Thursday, June 21, 2012

Searching for Serenity: Peel the Onion

It has been over a year since I first came to the full realization that something in my life has been completely amiss. It all began when I started this blog, which kick-started an introspective journey involving intense self-reflection, analysis, and discovery. That journey is now resulting in a slow shift of consciousness and re-examination of purpose that are beginning to change the way I perceive life and its events, alter my perspective on religious and political matters, and raise my awareness of the binding thought patterns that clutter our human minds. I believe these seemingly uncontrollable thought patterns of worry, doubt, and judgment sit at the very core of many of our fears, addictions, personality flaws, internal conflicts, troubled relationships, and life challenges. The answer to combating those patterns lies in the ability to recognize, challenge, and ultimately control them. Here is the process through which I came to this realization...

In early 2011, I finally admitted to myself that have a problem with being in control. I am uncomfortable in unfamiliar settings, especially when I consider a situation to be chaotic or poorly managed. My life is highly structured and overly organized. I like to be right; I like to be in charge; I can even be a bit of a brat when it comes to getting my way. I have been aware of those things for years, but I always did what most people with personality flaws do – I justified it, made light of it, created excuses to defend it, and accepted it as an unchangeable part of who I am. I lived in complete denial of its true impact on my ability to have a fully harmonious marriage and a truly peaceful life. Never before had I been honest enough with myself to look in the mirror and say, “This is a problem.”

Once I did that, I expected overnight success. I thought the increased awareness of my problem was enough to enact a change. Not so fast. It was more like the “diet starts Monday” mentality. Every day I resolved to go with the flow, to trust the natural order of the world, to worry about myself and let everyone else be and do as they wish. Every day I failed miserably. I started trying less and less and I fell back into my old mentality, “This is who I am.” Along the way, various incidents would refuel my efforts to change, but it was always temporary. This went on until I discovered the next layer.

It turns out that I had been addressing the wrong problem. Instead of trying to stop controlling life, I needed to go a step further and ask myself, “What compels me to be in control of the world around me?” The answer (which did not come to me as immediately as it seems here) was anxiety caused by constant worry and fear. Subconsciously, I had come to believe that if I can make life predictable, then I’ll never get hurt or blindsided, and I’ll be prepared if my worries ever do come to fruition. This resulted in a lifestyle marked by rigidity, inflexibility, an unwillingness to trust others, constant suspicion of the possible danger lurking in the future, and (not surprisingly) an inability to relax, enjoy simple moments, and truly believe that “life is good.”

I quickly abandoned my efforts to magically stop controlling the circumstances of my life, and I started focusing on addressing my anxiety. Since I had already discovered an underlying cause for my compulsion to be in control, I assumed there must also be a deeper cause for my anxiety. I started with what I could already admit: I am distracted and preoccupied all the time. But why? My inability to answer that question led me to prayer, and my prayers guided me toward various resources through which I discovered a completely foreign but very intriguing concept. Spiritual writers describe it in various ways, but it basically boils down to developing the ability to live in the present moment without the distraction of any unnecessary or irrelevant thoughts.

There it is, I thought. That is the core; the center of the onion. I am constantly preoccupied because my head is cluttered with thoughts – second-guessing the past, worrying about the future, and entertaining a host of other irrelevant why’s and what-if’s that swim through my mind disrupting my stream of consciousness and affecting my ability to fully enjoy life. My disruptive thoughts fuel my anxiety and my anxiety compels me to control the world around me. The answer lies in learning how to live in the moment, surrender to the present, block negative and irrelevant thoughts, and trust the natural order of the world. Given that this is still a new concept in my life, my ability to do those things is certainly in its infancy, but I believe the achievement of those skills is a real possibility for everyone willing to try.

This is where my real journey begins and your journey can begin here too. I believe that any of life challenges – and we all have them – can be inserted in place of my compulsion to control and can be understood and processed on a deeper level by confronting the thought patterns that fuel them and learning what it means to be truly present in each moment of this beautiful life. I hope you continue to follow along and share your comments as we continue the search for serenity.

Related Posts:
Searching for Serenity: The Beginning

No comments:

Post a Comment