December 28, 2013

How I Woke Up to My Life. ~ Anne Peterson

It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of goals, achievements and the endless “what’s next” train of anticipating, planning and preparing for our future.

Reminders to live in the moment are helpful, and maintaining allegiance to mindfulness can alleviate some of the stresses of constant futuristic thinking.

What happens when that planning treadmill starts pulling us in a direction that isn’t meant for us? And how do we know when that’s the case?

We are often at odds with what we desire and have envisioned for ourselves and the more uncertain path fueled by our curiosity and need for novelty and adventure.

It’s time to wake up and see the reality that right now is gorgeous and possibly complex and difficult and that the future will be just as full. It’s time to alight on our way with more air in our step, because progress will happen whether we painstakingly plan for it, gun for it, or whether we enjoy each moment that gets us there.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past year pulling apart my motivations, desires, wishes and goals during a planned sabbatical from my career. It’s revealed a more inquisitive, questioning side of myself that I never allowed much room for in the past.

My weekly routine used to take up so much mental and physical space that I had little to no resources to devote to the experience of living my life—I just lived it. Not that I never examined where I was or where I was going, but my day-to-day was marked by a sense of urgency at getting there (an ill-defined place at that).

Though I considered myself pretty happy, mine was largely an existence inspired by external sources. I measured success by the encouragement received from others: in annual reviews at work, the random compliment or kind words from a friend or colleague. I was disconnected from my own esteem, and that disconnection began to splinter as I began performing for the audience I imagined was levying favor upon me.

As time moved forward, I felt more like an inhabitant of my life, less like the one in charge, and always looking ahead to the next step. My life took on a shape that looked nice from the outside, but the appearance and the experience of living it were separated. In that place I couldn’t enjoy the present moment or muster curiosity and delight over what lay ahead.

I have written before about the burial of my old life and how I embarked on a new path. As I recognized before moving off the beaten path, I needed to align my outside world with the inside. This meant that I would invite the questions in and then light them on fire. It meant sitting with myself in meditation, whether formally sitting cross-legged or simply making time to be present to myself.

That sense of curiosity that had been knocking lightly, then louder (!) on the door of my consciousness was allowed to flourish and take over.

Until I really paid attention to it, I felt almost frightened of what it would show me. I was afraid it would tell me all those things about myself that I fear: a revelation of the shadow side as my ‘true’ self. What I found was just the opposite. That what I had then was pretty great, what I have now is equally wonderful, and what will be in the future will also be rich and rewarding. It just took slowing down and letting my experience of living my life catch up to the ambitions I projected onto my future.

We hear a lot about manifesting and creating the life of our dreams these days. I actually think it’s a matter of waking up to how great things are right now. It’s a function of the human imagination that when we think about making a great life that we will picture what it looks like in our heads…perhaps an innate trait, and perhaps a function of our thinking-brain-centric modern world, but the trouble with seeing those images is that it’s all external.

The real magic happens when we feel vibrancy, fulfillment, a sense of belonging, love and more.

Those pieces are available to us at any moment. Sure, there might also be loss, wistfulness, frustration, anger and other uncomfortable sensations, but we can choose to remember the blessings and wake up to the beauty of the current moment.

As I plan for the next stage of my life, I don’t worry about marrying the internal and external pieces anymore, as they are integrated now. I am letting the future unfold without the same sense of urgency of making it happen all on my own…there is a sense of acceptance that it will be different than what I have pictured, but no less beautiful.


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Assistant Editor: Cami Krueger / Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: elephant archives

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