We have a way of seeing ourselves as fixed beings at times. Meaning, we have ideas about who we are capable of being, who we should be, what options are out there or not out there for us and that we have to stay within certain parameters.
While to some extent this is true since we exist within certain frameworks – jobs, families, obligations to others, we often hold ourselves back from what we most want because of our beliefs in our particular natures, personalities and overall possibilities. To an extent, these ideas about ourselves can give us a sense of stability and certainty but sometimes they can be at our own expense, prohibiting us from opening doors that might have more expansive and limitless futures waiting for us on the other side.
As the new year dawns, our hopefulness peaks and some of us use it as a time to make resolutions. So, what I’m suggesting is using that window of optimistic possibility to really permit yourself to extend, dream and widen your reach from within and maybe go a little deeper in envisioning what you’d like, feeling your way into what it might feel like to be some of the things you long to be. (Of course try to keep it in line with your higher purposes.. so maybe not “I wish to live in the bahamas with 1000 virgins..etc..)
The fixed tape that plays in our heads -usually subtly in the background of our being- goes something like this: “I am Stacey.. this is who I am.. I am a this person.. and a that person… people see me as x….my job is x and this is what I do…” Sometimes a person comes along and says to you “ Hey Stacey..why don’t you try doing x?” and you say “ X?! are you kidding!? I’m not that kind of person.!!. I’m a THIS kind of person…!” (damn it!) or “Oh I don’t do that “X” kinda thing.. I know what I can and can’t do” – maybe closing the door just a little too soon before you really know.
Our fears show up in some of these ways: “I’m just not an emotionally expressive person..” “I’m risk averse”, “They would never take someone like me for that job..”, “She’d never go out with me. I need to stay in my own league”, “The economy is terrible. I won’t find anything..” etc..) When we believe these voices are the ONLY ones, we let fear deteremine what’s possible for us, not just in the new year but also in the next moment.. .. in our careers, our relationships and mostly in our deepest dreams.
We often create and impose the parameters.
If I have an idea about myself such as “I’m a “this “ person (eg a “nice” person)… I’m not a “that” (hurtful) person”, this image ( and these narrowly defined lines) prohibits me from being allowed to hurt someone when it might be unavoidable (like rejecting them if I’m no longer interested in dating them). Or from being angry at someone because after all… “nice people don’t do X!”- you tell yourself. We tend to grasp very strongly onto these self images and identify a great deal with them because they do gives us a sense of self and they provide some function for us. What is that function? Find out!
Consider this: what if you opened up to a wider and more accepting and spacious perspective of yourself (and others!)- and allowed in ALL of who you are and can be? Maybe letting yourself see what feelings you don’t let yourself have because of the categories you have about what’s acceptable? What if you are not a fixed but a flexible being who adapts as the situation calls for and moves as you were meant to – with the flow of life…? This is not always easy and takes some time and reflection about the parts we don’t allow in and why we might not, but it’s absolutely possible.
In Buddhism there is a concept called “beginners mind” which is about allowing yourself to experience each moment as if it were entirely new. The Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki wrote about this idea: “ In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few”.
You might try on this new perspective sometime. Imagine you are bringing someone new into your life and showing them around for the very first time- could be a friend or a child. If you can imagine seeing things from that new perspective- you may discover how much more there is to see than what you usually see or expect to see.
When the Christmas tree arrived in the middle of the lobby of my building a few weeks ago, my doorman (who is lately becoming an inspiration for some of these posts!) was forced to change where he normally sits which was beside a small table. Suddenly, he was across from this small table and one night he said to me “look at that! What an interesting table… who would think those thin legs could support that heavy top?” And then I said “but you’ve been sitting next to that table for 20 years?” And we started laughing when we realized that he hadn’t noticed it in quite this way until now.
Beyond becoming open to what is new in a given moment- what if you were able to create yourself anew in each moment? The only thing that really limits us is our mind. Our preconceptions, judgments, expectations of ourselves and our stories are our primary obstacles.
I remember being at a dance class many years ago and being really inspired by the freeness of movement there. Some of the steps were really new to me and my mind started chattering saying “I can’t do that…that’s not me… How would I….?” and then I began to see this thought for what it was.. just a thought… that I didn’t have to get hooked into- and in the next moment- there I was dancing freely and wondering what on earth that tantrum was about!
These possibilities exist all the time if we stop and notice them.. challenge our minds or really gently allow the thoughts to float on by without buying all of them all of the time. This is also good news about how we handle our feelings. It means that even if you’re in a bad mood – your mood can shift (you can learn how to shift it) ON A DIME.. rather than saying “I’m such a negative person…yadda yadda…..”
In the new year- beyond our list of resolutions- we can go deeper and consider what new angles we might look at our lives from this year? What parts of ourselves or buried dreams that we normally suppress might we let peak their head out a bit? What if we make commitments to see things from the perspectives of others- rather than grasping onto the same ones that are so familiar to us?
There’s a very beautiful line in a jewish prayer – “And in His goodness renews daily, perpetually, the work of creation…” The idea that creation takes place EVERY day.. and that you are recreated every day (you don’t have to buy the God stuff to perceive possibility). The idea that no sunset is like the one before it because each moment has something new to offer.
It doesn’t require effort. It involves effortlessness to pause and see what’s there and not just what we impose or don’t have time to see because we are caught in our mind’s endless chatter. And you have the opportunity for these openings all the time- but you can create more space in your life for them to become bigger! How to have them? Just pause and notice where you are.. notice if you’re lost in thought or a judgment.. and see if you can let that idea go for a moment to see “what else is here?”
In the book “Embracing the Beloved”, the authors discuss how married couples or family members sit across from one another every day and notice the same things over and over. And this way of looking can become boring after awhile because we see it AS IF the scene is the same each time. But what if you come to that moment with a willingness to allow yourself to see something new? To see something different each day in the other? A way of listening more deeply or looking more closely? Things (like other people, your heart and your vision) open up for you.
I don’t mean this in an overly simplified magical “law of attraction” (if you’ve read about that) kind of way. I DO believe that we can attract a lot of what we want but with some qualifications. I mean it more in terms of recognizing that we do a lot of limiting- and so maybe.. if we’re the oppresssors- we can also be the liberators. This can be on the level of intimacy in your relationships or your career prospects.
For example if you have a 9 to 5 job you feel stuck in and feel a persistent calling from your intuition to do something more creative that inspires you – to consider giving it more thought/ feeling. Explore how when you try to do this you might shut down the possibilities and notice what your mind says when you begin.(“Stacey ,you’re ridiculous. This is magical. I have a mortgage!!”). I’m saying small steps.(Do NOT quit your job after reading this blog!!).
A lot of things I never thought were possible have happened in my life. They began with my allowing the possibility that I/ you might be led if we’re willing to plant the seed or take the first step of dreaming (“dreaming? isn’t that a fluffy non- clinical word?!”) and envisioning. Sadly, this wasn’t taught in my psychotherapy training where dreams were mostly about what they represented and not seen for themselves! It emerged out my spiritual practice and I think it’s essential for creating the life you want.
Raise the bar a bit.. Dream outside the box and see what comes. Who says you can’t do what you love? See if you can allow yourself JUST to dream about what your heart wants and notice if perhaps there are ways the universe might be very subtly inviting you or giving you gentle support in pursuing this.
Give yourself the permission to listen a little more intently to your intuition rather than your left brain all the time!.
Here is something to ponder in the new year on noticing how our fear is usually lurking underneath the obstacles we face (and often create unknowingly).. and how we might learn to gently hold this fear in our hands allowing ourselves to accept it and then maybe try on another lens. It’s from a wonderful book with a name and cover that are so simple you would probably (sadly!) overlook it and miss it’s inspirational messages. It’s called “Personal Power Through Awareness” by Sanaya Roman.
“Ask yourself if there are any reasons you do not feel free to make a decision to do what you want to do. Perhaps there is a fear that there will not be enough money, a fear that you cannot make it on your own, that you will not succeed or a fear that others do not love you and will not want you if you do not live up to their expectations or if you stand up for yourself. As you look at this decision, ask yourself, what would you do if you knew you were totally safe and protected and guided and loved by the higher forces of the universe? If you knew your soul was assisting you in every way possible and if you knew you could fully trust your wiser self, would you make a different decision?”
You are less limited than you might imagine.
In the coming year- may you allow yourself to touch down into that experience of your infinite possibilities.
Happy New Year!