inner work. Many people meditate to quiet the mental noise so that they can see deeper into themselves. Others find a physical practice such as yoga or martial arts, a practice that gives them the space for inner reflection. For some, like renown spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, it happens during a traumatic life event or near mental breakdown that challenges your view of reality and breaks down your concept of self. Regardless of the path that you choose (or some would argue chooses you) it is paramount to your personal growth, emotional maturity and inner healing to do this work.
There are three things that I find combine to really help me on my journey, and I want to share them in hopes that they will resonate with you and help you to more successfully navigate your path.
Thanks for reading and please, if anything above makes sense, sounds ridiculous, or sparks a question, comment below or send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s time to thrive!
Let your (immeasurable) light shine,