Recently I’ve been writing more about my history, my life-long romance, we might say, with leaving myself and going somewhere else.
I realize that may sound like crazy California-speak. What do I mean, “I leave myself”? Where do I go? Am I referring to one of those “floating up above my body” experiences?
Not exactly. I mean something more subtle, something that is hard to put in words.
I’ll tell you how I know it. I know it when I go out of my way to say something that will I think will please the person I’m with, instead of saying what’s true for me. I think what Joe just said is very boring, yet I nod empathetically and say, “hmmm, tell me more.”
I know it when I stop feeling able to share what I want, and instead become a kind of sliding, slippery goo that flows with whatever others want. I’ll be asking you whether you want to go for a walk or meet for tea, when I in fact would like to have tea with you, at 10am, in my neighborhood, this Sunday.
We all leave ourselves in different ways, in different situations. Take a moment and consider: when is it difficult for you to stay with yourself?
One clue most of us get that we’re leaving ourselves is the urge to reach outside ourselves for something. Reaching for another person’s attention or agreement. Reaching for new shoes. Reaching for a grande decaf sugar-free vanilla latte. Reaching for the blackberry.
Next time you feel that urge to reach outside of yourself, see what happens if you press the pause button, come back to yourself, and simply get present.
What does it mean to come back to yourself and get present? It is so simple that in our culture we often overlook it. We assume something so basic couldn’t have much power.
Simply notice where you are at, what’s happening in the universe called you. What’s the current weather? What’s happening on the landscape?
Here are three different ways to tune into that:
- Become aware of your body. Spend a few moments breathing, feeling your breath, and scanning your awareness across your body. Simply notice what’s happening there — notice any areas of tension or pain, notice which areas feel loose and spacious, notice whatever sensations are happening. Do this for a few minutes until you refreshed, reconnected to the present moment and to yourself.
- Become aware of your feelings. Pause. Breathe, and check in with what’s happening emotionally. What are you feeling? You may be very surprised about what you find — upset about something that happened this morning, anxiety about something coming up. You don’t have to get caught up in any drama around those feelings, or solve the “problems” they may be about, but for your own wellbeing, you do need to give them a space to be. Bring compassion and non-judgmental awareness as your response.
- Write. Take out a pen and jot down an inventory of what’s present for you. This can be a stream-of-consciousness, disorganized, zig-zagging list. This is not beautiful writing, not even prose. This is just for you. For example, it might sound like this:
Resentful about having to go to three a clock meeting. Excited about trip. Miss Richard. Feeling self-conscious about body but optimistic about personal training. Really excited about positive response to my project pitch. Overwhelmed by feelings about visit back to hometown. Happy to be up and writing this. Grateful to here.
You might write a page or two or just a few lines. Write until you feel like you’ve connected with what’s important and what’s present for you in the moment. Notice how your state of being changes, even during the writing.
You don’t have to wait till you feel disconnected to do these practices. You can make a routine of doing them, of having short “check-ins” with yourself.
Why Does It Matter?
I think that’s a really good question. What happens when we don’t slow down and connect with ourselves? A lot of pain. We miss out on our own inner wisdom. We don’t notice the hurts and frustrations and disappointments that need our attention and healing. We don’t get to feel the hopes and dreams underneath those hurts — and those hopes and dreams are actually the roadmap from which we are meant to design our lives.
We get really, really lonely. We are actually lonely for ourselves. We can’t give to others, because, paradoxically, by going “over there” toward them, we’ve left an emptiness in our own chair — leaving the person with whom we are interacting without a solid, separate, whole person to connect with.
See the costs?
This week, I invite you take these three steps
- Start a practice of noticing. When do you leave yourself? What does it feel like for you? What are the symptoms.
- Experiment with the three tools here to reconnect to yourself in those moments: becoming aware of your body, becoming aware of your breath, and writing an inventory. See what impact that has.
- See where you get resistant to slowing down and reconnecting with yourself, and get curious about the source of that resistance.
Let me know what you learn.