I’ve been hearing these type of thoughts from my clients and potential clients a lot in the last week or so:
“I’m scared to see what I’ve been avoiding.”
“I’m afraid I’ll realize I’m in the wrong job or relationship.”
“It would be easier just to stay in my old bad habits, because then I know what to expect.”
I understand these thoughts. I really do. After all, I left my life in New York City and moved to New Jersey with a man who had never lusted over me and who spent a lot of late nights at work. I knew these weren’t good signs, but we were on the path to marriage, daggum it, and I wanted to be married in the worst way. He dumped me 2 weeks after the move for a woman he worked with. I hadn’t wanted to examine those jangly warning feelings from my gut when I envisioned our life together, because where would they leave me – single? Ugh. I’d already invested a couple of years in the relationship. I didn’t want to start at ‘square one’ again.
Thankfully, I also embarked on a year-long teacher training right around the time, and all the hours I spent on the mat and the meditation cushion helped me see all the ways I’d co-created the debacle, simply because I willed myself not to see the truth – that neither of us were happy, and we weren’t the right fit.
Of course, the universe is always providing exactly what we need exactly when we need it, if we’re only willing to see it. The fact that my heart was blown open during that teacher training helped me go deep into the recesses of my psyche, and I emerged knowing what I needed from a partner. (Not) coincidentally, I met my husband right when that training ended. And he was nothing like any man I’d ever dated before. He was opinionated, silly, expressive, and way into me. A mortal enemy of sweeping things under the rug, he coaxed me out when I tried to retreat inside my shell. In short, he was my mate.
Which is not to say you’ll definitely realize you’re in the wrong relationship. When you stop willing yourself not to see what’s right in front of you, you may also notice that what’s there is pretty darn nice. This happened with a client of mine last week. After bemoaning her lack of friends who understood her, she went to lunch with several of her old pals. And just by being present and staying focused on the conversation (and not by thinking “I’m a square peg in a round hole” over and over again), she noticed that she did actually connect with many of the women in her life. And, once she opts to share more of herself with them – because she won’t be so busy rebuffing them in her mind – chances are that connection will only grow.
How it works
The principle at work here is that giving loving attention to anything unpleasant is like shining a ray of heat on an ice cube – the subject of your attention begins to loosen, change shape, and flow.
Here’s a quote from the book Power Vs. Force, by David Hawkins, M.D., that sums it up quite nicely (if a little scientifically):
“That which is injurious loses its capacity to harm when it is brought in to the light.”
Or, as my amazing and plain-spoken coach, Darla LeDoux, says it:
“Facing the feelings allows them to be transformed.”
Think about being a kid in your bed at night – with all the lights off, it’s easy to imagine a monster in the closet. When you (or your Mom or Dad) would turn the light on, all creepy-crawlies vanished and it was just your clothes hanging there. What seemed terrifying was actually pretty mundane.
And if total transformation of fear and apathy doesn’t yank your chain, one of my favorite yoga teachers, Max Strom, describes taking a look at your darker feelings as the equivalent of opening a bottle of Champagne – yes, it might be messy at first, but soon enough, you’ve got a glass of bubbly to enjoy.
Isn’t your happiness worth a little temporary discomfort? Imagine what would be possible if you could, say, look at the frustration you experience every day in your job, let it show you what important piece of the puzzle you’re lacking, and then go out and find another job or business opportunity that fills that need. How great would it be to not dread getting in the car every morning? How good would it feel at the end of the day to feel valued? How would you be different with the people in your home life if you weren’t completely sucked dry by your job?
If you’re reading this newsletter and what I’m writing is resonating, it’s no accident. Those thoughts and feelings you’ve been so diligently ignoring are ready to be seen. Which is a very good thing indeed, because it means you’ve got momentum on your side. The universe is calling you toward your new, better, freer reality. And all you need to do is start letting those creepy little thoughts and beliefs come into the light of your awareness so you can see them for the innocuous constructs they are.
OK, so, how do I do that exactly?
There’s lotsa ways:
• Journaling is a great way to unearth a lot of hidden stuff. It also gives you the benefit of being able to objectively see your thoughts when you’re done.
• Meditating gives you a forum for getting quiet and noticing what’s ready to bubble up to the surface. Books by Pema Chodron or the video instruction of the Open Heart Project by Susan Piver can help you navigate those times when the emotions spill over the sides of your Champagne bottle, and remind you that it’s completely normal, human, and auspicious to be feeling strong emotions during meditation.
• If you can do it with the intention of truly seeing where you are and what you’re thinking (instead of trying to out-stretch the person on the mat next to you), yoga can be a powerful and safe place to jostle scary emotions to the surface.
• Coaching can be a great tool to see all the things you’re willing yourself not to see, and how those things are holding you back; it also gives you accountability for making changes that establish new patterns.
Whatever path you choose, know that the hardest part is simply allowing yourself to see what’s there. Once you have the knowledge of what’s true for you, making any necessary changes in your life feels like liberation.