The Most Important Job

Today, for the Your Turn Challenge, Winnie is asking me to "Tell us something that is important to you."

 Out of the darkness

Somewhere around ten years ago I found myself in a very dark place. Literally, I was hiding under my bed in my high school bedroom, desperate to escape this life, but not so bold as to do anything to make that happen. Figuratively, this was a place of self-hate, confusion, guilt, shame, and self-destruction. I didn’t think I would ever leave this place. It was so dark and scary, the emotions so incredibly strong, I thought I would be spinning in this emotional twister for my whole life.

Fortunately, my aunt was in the process of her spiritual journey and shared a few books with me that she thought might help. One of them being The Power of Now. I read this book, and admit that I didn’t get most of it this first time I read it. I didn’t see the aliveness of the rocks and trees the way Eckhart Tolle described them. What it did do was introduce me to the concept that I have power over my mind, and not the other way around. By harnessing this power I could begin to see my external circumstances change. I could build a life I wanted to live.

Even when you fail, try again

I continued to struggle with my negative emotions and attitudes well into college and after college, but after reading that book I took it upon myself to do my work, on my self. I read about and tried to live various philosophies or ways of thinking ranging from Taoism to Yoga. None of them have “cured” me of my negative thought pattern tendencies, but I continue to do the work; to learn and try, to fail and fall back to misery and then try again.

I have refused to give up on myself. I have refused to stop looking for a way to improve myself, my spirituality, and my experience of life. I know I cannot control whether or not I have thoughts. Descarte concluded, “I am a thing that thinks.” My power and self work comes down to choosing whether or not I act on a thought or emotion, and choosing how I react to myself when negative thoughts and emotions arise.

Happiness is a choice, and it takes work

I have a choice to do the work to become more self-aware, observe my mental patterns, and build my intentions. Practicing these Small Acts have helped me cut down the volume of negative attitudes in my life and bolster the positive ideas and attitudes of compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude. The result: a greater sense of purpose, freedom, and self-love. Life perpetuates the mental patterns we put into it. The challenge is overcoming the fear to delve into yourself and make the choice to “feed your good wolf” despite peer pressure or cultural norms.

Finally, by making the leap to hold myself accountable for expressing this self work, via Small Acts Count, outwardly expressing it in my interactions with others, and my choice to use my time more constructively, I find myself growing stronger each day and the opportunities to collaborate with others on this mission unfold naturally. It sort of embodies the Taoist concept of “wu wei,” doing without doing, that I tried for so long to practice, without realizing it’s just something that you really get or you don’t.

We could all use a little more work

I think all of us have self-work to do, and that’s the only place we can start or have any chance at making significant change in our broken systems. I don’t think that our self-work will ever be “finished.” We can always work toward being “better,” not perfect, just better. The Small Act of acknowledging the necessity to do the work and then reflect inwardly to observe (not judge) your mind is a step in the right direction.