Mindfulness reflects much more than an attitude; it is a lifestyle of choice and so is aggressive behavior. I never considered myself as an aggressive person and even less so ever since I embraced the principles of mindfulness. However, these past days started shaking my beliefs and I finally came to think that my new mindful self is just putting me to a rough test.
Mindfulness is the acceptance of a current situation while being present in the moment without any cravings, wants or complaints. Easier said than done from time to time. I am a strong believer in mindfulness and am absolutely convinced of its benefits and contributions to happiness. In theory this is easy to achieve and obey, especially when the only person you have to deal with is yourself. Once other people come into the picture, dynamics start shifting immediately and you find yourself in a different position. This is mainly true with people who have known you for a long time and are therefore quite opinionated about you and your life; well let’s say their perception of you and your life.
From their point of view this is understandable of course. After all we have been accepting the “roles” we played for ourselves and others for a very long time and acted accordingly. Each of our “roles” came with certain behavioral patterns, which we internalized and mastered to perfection.
Most of these “selves in disguise” were formed in our childhood and have been extended and strengthened while growing up with a set of self-made and inherited dogmas. We started planning and organizing our lives according to these values and beliefs only to find out at some point (for me this took well over 30 years) that neither the values nor the beliefs reflect our own wants and needs. Some of them were handed over from generation to generation or from our parents but some are also a simple creation of our mind. At some point we took random pieces of information and turned them into a set of beliefs that seemed to make sense according to our understanding at the time and…Congratulations! As easy as 123 and without being aware of it we gave birth to powerful dogmas with the ability to influence our entire life!
Currently I am still in the process of becoming aware of my “selves in disguise” and bringing the attached dogmas from my unconscious to my conscious mind. Not an easy task in itself and even less so when other people are involved, especially those who are used to your “old” behavioral patterns. Many people don’t feel comfortable about change. They like to keep the status quo for themselves but sometimes it is even more irritating to see close friends or family change their well-known behavior, attitude or even entire way of life. I’ve been observing a good amount of people getting very uncomfortable when I tell them that I am currently unemployed by choice and don’t really have a plan yet. One of the most common reactions is: “What? You? But you were always really good at your job had at least 3 backup plans. Can’t you just find another job?” And when I tell them that I probably could but really just don’t want to at this point the conversation is usually even more uncomfortable and tends to end fairly quickly.
Especially last week I had a lot of these conversations. Although I know I am doing exactly the right thing for now I felt a lot of frustration and even aggression come up with each of these encounters. I started to ask myself why this was bothering me so much. Instant first reaction: Doubts. A few at first followed by a whole flood! Maybe I wasn’t doing the right thing after all and maybe I should just get back on board, get a new job and keep doing what I used to do: disguising myself in a play called my life.
At this point I was very frustrated, full of doubts about my “foolish decisions”, feeling guilty about not being mad busy with work and ready to throw in the towel. Unknown feelings of aggression had been building up inside me and were probably already dripping out of every single one of my pores. But just when I was about to give in I took a moment of mindful breathing and suddenly I realized that this was just an evil trick my ego was playing on me, trying to convince me that I needed to get rid of these uncomfortable feelings of doubt, aggression and even fear. Going back to my old ways would just be the easiest and also the socially acceptable thing to do. Instantly I remembered the core principle of mindfulness: Accept and embrace unpleasant situations and feelings and don’t try to get rid of them. I took a deep breath – and suddenly I was fully in the present moment again, my perspective changed and all previous doubts, fears and aggressions vanished instantly. My temporary weakness ended up giving me the strength to keep the faith in my intuition and inner voice. All it took was the length of a breath to come back to myself and to realize that for now there really is “Nothing to do. Nowhere to go.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)