August 4th, 2016 / Jake White
In Integrative Energy Medicine, we often talk about shifts that can occur in our consciousness that change the way that we think and feel about ourselves. When we see the different aspects of ourselves as love, we begin to grow and expand our self-awareness. We often get caught in a spiritual way of thinking and lose the more practical side of spirituality. "It’s all love" can become a reason to not address some of our approaches to life that no longer serve us. Awareness is our way of beginning to witness and listen to what is going on inside of us. It is a way of accepting what we are currently experiencing and seeing it unconditionally. Unconditional love is an active and practical process of listening and witnessing what runs through our body and mind.
When do we begin to step away from unconditional love? Is it when we begin to think negative thoughts about ourselves? We move away from unconditional love when we stop listening and we begin to believe that the content of our mind is true. I often think of awareness as a form of care and compassion. When we are aware of our thoughts, we are reaching out and listening to ourselves in an unconditional way. Unconditional love is a space of listening and inclusion. It is a part of ourselves that extends out to whatever inner content we observe so we can begin to value it as a part of ourselves. Often the first stage of awareness is to bear witness to the content of our mind and listen. The next stage is noticing that thoughts do not operate as separate from ourselves. Thoughts are actually an extension of ourselves out onto the content of our life. An example of this can be seen as a judgment of another person’s actions. Whether we like it or not, there is a part of us that reacts to another person. That part of us that reacts to another person is representing an aspect of ourselves that is unresolved and not at peace with whatever that person is doing. Part of us becomes unsettled based on that person's actions and reacts in order to find the source of discomfort and in order to find an approach that will minimize and settle our own reactivity. This reactivity can be a need for that person to stop what they are doing, a need for us to escape the situation, or for us to justify what the person is doing as ok which in return ignores our initial feeling about the situation. What is important to understand about this sequence of reaction into thought and into the external causes of our discomfort is that our heightened reactivity is not completely caused by another person; rather, it is caused by our way of relating to the situation based on how we have developed and dealt with situations in our past. The reaction is a part of ourselves that has already been established. It is content that already exists and is being triggered or brought to the surface by our current circumstances.
Understanding our reactions as a part of ourselves that have already been established is an amazing tool for getting to know ourselves and the formation of our energetic response to life. There is nothing that we experience that is separate from our past, and when we witness a reactive response to life we are rediscovering an old experience that needs our awareness or unconditional love. This is where awareness serves to heal our body and mind. Awareness is listening within the present moment. It is also our way of refocusing our attention back to ourselves. When I am reactive and circulating in my worries, concerns, and their causes, all I have to do is become more aware.
It is not the content of my mind that takes me away from unconditional love; it is my lack of listening.
Reactivity is based on unresolved parts of myself from the past igniting in the present, asking me to look at them in order to return back to a place of acknowledgement, love, and self-acceptance. We are far larger then the negativity that cycles through the mind. This negativity is alleviated when we decide to listen and feel what is present as an energetic reaction to life. This puts things into perspective when we can see that the people that seem to cause us the most turmoil and anguish as, instead, the people that ignite the most essential parts of ourselves to listen to.
A Buddhist monk, Thich Naht Hanh, said, “If your compassion does not include yourself then it is incomplete.” An example of this for me personally has been a recurring thought that I was lazy. Growing up, I struggled to connect and stay engaged on my family farm. I would often wake up late for work and would resist what I was supposed to do. When I was in the fields working, I would be focused on everything but farming. Based on this relationship with farming, I began to believe that I was lazy. My reaction to this thought was to attempt to force myself to continue farming and force myself to work harder and wake up earlier. Sometimes I was successful in my effort to stay engaged, and at other times the same patterns of being disengaged would continue. The only thing that was consistent was the negative belief that I was lazy. Whether I worked hard or arrived late and distracted, both states of mind were perpetuating an underlying feeling that I was not good enough.
In this situation, it was developing self-awareness that helped me see the reality I was creating. Trying to force myself to work harder and prove myself was causing tension in my mind and body, and the perpetuation of being in tension made it grow and solidify until it felt a constant weight or burden. Once I became more aware, it helped me let go of the idea that I needed to be a farmer and helped me realize that I was relating to farming from a place of tension because farming was not what excited me. I later found meditation and energetic healing, which became a source of excitement and inspiration. I understand now that when I am struggling, it is often because I am not listening to myself and pushing myself in directions that I am not meant to go.
Awareness is always the first step toward making adjustments in our life and looking at ourselves from a place of unconditional love. From a place of awareness we are able to take the steps necessary to be in a place that is the most supportive and loving for ourselves. Self-awareness is our way of breaking old patterns and creating more authentic ways of expressing ourselves. We have to be able to love our negativity in order to create change that leads us to a healthier relationship with ourselves. When we finally get to the fullness that life is taking us toward, then we are aware and listening to our joy, freedom, and passion.