Where do I even start? As you can tell from my posts, it's been a year of serious transformation. If I forget for even a moment all I have to do is look outside and watch the butterflies, flitting from flower to flower reminding me that no one's struggle with transformation is harder than theirs. I secretly think they are out there waiting for me to finish mine and don my wings and join them for a flight. While I would love to feel the freedom of flying effortlessly through the air and gracefully gliding on the wind currents from beautiful flower to flower, I think their short lives will pass before my transitions are complete. As humans, this is generally the rule - it takes a lifetime (or perhaps several) to get it all figured out.
There have been several times along the way though when I think, once I cross this next hurdle, I'll have it all figured out. :) Anyone else out there have that thought too?
It's never how it works. There is always more. There has to be. That is life and living it to the fullest is a full lifetime's work. If we got to see everything and get all the answers we'd feel like Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita when Krishna reveals it all to him - completely overwhelmed and begging for it to go back to the way it was. We have to take our progress one step at a time; we can't go faster than what we are ready to handle. When we get ahead of ourselves or stop doing the underlying work, any progress will either be halted, back slide, or will be overwhelming to our system. It's a delicate balance.
Here's an example of what not to do. I share it with the hope that you learn from my mistake.
A pattern that I've carried with me for as long as I can remember is holding stress in my neck and shoulders. Many of us share this pattern. For me, my system decided that it was time for me to break this pattern. So at any moment that I feel an ounce of stress, now I immediately feel it in my neck. My solution? Avoid stress! I'm not even sure how I thought, in this world, that avoiding stress could be possible, and I laugh at myself now for being so foolish. The point is we can't just avoid a situation to break the pattern. We can delay the work of breaking the pattern by avoiding the situation, but that doesn't mean the pattern is no longer there. I can just hear the universe saying "nice try Jenn."
The work is to walk through it – not avoid it. Sometimes it is hard to not just run the other way, but the reward is taking it head on. You won't ever change the pattern by heading in the opposite direction. You will only stall your progress. You have to look the fear in the eyes and then take a giant step forward. I know I've spoken about this before, but this is where all the ground work you've done comes in: courage, vulnerability, and awareness.
As I shared in A pattern in the breaking, for the process for reforming our old groove patterns (samskaras) into new ones, here's some further insight into the take action step. I want to share some examples of shifting patterns in action.
In the moment when you normally run and hide and breakdown with tears alone, instead stay and cry with the person. In the moment when your habit is to scream and belittle the other person, pause and look inside and see why you’re hurting and want to respond in this manner. When you shift your response, you automatically shift the other person's reaction, because now the situation is different.
You can even call a "time out" from whatever is going on and ask the other person for some space to sort out what you are feeling. It helps to have a willing partner to assist with this, but you can do this in your own awareness, even if you don't.
Pay attention to what your body is feeling in these moments. Like the tension in my neck makes me aware that I am feeling even one iota of stress, your body is sending you signals all the time. Learn to turn in and notice them.
Another great way to look for help with identifying your patterns is by paying attention to your dreams. Our dreams reveal so much to us if we are paying attention. Those recurring dreams you have are revealing a pattern for you. Dreams are a way to get into our unconscious where we can't get in our awake state. Keeping a dream journal or at least spending some time lying in bed going over your dreams each morning is a good way to start. Oftentimes, if we have several dreams in one night, they are communicating the same message to us. If you haven't tried keeping track, check it out and see what you learn.
So does it ever feel comfortable when going through these changes? Yes, and no. Change is always uncomfortable on some level; it's this discomfort that, well, makes us want to change in the first place. If it wasn't uncomfortable, we'd never be motivated do it. The comfort comes in knowing that we've been here before. We've made it through previous transitions and we will make it through this one, too. And if we've gone through it before then we know what we will find on the other side - more of our true self shining brighter than we were before.
I hope these ideas and examples help you along your way as they have me! And as always, remember to be compassionate with yourself along the way. For me, learning compassion and keeping a gentle heart for myself has been a critical pattern that I'm re-grooving.
Om mani padme hum
Oh, and never, ever give up the dream to fly with the butterflies.
Recently, I have been working my way through some "pattern breaking" as I call it, and it’s not an easy process.
One of the hardest steps is the first - identifying the pattern. We all have them, it's just seems easier to keep blaming others for our problems, or ignoring that we've had the same fight with someone 100 times, or even that we don't like to be around certain people/scenarios/etc. These are all good circumstances, when you are ready, to look for and identify a pattern that you are playing out over-and-over again. Other good places to identify patterns is to watch the scenes and conversations unfold with those you live with, the family you grew up with, your work relationships, and even with friends. Most all of our patterns were formed as children so this is why our family has a knack for bringing these out in us. They become difficult to identify, and break, because they are so ingrained in us that we don't even notice they are there. It really takes a lot for us to step back and see things in a different light.
Part of this work is being able to look at your shadow side – your "flaws." And this means admitting that you are not perfect. This can be an immense obstacle that can prevent many people from going any further into pattern breaking. Those that believe they can do no wrong may be able to identify the pattern, but then will keep the blame all external, unable to look at their role in the pattern. This is obstacle number 2.
So once we've identified our pattern and accepted ownership of it, we must identify the root. Identifying the root will help heal the old would that caused the pattern to appear in the first place and will also help us in the future when we uncover other patterns that are actually just different manifestations of the one we are currently looking at, but lead us back to the same wounded feeling. If we are able to identify that wound, then it will be easier to identify this pattern and similar ones in the future because it will feel familiar within our physical, emotional, and energetic bodies.
Many of our patterns come back to not fully loving and accepting ourselves – this is why I wrote The Power of Love blog. Some other common ones are not feeling safe, not feeling as if we belong, and not speaking our voice (or not feeling heard).
The "fun" part is that all patterns demonstrate themselves in different ways for each of us. I like to turn this pattern breaking stuff into a game of detective work. It's not like it's spelled out for you – you have to dig deeper to see what's before you so you can identify it. Finding that root is key, but it also takes a lot of courage.
And now we encounter the take action step of breaking the pattern. Another difficult step. Again, this is not an easy task. (Who am I kidding? None of these steps are easy!) We have to identify the pattern as it is unfolding. Whoa! This takes a gigantic amount of awareness and courage. As you move through the action step you will identify the pattern at various stages. It may be a day/week later, it may be just after the incident played out, it may be in the middle of it, or it may be as you begin to step into the pattern itself. This piece of the puzzle will take an indeterminate amount of time to solve. Not the answer we want to hear, but it's the truth. Our self awareness will play a big part in this, and so will our courage and willingness to be vulnerable. It takes a big person to stand in the midst of a pattern and own it. (This is a good place to mention that meditation helps us grow our self awareness. See Times of Transition for additional tips.)
The action step involves using the first 3 steps to help break the pattern. When you really take ownership of the pattern that you've identified, then you will begin to see it playing out before you a lot easier. When you fully know the root and can feel it within your body, you will be able to tune in and identify that feeling and know that you are stepping into your pattern. This will be key to helping you identify and break it.
You also have to remember that, no matter the point where you realize that you've hit the pattern, that is progress! Even though you may feel frustrated that you are bound to the pattern, be sure to celebrate! That awareness in identifying it, no matter the point in time in which you did, is success! Remember to love yourself as you are going through this process. Hey, that might even be the root of your pattern, so you get another opportunity to try it out. :)
Once you realize that you are playing out the pattern, you can change your programmed emotional response to a response of your true nature. This, is beautiful.
The process is not easy, but whoever said life would be easy? However, it doesn't have to be hard, either. But we make it hard. It's our own forgetfulness of who we are, and it's this inability to see our true nature and the true nature of everything around us that makes our journeys so tough. It's our own patterns that lay over and cover us, embedded into our egos, that prevent this. And it's busting through these patterns that allow us to see our true selves again.
Got any thoughts on this pattern breaking business? Please share them below.
Looking for guidance with identifying and working through patterns? I'd love to help. Set up a session to work with me.
If you liked this blog, check out Finding Your Way Back Home.
Do you feel lost or stuck in your life? Oscillating day to day: feeling fine and on track one day, and the next feeling clueless? I call this "being in the crack" (not like the drug, but like the spaces in the sidewalk). Being in the crack is a natural state to be in during times of change in our lives. It's the space we fall into when we are between two solid pieces of ground during times of transition. It's the space we step into when moving from an old way of life into a new one. This is why, for a period of time, we feel lost one moment and then okay the next. It's during this "crack" time that we process through the changes and learn how to integrate them into our lives.
Being in the crack can be very trying, uncomfortable, agitating, and disorienting. Here are some tips to help make this unsettling time more comfortable.
* Meditation (as always)
This allows our bodies to let go of the mental chatter and move our emotional and energetic blocks to help us shift.
It also gets us away from the mental thought cycles that aren't helpful, but that we often get stuck in.
* Eat healthy
Avoid junk food and unnecessary sugar to allow your body to function as easily as possible and feel as good as they can.
If our bodies are working harder to process out unhealthy food, then it can't process the emotional and energetic blocks.
* Avoid drugs and alcohol
For the same reasons listed for food, give your system a detox period.
* Do yoga
Slow, gentle, restorative classes will help move energy where it needs to move to within your body.
Honor what your body needs; get a little more sleep if possible. Rest will help heal your body and shift blocks.
* Pay attention to what your body needs
You may be drawn to more alone time while you are in the process of shifting, so honor that. Instead of big gatherings, perhaps a cup of tea with a friend is in order. Breathe.
* Let love in - keep the crazy out
Give yourself a break from TV, movies, and the computer as much as you can. Fill the mind with "healthy" knowledge and information instead.
* Other helpful ideas:
Remember to be gentle with yourself. Just because we know a daily meditation practice and a healthy snack are good choices doesn't mean we can get ourselves to do it. Sometimes we aren't ready to move through the changes and, instead, spend a week sitting in front of the TV with a bag of "healthy" chips, suffering until we are ready to take it on. Be patient and remember to keep loving yourself. You won't be "in the crack" forever.
And ask for help when you need it. Whether it’s a close friend or relative. Reach out. You can also contact me for a private session to help with your yoga or meditation practice which, as I mentioned earlier, will help you work your way out of “the crack.”
Please share your thoughts below.
Jenn White, Yoga Educator, Meditation Teacher, and Owner of Embodied Bliss, began her journey of yoga and meditation in 2004 while recovering from a back injury. Feeling lost, restless and seeking something more from life, she found her path through meditation.
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