Each Moment A Crossroads

The way we are living...
Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Goodman.

These past few months I’ve really felt like I’m at a crossroads.

A crossroads is, by definition, a point along our path where we have to make a choice about the direction in which to go.

In terms of our lives, the only path that isn’t an option is turning back.

And so crossroads often evoke feelings of fear and uncertainty as well as a sense of excitement or eager anticipation.

Not only is there the fear for many of us, born of a dearth of self-trust, that we might somehow choose the ‘wrong’ path; a part of us also knows that any divergent path we take will launch us out of our safety zone into the vast unknown – a realm that, to our sub-conscious mind, is rife with monsters and bogeymen just waiting to jump us in the dark.

Some crossroads can be seen from far off, whilst others catch us unawares; triggered by events beyond our control.

It feels like this particular crossroads has been on my horizon for a while, waiting patiently for me to notice it. Meanwhile I’ve been plodding along with my eyes metaphorically half-closed, oblivious to its presence in my fixation on the small patch of road beneath my feet, which is all my half-lidded eyes have been able to perceive.

This road was, it’s true, a road of my own choosing; and it has been a road from which I’ve liked more of the views than not. But somewhere along the way I started to walk on auto-pilot, unconsciously putting one foot in front of the other without thinking about whether or not it was still leading me in the direction I wanted to go. And, as I confined my view to the stretch of road immediately in front of me, I inadvertently constructed tall, opaque fences either side; preventing me from seeing that alternatives did, in fact, exist.

That was before conscious living seminars and books started to grace my web browser and bookshelves, and words like ‘mindfulness’ and ‘increased self-awareness’ became a part of my days. As I became immersed in the world of self-empowerment I began to see that the ‘fences’ I had constructed were often nothing more than my own limiting beliefs, and that there were other paths, other possible ways for me to be in the world – if I could open my eyes enough to see them and summon up the courage necessary to step into them. As I challenged more and more of my beliefs and preconceptions, the fences started to fall away. And, as they did so, I started to embrace the wide horizon of possibility that came into my sphere of vision in their place.

I see now that on my journey, just as in real life, the horizon is only an illusion and the crossroads was never in the future at all – it was always right there, waiting for me. Simply choosing to look up and notice it would have brought it into my present moment reality at any time.

From this unblinkered perspective I also perceive that every moment of our lives is, in fact, a crossroads, and all it takes is the awareness of this to open ourselves up to the possibility of stepping out and choosing a different path from the one that we have been walking.

Put another way, every moment of our lives we have a choice – the choice to do something the way we have aways done it and, inevitably, get the same results; or the choice to try something different and see where we end up. The power to choose lies with us. The power to choose a different way of doing things, a different way of being, was always there inside me, latent, untapped; I just needed to wake up to the fact that I was the one who held that power.

And what happens when we wield that power and make a different choice, step out into the unknown? …Maybe we’ll end up somewhere we like better, and maybe we won’t… – there are no guarantees here. There is, after all, always some element of risk involved in walking an uncharted path.

At this point I remind myself that although we tend to place so much weight on the decisions we make about our lives, none of them are final. If we don’t like the scenery where we find ourselves, we can simply choose another path to venture down until we find some that we do.

And what is there to stop us from walking several paths at the same time and using it as an opportunity to see which one (or ones) we like best? That way we can choose to retain some of the safety of the path that we are currently on even as we explore new territories.

With the only ‘destinations’ in this lifetime the likes of increased self-knowledge, self-evolution and death, I have come to think that there are no ‘wrong paths’ as such. How can there be when any road we choose will lead us to these very same things?

I do feel it’s true to say, however, that which path(s) we choose will greatly effect the quality of our experience along the way.

Knowing this, I want to walk with my head up and my eyes open; fully conscious in each moment of the never-ending succession of crossroads stretching into my horizon… Simultaneously fully aware that the only time I can choose to embrace one of them is right here, right now.

My 2015 Challenge

2015 Challenge Tagxedo Large

The start of a new year, whilst being an arbitrary date on a man-made calendar, is seen as a time of new beginnings. This year I really did seem to feel a change in the energy. It was as if as soon as the calendar turned the page into January so my motivation and verve increased. All of a sudden I had renewed energy and willpower to do those things that had been ‘hanging around’ for a while, and a sense of openness and possibility about what the future could hold.

One thing I did not feel motivated to do, however, was to make resolutions.

On the other hand, I did want to find some way to honor this change in energy and the renewed sense of possibility I was experiencing.

I came up with the idea of making commitments to myself based around how I want to walk forward into my future and the values I want to live in accordance with this year.

As my list of commitments grew I underlined the key word(s) in each of them and the first five spelt out “chall…” ‘This has got to be more than a coincidence,’ I thought. I decided to phrase my last four commitments in such a way as to spell out the word “challenge,” and to make the honoring of these my challenge to myself for the year ahead.

So what are my commitments? I share them with you below. I’m sure some of them will resonate with you more than others; which is a nice way of saying some of them you’ll agree with whilst others might make you think, ‘What on earth is she going on about?’ My challenge to you is to not stop there, but to look deeply inside yourself and see what you want to honor in the year ahead. If you’re willing to share, I’d love to hear the things you come up with.

C – Consistency
This is something I want to work with across the board – from greater consistency in my waking and sleeping hours to being more consistent with my meditation practice. Plus a whole host of others in-between…

H – Honor Self and Others
Seeing myself and others as the divine spark of life in human form, and treating both myself and others in ways which reflect this and with more love and respect. It feels like a large part of this is to do with increasing self-awareness and more consciously choosing my thoughts, words and actions. (See next…)

A – Alignment with My Higher Self
Remembering to slow down and take a few moments to align with my higher self throughout the day, helping me to be the best me that I can be. Making it a practice to ask myself when interacting with others, “What would my higher self say or do in this situation?” “What words can I speak or action can I take here where I am now that will be in the highest good of all those present (myself included)?”

L – Look Within
Looking into my soul or, if you prefer, the core of my being where I am the purest essence of me, and discovering more of what is there. Asking my own source of inner wisdom, “What is it that I really want to experience? What is it that will give me even greater joy and fulfillment?,” and having the courage to follow that, instead of creating shadowy imitations of the answers of others.

L – Listen to the Unseen
Listening to the whisperings of my heart so I can hear her answers when I ask what she wants, and to the promptings of the Universe and my intuition as they guide me towards the next step I can take in that direction.

E – Embrace the Present Moment
Being. Here. Now. so I can experience all the joy that is present in each moment and embrace its full richness.

N – Nourish and Allow What is Within Me to Emerge
Nourishing the seed of potential that is germinating within through my thoughts, words, and choices; giving it what it needs to grow.

G – Gratefully Receive
…everything that comes into my sphere, using it all as a gift to help me know and expand into more of myself.

E – Enjoy
…myself; music; love; art; nature; beauty; the people and experiences that come my way; the marvelous and miraculous world we live in… savoring each and every moment.

I’ll Be There To Catch Myself

Picture Credit: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/0e/5c/a6/0e5ca65e05faaea07bbda278e2a090d5.jpg

A large part of my healing journey has been focused on the hall marks of the third chakara – self-love, self-worth, self-value, self-esteem, self-confidence and self-assurance. I seemed to have a deficit of them all. I have been lacking these qualities, in fact, as far back as I can remember. Even as a child I remember comparing myself with others and coming up lacking; always feeling that I was somehow ‘less than…’ and ‘not as good as…’ As so many of us do I pushed myself to excel in the one area I was good at – academic studies – to make up for my perceived deficit and prove to the world, but most of all to myself, that I was good enough, I did have value, I was worthy of love… And way into my thirties all I’d been doing was repeating that pattern over and over; locating my self-worth in my achievements rather than having a sense of my intrinsic worth as a human ‘being,’ not a human ‘doing.’

Then events in my personal life propelled me slap bam wallop into the world of healing and the notion that love for myself – far from being selfish – was, in fact, nourishing, self-honoring, self-respecting, and the only way I could hope to create both a rounded sense of self and a fulfilling life, as well as being an essential waypoint on the route to learning how to truly love another. I came to the awareness that I am not lacking in any way – just ‘in process’ as all of us are. That I don’t need to compare myself to anyone else, for each of us is here on our own journey. And that I am perfect just as I am even with all my imperfections – ‘perfectly imperfect’ as my friend Jeremiah would say. To realize that by sheer dint of being born I have as much right to be here as every one else and am equally worthy – neither more so or less so. That I have the right to take up space and to fill that space being uniquely and beautifully me, and to feel comfortable with and good about doing that even when that ‘me’ doesn’t conform to other people’s ideas of who or what I should be. In essence, I learned that I am free to be me.

Knowing something in your head and being able to apply it in your experience of the world are two very different things, but after an intense immersion in various seminars and healing processes I have definitely made progress. I no longer constrict my body and try to make myself as small as possible to avoid standing out when I walk into the supermarket, (standing out and feeling like you have to moderate yourself and your behaviour as a result is one of the few disadvantages of being a ‘foreigner’ in rural Japan); consciously releasing the tension from my shoulders and reminding myself that I have as much right to be there in the supermarket, to be here on this planet, as everyone else. I have stopped comparing myself to others as much, and learned instead to put the focus on self-growth and self-expansion. I have made lists of all the things I like about myself and realized that most of them are related to my qualities as a human being rather than my achievements, upping my self-worth and value in the process. In short, I’ve become much more comfortable in my skin and with who I am, my persona here on Earth, the whole beautiful and contradictory mishmash of humanness that that is.

There are, however, still some gaping holes in the foundations of my carefully constructed castle of self, as a recent experience with a guided meditation revealed…

“I love myself fully. I trust myself fully. I am uniquely self-expressed,” was the particular phrase that provoked a pantomime-like call of “Oh no you don’t” to echo through the caves of my mind.

To the credit of all the healing work, I didn’t actually have a problem with the first or last sentences. It was that little one about self-trust in the middle that set the doubts to reverberating around my head.

And to be honest it surprised me a little… Granted, I don’t think we are brought up to trust ourselves. If we have a question of any kind; be it medical, financial, spiritual or personal, we are more often than not directed to seek the advice of an expert exterior to ourselves. It is also true that during the course of fifteen and a half years of living in a culture so different to my own, and one that has so many social customs and conventions to follow at that, I have often located my decision-making power outside of myself, born of a desire to do the ‘right thing’ for the culture I’m living in but resulting in a serious depletion of my sense of having any self-power. I also can’t deny that my ‘go with the flow’ kind of personality hasn’t really helped – nine times out of ten I’m content to go where the other person wants and do what they want to do without offering a suggestion because, to be honest, I’m pretty much happy enough anywhere doing anything (within limits of course).

But during the last year and a half or so I thought I had made progress in this area as well as others. I’ve actively started to take responsibility for making more decisions about my life – starting with the little things to be sure, but in the process I have gradually built up a certain degree of confidence in my ability to make choices that support me and the type of person I want to be. I’ve also made a conscious effort to kick my habit of being over-dependent on others, and to try to build healthy interdependent relationships instead. I’ve slowly but surely been pulling back little pieces of my power, and, while I know I still have a long way to go and want to become more pro-active about making decisions and changes in my life, if you had of asked me I would have said that my self-trust was at a higher level than it had been for a long while.

And yet… that one little phrase opened up the floodgates for an almighty wave of resistance to come crashing through…

And what did I do? I rode on through the wave and thanked it.

For our resistance is like a spotlight showing us where we still need to work on ourselves to help us return to wholeness. And so, with grateful thanks to my latest wave of resistance, my next inquiry on my journey back to wholeness will be into the nature of self-trust and how I can cultivate more of it.

My intention is to lean to trust myself so fully that I know, were I to take a big leap into the unknown like a trapeze artist, I would be there on the other side to catch myself. This is the level of trust in self I would like to see in my life; and this is what I shall move towards one small step at a time, however long a process it may be.

At the same time, it doesn’t mean that I think I have to do everything by and for myself. It’s more a case of knowing that I will always be there for myself – that I will get better at making choices that honor and support myself as well as others; that I will do what I can but recognize my limits and know when to ask for help; that I will start to assert my right to be my own person and the creator of my own life; that I will start to believe in my ability to do the things I dream of; that I will start to listen to my own knowings and to do what feels right for me; that I will no longer allow people to trample all over me without a word of protest on my part; that I will let myself release from my life the people who bring or put me down without feeling unnecessary guilt about doing so; and that I will put myself and my happiness first, whilst at the same time always holding the intention of showing kindness, consideration and compassion to others.

And so, at the start of this new year, my new affirmation is: I am learning to trust myself more and more each day.

This rings true for me. And, in speaking it aloud daily, I will consolidate its truth and help to make it so.

Plumbing the Depths

There are depths to me

I haven’t yet discovered –

time to turn within.

Woodblock, Laos copy