Limitations & Radical Acceptance
Each one of us experiences times of hitting our limit, and these limits can be in the form of physical limits, mental limits, or manufactured limiting beliefs. Understanding the difference between limiting beliefs and actual physical or mental limitations is vital to thriving. We have the power within us to shift limiting beliefs; where as substantial physical or psychological impediments require radical acceptance.
Limiting beliefs arise from the stories we tell ourselves. These typically begin in childhood during the impressionable age of four to eight. Something as simple as being told by a teacher that you are slow or sloppy creates tension within the self. For a child, a moment of questioning arises. “Am I sloppy? I must be since an adult – an authority figure whom I have been told is smarter, more knowledgeable (or insert any word consistent with “better than”); therefore, it must be so, and I am sloppy.”
Here in lies the danger. The “I” is not sloppy. Maybe the “I” actions were negligent, but that is a momentary behavior that “I” can change if presented with options or explanations.
Our language imparts the need for more understanding and discernment of the moment’s truth. We must distinguish the doing from the doer. We are not our thoughts, and we are not our actions, but we are responsible for our thoughts and actions. One who is established in discernment understands the ground of being.
We, the experiencer of emotions, thoughts, and actions, need to be aware of the effect of our emotions, ideas and acts on ourselves and others. Through these unmindful actions, we unwittingly impose limiting beliefs on ourselves and others.
Shifting limiting beliefs is rooted in mindful discernment. Having a sense that something is not right, not quite so, is the first step in the process of shedding attachments, in this case, attachment to outworn beliefs and lifestyle patterns. This altering of one’s course is usually a gradual transformation; it requires skillful effort, such as mindful attention and great patience.
For example, as a child, I was told I could not run far due to activity-induced asthma, as I seemed to get winded quickly on occasion. What I heard was, “Kristen cannot run.” Allowing this thought pattern to solidify in my being, I did not think otherwise until I was 27, a year and a half after giving birth to my son; I decided to start jogging to regain my strength and stamina. I thought, what is the worst that can happen? I get out of breath, take a break, and walk. So that’s what I did. On my first jog, I was ridiculously out of breath; my chest was on fire. I stopped and focused on breathing, willing the breath to find its natural rhythm. It did, and I walked the rest of the way, mindful of my breath and body.
I did not pass out, and I did not have any adverse reactions, so I persevered. Releasing my attachment to any outcome, I focused on putting one foot in front of the other until I could not. After a few months, I was able to jog a full mile. I celebrated the achievement as I had, through discernment, discovered “Kristen can run.”
I ran for the next ten years. Running became a passion as it allowed freedom from thoughts and actions. I found a sense of pure being in the sound of my soles slap, slap, slapping the pavement, a peacefulness I had only experienced in yoga or meditation.
Thus overcoming this one limiting belief opened the doors to remove the mental obstacles I had placed in my way throughout my life; the question begged to be asked, “what other self-made challenge could I overcome? The answer was deeply resonant- I could overcome any limiting belief I had constructed: this can be distilled down to attachment to the fruits of any idea, thought, or action. Bear in mind this did not mean I could necessarily run a marathon. Realistically I needed to understand the difference between limiting beliefs and actual physical limitations. My knees would definitely not take running a marathon. Over the 10 years I ran, I accrued much damage to joints, a stress fracture, and a broken bone in my foot. My physical limitation prevented me from running a marathon, not a limiting belief.
For this, gracious acceptance is required. My yoga practice cultivated the understanding I needed for this acceptance.
Please note by yoga practice, I do not mean only the asanas or poses, as is the prevalent understanding of yoga in the US. I am indicating the fullness of the embodiment of yogic principles and philosophy of which the postures are but only a piece of the much more comprehensive practice.
Again, much like shifting limiting beliefs, accepting physical or psychological limitations takes time and patience. Rallying against the natural flow of our life path or playing the victim of our circumstances only creates more suffering. Adjusting one’s view to the present moment allows for space where we may plant the seeds of acceptance. When we align ourselves with the present moment, we can no longer be distracted by the “what if’s” of the past or ensnared in anxiety over the unmanifest future. We begin to nurture the seeds of acceptance with loving kindness and patience.
As an example, the chronic migraines I experience are physical limitations. Additionally, for the last year, I have developed other symptoms which can impair my ability to speak or think clearly, drive, or partake in activities that bring me great joy, such as hiking and yoga (asana). Prevalent muscle weakness, neuropathy, and confusion, such as forgetting where I am or what I am doing, can be dangerous in specific settings. My awareness of my limitations is keen.
Of course, at the onset, these symptoms were terribly frightening and frustrating. Experiencing migraine from a very young age, I was potentially in a more desirable space to adjust to the additional limitations. Still, canceling plans and adapting from an active lifestyle to one spent mainly on the couch caused anger, resentment, fear, and sadness to arise. I had to sit with my emotions and make friends with the pain and anxiety to overcome dwelling on what I could not do. I needed to invite the sadness into my being and experience it fully to taste its essence in order to mourn what I perceived as a loss.
Losses can be viewed as destruction; through mindful destruction, we create new ideas, paths, and a new view of our predicaments. In my case, it was not the joys of my past that were destroyed but my attachment to how things “must” be. It is not “I love hiking; therefore, I will always be a hiker.” I enjoy the sense of aliveness, freedom, and connection with nature that hiking affords my spirit. This experience and this sense of space can manifest through other pursuits. The destruction of one path provides a clearer view of a new path that is untrod and full of pure potentiality. This potential is available to us in every moment. In the space we create through present-moment awareness, infinity awaits.
I now have a deeper appreciation for the cycles of nature as I see my path reflected in its seasons as I experienced a time of blossoming and unfolding as well as times of mourning and destruction. The two sides of the coin, non-duality expressed in each moment, for life implies death and vice versa.
As I align myself with what my body, mind, and spirit are capable of in each moment, I sense the blossoming of the seeds of acceptance, spreading peaceful contentment through my sacred vessel, allowing appreciation of the nuance and texture of the tapestry of the universe and the mystery of its weaving.
Please note that if you suffer from limitations causing you physical or mental anguish, I recommend talking with a trusted professional.
Start with your primary care doctor if you are still trying to figure out where to ask for help. For mental health assistance: https://jwww.samhsa.gov/
Winter Retreating: Books, TV, fear, anxiety, and finding flow.
I realized today that I had yet to write an entire blog post since December 30th. I wondered for a moment how that could have happened when I set up reminders to write at least once a week. Clearly, I have been ignoring my reminders.
It did not take too much pondering to figure out what happened to my almost consistent schedule.
I slow down even more in the winter. Lazy evenings curled up with a good book -I’ve managed six since January 1st! An even mix of fiction and non-fiction that kept me hooked. The last book I read, This is Your Mind on Plants by Michael Pollen, was not what I expected. I thoroughly enjoy this discourse on how particular chemicals in plants have the ability to alter our lives for good or ill. The section regarding caffeine was delightfully engaging, to say the least. Pollen’s comments on the evolution of plants are very thought-provoking and make one wonder if humans are as innovative or advanced as we like to think. I highly recommend picking up this best-selling tome. Now in-between books, trying to decide what to read next as I am waiting for a book to call to me, as one always does.
Meanwhile, while I deliberate whether I dive into fiction or non, hubby and I are watching some binge-worthy tv. Our obsession is Shrinking and Ted Lasso, and both shows share writer Brett Goldstein who also plays foul-mouthed Roy Kent on Lasso. Of course, my favorite character! The show is delightful, and Jason Sudeikis is a trip to watch. We could all learn a little from his character. The empathy and kindness shown in moments of upheaval allow us to see there is always a higher path from which to act. The writers brilliantly move through topics such as divorce, anxiety, and coming to terms with one’s flaws in a way that touches the heart and tickles the funny bone. Yes – I have cried in every episode, usually followed by laughter that brings tears to my eyes. We are very much looking forward to season 3 only a month away!
W.B. DROPS BY FOR A VISIT
Anyway, I set aside time each weekend for writing, but recently, my friend writer’s block decided to visit. This used to frustrate me to no end, and I would attempt to force words to flow. Of course, this approach doesn’t work with words or life. We cannot force anything to happen and expect a pleasant outcome. Everything in its own time.
I sit at my laptop bright and early Sunday mornings, intent on bringing to life a new meditation, blog post, or next chapter of one of the two books I am working on. Sometimes I manage one sentence and find myself stuck. When this happens now, I walk away. If I continue to attempt to write well-developed content, it usually sounds choppy without any flow. Thus, it becomes an emotionless diatribe that begs to be deleted.
The other conundrum that precludes me from keeping a consistent schedule is migraines. It is impossible to think, let alone scribe a meaningful paragraph when your skull is throbbing, and there is a sensation of spiders crawling across the brain, not to mention the crazy visual disturbances and cognition issues. I am lucky if I can spell my name.
So I no longer set goals or deadlines. When things happen, they happen. I choose not to view myself as the victim of my health. Although challenging, my condition has allowed me to have patience and become more in tune with my body, mind, and spirit. If not for the migraines, I would not have found this path, which includes meditation, reiki, and yoga.
The relationship between my illness and path is not one of cause and effect; these aspects arise mutually when viewed from a witness perspective. It sounds cliche to insist that we discover our strengths through our weaknesses, yet it is profoundly true. Hardships arise when we are called to express our authentic truth. Do we have the wherewithal to open ourselves to the possibility of self-forgiveness and growth? Can we stand aside from our bias and see the situation from all sides, dropping the act of victimhood and taking responsibility for our choices and life path?
The things we want to bury and look away from become stepping stones to freedom if we muster the courage to face them head-on. It comes down to how we choose to deal with fear. I do not believe that FEAR is false evidence appearing real. FEAR is real. It is an evolutionary trait that assists in keeping us safe from harm. The problem lies in allowing fear to develop into anxiety. When we turn away from the fear instead of exploring it from a safe space, we can unwittingly encourage it to transform into debilitating stress and anxiety. Please do not think you should go at this alone. Talk to a trusted friend or therapist about your fears and learn how to shift your perspective toward transformation instead of stagnation. Fear can be used as a catalyst for change in the correct set and setting.
Remember, everyone experiences setbacks, anxiety, and fear at some point. Our human existence is a tapestry of emotion and experience uniquely our own yet shared by all. Again, by reminding myself of this interconnectedness, I can extricate myself from my thoughts and feelings, creating space for growth and understanding which invites me to live a more conscious life.
If you need help with anxiety, fear, or other mental health-related issues, please check out SAMHSA’s National Helpline.
Another year has rolled past and for me it was at times a painfully slow roll. It reminded me of a class in college almost 25 years ago. The professor was a mild mannered, aging hippy; complete with ponytail tied, not with a rubber band, but a piece of old leather cording. I was a geology major and just as granola as the professor. He was very knowledgeable and the cadence of the class, stratigraphy, was on par with how long it to for the strata we looked at to have morphed from sand to stone.
The classes and field trips were well planned and enjoyed by most. (As I am sure, dear reader, you are aware that there are always a few humans who need to complain no matter what.) Anyway, about two weeks into classes, as we were learning about the law of superposition, our quiet peaceful professor suddenly turned from the chalk board (yes, there were chalkboards in college-that’s how old I am) and began a rant about his ex wife, loudly, emphatically with gesticulations and maybe spittle.
Then just as fast as it began, it was over and he turned back to the chalk board continuing the lesson as if the whole diatribe never happened. Clearly he was a catastrophist! A uniforitarian would never exploded like that!
These outbursts happened randomly in every class I had with this professor. Initially it was shocking- was he crazy? A few screws loose? Overtime we adjusted to it and it became a normal part of his classroom experience.
The effusive eruptions didn’t make him a bad teacher, on the contrary it showed depth, a story- more than meets the eye. He wasn’t just an aging hippy teaching a bunch of ungrateful kids. This man had a life, hopes, fears, dreams. The outbursts were breadcrumbs leading the inquisitive on down the path of human experience just as the eruptions of pain and confusion I encountered this past year, were breadcrumbs leading me deeper into the mystery of my deteriorating health.
By following the trail, patterns began to emerge; both with my health and the life of my professor. Allowing a patience to settle over me- I am able to see more clearly into the patterns of detail. By pausing and stepping back, becoming the witness, I can see the forest through the trees, blossoming with awareness.
The shifting moods, subtle yet complex, were easily noticed by anyone paying attention. My professor suffered from bouts of depression and anxiety. The outbursts were his coping mechanisms when not wanting to take meds; a full release of energy- and a prompt return to normal.
Was there a clue here for me? My confusion, tremors and other symptoms had to be breadcrumbs leading me to the path of healing. I only needed the patience to persevere and not play the victim to my heath. With the belief firmly established that healing begins within, I used these random outbursts of bizarre symptoms to discover the patterns.
If the pattern of trees makes a forest then my pattern of symptoms would lead to a diagnosis. So like any good geologist, I got out my field notebook and began sketching out the layers of life that were impacting or being impacted by my symptoms.
It’s amazing that it takes catastrophe to look at the stratigraphy of our lives . Where is the fault? Where have we allowed the pressure to build to the breaking point. Where can we find small moments of release as to not completely shake loose our moorings later?
These insights along the rocky shore of healing has led me towards deeper inner wisdom and a softening of spirit. Patience, it seems, has been born of cleaving layers of sediment crashing through me. What else can you do with tremors, but ride them out, knowing this too shall pass and calm will be restored once again.
And in the calm lies stillness and elucidation; for from the pressure of living comes forth the diamond clarity of truth – all of life is an ebb and flow of pain, joy, suffering and love; leaving traces of each story to become fossilized in memory.
And in the calm, what I discovered classifying my pain and suffering was a pattern of excess and scarcity. It is between these two extremes a balance can be found. Overdoing it, taking on too much leads me down a path of deterioration. Doing too little leads to stagnation and eventually down the same path of deterioration.
However when conditions hover in the sweet spot between the two extremes; this yields a slow yet steady pace, allowing for the unexpected & reveling in its mystique. Set backs are no longer boulders blocking my way, but a chance to meander creatively around my inner space getting a fresh view, creating new neural pathways.
When we can witness our story, layer built upon layer, lessons and meaning emerge from the patterns. We can learn from our past, adjusting our patterns to create a path of fertile soil which holds within it the sediment of our memory, allowing for new growth and experience to ripple through our lives.
Wishing you a peaceful 2023.