Unfortunately, society has taught us that we can never relax. It’s deeply ingrained in us that we need to compete with each other if we want to get ahead, that we need to stay on guard if we want to grow, to be smart and successful – always monitoring ourselves for shortcomings, and that we need to constantly prove we are worthy so we stand out as intelligent, attractive, capable, and loyal – with our family, friends, partners and at work. There is no pause or introspection involved in these expectations, and because of that we constantly feel like we do not deserve to be at ease with life, or to be happy and loved by others. As a consequence, some of us over the years started developing some strategies to address this behavior – we read self-help books, go to yoga every week, download meditation apps, set ambitious goals of running 200 miles in solitude, or get a life coach. But most of us don’t realize that we do all of this not because we truly believe this will bring us self-awareness, that we can heal that way, or be wiser, more empowered, or have a more tender heart – we do it to hide our flaws and compensate for what we believe is wrong with us.
So I would like to invite you to pause and reflect before engaging in any of the activities mentioned above. Pausing – in a society that seems to have forgotten how to be human-beings and just knows how to be human-doings – reverses our habit of living in worry and at war with our experiences and relationships. Pause and reflection (mindfulness) is the medicine to years of neglecting, judging and treating ourselves harshly. While you can’t always control your circumstances, you can control how you respond to them, and we are finally learning that we are all less able to handle the challenges that come our way, or contribute to alleviate the challenges our world is facing, when we’re already depleted by physical and emotional exhaustion. After all, you can only give as much love to the world as you have for yourself.
Take this invitation seriously to pause and reflect. Take this pause every time you feel you are getting lost in your own stories and unhealthy behaviors/patterns. Take this pause before you decide to engage in any activity you think will “fix” you, because what will really help is to learn how to stay present with yourself and reconnect with your authenticity, recognize and navigate your emotions, and then live from your truest self.
When you create space for introspection and stillness in your life, it makes it easier to find your identity and understand who you really are. It helps you realize what you really want and what you don’t. It helps you clarify what gives you life and what drains life from you.
We are beautiful and complex beings, with a body and mind that are not separate, on the contrary, they operate together providing the building blocks of our mental lives. So to hear what they need and what is going on with them we first need to know how to listen to them through pause and introspection (noun of action from past participle stem of Latin introspicere “to observe attentively,” from intro- “inward” + specere “to look at”). Give it a try, and I promise, the moment you truly dedicate time to an introspective practice, your body and mind will give you immediate feedback about what is really going on inside your mind and feelings.
The moment that giving yourself permission to pause and practice self-care becomes natural to you, you will be on the road towards happiness, towards more meaningful relationships and maybe even towards a job that is truly deserving of your commitment and compromises.
And unlimited gratitude and fulfillment will surely follow.