In this exercise, you identify your key attributes, explore how these attributes come into play when you're at your best, and consider how you can bring them to play now and in the future. Perhaps this seems simple. After all, I know who I am. I know my strengths...or do I? As it turned out, this was a very impactful exercise for me. Laying out my core attributes on paper and getting clear about them felt very concrete, like I know what I'm dealing with. Here are some ways that this was helpful for me.
When we take time to reflect, we make meaning out of the experiences of our life. We learn from ourselves, and we take a moment to mark, to acknowledge what has happened and who we are becoming. We marinate, we celebrate. Reflection is a type of alchemy that turns everyday life into learning, growth, and transformation. We say, "Ah-ha! Now I see!"
A while ago, I wrote this poem about grief. I just came across it and found that it still feels true, so I wanted to share. As Mary Oliver wrote, "Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile, the world goes on..." We're in this together.
I have a sense of the types of practices that help me. And yet there are times when I find it really hard to keep consistency. The very times when I MOST need these practices in my life, the times when I am MOST in need of the peace, grounding, and strength that they give me, are the times when it feels like like I have no time or energy to do them. I had the thought that I would like to see what it feels like to live in my optimum state. What would it feel like to be taking care of my mind, body, and spirit in ways that are healthy and beneficial...and sustainable?
I am drawn to (driven to?) productivity, as many of us are. It comes through our culture, this emphasis on doing, doing, doing. It feels good then, to be productive and to accomplish a lot in a day. It feels gratifying, as if all of this doing means something. If I dig way down deep, achieving seems to mean that I am enough-- good enough, hardworking enough. At the same time, this can feel like a kind of tyranny-- that I MUST accomplish a lot, and if not, it could mean that I failed in some way. But what if I’m tired? What if I’m not feeling well?
Now I use this as a practice not just of the body, but of the mind and heart. Can I listen to my own body? Can I honor my own strengths, needs, and limitations? With back, shoulder, and knee tenderness, I am always modifying the poses, shortening them, sometimes doing a totally different pose that feels right at the moment.
I feel sometimes like I have been given a ten-speed again. Opportunities come my way that are justout my my comfort zone, that I need to really stretch to meet. My emotions go all over the place-- gratitude, fear, excitement, anxiety, overwhelm, and then the guilt of feeling negative feelings at all, when clearly opportunities are GOOD!
At first I felt a little guilty about this-- as if I was building protection against someone. But actually, it is simply for me, in support of me and my own energy. Rather than feeling this shield as a barrier between me and the person I'm interacting with, I walk into the situation feeling whole and safe already. This allows me to interact fully and warmly, without holding back for fear of being overtaken or attacked.
That swim seems to me like a miniature model of life. Anxiety crescendos and decrescendos; joy alights and then flies away. Grief goes on and on; overtaking me for a time and then lying low. Those anchovies are still out there somewhere in the ocean; sometimes they're all I can see, and sometimes the water is clear. Things come and then they go.
To ask what I should do next encourages me to use my brain and my judgement to think about what activities are valuable or desirable. But to ask what is required encourages me to be mindful of myself, inside and out. It asks me to scan the state of my mind and body and figure out my actions based on what I need at the moment.