“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” –Gandhi
If your choices are not in line with your values, then you don’t really value yourself.
What provocative statements these are for me! A good word to sum it all up is “congruency”. We won’t feel happiness or fulfillment in our lives if we are constantly in an internal conflict over what we do and say versus what we feel and think.
Are there elements in your day-to-day life that are at odds with the way you feel or believe? Maybe you aren’t even fully aware or conscious of these conflicting feelings, but they will show up invariably as stress or irritation, reluctance to follow through, or simply depression. To get through the daily grind, many people have had to dissociate themselves with their core values and emotions, sometimes for years.
I recall having to do this to cope with school and life in general sometime before junior high. I felt so bored and frustrated, and would rather have done just about anything instead of resigning myself to the pace and stagnancy of public school’s educational and social “diet”, yet I was not presented with any viable alternatives. By the time I was seventeen, I was barely even aware I had emotions or opinions of my own. I did what was expected of me, and followed the advice of my friends or my parents. Even though those were often of opposite flavors, both were equally fruitless, diminishing paths for me to have followed.
That year I had a vision of myself standing in a raging river, with my feet in two separate canoes, each drifting away from each other. I was approaching the falls, and I knew that something had to change profoundly. I took the path of least resistance and allowed fear and shame to rule me. I entered a holding pattern–a placid, even joyful facade, with a deep numbness buried leagues beneath the surface. I would not awaken from this paralysis for many years.
I still have a long way to go before I am anywhere near to achieving congruency in my life, although I am light-years ahead of where I was, say, five years ago 🙂 My art is one of the many things that I simply didn’t allow myself the thought of pursuing. I think I first spoke of wanting to be an artist when I was about four years old, and since then, everyone who was anyone in my life made sure to tell me about the “starving artists”, how people can’t really do that as a career, how it’s not really useful or necessary, not stable or respectable, and so on. I have come to realize, however, that even if I don’t make another dollar with my artistic pursuits, even if no one “gets it” but me–I still need to allow myself a creative outlet for my own emotional health and happiness. Otherwise, I’m missing on of life’s key points–at least in my own worldview: Enjoyment.
Art aside, however, there are still things that I follow the path of least resistance on, and I am experiencing a feeling of tension about these things. They are out of sync with my supposed vision and goals for the future, and they are holding me back spiritually–which is to say emotionally, socially, financially, and so on. (It all comes back to Spirit, I believe.) So why do I allow this incongruence? Why does anyone allow this to persist in their lives, even when they are aware of the self-sabotage they are creating? Maybe we are attached to the current situation more deeply than we are consciously aware of. Maybe the fear of the unknown is more upsetting than the fear of failing to achieve our goals.
Let’s take one familiar example: Caffeine. I have been fighting this battle for years, more often on the losing side. However, I am even more aware now of how foolish it was of me to not conquer this issue years ago, because it would have been easier on me, and everyone around me as well. Perhaps 10 years ago, caffeine was something of a mood lifter to me. It was a nice extra, a boost to my day. Today, it’s more of a need. I feel like I can’t function properly–like I am below my baseline if I don’t have a cup of coffee in the morning. Does that mean I should surrender and admit defeat? Hell no! However, this “below normal” feeling is what leads me to keep having that cup of coffee. I don’t want to be an unproductive, whiny jerk to my family, and so I drink up. In truth, my current circumstances reinforce the bad habit instead of my desire to overcome it, with fear closing the circle.
I feel similarly about my diet. I have been a vegetarian for over 15 years, but lately I have not made nutritional excellence my top priority. I think about it, read about it, analyze my own rhetoric, but in the end, I don’t eat that healthfully–at least, not for a vegetarian! Worse, since I don’t want to give my kids the punitive “do as I say, not as I do” treatment, they eat pretty much the same way that I do. My leading-by-example is pretty soft on this one! Now, we are far from the “SAD diet,” (Standard American Diet, for those not up on veg-speak 😉 but there’s still loads of room for improvement.
With regard to our diet, I think I am attached to the current situation in terms of feeling unable to afford a healthy diet (financial fear), and unable to commit to the extra time and planning required to eat healthfully. That is a lame statement to make, but it’s all I’ve got! I am right-brained to a fault, and I suck at time management. I have fallen into a pattern of eating the foods of least resistance, and that is NOT in line with my long-term goal of optimum health, fitness and longevity.
In short, I’m no longer in danger of going over the falls, so to speak–but my life is largely following a path of least resistance in other areas. This inner turmoil is going to increase until it’s louder than my own numbness and I will be forced to take action–either bravely toward my goals or away from my fears. I am at least firmly grounded in one boat, but I need to pull out some bigger oars–or maybe a rudder!