Saturday, November 11, 2006

Discovering the Forgotten Self

In an industrial, capitalist society, we become conditioned as our functions. Rather than being treated as our whole selves, we are raised to perform functions in work and family life. The most prevalent question posed to children that embodies this concept is, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" The answer, of course, is a function - "a fireman, a teacher, a writer". Especially with girls, the question regarding family relates to what size of family or what kind of family one would like. Limiting one's being to functions strips us of the ability to actualize our whole selves. Imagine a girl responding, "I'd like to live with my sister until I get old" or "I want to be a person who is aware and kind." The response would be more leading questions to steer her back onto the designated path: "What do you really want your family to look like?", "What else do you want to do?", "Why are you saying that?"

Part of the journey to wholeness and integration is the discovery of what lies underneath self-concepts that develop based on function and identity. Discovering this "other" you is often avoided through a host of preoccupations - obsessive work, games, socializing, or other behaviors - because there is a certain grief in coming to terms with having ignored, denied, or suppressed the entirety of oneself. There can be a growing recognition that 'who you think that you are' is a socially constructed function that is actually very limiting. Going beyond functional identity can be a difficult and painful journey - the realization of the original loss and also the discovery the forgotten self. However, if you can take this road, a new life will begin that is experienced externally as the world being open and inviting, as if seen for the first time.

Ask yourself in the morning, what you were like as a child? Do you remember your whole self before the questions began?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Other Shortcuts

I often work with people who may name certain undesirable behavior - calling it procrastination, perfectionism, overthinking, or another label.

Labeling is what I consider a shortcut, a way of thinking that stops any further investigation because it is known. In many circumstances, it can help to conjure up a host of understandings that have already been established. Such as, "That's just my inner critic speaking again. I can ignore that." Or "That's my supervisor's micromanaging (or disasterizing). I don't need to panic." When these labels are shortcuts to acceptance, constructive action, and an appropriate response, they are handy.

The temptation, however, is to label behaviors that are not well understood at all, thereby preventing a true recognition of the situation and the ability to handle it well. What is named "procrastination" may be a signpost to an unknown skill that needs to be learned first. What is named "perfectionism" could be covering a genuine desire to enact an important value or belief but feeling powerless to do so. What is named "overthinking" may be a fear of not having the ability to use one's own personal power for good rather than to oppress others.

Next time you find yourself labeling, ask "If I really look at this situation, could the undesirable behavior tell me something important?"

Thursday, May 25, 2006

You are not your experiences

It is a recent development in history -- the concept of the person as composed merely of flesh, blood, experiences, emotions, and thoughts. Previously, people conceived of themselves as spiritual beings in a larger cosmology. While this view is still quite common, there are a growing number of individuals who are raised to believe that they are what they experience. That our being and sense of identity is primarily what we think, feel, experience, and know.

The fallacy in this approach is that when a history of negative experiences occur in one's life, that person can easily misconstrue that therefore one's identity and complete being are negative, fearful, uncertain, and inadequate. The rationale goes - if there are no consistent experiences of the positive, and if experiences are the whole of one's being, then the negative is all there is.

Consider for a moment that we are not what we experience. That there is some greater unknown in our existence that cannot be described. That what you know and believe could be a story that you tell yourself to explain how things have come this far.

What other explanations could there be to tell you who you are?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Alignment is a concept that can be used with both organizations and people - an indication of how wide the "integrity gap" may be between operating principles and resulting actions.
The Western view of the world (spirituality) is often divided between good and evil. This black-and-white outlook can create a tension within a person or an organization because of the imperfection of being.

As an example, fundamentally good people and organizations make compromises to their values -
a preacher may be teaching hatred, an environmental organization may have employees who drive cars, an adult child may refuse to care for his or her elderly parents. However, there may be something to be gained if there is the honesty to admit and acknowledge these compromises. Admitting imperfection and the existence of the grey zone can help to reduce the struggle of internal contradictions, while at the same time striving for alignment.
How often do your actions align with your values?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Spiritual Tasks

The result of meditation and humility can be an internal expanse of quietude - my friend used to say it was watching life like a beautiful piece of cinematography. In this expanse, a person can hear the spiritual assignments that one is being called to do. These tasks are not always magnificent - often, they may be tasks that simply serve as the next step. They may require courage to take on. They may be the kind of task that one procrastinates in doing. They are, ultimately, the tasks that would be full of regret if left undone in this lifetime.

Examples are:
- Finding forgiveness and making peace with a family member.
- Reconnecting with a long-lost friend.
- Telling the truth and making amends for a lie that affected someone(s) deeply.
- Doing something again that you love but once stopped doing in your life.
- Healing from a childhood trauma or secret.
- Acknowledging people who don't realize how special they are to you.
- Pursuing a passionate interest.
- Taking on a personal or professional challenge that you may be able to handle but always avoided.
- Making sense of your life and finding meaning in all of its miraculous and despairing moments.

Take a moment to consider how your awareness can be tuned in and your inner sea calmed. What spiritual tasks are you being called to do?