Note to Self: Ask Questions

Note to self: as you go through your day, remember to ask questions.  At your best, you lean into life with a spirit of openness and inquiry.  You allow your discoveries to renew and revitalize you.  You ask questions and seek answers.  But sometimes you become afraid.  Questioning seems too risky.  Expectations, taboos, and possibilities of unfavourable reactions may deter you from asking questions that reach beneath the surface of things.  Somedays you simply cannot muster the confidence or curiosity to move beyond yourself.  Practice remaining curious by asking questions.  This will help keep you on your best path.

You don’t have to have all the answers either.  It’s all right to admit when you haven’t figured something out.  Any static set of ideas will never completely capture the extraordinary dynamics of life.  Don’t give into the temptation of accepting false certainties or safe conformities.  There is some measure of comfort and security to be found here.  But the price you pay for it is your freedom and intellectual integrity.  Instead of being satisfied with quick and easy answers, learn to live the most profound questions of life.  Hold them in your heart and mind.  Allow the questions to guide you, to challenge you, and to inspire you in your searchings.  See these questions as close companions on your journey.

Life’s greatest and most enriching mysteries cannot be solved in a lifetime.  Rather, such mysteries invite your consent and participation.

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Note to Self: Face Your Fears

Note to self: as you go through your day, remember to face your fears.  You know the signs when they come.  Your heart beats faster.  Your throat tightens.  Your awareness narrows.  You stumble over words.  Your body alerts you to your fears.  These experiences are very natural, very human.  They tell you that you are in the presence—physically or psychologically—of something unknown, unpredictable, something potentially threatening or chaotic.  I understand why you avoid facing your fears.  Confronting what you’re afraid of can be intensely uncomfortable and disruptive.  Encountering the unknown can challenge your sense of self and safety.  It can throw your whole world into disorder.  For you cannot fully know what you will find or how you will handle it until you do.  These risks may incline you to stay with what’s safe and comfortable and familiar.  But if make of habit of backing down from that which you’re afraid of, you will become more and more controlled by your fears.

How you relate to your fears will profoundly shape your life and your character.  Will you shrink away from forces of darkness and chaos?  Or will you rise to contend with whatever crosses your path?  Your greatest challenges lie within you.  Your innerworld is as rich and mysterious as your outerworld.  Microcosm mirrors macrocosm.  Deep in your soul is everything you most fear: your history, your future, your hurts, your shadows, your contradictions, your frailties, your mortality.  Every reality you would prefer to ignore is there, waiting secretly, though not inactively.  Insofar as you banish your fears from your awareness, they will unconsciously control you.  Facing and contending with them is one of your greatest challenges.  So make a habit of facing your fears as you notice them.  Be wise and discerning.  Start small and work you way up towards slaying the dragons.  Intentionally practicing this, day by day, will be one of the most transformative disciplines in your life.  Learning to befriend your fear will allow you to bravely lean into that which is unknown.

Note to Self: Tell the Truth

Note to self: as you go through your day, remember to tell the truth.  You will always be able to come up with excuses or rationalizations for not telling the truth.  Sometimes you tell yourself someone else can’t handle knowing what you really think.  Sometimes you anticipate being honest would just be too difficult or disruptive.  Sometimes you assume you must be kind instead of being honest.  Whatever the reason, you decide it would be best to not be totally truthful.  But a truth you are afraid to admit, even to yourself, is sometimes you find excuses and rationalizations for twisting the truth because you are afraid of fully acknowledging your deepest thoughts, feelings, desires, and pains, let alone expressing them.  Or you are scared of how others may react, of the possible consequences and costs, if you genuinely strive to live truthfully.  So you choose to subtly posture and pretend, to go along just to get along instead.

I understand why you do this.  I know you have many reasons.  One reason is being truthful sometimes involves facing your vulnerabilities, hurts, and weaknesses.  This can be painful.  You would prefer to ignore some parts of yourself, instead of facing and embracing them.  But as long as you refuse to accept all of yourself, you will prevent your own healing and growth.  Your shadow will always follow you, whether you choose to pay attention to it or not.  Remember, becoming whole does not require becoming perfect.  Becoming whole requires embracing every part of yourself, including your wounds and imperfections.  If you want to be whole, you will need to make a habit of being truthful with yourself, even when it hurts.

Striving to speak and live truthfully does not means you will always get it right.  You will make mistakes and get things wrong.  So listen to others and encourage them to be truthful with you.  Give yourself permission to change your mind.  Untangling whatever illusions you have created within yourself and your relationships will be challenging.  It will be a lifelong process.  If you’ve made a habit of bending or withholding the truth, from yourself or others, and for whatever reasons or intentions, it will take time and practice to develop new habits.  Telling the truth is a skill, a virtue.  It requires practice.

As you strive to be truthful, strive to be kind, sensitive, and gentle as well, first with yourself and then with others.  Even though it can be difficult, it is possible to do all these things simultaneously—you don’t have to choose.  Keep your priorities balanced and seek the truth to the best of your ability.  For the truth will set you free.

Note to Self: Pay Attention

Note to self: as you go through your day, remember to pay attention.  Sometimes you get preoccupied with problems or fears or envious desires that distract and pull you apart.  Sometimes you live in your imagination because the present moment seems too dull or unimportant.  Pay attention to these tendencies without becoming lost in them.  Look and listen.  But also attend to what else life presents.  Try noticing before evaluating. Your prejudices distort how things appear to you.  You will be able to judge more wisely if you try simply noticing first.

Life is rich with beauty and wonder, if you pause to notice.  You tend to assume familiarity, with yourself, with others, with your surroundings.  This attitude can subtly breed boredom and even contempt.  You begin wanting to be somewhere other than wherever you are, here and now.  Instead, open your eyes and heart to mystery.  Attend to your life with presence and awareness.  For “if the doors of your perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is—Infinite.”