Focus and Attention... what you see you can change...
One of the many wonderful things about moving to a place that you were completely unfamiliar with is how it points out to you, behaviors and patterns of thought that may not be serving you well. In 2007, Nancy and I discovered that our thoughts, values, beliefs, and ideas really did not resonate with the majority of the population where we were living. This is neither good, nor bad, it simply was something we had noticed.
Knowing this, we had a choice at that time to continue to stay where we were even though we really did not fit in and hope that others would move to meet us, or we could choose to leave and see if we fit in better somewhere else. Of course, you all know the choice that we made, we opted for an adventure and so we left the comfort of all that we knew for the adventure of all that we didn't.
As is often the case during the adventure you learn many things that you did not expect to learn. You learn that you have strength that you did not know about, and at times weaknesses that were unknown as well. The beauty of moving somewhere completely different is that it throws everything you believe about yourself against a much different backdrop. It creates a contrast, kind of like the really dark shirt showing off the dandruff :-) And so, it was on this Gentle Island that we begin to see aspects of ourselves that had previously remained in the background. However, the background had changed and suddenly what have been perfectly camouflaged was readily visible to anyone who chose to look.
We opted to look, we turned our attention to those things that now stood out against the background and asked ourselves whether or not these behaviors, beliefs, and ideas still played an important role in our life and our well-being. Do these things really mean that much to us? Do these beliefs bring us joy, a sense of excitement, a reason for being? Or, are these beliefs, values, and ideas simply leftovers from stories we had learned long ago that really do not represent who we are, what we believe, and how we think. It is interesting, there are so many stories that we carry around that we are completely unaware of, and once we become aware of them we stand there, gob smacked. And so it was with us. We saw the stories and we begin to hear them in voices that were not our own. We begin to hear the story of "you aren’t worthy" as well as "you're unlovable", “your opinion does not count”, “you are to be seen not heard”, and one ring particularly true for me "you are unwanted". None of the stories felt like they were ours and none of them were, in fact, true. However, it wasn't until we shifted our point of focus, shifted our attention, that we became aware that the stories even existed at all. They were there all along, driving our decisions, our behaviors, our interactions and responses. These beliefs that were unknown to us we're driving the daily activities of our lives.
These stories are the core beliefs that we carried around, the ‘core memories’ if you will. The things by which we unconsciously defined ourselves and our personas. These core memories/beliefs are what make us tick. They are the things that drive you to continue to do things that are not in your best interest. They are the reason that you drive yourself so hard, that you stay in a relationship that is not so good, that you work the job that makes you miserable, that you live a life that is so full of suffering, that you stay so busy and distracted that you do not have time to look around. None of us chooses to be in pain, to suffer, we all move to the place of the least amount of suffering possible, yet we all clearly engage in behaviors, thoughts, beliefs, and ideas that bring more suffering into our lives. Why? It is the core beliefs, those stories that you carry in your head and your heart that drive these seemingly crazy behaviors. These core beliefs are often left over strategies and stories that we have carried around from a very young age. Things that at one time served us very well, but have since lost their luster, and like a dull knife, are more dangerous than helpful.
So now we look at things a bit differently, we notice more readily when we feel ill at ease. It is that feeling/emotion that is the tip off that we are encountering something that we carry around which really isn't true. In shifting our focus internally and noticing anything, and I do mean anything, that takes us out of the positive sense of wonder, joy, or excitement, we find those beliefs that are there, buried deep, that are simply not true.
The beauty about moving to a new place is that it provides a stark contrast that allows you to look deeply into who you are. This is what it took for us to figure some things out, but contrast comes in many shades and many flavors. That contrast may simply be the way that your life is turning out. It may be the difference between what you would prefer and what you are getting. It may be the anger that you feel in general that doesn't seem to have any focus or source, the sadness that seems to come from nowhere and for no purpose, the temper that a short without cause, detachment from the world around you, in short the contrast is the difference between the feeling you currently have and the one of joy. You can use this contrast that is available to you to identify the thoughts, beliefs, values, and ideas that are not yours. And in identifying those things that you carry around in your head that are not yours, you can choose whether or not to continue to carry them or to let them go. The choice is yours, it always has been and will always be.
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