"It's not the events of our lives that shape us, but our beliefs as to what those events mean." --Tony Robbins
I remember when my journey toward rediscovering reality began. I had been living an okay life, following the script that is prescribed for us. I was living the "American Dream" that is supposed to lead to happiness.
My husband, daughter, and I resided in a 4-bedroom house in a wooded neighborhood. I was in my tenth year at a teaching job that was all right. I anticipated retiring after 20 more years. I was quiet, introverted, and not very confident. My job was often stressful, and I frequently found myself sucked into various dramas with my co-workers. But it was a job, and I put up with the annoyances of it for the security that I thought it provided.
Two things led to major changes in my life: sailing and writing. We bought a 29-foot sailboat that we lived aboard all summer. As we hopped from port to port, our world expanded accordingly.
When I cruised the Great Lakes with my family, I was someone else. I was a social, confident decision-maker. I understood the wind and respected the seas. And I began to write about it on my blog.
My writing brought forth comments from my readers. These people I had never met told me I was a great writer, a leader, and that knowing me was an honor. And it was these comments that I couldn't handle, because my readers' words flew in the face of what I had believed to be true.
I was not those things. I was not brave; I was not great. I was just a quiet woman, trying to get along and stay safe. In exasperation, I often wrote back, "I'm not who you think I am." But the reality is that I wasn't who I thought I was.
Even as I resisted this new image of myself, the seed had been planted. I began, slowly, to question all that I had thought to be absolute truth about myself. What if I wasn't stupid, clumsy, and incompetent? What if I wasn't shy? What if I wasn't locked into the life and the roles I had been playing?
This questioning led to a relentless journey of observing and redefining thoughts. My every moment became an exercise in mindfulness. My entire life became an exercise in meditation--a deep looking within.
I worked with an outstanding online counselor and teacher to question my thoughts and work my way toward reality. No thought, no assumption, would be left untouched. All too often, the ground would fall out from under me as perceptions that I had taken to be gospel truth fell away.
As I redefined all the labels that had been placed upon me and that I had placed upon myself, my quest took me to an even deeper level. I came to understand my own true nature, and I experienced the freedom that comes from letting go of roles, labels, and narrow categories. This internal process led to some major external shifts. I began to use this life. My husband and I began to see that the "security" were clinging to wasn't worth the mediocre lifestyle it afforded us.
We were ready for more. In the summer of 2013, we signed our house back over to the bank, and created a life that worked for us, living aboard a 35-foot sailboat 1300 miles away. Redefining reality has brought me an inner peace that I had never thought was possible. Over the course of two years, my life changed from fearful stagnation to excitement and adventure. Additionally, I went from constantly beating up on myself to seeing everyone and everything as being love and nothing else.
Here are some steps that you can take to redefine your reality:
1. Calm your body and mind.
Understand that misunderstandings often lead to fear. And fear leads the mind to perceive potential threats all over the place. This induces to the anxiety-inducing fight-or-flight response, which makes looking deeply and redefining nearly impossible. In order to calm the fight-or-flight response, you should begin by developing a calming routine. Practice breathing exercises, yoga nidra, prayer, or any other activity to lower your heart rate, slow your breathing, and calm your mind. This is an important first step, because you need a calm mind before moving on to the other steps.
2. Remain in the role of the observer.
Begin to observe your thoughts. Every emotion is caused by thought, and negative emotions are caused by fear-based thoughts. Notice the thoughts causing your emotions.
As you notice these thoughts, just observe. Don't judge them, and don't try to change them. You have to observe your misunderstandings before you can change them. You can begin doing this observation in a formal meditation session, but eventually you will remain in the role of the observer as much as possible, during your day.
3. Question the fear based thoughts.
Start by asking yourself "why." Why do you think what you do? What evidence is your mind using, to prove that thought true? What kind of logic is behind it? Is there another possibility, other than what you are thinking? Be very suspicious of fear-based thoughts, and really question the methods your mind is using to prove them true. It might help to do this in writing at first, but after a great deal of practice, the process will become automatic.
4. Redefine the assumptions.
If your fear-based thoughts do not pass the test described above, redefine them. In the beginning, you may want to write out this redefinition. Then go back and remind yourself of the way that you have redefined this thought, whenever you observe it occurring in your mind.
If you find that the fear-based thoughts persist, look for "evidence" to back up your redefinition. Why should your redefinition be true? Prove it to your mind.
If you follow these steps, you may be amazed at the transformation you observe in your life. Seeing through the misperceptions about who we are and who everyone else is can lead to incredible inner peace and freedom.
For help in overcoming your fears and redefining your reality, consider an individual e-mail, chat, or Skype session.
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