Leave The Door Open And Growth Sneaks In

Thought for the night:

“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” ~Pema Chodron

I ran across this quote on my phone today. It’s one that never really leaves my heart. When I was growing up, my mom told me that if you pray for patience, god gives you something to be patient about. I think that goes hand in hand with Pema Chodron’s thought here. If you are working through something, which most of us are on some level even when we aren’t completely tuned in to it, it will keep showing up in little ways to give you an opportunity to unpack it, understand it, make peace with it, and finally move on.

I used to struggle with boundaries, but it happens a lot less these days because the universe kept sending me people who wanted to test them. People who refused to listen to what I wanted made me even more emphatic about standing up for myself. Through their annoying and troubling inability to understand when to stop pushing, I’ve learned that it’s absolutely okay to ask for what I want. I might not get it, but I should at least feel deserving enough to ask for it anyway. I’ve learned that if I set a boundary and it makes someone else angry, it is likely that the other person was previously benefitting from my not having had any. So, I set boundaries carefully now. They are like the ones that accompany an electric fence. I’ve marked them with warning flags but they are largely invisible otherwise. If I feel uncomfortable with how close you are coming to the edges of them, you will get a warning and then possibly a shocking consequence for crossing them. I’ve learned that I’m not going to please everyone all the time, which is totally okay because that was never my responsibility. And I’ve learned that I deserve peace, and that keeping the peace for someone else at the expense of my own is poisonous. I’ve eliminated some people from my life because I realized that being around them made me less kind, less understanding, less forgiving, and less happy.

I’ve noticed that if you’re paying attention in life, a skill that involves mindfulness and self-reflection, you realize that the universe is constantly providing you with opportunities to grow, expand, and change your life for the better. This doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you or your life. It means, instead, that there is more out there for you. When I was struggling mightily with setting boundaries and wanting to do better for myself in that area, situations kept presenting themselves that required me to figure out what I wanted and summon the courage to ask for them. It was through the practice that I improved, that I found my voice. And it was through finding my voice that I started to feel confident in my choices about my boundaries or my wishes because I’d had to take a few minutes to elucidate them clearly,

The things that keep coming up in your life as areas of struggle, areas where you don’t feel quite right or comfortable, they will keep presenting themselves until you’ve had the opportunity to learn from them. If you struggle to deal with your emotions, you will be put in situations where you have to do just that. If you struggle to ask for what you want, you will keep being given chances to speak up. And if you struggle with patience, you’d better believe situations that require your patience will continue to be a thing you encounter. Once we name our issues and stand face-to-face with them, we can begin to recognize the opportunities we are given to remedy those issues.

At least, this has been my experience, and it seems like Pema Chodron agrees. So, I’ve started to name the areas that I don’t like about myself or my life, and when I do this I become more aware when a crack has opened to give me the chance to work on rising above or putting behind me the negative belief or behavior. I have issues with asking for help because I grew up believing I could only count on myself. I have issues with trusting others because I felt betrayed by those who were supposed to be looking out for me. I have issues with perfectionism because I was made to believe that I was only worth something if I was without fault or flaw. I’ve named these things here now, so I expect the universe will begin to provide me with opportunities to work on these soon.

The good news is, while I may still have areas in which further excavation and practice should occur to help me live my best life, at least my struggle with boundaries has improved. Thanks for offering the chance for growth, Universe. I will keep my eyes and ears open for the next opportunities you have for me.

Diffusing The Power Of Shenpa

Indeed

Yesterday I wrote about learning to deflect when something or someone triggers me to act in ways that run counter to what is healthy for me. And then, in a wonderful act of serendipity as I was doing homework for the Midlife Mindfulness class I attend, I discovered that our topic completely ties in with the work I did yesterday in therapy and then in my blog post from last night. Talk about the Universe wanting me to succeed! Everything is lining right up.

This meeting’s focus was on the concept of shenpa, which Pema Chodron, world-renowned Buddhist nun, describes as “the hook.” The hook is what I would call a trigger; it’s the sound, the person, the scent, the comment, the situation, the whatever, that sets you off into a negative pattern of self-censure, jealousy, blame, anger, or frustration, which leads you to actions or words that may seem to comfort you in the moment but that ultimately lead you away from peace rather than towards it. I feel this is my life in a nutshell. I grew up in a highly reactive household, so I learned to be reactive to everything. Because of this, I have long admired people who seem to roll with things, who accept the reality of the situation without an emotional meltdown. I have not known many people like this, though, so I am certain that reacting to shenpa is common for most of us.

The experience of shenpa immediately removes us from the present moment and sends us into a spiral of destructive thoughts and behaviors. The way I most often experience shenpa in my life is through my verbal outbursts or my desire to escape a situation that troubles me. Both are an overreaction, usually as a result of a comment or action taken by another person. Instead of quietly sitting for a moment with the thing that has hooked me and deciding how or even if it requires reaction from me, I am off and running and the hook sets. So, this is my next big challenge: I need to recognize the hook before taking the bait. Pema Chodron says the best way to stop this cycle is through meditation because it is only by observing our thoughts that we are able to change them and our actions around them. Through meditation, we slowly gain control of the monkey mind that will make off with us if we don’t see its little game.

I am setting my alarm for 6:20 tomorrow morning so I can get in ten minutes of meditation before I begin my day. Ten minutes doesn’t sound like much until you have to make sitting still with yourself and chasing away distractions a priority. It’s more difficult than you might imagine. I was thinking I can still use the Wonder Woman golden wrist cuffs, which I wrote about yesterday, to deflect what triggers me. I can still cross my arms in defiance of the shenpa that appear. And then I can use my meditation skills to stay present, experience my discomfort, and then either let it go or react calmly from a place of peace in the present moment. I am already better at putting distance between myself and many of the people and stimuli that trigger me. I am also better at seeing where things are going, even if I can’t always find the brakes. I’m heading in the right direction.

I’m grateful for the small things in life that line up for me when I am on the right path. I suspect, though, that it is less about messages lining up than about my openness to seeing them as they fall in my lap.