For many of us, childhood was a somewhat confusing experience. We found ourselves caught between unconditional love, rules, traditions, punishments, at times humiliation, and even abuse. So what conclusions did we draw from this potpourri of conflicting messages? Well, we came up with a very personal interpretation of how life functions — one that defines how we perceive ourselves, others, and what makes us lovable.
An essential quality we learned to forgo in this process called ‘life’ was our intuition: that natural connection we have to what feels right and wrong, our personal barometer that holds the key to our well-being, both emotionally and physically. Instead, we learned that serving outside needs and expectations comes first, and that dishonesty about our true needs and feelings gets us further. So we learned to pretend and lost track of what we know to be right or wrong inside our heart.
Focusing on our personal transformation therefore becomes a priority, rather than aspiring to adopt philosophies or spiritual practices too soon that make us feel elevated. There is of course much to benefit from practices such as reading books, learning from great teachers who can provide guidance with their truth and wisdom. But what often happens instead is that spirituality becomes a new idealism, a way to feel superior, and certainly the best way for us to avoid facing our own shadows.
Nothing can really replace a direct experience, and it usually takes multiple experiences and deep understanding in order to change the way we perceive life. Such honest meeting with ourselves takes courage, but it also paves the way for spiritual practices that allow moments of awakening.
For this transformation to happen, a deep commitment is needed. One in which we promise to reclaim an understanding of who we truly are beyond all the masks and protections we’ve collected and fortified over decades. We must be ready to feel deeply into ourselves and face our belief systems. When working towards a deeper understanding, it is beneficial to give certain areas of our life and personality structure special attention. Below are some considerations and practices on the path of making this personal transformation happen:
How I practice authentic and honest self-expression
In most cases, both authenticity and honesty about what we felt was not a priority during our upbringing. It was rather compliance and fitting in that was encouraged. What needs a fresh look is how ‘I’ feel about expressing my truth — not for or against anything, but just as a reference point for how I feel at a given moment.
The questions ‘am I allowed to be honest about what I feel?’ and ‘can I have my own experience?’ become essential inquiries when returning to our birthright of experiencing life ‘our’ way. Ask yourself what your life would look like and what would potentially happen if you allowed yourself to be honest about your experience.
How I derive my sense of worthiness
Our sense of worthiness is probably one of the most important drivers behind our actions. We may do things that don’t align with our core values, but the fear of not belonging or not being loved may be stronger than any cognitive understanding we may have.
What defines this important state of ‘self’ and how much is it related to what others think of me? Do I feel a sense of self-worth when I’m good, successful, caring, strong, resilient, or forceful?
What needs a fresh look is ‘how much effort is needed to feel a sense of worthiness in my life?’ How much of my own truth and integrity am I sacrificing, and what do I know for certain is real in me?
How I relate to my dark side
We are good at expressing and exposing the parts of our personality that we find to be good and welcomed by others. These can include our intelligence, successes, goodness, and many other positive traits. But those parts we judge and dislike, we place into our personal basement. We don’t want to see them and certainly don’t want others to get a glance at them. It feels too dangerous and unsettling, and may place us at risk of losing our status and belonging.
Facing our dark side and embracing it poses an essential step towards wholeness, marking an integral part of any true spiritual journey.
How I seek for meaning and deal with meaninglessness
Which one of the following questions resonate with you?
- Do I need my life to be meaningful?
- What is meaningful in what I do?
- What does it take for me to create meaning?
We all seek to feel that what we do has meaning and yet may face the question if that is the case. We may have an inner and outer fight with what is important or feels mediocre. But at the end of the day, the question of meaning remains an open one for many.
So what creates a sense of meaning in my life and how do I go about manifesting it?
How I relate to self-love
Much is written and said about the importance of self-love, but do we really embrace this understanding in our own lives? Do I allow myself to express needs? Do I respect my body and feelings? Do I walk through life at my own pace?
What needs a fresh look is my relationship with myself! I must explore to what extent I come first — not out of selfishness, but rather out of respect for my own experience and boundaries.
How I face mistakes and failures
Whatever the reasons may be, we at times fail ourselves and others by taking on more than we can chew, manipulating situations or people, or hurting others due to our own unawareness.
Ask yourself, how do I treat myself when I mess up? What do I feel when I find myself not living up to my own expectations and those of others?
What needs a fresh look is what my relationship is with guilt and shame. Can I allow life to confront me with experiences that leave me excluded, judged, or paying for the consequences of my actions, and yet still return to a state of innocence? A point where I can start fresh, again and again. A point where I face my guilt and shame without taking them to a place where continuous self-punishment is the result.
How I listen and talk to my intuition
Close your eyes and notice if you can feel something in your belly. Is there a subtle sensation of either well-being or discomfort? What does it feel like being next to a particular person or a given situation? We often override this subtle feeling in our bellies out of shame or conformity, and thereby place ourselves into situations that feel wrong.
So, am I allowed to have my own experience, listen to it, and act on it?