As 2016 draws to a close I’ve been reflecting on what this year has offered me and how I plan to take those lessons forward in the new year.
2016, for me, was all about learning to love the shadow. Learning to know, embrace and accept the parts of me that I deemed unworthy or ‘bad’. Learning to forgive. Learning to embrace. Learning to integrate. Learning to ACCEPT.
When I first started doing work on my inner world – becoming conscious of the patterns that had defined my thinking and behaviour for so long – I was guided by the mistaken notion that the aim was to achieve presence, connection with self and happiness.
When I first started doing mindfulness practices, if I found myself frustrated, anxious, impatient or restless – I told myself these traits were ‘wrong’.
I was, in short, chasing the Hollywood version of mindfulness. The yogi goddess who never gets riled up. The mindful mama who cherishes each moment with her baby. The caring friend and wife who emits a frequency of presence and love.
The problem with these images is that they kind of keep us submissive. Passive. Uncaring. Unfeeling.
These images promote the idea that we are all perfectly aligned.
For all the beautiful work going on in the world in spreading mindfulness and other Buddhist, Vedic and spiritual teachings, the shadow side is that we’ve become fixated on attaining those states of zen above all else.
And the result of that is a notion that there is a good and right way to behave. And if we are not in those zones, we are ‘doing it wrong’.
The way that mindfulness and yoga and wellbeing are being portrayed aren’t empowering us – they are fuelling the very notion that has sickened us for generations. That there is something fundamentally wrong with us.
I believe that this reflects among women a broader loss of identity, a lack of trust in our own intuition and the rise of comparisonitis driven by social media. Without a strong self acceptance practice and without self belief, we cling onto ideals in magazines and online and try and replicate them in our own lives.
Except that our own lives, unlike those portrayed in the media, are 3D, not 2D.
As I’ve become more nuanced in my thinking, and been enlightened by teachers and the women I work with, I’ve realised that maybe… just maybe, it is possible to be zen and an activist. It is possible to be spiritual and a feminist. It is possible to make money and make a contribution. It is possible to express frustration (which, as caregivers is usually a sign that we’ve given too much) and also teach yogic principles. It is possible to enjoy cake and promote wellbeing.
This last year I’ve become acutely aware of my desire to cling onto and replicate these ideals – especially around motherhood. Oh how simple life would be if we could simply choose a way of parenting/mothering and replicate it.
Except that this striving keeps us prisoners.
Here’s what I’m realising (yes, maybe a tad late!).
I get to create my world.
And in my world? I choose to forego the pursuit of the known identity – and the safety that that brings – in favour of carving out my own path. One where I can work and be a good mum – knowing that not being creative makes my soul shrivel. One where my mindfulness practices might be meditating, but equally they may be cooking, or breathing, or laughing or dancing. One where I choose experiences over stuff and work less than full time. One where I embrace all the glorious paradoxes that make me up – whilst simultaneously rejecting the idea that I am fixed in any way.
I am fluid.
Life is fluid.
Contrary to the notion that we can be ‘zen’ all the time, my observation has helped me realise that everything has an opposite. And everything strives for balance.
If we are to pursue mindfulness and happiness, we will usually find an abundance of the opposite in our lives.
Like when we pursue healthy eating and all we can think about is burgers.
That is because we are trying to find balance within ourselves.
Polarised behaviours, thinking patterns and emotions – either happy or depressed – have a way of righting themselves so as to bring us back to equilibrium.
So the aim is not to attain happiness or mindfulness all the time. The aim, I believe, is to observe it all. To own it all. And to TRY to love it all.
My aim is to stop striving for the ideal and just enjoy what is. Knowing that in doing so I’ll be working with my heart and soul in embodying equilibrium. And escaping the prison that has been the notion that there’s something wrong.
Most importantly the aim – my aim – is to accept it all. Forgive it all. And relish those pristine moments of joy when they do arise. Knowing that they will always be an opposite. And that’s just fine by me