Years ago, I worked in an adult homeless shelter and used these exercises to assist clients to identify roadblocks to their exiting homelessness.
One student, when asked to do the first exercise said, “I have trained myself not to do that — at least not with the negative. I don’t like beating myself up with my negative traits.”
“That’s a great habit,” I replied. “What if, you look at the exercise with eyes of wonder rather than through eyes of blame? What if, you chose to put the emphasis on, what can I learn about myself in embracing the negative?”
“But, if I’m feeling depressed today and project that forward for five years, I’ll really be depressed.”
“If you’re feeling depressed today, how would you rather feel?”
He shrugged his shoulders as if to say, ‘that’s pretty simple’, “Happy.”
“Which feeling is real for you today?”
“On the page, which is real next year, happy or sad?”
He looked at me. Down at the page. “Well, neither. I’m here today, not in next year.”
“Right. So on the paper, neither side of the column is ‘real’. Both sides of the page exist because your mind created the words and you wrote them on the page. Neither is real until you make them real. Which do you choose?”
It is all in our choices. If I am unhappy today and don’t want to carry it into tomorrow, what do I choose to do today to create the opportunity for me to change how I feel about what I’m carrying?
I am 100% accountable for my life. I am 100% responsible for my actions, my words, my thoughts, my deeds.
What do I choose? To do. To say. To think. To create.
It is all in my choices.
Today’s exercise focuses on accountability.
Pull out your list from yesterday.
Look down the left side of the page and pick one emotion that you really don’t like. Maybe it’s anger. Or, disappointment. Or, bitterness.
Now, close your eyes, take a couple of deep, deep breaths. Let your mind settle. Let the tension ease away from your body. Imagine a leaf falling gently to the ground. Softly. Gently it falls. Slipping side to side. Side to side. Gently. Softly. Lower and lower. Sinking. Softly.
Think about the word you chose. Open your mind to wonder. Ask yourself, “I wonder what this word wants to teach me? I wonder where the power is for me in this word.”
Sit quietly for a few moments and let your wonder of the word open you up to embracing all it has to tell you.
After a few moments of wonder, open your eyes slowly, take a deep breath, shake your shoulders, pick up your pen and start writing (without censoring) the learning that came into your mind. Let yourself be free of judgement. Let the wonder become visible on the page.
For me, the word I chose was: Bitterness.
As I settled into wonderment, I asked myself, What is it about the word bitterness that does not sit well with me?
I wrote it out and here’s the wonder that appeared on the page:
Bitterness makes me think of rancid food. It smells. It dries up. It cracks. I don’t want to be dried up and bitter. I don’t want to become all used up like some old people.
So, this has to do with getting old? Yeah, well, remember dad. He became so set in his ways. So opinionated. I don’t want to close off to learning, to growing, to being open to new ideas, new thoughts. I want life to be a constant journey — of wonder. I want to be filled with wonder at how amazing life is.
Filled with wonder?
Yeah, filled with wonder.
I try to be.
Trying is lying.
Oh, right. Well, I’m working on it.
That’s skating around the issue.
I’m scared I will lose my wonder.
What will make you lose your wonder?
Right — you are accountable for you. What are you going to do to embrace wonder and let go of judgement, criticism, complaining…
I am going to focus on what I want more of in my life and keep myself free of complaining. I am going to get conscious of where I complain, what I complain about — I am going to be scrupulous with my language. I am going to be filled with integrity.
Great! Now change the language to active, present tense, not passive.
Right! Cool idea.
I choose to focus on what I want more of in my life. I choose to not complain, criticize and condemn. I choose to get conscious of where I complain, what I complain about — I choose to be scrupulous with my language. I choose to act with integrity in everything I do and say and think.
In my wonder, I have opened up to the wonderful opportunity to realize a ‘truth’ that has scared me — I fear getting older and becoming like my father — bitter about so many things in the world. And yet, there were so many wonderful things about my father. If I can age and maintain his enthusiasms, I will be doing well. I don’t have to also become rigid in my outlook at life — my attitude is and always will be — my choice!
Give yourself the gift of wonder. Look at the ‘dark side’ of your personality with eyes of wonder and let go of blame or shame or fear or whatever emotion you attach to what you think of as ‘negative’ about yourself. Open yourself up to wonder, and you will be in for wonderful surprises.
The question for today is: Do you choose to explore within yourself with eyes of wonder, embracing the learning that comes when you do not judge yourself but love yourself for all you’re worth?