Antidote – a rich internal life

Seth Godin, former dot com business executive and author, said,

Instead of wondering when our next vacation is, we should set up a life we don’t need to escape from.

What a challenge!

A rich internal life is an antidote to the pervading sense of dread and anxiety that we come across each day. When we are in touch with the richness of our internal life, we will no longer be dependent on an external life for escape.

The present external life

No matter where you are on this quest of setting up a life which you don’t want to escape from, you’re likely experiencing a degree of disappointment and dejection in the current environment. The prospect of the next vacation is bleak, and international travel almost non-existent.

Where do you go now, when options to escape from a high-stress or dissatisfied life are narrower than before? The distractions you allow yourself as consolations or rewards, the activities you indulge in to remind yourself that the way you live is worthwhile indeed, the activities you attend as temporary anesthesia – they are now severely reduced.

Even the most outward focused of us are compelled to reconsider our options. We now must find our respite from our work and in our home, and to maintain our sense of connection and belonging within a smaller social group.

Why an internal life?

This is the epoch to return to our internal life. 

It is time to return to greater appreciation of introspection, depth and meaning. It is necessary especially when we have to keep our own company more often than before.

And this internal life can be scary. Consciously or otherwise, many of us have taken quite resolute steps to not peek into this space while others have been oblivious to the need for it. And many more are tapping into it to varying degrees.

Where are you?

An internal life is the world within us, encompassing the mental and emotional spaces and spiritual by nature.

A rich internal life means you are self-aware and clear about your values, and well-equipped to manage your emotions. It means you have a calm and focused mind, with optimal level of resilience. 

To attain a rich internal life

Here are the preconditions to having a rich internal life:

  • time alone – in this place where  you are not performing nor entertained, and you are required to keep yourself company. 
  • independence – you must do this exploration and interrogation of your internal life on your own; no amount of discussion with close family and friends will assist in a resolution, in fact it may be counter-productive. Take time to nurture your ability to comfort, discipline, inspire, educate and entertain yourself.

Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company. ~ Seneca

  • curiosity – and here, you will give yourself permission to explore all aspects of yourself, the desirables and the undesirables. Let your imagination and fantasies take flight.
  • focus – you will spend time making friends with your thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Learn to discipline your thoughts, and to choose what you pay attention to. Most importantly, focus and choose your daily behaviours and habits. They matter.

Remember that at any given moment there are a thousand things you can love.  ~ David Levithan

Necessary growth

When we emerge from the current environmental restrictions, will we be more aware? Will we know ourselves better? Will we like ourselves better?

This is the growth to aspire to. 

© Transfigure Therapy 2020

 

Finding fulfillment in your work

I facilitate growth, whether personal or professional.

This is the simple answer to the question I get asked often, “what does a psychotherapist or coach do?”

This is then followed by, “why do you do it?” Because it makes me happy, which of course begs the question, “but why?”

Clients have come to me wanting to know how to make their life “right”, to be happy or how to make the right career decisions, how to climb the mountain in their way, how to achieve certain career goals, how to feel less discontent, how to overcome their malaise… And yes, there are interventions, techniques and strategies which I employ.

And in their questionings, there is one thing underpinning the multitude of wants or desires – it is to move on, to be unstuck, to grow.

Every client at some point in their journey with me expresses the need

  • to experience being alive in their everyday life,
  • to feel a sense of accomplishment in their personal or professional life, or
  • to know there is a reason, the why, to their existence.

This is to find their raison d’être.

I am the sounding board which provides a safe space for clients to  give voice to their life – past, present and future.  I am the mirror upon which they see who and what they are and could be. Clients test out and then spread their wings so to stretch beyond what they know, to explore and take some risks which they are emotionally or psychologically ready or prepared to take.

When the necessary conditions are created, when there is fertile soil, the growing will happen. Each person’s growth is unique. There is no comparison.

This work that I do (which is echoed in my other life as an educator) – to create, to lift, to give others the necessary tools, to give them space to explore and find their way, to create systems or conditions which motivate them to be better versions of themselves – is my raison d’être.

The immeasurable privilege of being able to hold space for another, to be a repository of another’s story, to be an agent of another’s personal or professional growth is second to none.

Social reformation or organizational change always begins with the individual. My work means much and has greater ramifications. Within it, I find great joy and fulfillment.

Find your raison d’être. Seek work so you can live it. There is your fulfillment.

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2020

Preparing for self-awareness

Can you conceive of the “why” to what you  say or do? Beyond the reasons and rationalising.

To thine own self be true”, Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet. So how can we “be true” unless we know our self?

What do we mean when we speak of self- awareness and “being conscious” of our words and actions??

To be self-aware requires attention and effort. It is easier and quicker to evaluate others’ words and actions, or judge their motives and intentions than it is to decipher ours.

Perhaps unthinkingly or unconsciously we direct our attention outwards more often than we do inwards because it is challenging to look at ourselves, especially our Shadow (to use Carl Jung’s term) – this unconscious aspect of our personality which our conscious ego has trouble acknowledging or seeing.

Self-awareness will allow us to know our humanity and our place in it. We then are able to understand and know others .

So how do we learn to be self-aware? We have to be prepared

  • to be present to, and aware of our thoughts and feelings. A contemplative practice is useful, and over time, it will become easier. I have no answer as to the measure of time this may be for you nor even for myself.  It is not about arriving somewhere. I am not certain if there is even a destination we need concern ourselves with.  It is the contemplative practice itself which brings to light the judgement, blame and shame we hold and from which we act.
  • to hold our flaws gently in the palms of my hands, sometimes in playful lightness, sometimes in repose, always mindful to not judge.  In this I do not always succeed. That is okay too. The very act of being aware of my Shadow is by itself, empowering and humbling – to walk this life with consciousness.  The crux is to know when we are judging; if we can name it, we are more likely to be able to let the act or thought go.  

The essence of any contemplative practice is twofold – silence and stillness. As opposed to being ‘silenced’ by a fear, in protest or by resignation, silence in meditation is empowering because we come to sit in that space in which we are aware of ourselves, of our world and our relationship with the world; and we then have the choice to accept ourselves for who we are – to be true.

“The point [of meditation] is not to improve yourself …but to come back to who you are, the awareness that is your birthright” ~ Jack Kornfield

To do this,

  • we need to be prepared to turn to which is difficult in order to learn something of value,
  • be willing to seat ourselves in the middle of everything, joys and sorrows,
  • to trust this space of awareness with a loving and compassionate heart, and
  • to acknowledge this is our humanity.

Be still instead of perpetually chasing or running away. This is what it means to be present – to not look to our history and judge and attempt to fix it, to not look to our future and judge it against ideals we have inherited from our past or history.

Presence and awareness becomes the springboard from which we take our next steps – understanding and evaluating, inwards and outwards.

As Zen master, Suzuki Roshi, said,

I do not know anything about higher consciousness, I just try to teach my students how to hear the birds sing.”  

How beautiful, how simple!  Be here.

When we do not look to judge, blame or shame, perhaps then the task of becoming self-aware becomes less confronting.

~ FlorenceT

© Transfigure Therapy 2019

How to connect

 

Building relationship is a “thing” now, a mantra within the networking, management and leadership circles. And rightly so. Seeking to build relationships honors our humanity, we are more than conduits engaging in mere exchange of insights and information, time and money and the cost-benefit analysis of these currencies.

We cannot build relationships unless we learn how to connect.

And the essence of real connection which we find so appealing, supportive, enriching and rewarding is intimacy. Intimacy is the glue that binds people. Without it, any connection is barren, void of the positive meaning.

But what is intimacy? It is a close, familiar and affectionate personal relationship with another and it arrives in different ways. We may have cognitive or intellectual intimacy with another with the sharing of ideas, visions, viewpoints, dreams and hopes. We may have experiential intimacy as we do work, however defined, together. We may also have emotional intimacy where feelings are shared between two or more people and our emotional needs are met or affirmed. And we have sexual intimacy which involves the sharing of sensual expression. This would include for example, the person whom we share our epicurean or creative interests.

There are many ways through which we develop intimacy in our professional life and connect.

And which comes first? Do we connect to enable intimacy to grow? Or is intimacy a prerequisite to connection? Instead of a linear cause-and-effect correlation, the relationship between intimacy and connection is reflexive.

Intimacy and connection are deliberate and conscious processes.

We must be willing to explore, to be interested in another’s life, to be present and available to them. Most importantly, we must be real. And we have to give it time to develop.

Hold new interactions lightly, watch it and see where it will grow. Let go of preconceived notions of how, what and why. Not every interaction becomes positive connection.

So how do we connect?

Be open and sociable. This does not mean be naive and gullible. It does however mean you do not approach every person you meet as a threat. Keep your head, open your heart.

Be authentic. Show who you really are. Stop being so guarded. It may feel vulnerable but my experience has been that most people are happy to receive the real you. Few people are out to harm.

Maintain your values. People with whom you connect will be those who share a certain ‘thing’ with you; this ‘thing’ which calls to you are underpinned by your values. Be yourself. Be honest.

In this endeavour of building relationships especially as a leader, let us be gentle, kind and respectful.

Which of us would refuse a genuine connection? On this premise, building relationship need not feel like an unsurpassable challenge.

~ FlorenceT

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2018

What it means to have a true conversation

Conversation… what’s it about?

I encounter many ‘conversations’, and in many different contexts.

There are the conversations I promised another but only when time permits, or the conversations I have to have with another which distilled much and created space for more imaginings. There are conversations which signaled change and endings and beginnings. These conversations are imbued with so much meaning, even as we schedule them as a matter of course as part of our daily life at work or in our personal life.

I hope these conversations have been true.

No matter the context, true conversations have a common thread. True conversations are arrived at with a willingness to listen, an openness to receive and embrace, and a genuine response and where required a loving rebuke.

True conversations happen with humility and love, supportive and encouraging growth.

We hold conversations through engaging with each other authentically. Maybe that’s why we don’t just have conversations but we hold conversations – the conversation as a space, a safe space held which allows each conversation-holder to be vulnerable and to express who we are to each other. Otherwise the interaction becomes inter-reaction.

Idealistic? Perhaps. Nevertheless, it ought not detract us from trying our utmost to being such a holder of conversation. After all, we have heard of the benefits of authentic listening. And “asking the beautiful question” that says “I have heard”, a beautiful question which touches another deeply, a beautiful question which invites a genuine answer.

How beautiful and uplifting our relationships can be when we hold true conversations.

A conversation is not the same as a friendly chat, a quick ‘how-are-you’ nor lengthy IMs. Nothing ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ about these – each serves a purpose at different moments.

It may not be possible to have true conversations all the time. It requires mindful intention and preparedness. True conversations are always filled with meaning, meaning-full.

When did you last have a true conversation? And with whom?

Live meaningfully, I say.

~ FlorenceT

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2018