Last month, I went through a painful break up after learning my partner had been deceptive and dishonest through our relationship. To say the least, I broke down completely and went through a period of deep processing – not just our relationship, but my greater personal patterns in relationship and redefining how I want to show up in the world. I’ve never been one to share much of my personal life on my blog, but lately I’ve been feeling a growing necessity to write from a place of openness and vulnerability. I think as a wellness professional, or any professional for that matter, we feel this strong expectation (often self-imposed) to show up in our field with all of our shit figured out. But the reality is, we’re all human – flawed and beautiful. And what connects us to one another more fully is the recognition that we sometimes must crumble in order to rebuild and share our experiences so others can grow with us.
This idea of crumbling and rebuilding is one I’ve been reflecting on a lot lately. Here’s what I’m coming to learn … we live in a world of stories. Our realities are not impermeable truths, but a loose construct of narratives that we formulate through our upbringing, cultural impressions and life experiences. These narratives shape our worldview and how we interact with the present moment.
In a book I’m reading called Tantra Illuminated by Christopher D. Wallis, he explains, “The primary value of narratives lies in their usefulness for helping us create the world we want to live in. When they are not doing that, their value is questionable.”
I started to look at all the stories I’d been selling myself about who I was, my past trauma, other’s actions and my self-worth. I watched how I felt when I retold the story of my break up to my friends, and noticed how each time I did I reinforced the painful experience in my mind and heart. And even though the immediate pain had passed, I was prolonging my suffering through the retelling of the stories.
I started to examine my life as a whole, questioning what stories were serving me and what were self-limiting. In deconstructing my own worldview, I recognized that all these painful moments I clung on to that seemed to define my life – they were just…stories. Moments of the past. Illusions preventing me from living in the present. And I was the one choosing to fuel them with emotion and meaning through the words I was speaking – inwardly and outwardly. It was a light bulb moment for me.
How liberating it feels now to recognize that I have the power to shape my worldview. Suddenly, I could see others stories, too. And how much easier it has become to live from a place of non-reaction when I can discern whether that story being told will serve my desired reality or not. Awareness is everything.
Try this. Observe your words about yourself throughout the day. Do you make comments about your weight or appearance when you’re around certain friends? Do you compare your success to others in a critical? Simply notice what words you’re using to describe how you look and feel. Without getting into a deep analysis of why you’re choosing those words, see if you can identify the opposite – what is it you truly want to feel and experience?
In Yoga and Ayurveda, we call this Pratipaksha Bhavana – a technique for moving from the a challenging or contractive emotion or mindset, to one that feels empowering and expansive. This technique has three stages: dilution—you dilute the power of the negative thought by denying it your attention; substitution—while holding back attention from negative thoughts, start asserting that which is positive; and sublimation—as you continue doing this, you will find that the negative thoughts fade away. With consistency in consciousness, you realize that what seemed impossible to overcome has shifted and grown to what you desire.
This is the same way we can identify what narratives in our lives are no longer serving us and move away from painful patterns to rebuild a reality that uplifts our hearts.
If you desire relationships that are loving and honest, choose to show up in loving and honest ways for yourself and others. Let go of the narratives that you were once a victim to those who didn’t act how you desired. Choose to surround yourself with people who share the same worldview and who are doing their work to show up lovingly, honestly and openly – good community is everything! This goes the same with how you feel about your own body, your choices with food, your passion for your career and life direction. It will take steady work of recognizing when your past patterns are present through the stories you’re telling to yourselves and others, but how liberating it is to be at the helm of shaping a conscious life!
*Photos by Choate House