One of my very favorite things to do is walk. It helps me relax, process emotions, reason out problems, I never feel bad after I have gone for a walk, even if I fall and my body is hurting my spirit is always improved by a walk. Often when I walk I listen to a podcast from a radio show and so I get a double whammy of good feelings. Last weekend as I was walking to the farmer’s market I was listening to the TED radio hour program on identities. Wow was it ever a terrific day!
I had the privilege of taking a beautiful walk on a spring day, hearing all kinds of interesting things, and buying delicious, fresh strawberries – all things that bring me joy! But what made me stop, pause the program and quickly tap some notes into my little hand held computer was when the interviewee said, ‘if you want to destroy something surround it with fake walls and it will dry up.’ She was and she wasn’t talking about the human spirit, but I realized quite suddenly, that I hadn’t always been able to experience the joy I was feeling in that moment not because I had been actually prevented from doing the things that I enjoyed but because I believed I was prevented from doing those things, I believed that I didn’t really deserve to feel joy, take time for myself or be content with simple pleasures. I thought to myself, ‘aha – I wonder how many of us are moving around the world with fake walls that are keeping us from our true selves, that are keeping us from experiencing the joy in our lives?’
As a parent I know how hard it is to live with your growing child and not tell them what you believe to be true about who they are. It takes an enormous amount of energy, attention and effort to not say, “you like X,” or “you have always wanted to do Y.” Your job in parenting is to raise someone, to bring them up, to cultivate their being not to just be a neutral observer as they do their own thing. As a result it is hard to do the work of cultivation and stay away from forced shaping, pruning or root control. It is hard to avoid the attempt to make a child into what we think they should be, what we wish them to be, or what we wished we could be if we had it to do over again. It is in the messiness that I believe we end up stacking the bricks around ourselves that ultimately create walls between our selves and our life as we move into the adult world.
The challenge as adults is that we are dealing with fake walls and fake walls can be a lot harder to take down than real walls. If you were physically separated from the person you love by a brick wall you would work on breaking the wall down so you could get through. But when the wall is fake, when the wall is made up of beliefs and stories that we tell ourselves how do we take the that wall down? The obvious answer is to stop telling ourselves things that keep us from fully realizing the truth and joy of our lives. But how effective is it to say to yourself, ‘okay, now I am going to stop being self-destructive,’ especially if you don’t even know what the self-destructive behavior is! This is an exercise that can help in chipping away at your fake walls, and let you realize more of your authentic self, more personal freedom, and more contentment in your life:
Set aside five minutes everyday to answer the following questions:
- What is something that I liked, or that made me happy today (or yesterday if this is a reflection, don’t try to do more than one day after or you start to confuse the feeling with the stories!)?
- If I could do anything tomorrow, what is one thing I would like to do and why?
- Did I feel content, calm, or relaxed today (or yesterday if this is a reflection), and if I did when did I feel that?
Answer these questions for thirty days, it does not have to be consecutive but it does have to be thirty. At the end of thirty days look at your answers and see the commonalities, this is the beginning of understanding the authentic you, without your stories, without your walls, and it is the beginning of taking those walls down!