It begins in the dark.
There is a hard exterior around us.
We can feel it. It's constricting.
But at the same time, it's all we know.
It's safe here in this small, dark place.
But still, we know there's something more for us. What's beyond this darkness? What will we find if we leave our small, safe space?
Perhaps the better question is, what will happen if we don't leave?
Nothing doesn't sound so great. We know the nothing. And we know that soon, we're going to be too big, and the nothing will squeeze us until we are extinguished.
And so, we take the first step. We try something. We push on that wall a little bit. This puts a little crack in the shell. We take more steps, and more cracks are made.
This is a bit exhausting. What if this isn't worth it? What if we try to break free, only to find there's nothing out there? What if we break free only to find it's terrible, and scary?
Oh, but what if we break free and find things more majestic than we ever dreamed?
And so we try more, pushing, pushing, struggling, this is so much harder than it seemed. This could go on forever. Maybe we won't make it... maybe we're just not strong enough... or not meant to make it. How will we know when we're close? How will we know when the darkness will give way to something else? Will we ever know?
Maybe that doesn't matter. Staying in the shell will surely be worse, so we might as well keep trying. Keep going. There is nothing left but to have faith we'll make it. No matter what, just keep going.
And then something breaks! A crack goes all the way through, and ah, it's so bright!
We hear something - what's out there? What's waiting for us?
It's calling to us, just a little more, come on, this is it!
A bit more, a bit more, there... there it is! Freedom!
After all the effort it took to break free, to be in the light and see the colors, the faces, the newness. There's so much to see and do from this new vantage point!
The hard, dark interior of the shell no longer looks safe at all. Instead, it looks like what it is - a way to show us who we really are. Each step we took strengthened us. Each time we went on when we thought we couldn't taught us patience, resilience and focus.
We had to be awakened to our strength and courage. We had to face the fear of the unknown.
We had to break free on our own, for if anyone had broken the shell for us, we would have never known all the potential waiting inside of us.
Maybe we were born to do this. Or maybe we learned how along the way. Maybe it's both, or something more we can't understand. All we know for sure is, life is so much sweeter outside of that shell, and what comes next will be full of more challenges, more glory, more things that push our limits.
We will awaken more, coming to realize, this is an ever expanding, ever enriching process that began with one brave step, one miraculous desire to leave the known for the unknown.
There is a button in my brain that I push whenever something feels uncomfortable, uncertain or out of my control.
This button releases chemicals from my brain that trigger heightened feelings in my body. These feelings translate into a quickened pulse, shortened breath and tight stomach. In a word, it's anxiety.
This morning I was thinking about a project I recently submitted for review. I really want this review to go well. I have been working on this project for years, but it was never quite right. Each time I submitted it, I was given a low rating and told to revise and try again.
This repeated response developed a response in me in return. Now, when I think about getting my review back, I reach into my brain, scan those past experiences, and pull together an analysis that says SCARY SCARY SCARY. I remember how it felt to get my past feedback, the disappointment in not only my work, but myself, my life and my seeming inability to get it right.
As I tuned into these feelings of Watch out - you've been here before and it was bad! I pushed the button. My stomach tightened up. I felt myself contract and go into a sort of survival mode, which is my way of preparing for the worst.
And then I remembered - the body follows the mind.
My mind is telling my body to generate these feelings. My body does not create feelings. It doesn't create emotions. Those come from the mind, are processed in the body, and then felt in overwhelming clarity. These body sensations can be so big and powerful, it can feel as if the mind isn't involved at all. But it is. It's pushing the button that starts it all. Sometimes it even pushes it over and over in a panic mode, which deepens the panic in the body, until I convince myself I have no control.
But I do. I always do. And that's the magical key I've been missing all these years. This key unlocks all the strength and grace I knew I was in me, but couldn't get to.
Believing I have no control over anxiety comes from a belief I have no control over my responses to the world. But if I'm not choosing how I respond, then that means I'm on autopilot. I refuse to believe this magnificent mind was designed to go into autopilot and coast, like some zombie, to my last breath.
I know I am an empowered being. I know there is enough power, wisdom and love within me to generate any thought or feeling I want at any time. I just have to accept it.
Accepting I can untangle myself from anxiety does not mean I will now flip a switch and stop doing it. This change, like all change, will be a step by step process. And the first step in this was to acknowledge I'm done pushing this button. I'm ready to change.
I imagined myself getting the email that my report was in. I saw my instant, habitual triggered response - anxiety. I then told myself, you are creating that feeling out of a false sense of fear. You are creating that feeling because you have conditioned yourself to believe it's the only correct response, and in fact, the ONLY response possible. But you know different.
I them imagined myself calming, centering and tuning into my deepest resource of connection, inner faith and self-empowerment. I sat with that, and let that vision plant a seed.
I will nurture that seed over and over until it is my new normal. After I went through this, I realized how often I react to things by pushing this button. I do it all the time. Each time I realize I'm about to do it, I will stop myself, breathe, and tell myself,
This is coming from the mind. You have control over the mind - you do, you're thinking these thoughts, this is you, this is your voice, now listen to it and stop pushing that button. Breathe. Center. All is well.
The thing that I have come to realize is, each time I anticipate myself pushing the button, I contract.
I close myself off from my connection to higher consciousness, inspiration, and all the things that keep me at peace and grounded. In other words, my anticipation of bad things is the thing that creates the bad things.
Stop pushing the button and the results will change for the better.
And when I'm in the moment, way past imaginging myself pushing it, but instead pushing it in a PANIC, then I close myself off even more. I go in the opposite direction of that which I seek. Coming into awareness of this, and wanting that connection to all the magic and love that brings more magic and love, is why I have vowed, with patience and persistence, I will cease to do this.
That button now has a big sign taped next to it: DO NOT PUSH.
And if I do push it, then I will look at the other sign taped next to it:
I love you no matter what.
Many years ago, I visited a Buddhist temple in Amsterdam.
Upon entering, there was a bowl full of tiny, rolled up pieces of paper. Each visitor was encouraged to take one. They were messages for us to reflect and meditate on.
As I opened my mini scroll, I secretly hoped it said something that would make me feel really good about myself. I was feeling so lost then, and so unsure of the path ahead. I almost wanted it to give me permission to believe my life could get better. Little did I know then, that I was the creator of my life, and things would get better, but only from my own conscious choices.
I've carried this tiny meditation in my wallet ever since. It's interesting how it continually takes on new meaning for me as my view of life and the world evolves. It's also sometimes just the reminder I need to close my eyes and ask myself, Who am I?