Self Exploration: The Good the Bad and the Balance

The thought of self exploration can be daunting if you think of it as only a quest to find all the things about you that need improvement. However, we are so much more than negative attributes. I believe that if you choose to embark on a journey to connect more deeply with yourself it doesn’t benefit you to only focus on the negative. You are made up of many attributes that could be seen as negative or positive.  

For instance, you may be a bit greedy, but also you may be an incredibly supportive person. You could end up being the one who has the most to give when someone is in need. Many of the attributes we see within ourselves are not so black and white as to thoroughly declare it as something to rid ourselves of. Some things that seem negative could only need a little bit of tweaking. Many may see too much of a positive thing as overwhelming and something that needs adjusting as well.

If you can examine yourself with the thought of balance in mind, that may make it easier. Think of the attributes that you love about yourself, if you’ve already made a map this may go much more easily for you. Can you think of a time when one of those wonderful attributes, though well intended, made a situation more complicated? This is because we are human beings with different experiences, all of us have our own different perspectives of good and bad. An attempt to do something you see as the right thing may not be what the situation needed. This doesn’t negate the positivity of your intention, it simply shows that nuances are present in this place of self discovery because of our humanness.

I choose the word humanness because it’s synonym, humanity, doesn’t feel personal enough and this journey is meant to be incredibly personal. This isn’t about the greater good, this is about you and how you can feel happier, more fulfilled, less awkward and more prone to view the world with a lens of joy and fulfillment. Many feel discomfort in focusing on themselves; they don’t want to be seen as selfish. My opinion though is that when you build that strong foundation within, it enables you to help others more easily and readily. It provides focus on not only how you could help improve the situation but also the wisdom on where you may need the help of someone else.

Where do you excel? Do you own that strength or do you keep it quiet so as not to be put to a test that you fear failing? More importantly, you have to be willing to accept that just because you excel at something doesn’t mean you won’t ever need assistance or that someone else’s input would be a threat to you. If you have a strong internal foundation you will be less likely to be threatened by the input of others. It may even bring you relief in those situations that it is clear that one person shouldn’t be expected to handle it all by themselves. 

Judgment is also a hurdle to overcome here. Part of the reason for knowing yourself better is to strengthen your resolve to authentically be yourself. To live your life with a perspective of wholeness and to do it with confidence. If you judge yourself too harshly you are preventing progress from happening.  You may even be convincing yourself that you cannot overcome something because you don’t deserve to. 

If you find a barrier, do a judgment check. Is your own unhappiness bringing these emotions up or someone else’s perspective? When you bring it to mind, is it your voice saying it or someone else’s? You may be using judgments that you were instilled with by others. You may have enjoyed guidance from someone with more life experience, someone who possessed a great deal of wisdom that helped you navigate the world with more certitude, but that doesn’t mean that the person who provided you with that guidance was infallible. Also what worked for them may not work for you. Times change, people change. A strong foundation of self knowledge will let you be in touch with when you may need to reassess and yes, possibly, change. This doesn’t mean that you were not good enough before it simply means it was time to balance things in a way that fits your life now. 

Evaluate the attributes of yourself that you see as negative, one by one. Rate their hindrance to your happiness on a scale of 1 through 10 with 10 being the greatest hindrance. Now, for a more balanced perspective, consider the ways in which they could be or have been useful in a situation. Also consider that it could be a positive thing when coupled with one of your positive attributes (like the greed example I gave above) Now rate it again. Try to balance it with the positives, and where you can’t find the balance is where you start really analyzing.

Set your mind to be vigilant of this negative attribute. When this attribute arises again try wielding it more softly. Like in the greed example, take half of what you would normally take or even 2/3rds. What emotions come up for you? Where do these emotions stem from? If this is based on a bad period of your life it may be time to reassess your experiences related to that situation. Filter it through your current circumstances and find out what is still true and necessary about this attribute and what is not. Think of how you would answer the question “Do I really need that much and why?” If you can’t answer clearly, that is a good indication that at least tweaking of this attribute may be needed.

Please know that this isn’t meant to be done in a weekend’s time. This is meant to take as long as you need. You may unearth major internal issues that were never fully resolved. If it takes a little while, that’s okay if not expected. This isn’t meant to disrupt your life. It is meant to connect you better with your internal self, to build a foundation you can act from with confidence, to have a safe and restorative place to return to when things are hard or disappointing or just plain exhausting. It is a place you can feel your full worth and know that even if things get hard, you will find a way through. This won’t make you perfect, but it will give you a better chance of finding the freedom to be fully yourself and love every part. 

7 Simple Tips for Successful Meditation

We would all prefer a peaceful and balanced life. To not be constantly inundated with thoughts of all the stuff you haven’t gotten done or awkward moments that still haunt you. I feel that meditation is a great way to find that balance in your life. A consistent practice could bring you the clarity you have been seeking. 

When you delve into the world of meditation there is a great deal of information out there and some of it can be very intimidating. Many get discouraged by trying it once and having those haunting thoughts flood in. As you are struggling to find the peace and quiet and seem unable, you become convinced that it is something you just can’t do.

You may feel that more attempts would only result in more frustration which defeats the whole purpose. Don’t give up though! It’s rarely perfect the first time, or even the first few times, but there are ways to mitigate the distractions and bring yourself back to your pursuit for balance and peace. It may not fit the perfect picture of meditation and that really isn’t what I am suggesting with these tips. These are the ways I have used to find those quiet moments for myself to sort things out. Some of them may even seem like the opposite of what you have read on meditation. The point is to make you comfortable and take the insecurity out of it so you can find your way there.

Think about it though, how often do you give yourself moments of peace and quiet during the day? Most people are just trying to keep up with the hustle and bustle of life and the only times we have peace and quiet are when we lay in bed to go to sleep. That’s typically when all the thoughts you didn’t have time to think throughout your day come flooding in. 

Also we have made it a practice these days to stay distracted. The internet is right on our phones, and it’s full of content perfect for distraction. I am also often guilty of this, but I have learned, though imperfectly, to try to take breaks from it throughout the day when there is time. Shutting off the TV, putting down the phone to have real conversations or just to give myself a chance to think. The point is without those quiet moments, when we finally do decide to take a few, it makes sense that the thoughts would surge forth at this golden opportunity.

I have been meditating for years, and, though I follow no particular style or rule set, I have seen great benefits. The more I meditate the more centered and calm I am throughout the day. Taking only 5 minutes, even to just be with yourself in quiet, can make a big difference. Through the years of my informal meditation practice, I have come up with a few ways to get and keep myself on track during meditation sessions. Here are 7 ways to improve your success, even if you have never been able to meditate before.

  1. Before you even start, get yourself in a happy place. A quick way to do this is to think of the things that make you smile, whether it is current things in your life that you are grateful for, or happy memories you still cherish. Think of all the happy things that you can until you are smiling. That’s when you know you are ready.
  1. Many of us are naturally nervous about time and its constraints in general. That isn’t a concern you want to start your meditation session with. Give yourself ample time and don’t rush it. This doesn’t mean you have you to meditate for an hour, it only means that if you feel any anxiety right from the beginning it will make it a lot harder to find that place of focus and peace. If you have a definitive amount of time available to you, set a timer. Then you know that you will finish in the allotted time, and you can let that anxiety go. 
  1. Tell yourself that you are safe and it is okay to take this time for yourself. Say it in your head or even out loud. Sometimes hearing it, even if it comes from you, will make it more real and believable. If you get into position and you feel undeserving of the time you are taking, or you begin to think about all the other things you could or should be doing, tell yourself it is okay to take this time for yourself. Those other things will be there when you are finished, and perhaps the mediation session will give you the clarity you need to get it done.
  1. Try different tools within your meditation, if you feel like a guided meditation will help the most, use that. If you have a favorite peace-inducing piece of music, listen to that. If you don’t have access to either, a trick I use is, when the thoughts start flooding in “play” a song that makes you happy in your head. If visual art moves you more, picture one of your favorites in your head, but try to make it something that makes you happy. You can focus on that until you feel the intruding thoughts are fading, and lower the volume until you don’t need it anymore. If you are using accompanying music and the thoughts still flood in, find one element (one tone or instrument) of the music to focus on, then expand out as you are able.
  1. Imagine a beautiful place. Imagine you are there and enjoying the scenery. Try to sink into it as much as you can. You don’t have to do anything in that place, just observe and enjoy. You won’t need this tool as much as you get more used to meditation, but if it promotes relaxation and happiness and can keep you calm and focused, then use it.
  1. Listen, observe, but don’t analyze. As you find that place of relaxation and expansion, sometimes insights will pop into your head. This is different from your own personal worries and concerns. When they do, don’t engage. Let these insights come and go, but tell yourself you will remember them after you are finished with your meditation. Just say quickly in your head ‘Help me to remember this’ then let it go. You may lose a few insights in the beginning, but don’t get frustrated; chances are it may dawn on you sometime later, when you most need that kind of wisdom.
  1. Give yourself time after the meditation session to jot down any insights. Even if your time is short, try to spare a minute or two after to write down anything that popped in. If you can spare the time for a full journaling session, that’s even better but not necessary. You can save the analyzation or journaling for later, if that’s what fits your schedule. Journaling may not appeal to you, but it can really help you keep tabs on the progress you’re making. I recommend keeping a record of some kind, even if it doesn’t involve pouring out your soul onto paper.

Hopefully this list will help you tap into the calming and balancing power of meditation. Start slow, if needed, and take it at your own pace. Don’t compare your progress to others; just enjoy the time and space you are gaining to put things into perspective. You deserve it!