This past week, as a new year begins, I found myself drawn to rereading some old journal entries from years long past. I picked these out at random, just wanting to take a read on where I was in the various periods of my life I was revisiting.
A lot of it was painful. It wasn’t just the difficulties I was going through in and of themselves, but more seeing the stuck patterns in how I related to difficult circumstances that repeated themselves year after year.
These included holding on too long to relationships I needed to let go, undervaluing or dismissing my own needs and getting most of my sense of self-worth from other people’s approval. Chronic overworking was in there, as was holding myself responsible for whatever went wrong in situations I had any part in, and always trying to strive harder for self-improvement and achievement, to the detriment of having any kind of balance in my life.
Often I avoided facing painful truths so that I wouldn’t have to decide whether to tell those truths to others and risk their anger or rejection.
From one perspective it was sad and even shocking to see how these patterns had repeated themselves, not only over years, but over decades. From another perspective, there was enormous relief in realizing that every one of these patterns has much, much less hold on me now.
The time has come when I can honestly say: I don’t live that way anymore.
Yes, these old patterns do get activated from time to time, but those times are now the exception, not the rule, and I know what to do when it happens. I can usually recognize them rising up, step back fairly quickly and turn my attention and energy to the spiritual practices that reset my inner compass.
Years ago, a teacher of mine said that the fruit of inner work is not that there is no longer pain, but that it takes much more to be thrown off center and it is much easier to regain balance – greatly reducing the time spent suffering.
I have found this to be so. And this is my lived experience of what a (mostly) awakened life feels like. Developing the spiritual practices that support me and let me live to my fullest, giving my best to the world, is the most worthwhile lifelong journey I can imagine.
It’s an honor and a joy to have companioned individuals, couples, colleagues, congregation and community leaders on this path and to continue to do so. If you and I have been in spiritual companionship at any point, I want to start this year by sincerely and profoundly thanking you. You have truly been my greatest teachers. Your openness and courage to do the work have inspired me time and again. Namaste.