Healing The Feminine and Restoring Yin Yang Balance With Self Awareness.

All around us, we are seeing the unveiling of secrets and the exposure of what has been suppressed or denied for years. How women have been treated was rather obvious, but is perhaps being questioned far more than it has been for decades.

Whether it be the fallout of the American political drama, the rape victims all over the world, the housewife subjugated to domestic violence/more subtle but persistent domination/humiliation, the career woman facing the glass ceiling/sexual harassment, or the sadly common threat/disrespect that every female deals with on a daily basis – it is all boiling out into the open.

While the restoration of balance between the Yang(masculine) and Yin(feminine) energies is clearly needed, how we go about trying to arrive at that also needs some thought.  In the pendulum swinging away from one extreme, we often swing far too much in the opposite direction.

Hurt is best healed when it is acknowledged in our self, and witnessed in the other.  Too often, it lies buried under rage, resignation, indifference or blame. Consequently, attention and aggression is directed outwards while the pain itself may remain unaddressed.

Before we try to direct a change in the outer world, it serves us to first arrive at peace within ourselves.  For then, we are able to engage mindfully and appropriately with the manifest.

Women need the compassionate space to reveal and heal their ancient, individual and collective wounds. They have to learn to love, forgive and accept themselves for all they have endured, and knowingly or unknowingly invited or inflicted – on each other as well as on men.
Similarly, men too, have to be allowed a similar space to introspect, forgive themselves and allow their own gentler aspects of vulnerability, empathy, and compassion to emerge.

Those who agree that owning and addressing our inner turbulence is necessary may be struggling with the how of it.  In support of them, I offer below a selection of articles that can serve in the process. Most of these are directly addressed to women, but for those who are interested, searching the blog will provide you with very many other healing scripts/poems and practices.

Additionally, meditating upon the energetically charged Yin Balancing Art and/or Mandala image below has been found impactful by many women.
The first (a digital painting) was channeled during a powerful lunar eclipse.  It is intended to help with the restoration of balance between male and female energies, within us as also in the world at large.  Use this image to own, strengthen, balance and express the feminine energies.
The second was an Ojo I spun chanting Ho’oponopono after a particularly brutal attack on a woman had rocked our nation. It’s soothing energies bring back a gentle strength.

Lastly, the poem below is intended to help one remember that true freedom – wherein we need not judge/suppress feminine qualities, but own them and be ourselves fearlessly. (Try tapping it in with EFT and see how you feel.)

Relevant Articles(in no particular order):

Once there has been some honest inner clearing, you may feel ready to go beyond the confines of labels, archetypes, and genders.  (I feel that is necessary before we can transcend our identification with a personality(male or female)). At which point, you could use this clearing: What Meaning Having You Given This One Thing?

 

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The genie is out of the bottle.
Do not attempt to fit Her back in.
No more bargaining over favors:

Her freedom no longer dependent on your whims
Or her ability to meet your needs,
Blend, constrict and fit in.

You may be surprised to find
That her generosity now flows unabated
Instead of drying up.

Now that She does not have to pay
Her being as a price
She only becomes what She always was.

Like the elephant tied down by a simple peg
Amnesia and conditioning
Had had Her caged.

But just as once water remembers itself
It remains not confined, nor stagnant, nor afraid:
All limiting forms eventually fade.

Continually transforming,
Finding ways
To revisit Home, the higher skies

Yet She returns from there, again and again,
As does nurturing rain when the earth turns dry…
With the love that had always been hidden within – more clarified.

divine-feminine-mandala

If you find any of this useful, please share the post widely with others. Let us support each other in whatever ways we can.

Notes For The Highly Sensitive Empath

The test of a first-rate intelligence,” said writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, “is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

Those on the path of self-inquiry often grapple with reconciling concepts of nonduality(‘not-two’/advaita) with the experience of individuality. Study of various religious and philosophical texts, personal inquiry and the rare experience point to the former. But mostly, for the majority, there can be no denying our sense of individuality: Identified with our mind-body, we see ourselves as unique and different – separate from Source/God (if we believe in one), as well as from others.

Balanced, harmonious living is experienced when we remain aware of both: that while in essence there is the same, One Source – in manifestation, there are distinct forms.

For highly sensitive empaths, achieving this balance poses peculiar challenges. 
However, before expanding on those, I would like to clarify the intended audience for this post:

I hold labels lightly, and not as rigid definitions.  To clarify, this post is not for those who tend to empathize with others in the more common ways of say, feeling sad on hearing a friend’s troubles, or resonating with the outrage of a protesting crowd. Reflecting others’ feelings is natural to most.

This article is only for those who almost seem to be ‘wired’ differently.
Research has already shown that brains of HSPs are markedly different from others. There is a different sensitivity associated with activation of brain regions involved in awareness, integration of sensory information, empathy, and action planning.
The mind-body type I refer to has an unusually high sensitivity to surroundings and picks up far more information and emotion than most intuitives or Highly Sensitive Persons (HSP).  They experience an additional influx that is not limited to those physically present before them. Often, they sense, ‘see’, or ‘hear’ what is happening with other people, animals, trees, or even geographical spaces(see earth sensitives) across distances.  Unlike other empathetic responses, these cannot be explained by the theory of mirror neurons, nor by a placebo-like consequence of belief systems.

(A request: If this reminds you of someone you know, please share this article with them.)

In all probability, the intended audience of this piece would have undergone conflicting spells of loving this gift and hating its consequences; Shifted between feeling blessed, special and powerful, to feeling marked, flawed and helpless. While it is advantageous in accessing deep spiritual experiences, it also leads to some complex, tiring and confused personal equations.

Instead of seeing this extraordinary degree of empathy either as a sought-after occult power, or a desperately fought with curse, the sensible place one can arrive at is to treat it matter-of-factly:  

We are simply built differently.
Like various physical, emotional and intelligence attributes, this is just another configuration in manifestation. It makes us neither superior nor inferior.

What it does seem to do, however, is by default, have us lean towards ‘oneness’ without respecting ‘individuation’ appropriately enough.

To say this creates boundary issues would be an understatement.
Most memes (being targetted at those who’s default perception tends to come from the strongly individual perspective) encourage a movement towards dissolving barriers, expansion, and inclusivism. Cognizant of the difference in our make-up, we need to remember that such sage advice addressed to the majority may possibly be detrimental if not counter-productive for us. 

We too, need to find our middle path. But ours will be found by honoring the uniqueness and boundaries that come with individuality. Hence, what we need to learn is appropriate distancing, containing/contracting our awareness to our own personal space and focusing on our ‘self’.

Tools For Empaths offered specific tips on dealing with information and energy overload. Here, I share notes around the challenges that result from having the unique make-up of a highly sensitive empath(details below):

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  1. Stop Blaming Yourself:

    The oversensitivity, awareness, and information that you have available to you can often make things uncomfortable, inconvenient and sometimes downright annoying for yourself as well as others.  It can make you feel like an alien, a misfit and sometimes the target of unwanted attention, bullying or blame. It is not your fault. This is just the way you were built.

  2. Stop Blaming Others:

    While you may feel you are at the ‘receiving end’ of things, remember that the one you may be holding responsible is unaware of their impact on you. They are not deliberately sending stuff your way.  It’s not their fault either.

    If you feel they should be more aware, or doing more clearing work – so that you also feel better – understand that their tolerance for pain and pace of inner work will be different from yours.

  3. Let Go Of Fear and Defiance:

    When you walk around feeling guilty for the very way that you are – one tends to become either wary and submissive, or a polarized defiant. Use tools like EFT to help clear such emotions. Fighting innate qualities of this mind-body form are not going to help. Extend the same allowance and acceptance to yourself that you would extend to anyone else having a different ability/challenge from yours and find a neutral footing.

  4. Be Discerning In What You Reveal:

    Because you see something so clearly, you may forget that others may be totally oblivious to it. So calling out the underlying dynamics, energies or patterns that seem real, tangible and obvious to you can often lead to trouble and argument. The other may not even want to know more than what is apparent to them at the moment. Your inputs may be invited and appreciated at times, and intrusive and disturbing at others. Be alert to that variability.

  5. Remember, You Aren’t Always Right :

    An extraordinary track record of finding yourself to be proven right can make us neglect the occasions we got it wrong.  Like everyone else, our beliefs and state of being can cloud our seeing and judgment.

  6. You Cannot See It All:

    We can all look at the same diamond and see different facets.
    Others have a different sensing, experience and knowledge informing them and we need to respect that.  Besides, there are plenty of mysteries out there which not even the most knowledgeable or intuitive can explain.
    We need to remember that we can’t know what we don’t know.

  7. Don’t Dominate:

    You tend to feel the undercurrents more deeply than others.  This creates its own intensity and urgency, especially when you see scope for preventing something adverse.  All this can lead to unintended aggression and argument.
    Be careful that you are not imposing upon others.

  8. Be Discrete:

    Sharing our sensing/intuition/insights about a person/situation with a third party can be as careless as unwarranted gossip.

    Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid.” ~ Bernard Meltzer.

  9. Share Merits Of Your Inner Work And Healing Knowledge:

    Because of the acuteness with which they feel, empaths gravitate towards inner work.  Emotional clearing and clarity in thinking are their necessity more than an option.
    So apply that learning to any  energetic stuff coming your way as well. This is the time to acknowledge the Oneness and to consider whatever ‘it’ is to be an aspect of your own self and transform it as one would for self.  
    This way, you won’t blame them(it’s not their deliberate choice that you are picking up their unresolved stuff!).  Neither will you expect their co-operation, nor thanks, while yet contributing in the way you know to have worked  best for yourself.

  10. Respect Boundaries:

    Byron Katie’s wisdom is critically important to us: “I can find only three kinds of business in the universe: mine, yours and God’s. Much of our stress comes from mentally living out of our business.”

    Despite our porous boundaries, we need to stay in our own business – as much as one possibly can.

    To that end, one also has to be mindful of our own limits. We have to learn to be able to say no, be unavailable, and be willing to disappoint others – recognizing that we need our own boundaries as well. (Empaths and narcissists often find each other because of the empath’s poor ability to maintain boundaries and the inadvertent importance given to the narcissist’s business.)

  11. Respect Your Body:

    Because inputs seem to be received from beyond the five senses, the body itself may not be given its due importance.  Also, an over-emphasis on concepts of non-duality  rather than its actual experience can lead to disregarding the health of the body.
    Give the body its due care and attention.

  12. Include Yourself In The Equation:

    Self-neglect is more likely in empaths than self-centeredness.
    The healthy relationships are those which take all concerned into consideration. Remember to start with yourself.  Otherwise, you will end up feeling exhausted and resentful.

  13. Do Not Expect Others To Treat You The Way You Treat Them:

    Half the time, we don’t even realize we have any such expectations. They are usually discovered in hindsight through feelings of disappointment.  Till then, we just assume that everyone functions in the same way.

    But the inputs that they receive, their perceptions and priorities are significantly different from yours. When they don’t respond with the same involvement as you, it is not personal. They are made differently.  

  14. Spend Time Alone:

    They say we are an average of the five people we spend the most time with.  To add to this, when you are easily influenced by other energies it is easy to become disoriented, uncertain and confused as one can forget one’s own restful state.
    Know your personal space well.

  15. Engage Mindfully:

    Proximity and intimacy, whether emotional or physical, can create entanglements that are exponentially difficult to extract yourself from.
    This does not mean that you become a recluse: Simply interact with awareness and discernment.

  16. Do Not Cling To A ‘self’ Definition:

    In trying to discern our comfort zone and place others outside our field, we can end up habitually proving a fixed idea of our self.  No-one is one thing all the time.
    In the attempt to find a sensible way to navigate the world of duality, do not get so entangled with individual forms that you forget who you are in essence.

The above learnings came the slow, hard way, through years of struggle, introspection, and observation. Now, aware of all this, I feel that this way of being leads to a well-lived, intensely-felt life that can help keep one on the conscious path.

If any of this helps your journey, I would be glad.
Do let me know if it does!

 

screenshot-notegraphy.com 2016-08-28 14-35-30

Related Articles:

Tools For Empaths

Are You An Earth Sensitive And Why You Need To Know

Material Wealth, Abundance, And Spirituality

 

What Meaning Have You Given To This One Thing?

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I will probably continue to share more clearings, but at the moment I feel that this one concise clearing addresses the crux of any emotional difficulty we are facing.

All our troubles start and end with our identification with a limited self. Anything and everything that happens, we habitually and compulsively weave into a narrative.  We keep trying to give the happening a meaning and understand our ‘self’ in it’s context.  We then cling to our interpretation, and keep trying to prove or disprove this conclusion(more correctly, hypothesis) to ourselves and others – which leads to its growing importance in our minds.

Pretty soon, whether it be a business opportunity or failure, new job or leaving a familiar city, marriage or divorce or being single, financial abundance or scarcity, weight gain or loss, anxiety or physical disease, birth or death of a loved one – it all boils down to what we decide it means to us and about us.

Further, instead of accepting the happenings of life, the ebbs and flows, the impermanence and changeability and the laws of nature themselves, we take it all most personally – thereby creating suffering and discontent for our ‘self’.

What can help is a return to a childlike innocence, lightness and openness:  Where we engage playfully and then move on without giving any falls, or scrapes lasting importance. The trophies and peak experiences are also held lightly, and take up our attention for only about as long as do our tears.
Thus, things become more about living deeply in the moment rather than about our compelling story and its complex lead character(our ‘self’).

If you would like to lead a more easeful, allowing life that feels one with the flow – try this for any situation that tends to drain your energy or captivate your attention. This clearing is equally relevant to those things that we obsessively seek for pleasure as those that we resist from fear of pain.

For best results, take one particular subject at a time. Now, placing your attention on this issue, use the clearing:

“All the meaning and undue significance that I have given this,
All the ways that I hold on to this,
All that I have decided that this says about me,
All the ways in which I have let this define, limit and contract me,
All the ways in which this has made me forget who I truly am,
I release, dissolve and let go now.

(Inhale a slow deep breath and exhale as you read the above, tap in with EFT, or use with any clearing process of your choice. You will probably immediately feel a little lighter.  If required, repeat a few times until you feel complete.)

Please don’t let the fact that this clearing is simple, focused, and free  – and not packaged as a long-drawn, complex process, nor offered as an expensive audio, workshop or webinar – make you underestimate its power and value. Do give it your fair consideration 🙂

Would be happy to hear how you feel after trying this out.
And if you feel it useful, please do share it with others.

 

Poems: An Elusive Love

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They say, love yourself.
And one wonders why
There is such little genuine affection
For the one we live as.

How is it possible?
When we have never met
Never studied our own reflection
Letting our eyes rest?

Have you ever asked yourself
What truly interests you?
What brings you alive,
Makes you feel, deep, light and bright?

For more often than not,
The heart and mind wander away.
We forget ourselves,
Whilst another’s beauty captivates.

Allow your gaze to turn inwards.
Simply pay attention there first.
For this is not like any adoration
Which we direct outwards…

Where first, love is remembered
And then the details are seen.
(Were things always in that order
We would forgive, everyone, and everything.)

No. This is a different journey.
To start with curiosity is enough.
To touch, to feel, to observe
To empathize with this near-stranger is difficult.

We are not used to it.
We don’t know how.
No importance was given here.
What is eternally present, has been filtered out.

So start afresh.
Begin anew.
Look into your own eyes,
Explore, only as a lover would.

Touch gently the stubborn, curling strand of hair
A sensitive spot behind the knee…
Visit slowly, tenderly, those secret, vulnerable places
Where only soulful lovemaking would reach.

Share in that inner child’s eager wonder
Allow the grief of the tragedy queen
Salute the bravery of the veteran soldier
Thank the grace the healer has seen.

Listen to the victim’s frightened cries
Witness the bully’s anger and blame
Discern how the hurt and defeated
Still hoards pain and shame.

With as much obsession, and compassion
That past objects of your affection inspired
Look within and celebrate
All the character you have acquired.

For before you can love yourself
You, your self must meet:
All the lights and shadows within
With kindness, first, must be seen.

Take your time, but do it well.
Remember, this ain’t no temporary fling
For this is the One, my dear.
This One is for keeps.

 

Sculpture: Pablo Gargallo

Accepting Rejection

Rejection is something that we all experience from time to time. Some secretly believe they face it more than others, but it is actually quite universal.

The rejection I speak of is not limited to the heartbreaks of romantic liaisons.  It is the message interpreted from a parent’s dissatisfaction with your grades(despite your best efforts), their unavailability, or their judgement of your friends.  It is not getting an invitation to a classmate’s party or bearing the brunt of too much teasing/bullying. It is the aloofness of someone close or their constant reprimands.

Exclusion from a sports team, the job we didn’t get, the assignment we were refused, the book one couldn’t get published or that didn’t sell, or the entrepreneurial venture one was unable to fund – these can all add to our personal testaments to our secret sense of unworthiness.

Our reaction to all this is based on our interpretation of such events, and not necessarily the facts: The common conclusion being that who we are, or what we offer is unwanted, unloved or unacceptable.

Being rejected wounds. It hurts our self-esteem, creates self-doubts, and more often than not, leads to defensive measures such as attack or withdrawal. So we may end up criticizing, dismissing or arguing with what has come our way. Or we may end up contracting, judging ourselves (and the other), and sometimes even giving up.  The last one can cost us heavily.

A decision to no longer offer of ourselves, or honestly request what we would like – out of the fear of rejection – can result in an inauthentic, disgruntled life, and a waste of potential. 

On the other hand, when we becoming more willing to experience the discomfort of rejection, even welcome it, it makes us freer to be ourselves, to experiment, to learn, to adventure and to grow.  It dissolves our indulgence in untested, unproductive fantasies – for now, we are willing to take our boats out to sea and test them in the waters, learn from trial and error.

How many dreams are you actually forsaking by your unwillingness to accept a ‘no’?
How much would change if you could receive rejection, criticism and failure,
just the same as acceptance, praise and success?
Without making any of these significant or definitive of who you be? 

As is with most issues, the fundamental reason rejection seems so crippling is our tendency to take it personally. To let the rejection define us instead of seeing it as a temporary experience.  It triggers our basic fears of ‘not being good enough’, ‘not belonging’,  and the original wound of separation(from Source). All sense of objectivity, rationality and moderation can be lost. We end up feeling abandoned, isolated, and lonely.

What if you could view rejection as a pointer to a different route?
One more apt for you at this time?

fork in the road_Fotor

So how can we reframe rejection ?  Instead of trapping ourselves into a resigned or self-pitying state, reminding ourselves of the following can be helpful:

  1. This is neither permanent nor a definition of who you are.   Who you are is simply experiencing this.  You can choose not to see it as a setback but as an opportunity for change. And not receiving the love, validation or approval that you were seeking here does not imply that you are not worthy of it, nor that you will forever be denied the same.  If anything, it is a check to remind us to be kinder, more forgiving and accepting of ourselves.
  2. What we are seeking may not be a match to what is in our highest interest at this point:  Whether it be a relationship or circumstance, what we desire comes from our limited experience and understanding. In hindsight, we often find that what we mourned as denied to us turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  Everything comes with its pros and cons and while we are busy fixating on what we missed out on, we may fail to see the price we were saved.
  3. One may not be ready: Receiving feedback, criticism or refusal objectively can provide us gems of insights.  We may need to study/practise more, or need more exposure, or learn to be more accommodating, or set better boundaries,  or be less clingy… being willing to accept such information and working on doing the needful can lead to our own evolution and growth.  Self-acceptance and self-forgiveness does not imply stagnation.  It means a more realistic and kinder approach. Then, what you were refused today may be yours tomorrow – when you are prepared enough.
  4. The other may not be ready:  Sensing the potential in a partnership, situation or project, we may have offered or requested something that our targetted audience does not yet see, or sees, but is not yet ready for.
  5. It is not yet time:  Even if you are meant to be with that person, get that promotion, make a difference with your NGO, or have that box-office movie success – things may simply be cooking yet.  No seed transforms into a flowering tree before its time. Perhaps all that is required is patience.

The lessons we learn from being on the receiving end can also serve as pointers to kinder and truer ways of turning others down.   The cliched “It’s not you, it’s me.” rarely rings true and can often seem condescending.  At a deeper level, it is still making things personal – we are targeting the blame and invoking guilt in ourselves, if not the other. Bearing in mind points 1-5 above, we can do our best to communicate our rejection in a way that simply acknowledges the current mismatch of things.  How it lands is in the recipient’s hands.  But, we can at least ensure that we have not turned this into an intentional or accidental personal attack to the best of our abilities.

As always, I write from personal experience.  Having had my fair share of rejections on both the personal and work front, I have found the above approach to have been useful and liberating. I find that the greater my comfort with facing rejection, the more authentic and explorative I have become. There is a lightness and ease that is not there when one is resisting rejection.

Drawing on this experience, I have helped many sensitive and artistic people address this subject.  Here is a link to some clearings that I had recorded for one such client.  Perhaps some of you, especially those in the creative fields, may find them helpful:  Listen here.

If you find any of this useful, please share it on.  The more of us singing our own song uninhibitedly, the more joyful the world becomes.

 

Image: Google Plus

Are You Resisting The Situation Or A Personal Transformation?

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Our suffering is directly proportional to our resistance to the way things currently stand. The troubling conclusion that no breakthrough is possible is often erroneous.  The truth is that the available options may not be palatable to us.  For the way forward may require us to change ourselves, our point of view and our habitual choices. And sometimes we are simply unwilling to do so.

Denial, avoidance, and or procrastination not only display our ongoing argument with whatever is present, but also clearly indicate our refusal to see, be and act differently. 

The common, costly self-deception is the labeling of our resignation as ‘acceptance’, and our abdication of responsibility as ‘surrender’. (Please see What Does Surrender Mean To You” for a more detailed discussion on this.)

Instead of this, acknowledging our annoyance, and taking a different approach may transform us as well as the outcome. After all, it is a persistent irritation that results in the pearl.

As Pema Chodron summarizes,

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”

So, how best can we use a ‘stuck situation’ as an opportunity to learn and transform?

If you find yourself struggling with what seems to be a ‘stuck’ situation, find a quiet time and place and then try contemplating on each of the questions below. For at least this short while, set aside all your conclusions about the situation and consider:

  • What if this is life inviting you to grow and evolve in a way and at a pace that you have never experienced before? What would it take for me to be willing to accept such an invitation?
  • What role are you refusing to play that if you accepted would change everything?
  • How are you refusing to be that if you were willing to be would change everything?
  • What quality are you refusing to embody that if you choose to embody would change everything?
  • What are you resisting feeling or experiencing that if you allowed yourself to feel or experience would change everything?
  • Which of your thoughts are you refusing to want to be true?
    • If these are observable facts, what belief of yours do they challenge?
    • What would it take for you to let go of this belief and forgive yourself for holding on to it until now?
    • If it is an opinion or judgment, is it absolutely true?
    • What is it that compels you to insist, defend and perpetuate it?
    • What would it take for you to release all that and start from a neutral space now?

You may find specific answers to the above, or intuitively feel a softening and opening of your energy field as you park these questions in your awareness.  If this be the case, record them in your own voice and loop them for a couple of days. They can be used with the Access Consciousness Clearing Statement or with Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT).   Even used as rhetorical questions, they can lead to a fresh seeing of the situation and open up new possibilities for you.

A deep, attentive listening to your innermost answers to these can lead to a fresh seeing of the situation and open up new possibilities for you.

Would be happy to hear of your experience with this exercise.  Good wishes!
(If you find this useful, please share it with anyone you feel may benefit.)

 

 

Related Articles:

What Values Do You Live By?

9 Tips To Reinventing Yourself

 

What Values Do You Live By?

Woman cycling - Tanushree Vaidya Photography

Values are not what we talk about. They are how we live. They determine why we make and live the choices we eventually do.

Quite often, we don’t live what we advocate. We may express certain preferences and ethics in our self-talk and external debates. But when it comes to walking the talk, these may be less present and more absent than we would like.

Any such split within us causes us stress, discontent and keeps us disturbed. Without knowing it, we are living by one set of principles and measuring ourselves by another. Whereas acknowledging any such dichotomy helps address the gap and us move to a more integrous, hence more peaceful, fulfilling and enjoyable way of life.

This gap within us may be something we see clearly, or it may be something we have not realized. When subtle or unconscious, it may display itself in the form of dissatisfaction, angst or apathy. Procrastination or indecisiveness may be keeping us in a long state of ‘stuckness’. Also, look out for an emotionally charged reaction towards others displaying behavior contradictory to your stated values. Any such triggering is a good hint of us being unable to notice, and or forgive that in our self. (Click here for a more detailed write-up on this.)

In order to address this split, we need to clarify our values. The truth is that understanding our personal values is a tricky business. What we want and what we think we want can be two radically different things.

 Everything has its pros and cons. In theoretical discussion, we tend to discount the discomforts accompanying ‘nobler’ choices, as also our non-adherence to the same. In practice, it may be more challenging to live with the price one has to pay or the changes these aspirations demand of us.

Illustratively, one may believe in minimalism but rationalize the need to hold on to dozens of books; one may advocate fitness or environmental issues, but take the car for even short distances; one may value fairness, charity or generosity, but pay cost or less at the ‘pay-what-you-want’ cafe; one may aspire to forgiveness and yet be unable to let go of an old disagreement with family.

Often, what we think we value is more indicative of what we expect from others and the world than of ourselves.

A thorough, methodical examination of how we use our limited resources of time, energy and attention can be quite revealing. Such a deeply honest inquiry can help us discern the values we live (find comfortable or doable) at this point, as against those we aspire towards. There are several online questionnaires that can help you with this task.

Below is a list of some useful questions that I had noted a while back (sorry, I can’t recollect the source). Initial, reflexive answers may come from habit and conditioning. So make sure you spend a little time reflecting and revisiting these before you list at least 3-5 answers to each one:

  • How do you fill your space?
  • How do you spend your time?
  • How do you spend your energy?
  • How do you spend your money?
  • What do you think about most?
  • What do you envision or visualize most?
  • What do you internally dialogue about most?
  • What do you externally dialogue about most?
  • Where are you most organized?
  • Where are you most disciplined?
  • What do you react to most?
  • What do you set goals towards most?

 This should have helped you gain a fairly good idea about what you currently find comfortable or doable and live by.

Now compare this to who you thought you were or would like to be and how you would like to live. Some areas will already converge while the contrasts in other places may surprise you.

A more complete alignment can be attained in one of the following two ways:

I.  By updating our list of values to reflect reality as it stands.

A deeper understanding of who we are, where we are and how things currently stand helps us find truer, more peaceful self-acceptance. Broadly speaking, there are two possible explanations for the places our values turned out to be different from what we thought prior to the exercise:

  • There may be another set of priorities that we understand the merits of but are not yet ready to shift towards. For example, valuing generosity or co-operation, but displaying stinginess and competitive traits. In such case, discovering and releasing the underlying fears, unhealed wounds and insecurities is necessary before there can be any change in priorities.
  • We actually judge what we thought we valued. For example, we think we value ‘gentleness’, but demonstrate ‘aggressiveness’ because the former is judged as being ‘weak’; or we thought we value ‘freedom’ in work and relationships, but find this to be ‘impractical’ or ‘shallow’, and consequently ‘commit’ to unhappy jobs or marriages. 
In such a case, it is useful to check if the judgments are truly our own, or our way of ‘fitting in’. There may have been instances of being say ‘gentle’, or announcing your ‘need for freedom’, that led to disastrous consequences. Or that one has now come to respect the ‘power’ that ‘aggression’ brings, or the ‘comfort’ and ‘reliability’ that ‘commitment’ brings. ‘Rights’ and ‘wrongs’ are a matter of opinion but where we stand today needs to be admitted.

By being honest with ourselves, we cease wasting energy in the denial of our hurts, and rejection of our current experience and opinion. We are then able to re-examine how we would like to live the rest of our life. This further guides us in our inner work of releasing filters, limiting beliefs and emotional baggage.

OR

II. By implementing choices and actions that incorporate our true values.

Even if they be baby steps, one must start actioning the shift.Radical changes in lifestyle, career, home, health, finances, etc. may seem like a daunting task. Such changes can be challenging, time-consuming and disruptive to the comfort of familiarity we have chosen thus far. But a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, as they say. Well begun is half done.

How you choose to be is a choice you make from moment to moment. Whether one is being mindful or running on auto-pilot makes all the difference.

As long as every step takes you closer to your idea of who you believe yourself to be at heart – regardless of what ensues and how long it takes – you begin to experience greater happiness and contentment.

Lastly, a side-benefit of clarifying our values is healthier relationships: Like it or not, we gauge others using yardsticks determined by our values. Being aware of our values gives us a better understanding of our reactions and thus helps make things less personal. For example, someone who values hard work will likely find a Taoist lazy or irresponsible. Or someone valuing extroversion is likely to see an introvert as boring, shy and so forth. Recognizing that we are referring to a completely different framework enables us to be less rigid and demanding of others, thereby bringing greater harmony into our relationships.

I hope this article helps you discover a greater clarity and ease. If you find it useful, please share it with others.

Photo: Tanushree Vaidya Photography