What will it take for you to be the best version of yourself…now?
Author: Esther Sarlo, BA, Founder | CEO | Myndful Spark of Mynd Myself
How are you feeling about yourself today? I invite you to take a quick ‘temperature check.’
As I write this, I’m doing my own ‘internal scan’ and I notice that I’m feeling present, calm, and a bit annoyed by my shoulder injury. I recently started a new fitness program and I injured my shoulder while doing it. This morning I caught myself judging myself. I was discouraged by and disappointed in myself because I thought my injury would halt the great progress I’d been making. I noticed a few thoughts coming at me: What did I do to cause this injury? Am I deliberately sabotaging myself because I don’t particularly like the program? Is this just another example of my body failing me?
As I felt this swirl going on inside me, I remembered a blog I’d recently come across by a Canadian organization, Edgewood Health Network, titled, The Seven Pillars of Mindfulness. From their perspective, the seven pillars of mindfulness are:
Non-judging, Patience, Beginner’s Mind, Trust, Non-Striving, Acceptance, and Letting Go.
As I sat in my own frustration with my injury today, it was a powerful reminder to start with non-judging! When I realized that I wouldn’t be able to complete the program in the way they’ve laid it out (even though I’ve been doing amazingly well and I’m about half-way through), I could feel that old judging voice inside me attacking my sense of physical competence.
What would happen if I let that voice go and came from a place of just being with it and seeing where it takes me? I believe there are a multitude of lessons to be learned from this feeling and this experience if I shift my perspective and allow myself to be more fully me.
Let’s explore that for a bit. How often do you begin an experience or thought process in judgement? Judging others and…perhaps even more significantly…judging yourself. I’m sure you are familiar with some of these phrases: I’m not good enough…I could never do that…Who me?…I’m too (pick a word to insert here)…etc. You get the idea.
What would happen if you spent some time shifting into a positive approach with your thoughts?
For me, I took this as an invitation to love my body, right where it was…healing shoulder and all (yes, I chose to stop calling it an injury.) This morning I asked myself how I could still do the workout AND honour my whole body at the same time. So, with a bit of trepidation, I turned on the video, saw what was presented, and adapted the exercises to accommodate my healing shoulder, while still finding ways to work my body and raise a sweat. Yes!
The next step with myself was patience.
I believe we have grooved negative neural pathways so deeply that we believe they are the only way to be. I challenge this notion.
I could have continued to view my situation as an interruption or thwarting of my forward momentum. Or, I could release that thought and choose to go at the pace my body set for me while it heals. Honouring my body was way more important than completing a program in a prescribed way. I noticed I had to work on intentionally returning to that latter thought throughout my workout. Again and again.
“I am in the healing process. I am loving and honouring my body…exactly where it is right now.”
I say, let’s create NEW neural pathways and groove THEM over and over and over. There is a phrase you’ve likely heard before: ‘Practice makes perfect.’ Well, actually, I don’t like that phrase, because nothing’s perfect. However, practice DOES matter and DOES change things. It won’t always be easy, but it has been documented that intentional repetition—with a variety of actions/words/thoughts that all reinforce the same positive idea—can be transformative. I guess that’s where the patience part of the process is required. It seems to me that the next pillars follow along in sequence quite logically: beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance, and letting go. And each of those steps is important as you work on being your best you!
In a speaking workshop I lead recently, we talked about authenticity and being fully yourself. You ARE the only you on the planet. No one else can be you. If you play small or shrink or mute yourself, you are depriving not only yourself from living your best life, but you are depriving the world of experiencing who you really are and the unique gifts that you have to offer. If you keep perpetuating and reinforcing old negative thought patterns, you will continue to sabotage your magnificence.
If, however, you learn to temper the judging reaction from your lexicon of first responses—especially as it applies to yourself—how much freer will you be to be your most magnificent self?
Now, the idea of changing your thoughts might seem like an impossible mountain to climb. I grant you that this IS a challenging quest. However, it is one of the most important things you may ever do. And, as in all journeys, it begins with taking the first step—that first leap into the belief that changing your thoughts is possible.
It is important to recognize and acknowledge your previous patterns in order to begin creating new grooves/neural pathways. The example I gave you earlier of my healing shoulder, prompted me to start shifting.
Here are a few other suggestions to get you started.
- What is ONE positive thing you can acknowledge right now about yourself?
Write that down and keep coming back to it.
- If you’re upset with something, what would that thing/event/idea/thought look like if you removed judgement from the equation?
Spend a few minutes digging underneath the thoughts and feelings associated with the thing/event/idea/thought to present it just for what it is (e.g. my injured shoulder—healing shoulder—is just that…it is not an indictment of my weakness/incompetence/failure).
Then, consider how you can be loving toward that thing/event/idea/thought…exactly as it exists. Keep returning to that intentional attitude of loving that thing/event/idea/thought.
- What is something that you think is beautiful?
Perhaps put an image of it in a spot that you look at frequently throughout the day.
- Who is someone who inspires you?
Make a list of their qualities that you admire. Post those qualities (and maybe with the person’s picture) where you can see them and continue to return to them. This is a reminder for your mind to focus on what you want, instead of what you don’t
- What is something you do/have done that brings you joy/pleasure/anticipation?
Find an image that represents that experience.
Write up a point form description of that experience.
Create a word cloud that represents that experience.
Or something else that represents that experience to you and place it where you can see it regularly.
A quick note here: It is good to shift the locations of where you place your creations, so you get surprised by them sometimes. When you know something is always in the same place, it becomes easier and easier to overlook it, ignore it, dismiss it, and eventually, not even see it anymore. You want to keep these cues ‘ top-of-mind.’
For all of these possibilities above, the more frequently you can return to any or all of those ‘signposts of positivity’ the more your system will be reminded of and given permission to open up to them and ‘groove’ them.
As Gabor Mate—psychologist, physician, and author—says in his book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction:
“Not the world, not what’s outside of us, but what we hold inside traps us. We may not be responsible for the world that created our minds, but we can take responsibility for the mind with which we create our world.”
In no way am I recommending that you should ignore reality or stuff your feelings. It is critically important to be able to recognize and acknowledge your feelings in order to be able to shift them and not be held captive to them. Again, the Seven Pillars are so helpful. As I release judgement, have patience, keep a beginner’s mind, trust that my body and my innate human wisdom will guide me, release striving while still taking action, accept exactly where I am, and let go of a specific agenda or outcome, the more able I am to be fully myself. My best me possible.
I leave you with a wonderful thought by rupi kaur, Canadian poet, artist, and performer,
I woke up thinking the work was done
I would not have to practice today
How naïve to think healing was that easy
When there is no endpoint
No finish line to cross
Healing is every day work
I celebrate YOU today as you continue releasing all that prevents you from living your magnificence…
You are the only YOU that exists…and you matter!
Note: Click on this link if you want to read more about Edgewood Health Network’s Seven Pillars of Mindfulness.