It’s about bloody time.
That’s my inside voice. She says, “you’re almost 48 years old, it’s about bloody time you took on these last tidbits (tidbits? no, more like mountains) of the old you.”
Oh settle down.
That’s my other inside voice. She’s the more compassionate of the two. She says, “yes, it’s taken a while. We really fell into a pit there for a minute, but here we are.”
Where? On the leading edge of 2018, sitting right on the precipice of my 48th birthday. That’s where. It’s really nothing new, you know? Just a shift on the calendar, a new number. But it can be so much more, and for me…this year…it is. I have declared this year as the Year of Conscious Change. Changing my eating habits, changing my spending/saving habits, changing my personal practice habits.
But change is hard. Really fucking hard sometimes. Change is extra special hard when you’re working on core issues, and these, my friends, these issues are CORE (caps intended). They’re the ones that I’ve held back on, held onto, and avoided. They’re the core habits that I learned a long time ago. Food is to cure emotions, money is evil and threatening, or I’m entitled to whatever I want when I want it, and regularity and discipline are boring. My procedural memory is packed full of the habitual patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviors around these issues.
Change is hard, and the only way there is consciousness. If I’m not awake, then I’m on Autopilot, and if I’m on Autopilot, my trigger system is exposed AND my habit patterns are going to take over. (I’m using the first person because that’s how my community speaks, but you should really hear me saying “We” because this is human stuff, not just Tara stuff.) My core habits are going to run the train right off the tracks and right into that large pizza, money fearing frozenness, and pajamas until noon. But here’s the bummer, I was trained to be unconscious (and so were you to one degree or another). Don’t think too much, multitask, move from one to the other as quickly as possible, keep up with the Joneses even if you don’t really like what they have, because how would you even know? You’re too busy keeping up. Buy this, buy that, weigh this, and wear that. And go buy that car — then you’ll know you’ve arrived. Arrived where? I have no idea. Our world is built on the running notion that we are all on Autopilot. We are all unconscious.
So getting back to me…How do I get conscious if I am trained to be unconscious?
Mindfulness is the answer, Friend. Yep. Mindfulness. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, but if you haven’t, here’s a quick definition: Mindfulness is a way of being characterized by stepping into the present moment with intention and without judgment. The more mindfulness we have, the more conscious we are, and the more awake we are in the present moment, the less impulsive and reactive we are. That means that when my anxiety goes through the roof, I won’t jump on the phone and dial up Pizza Classics right away. Being more mindful can help us move forward in a way that is Value-Based rather than emotion-based. And the more value-based my life is, the better I feel about me. Mindfulness, consciousness must exist if I am going to effectively rewire years of learning and practice.
Funny thing. I teach Mindfulness practices and use it in both my Counseling and my Coaching practice. But I’ve never been willing to apply what I know to these 3 big issues. I was way to caught up in all the fears and guilt that I hold around them. I wasn’t ready to get conscious because I knew I’d also get uncomfortable. But I’m done. I’m tired. I’m tired of feeling physically off my game. I’m tired of being afraid of taxes and afraid to look at what I actually owe and what I really make. I’m tired of shaming myself because I’m not doing the daily practices that I love because I’m busy laying in bed drinking coffee until noon. I’m just tired of this person that my habits have turned me into.
Maybe you’re tired too. Or maybe you just want to change some things. Maybe you’re interested in the fact that you can quite literally change your brain from the inside out. For real.
You can. I can. We can.
All we have to do is practice. First, we have to practice sitting down and being still, and we have to give ourselves something to focus on. The breath is the easiest. Just follow it in and out. If you want to, try counting your exhalations up to the number 10 and then start again at 1. This is my favorite practice. It’s simple, and the counting gives me something to hold onto. Do this simple thing for 10 minutes, and then go about your business. Add to that. Everytime there’s a decision to be made around one of your very own core issues, take a deep breath first. Let the emotional response ease, and then make a decision based on what you really truly want, rather than what your inner 3-year-old thinks they want.
That’s it. Or that’s a beginning anyway. I’m starting to focus the lens of my Mindfulness practice (remember that thing about daily practices?) on the core issues that I want to change. I’m allowing myself to feel the feelings I’ve avoided and letting my breath help me to be patient with myself.
Maybe getting conscious is something you’d like to try too.
Tara Moorman is a freelance writer and Licensed Professional Counselor with 19 years of experience in the fields of mental health and personal growth and development. She specializes in writing blog posts and articles related to mental health, addictions recovery, and personal growth and change. You can see more of her work at https://taramoorman.contently.com/