Are You Living A Story You’re Not Aware Of?
Lately I’ve been paying attention to what story I’ve been living. You’d think it would be obvious, just by looking around my life and noticing the patterns. But that doesn’t account for habits of perception, and blind spots.
What I mean by “habits of perception” are packaged conclusions you’ve made that amount to pre-conceived ideas about the “way things are”, or the “way things should be”. These are judgments and points of view, that can be changed, provided enough mindfulness is employed.
These preconceived “lessons” we’ve “learned” from life can create blind spots of assumptions. For example, just today I spotted myself commenting, “Well, I better get busy, or I won’t make any money this month.” This gem is chock full of assumptions about how money comes to me, or “how the world works”–you gotta work hard to make money. We just sort of off-handedly live by these “rules”, when they are based almost completely on incorrect conclusions made when we were much younger, and less wise. Yet, here we are, spouting these life rules without any critical thinking or regard to their veracity.
String enough of these rules together, and they form a narrative–a story of our life and how it unfolds for us. The thing is, it’s based almost entirely on past conclusions, judgments and points of view. The fact that, in many cases, the story has been proven unworkable and sometimes miserable, doesn’t seem to cause any introspection. Why? Because it’s all tangled up in who and what we believe we are.
We’ve come to believe (because we’ve accepted certain things as “true”), for example, that “nothing comes easy for me.” And, even when something DOES come easy, there is no alarm or red flag to tell us that our little story about how nothing comes easy has just been contradicted. Instead, we ignore that information. But when corroborating evidence that things don’t come easy arrives, we are quick to jump on it as definitive evidence of the “truthiness” and consistency of our story.
This selective awareness or filtering of evidence we use to justify our precious stories, is also the way we can change a story we do not want to live in anymore. Just as we ignored exceptions to the “rule” (that nothing comes easy, for example), we can now notice the exceptions and make THAT the evidence that our story is changing. Once we make ONE exception the rule, it all starts to shift. The trick is being able to SEE evidence contradicting our stories.
One way to increase mindfulness is by using gratitude. We are grateful for what we have, and grateful when things “come together” with ease and joy. Without gratitude, we would tend to simply overlook these moments of ease and joy because they contradict our ongoing narrative (that life never comes easy).
Another technique is to “re-frame”–where we re-contextualize what we are experiencing into a positive narrative. For example, when I’m in a hurry to get somewhere–I may be under some sort of deadline–and traffic seems so slow, and that street is blocked off for a festival, or there’s a tree down in the road–I would immediately jump to this being evidence of how HARD things are, and nothing comes easy. Instead, by re-framing I become grateful for these slow drivers who are timing my travels so I won’t get into an accident in my haste.
In these ways, we can get out in front of our story, and make whatever changes we choose about how the story unfolds.
A long time ago, my guru told me, “Do you know how to train a cat? You wait until it does something you want it to do, and then reward it.” Life is much like that–it’s flowing according to the story you’re creating, and will immediately change course if you do. Change course with gratitude and re-framing.
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