“When I look back on my life, I see pain, mistakes, and heartache. When I look in the mirror, I see strength, lessons learned, and pride in myself.” ~Unknown
Many years ago I wrote in my diary: I am tired of being miserable, struggling and having to support myself. I’m tired of being alone, tired of feeling like I’m wasting my life, tired of feeling like a loser. “
I was that friend Someone who always owed money, who was always in crisis, who would call at 2 a.m. and dramatically say, “I’m not okay.”
There are few self-knowledges worse than recognizing things that wear people out or drive away neediness.
In 2010, I decided to rewire my highly anxious brain for peace of mind. Looking back on how much (everything!) has changed, part of my journey was ‘developing self-awareness’. The more I develop this awareness of how the mind and body work, the more empowered and at peace I feel.
Here are some key lessons I learned on my path to inner peace.
1. Fill your cup with water first.
I grew up in a culture where social contracts were: “I will use social courtesy to protect you from unpleasant feelings, and you should do the same.” not good at this point. )
No one was telling the truth about how they were feeling or what they needed, making true communication and connection impossible. Therefore, as an adult, I became dependent on others for my mental health when, in fact, the only solution was within myself.
One day, I was on the bus to my freelance job in downtown Vancouver when I got a voicemail saying I had been fired and that my last check was in the mail. I was counting on the check. I didn’t have the $20 I needed to take the ferry home. In a panic, I called an ex-colleague I had met at Starbucks who, clearly frustrated, lent me the money to go home.
On my way home, I had an epiphany. You can give yourself the focus and energy that you have so zealously forced on others. I called it my “first” project, in an awkward vocabulary that describes my growth at the time.
I started meditating, breathing in, and trying to “defrag” my Windows PC, bringing back different parts of my soul. To my surprise, not only did I start feeling whole for the first time, but I also became calmer and more confident in my resilience.
If our happiness depends on someone else’s comfort, we can never feel at peace. We have no control over how other people feel, think, or act. There are an infinite number of factors that affect each person’s mood, and each of us is ultimately responsible for our own well-being.
That doesn’t mean we can’t work to change the system of oppression, but if we rely on circumstances being exactly the way we want them to be in order to feel at peace, we may be waiting a long time.
2. Stay on the razor blade in this moment.
I used to call myself “Walter Mitty”. It’s named after James Thurber’s short story (and Ben Stiller’s film) about a man who always fantasizes about living a different life, such as an emergency care surgeon or a fighter pilot.
“I want to pay attention, but my head spins,” I wrote in my journal. I still didn’t understand that mindfulness is not something that just happens. I had to work.
But that’s how the brain works. Think about it. it ruminates. It creates stories. Even now, sometimes, my mind goes out of control, but after more than a decade, I’ve gotten used to the plot and the self-loathing doesn’t overwhelm me.
Presence is accepting the facts of a situation rather than an interpretation of them. I find it especially helpful to remember this when thoughts swirl through my head like a tornado, or when I feel an uneasy feeling like my heart is racing or my chest is tightening.
To bring myself back to the moment, I become aware of external sensations. At this moment there is air in my arms. At this moment, I feel my feet on the ground. At this moment I smell a mixture of food fat and roses.
I don’t label these as “good” or “bad”.that’s all teeth. Focusing on reality rather than thoughts interrupts the patterns of rumination in your mind.
One of my favorite immersive practices comes from Eckhart Tolle. Close your eyes and vigorously rub your hands together for 15 seconds. Now let go of your hands and focus all your energy on the vibration of your hands. When thoughts come to mind, bring your awareness back to the sensations of your hands.
This takes the mental energy from the rumination loop and puts it back into the ever-present body, unlike the mind.
3. Learn to observe your thoughts.
The difference between ruminating self-loathing about the past and the peace of the present when the mind is running wild is ultimately about practicing observing your thoughts. Most of us are thinking all the time, but we are unaware of what we are thinking. Thoughts constantly enter and leave our minds, but we must pay attention to them in order to understand that they are not who we are and to find peace thereby.
Thinking is the same as breathing. We may think to solve a particular problem. Other times, thoughts appear and disappear like the signal of a car radio in the mountains. We are not intentionally creating such thoughts. they just show up.
As I learned to meditate, I became accustomed to seeing thoughts come and go in my mind. I realized that if I didn’t think, “This shouldn’t happen,” or “I don’t like this situation,” and make some effort to maintain it, it wouldn’t last. Whatever the situation is, it doesn’t help either, given what’s happening now.
Then I stepped away from the cushion and observed my thoughts in real time. It took me several months before I started to notice my thoughts. At first, I was walking around with my head tilted like a dog trying to figure out where the sound was coming from. I was determined to force myself into the act of thinking, but after 44 years of unconscious, nonstop thinking, this took a lot of practice.
Sometimes I felt terrible and put on my investigative hat to find out what was causing my suffering. Other times, I would think about it for half an hour and then suddenly get out of that thought and go, “Oh!” thinking about! “
It was such a big revelation to understand that i am not what i think. Thoughts arise within this realm of mind and body which I call ‘I’, but they are not part of this being. Preoccupation with preconceived thoughts is a special kind of hell.When I understand those thoughts who we are notit creates a space in which we can begin to breathe and crawl out of hell.
4. Distinguish between facts and stories.
I have been a creative writer for over 30 years. I’ve always liked writing humor because humor requires judgment about situations. I wrote essays and comedy sketches (and also did short stand-ups). terrible again Hilarious again terrible It was a given situation.
A long time ago, when my beloved therapist was diagnosed with a recurrence of melanoma and closed her clinic, I laughed and cried and said:and my therapist had cancer It would make a great book title. Of course, I missed her so much, but she wasn’t as bad as I felt for losing one of the best therapists I’ve ever met. Of course this happened to me too.
Except it wasn’t. I could have chosen to focus on gratitude for my own health, or gratitude for what this woman has already given me. I could have seen this as impermanence and gracefully let go. But I didn’t have those skills yet.
I stopped writing humor and essays for a few years when I started getting serious about finding inner peace. On some level, I understood that repeating these stories was both witty and designed to make me a victim of justice, keeping my brain wired to make me feel sick.
marshall rosenberg book Nonviolent Communication: A Language for Life We talk about distinguishing between facts and our interpretation of them. Over the months, I noticed my reactions to different situations based on the stories I told myself. Then I pulled back and practiced enumerating the “providing facts.” These often had little to do with the stories I created.
Making decisions, like thinking and breathing, is so automatic that you don’t even know you’re doing it.
I began to expand my vocabulary emotions and needs. Having lived so long from the neck up, I had to learn how to identify my emotions and how to understand which desires were triggering which emotions.
All humans on Earth have the same basic needs, such as to be safe, healthy, autonomous, and loved. When these needs are met, generally speaking, we feel better, or at least calmer. When these needs are not met, we can feel angry, anxious, depressed, and resentful. Learning to identify your emotions and needs in each moment is a huge step towards self-awareness and inner peace.
Ultimately, this comes down to taking full responsibility.
No one will heal for us, so we must take responsibility for our own health. We cannot control people, situations, or events. We can’t even control our thoughts and emotions. But we can examine our thoughts and feelings, act more deliberately, and practice awareness.
Instead of asking the universe for help like a lost child, we can realize that: is part of Universe – we are made of the same compounds. We share DNA with all living things and contribute to our own healing.
This is important so that we do not project our childhood trauma reactions onto others, repeat old patterns, or contribute to repressive systems. Developing self-awareness means taking complete responsibility for your own well-being. Because if our peace of mind depends on what others say or do on certain conditions, we will never find it.
Self-awareness is a necessary skill to find inner peace and live from a wise nature, yet it is not taught in schools or even most homes. It is our responsibility to nurture it within ourselves.