Have you ever felt that too many attempts at self-improvement have your knickers tied up in a knot? The end goals might sound great, but the constant perceived need to be something better can feel stressful in and of itself. While it can be useful to reflect upon our habits and aim to make wiser choices, it helps no-one when we beat up ourselves. In short, we’re often our own worst enemies.
Skipping the self-help doesn’t mean that we can’t appreciate how much we change every single day. Think back to your life last month or last year…did you do exactly the same things? Eat exactly the same foods? Think exactly the same thoughts?
Chances are, the answer is no. Our lives are constantly in flux, and staying present in each moment is the opening that we can use to be deliberate about initiating change without a descent into self-hatred when we feel that we’ve screwed up for what seems like the gazillionth time. Binged-watched Netflix yesterday instead of exercising? Polished off the entire box of Timbits? See it for what it is— an event that has passed, and come to know what is happening now. What choice shall I make in this moment?
If self-criticism arises, know this also without striving to fade, fix or change it. Observe it as it arises, up close and personal, until you know it so well that it starts to feel like an old friend. This can be strong stuff, and you might feel like you’re holding on to the seat of your pants while it’s happening— this means that you’re on to something! But riding these sometimes rocky emotional waves with awareness also means that you aren’t adding fuel to the fire. Knowing what is happening is different from diving face-first into a full-blown fantasy: no matter how compelling, delicious or wretched. And besides, as you know, you’re changing all the time. Whatever is happening is just another dimension of this unfolding.
Meditation practice helps you to learn how to harness the power of this awareness in your daily life. As we come to know our less helpful thought patterns and choices, we can insert the pause that allows for a new choice, in this brand new moment.
So next time you start to feel the squeeze, take a tiny moment to allow yourself a pause. It might just be the most refreshing thing that you will ever do 🙂