“By arising in faith and watchfulness, by self-possession and self-harmony, the wise man makes an island for his soul which many waters cannot overflow.” – Watchfulness, The Dhammapada
The Dhammapada is a book containing what is widely believed to be the Buddha’s teachings. True contentment, it seems, comes from attaining control of one’s mind and one’s actions and not being driven by “weak pleasures” and hatred. To attain this level of control requires a great deal of self awareness – increasing self awareness is my goal for this week.
The past few weeks have seen me fall into unhealthy habits like staying up too late and overusing social media, not keeping on top of housework and going to bed without washing my face. These are the actions of someone who is not self aware, someone who is wading through life with a sense of oblivion and an ignorance of insurmountable emotions. Perhaps worse than these habits, I had a damaging interaction with a loved one this past week. I woke up one morning with a grey cloud in my chest and my head. I wanted to pull the covers over me and not get up. I felt insecure. I ran through the maze in my head of conversations I’d had with this person recently and one particular sentence stung me. I obsessed over it to the point where it felt necessary to bring it up. But looking back, this method of solving the issue of difficult emotions swamping my body was so ignorant. I was blind, looking for some reason outside of myself to explain my struggling. It was wrong. I hurt this person. It backfired and I was crying. Had I been looking for this release all along? Did I know it would turn into conflict? Was I craving the friction? I don’t know. But I do know that when I approached the subject it felt true to me at the time. And that scares me because it displays a distinct lack of self awareness. Now on top of the insecurity I felt when I woke up that day, I was also plagued with guilt. This followed me for days.
If only I’d had the awareness to look inward that morning, if only I’d had the patience to ride out that wave of emotion. Because that’s all emotions are: waves. A few days prior to this incident, I was feeling on top of the world. I’d started producing a new song and I was feeling great about it, almost giddy. I didn’t mind going to my boring job because my mind was on this song. I had something greater to look forward to. I had lust for life burning in my stomach. During this high point, reluctantly in the back of my mind was this:
“Watch the waves in the ocean. The higher the wave goes, the deeper is the wake that follows it. One moment you are the wave, another moment you are the hollow wake that follows. Enjoy both, don’t get addicted to one. Don’t say: I would always like to be on the peak. It is not possible. Simply see the fact: it is not possible. It has never happened and it will never happen. It is simply impossible, not in the nature of things. Then what to do? Enjoy the peak while it lasts and then enjoy the valley when it comes. What is wrong with the valley? What is wrong with being low? It is a relaxation. A peak is an excitement, and nobody can exist continuously in an excitement.” – Osho
Somewhere in my mind, I knew I would feel low afterwards but I didn’t want to believe it. The nature of emotions is something I need to come to terms with. Maybe if I get to know myself a bit better, these rises and dips won’t seem so scary. So what is it that I really want to cultivate through increased self awareness? Firstly, a higher tolerance for and understanding of shifting emotions and we’ve already established why. Secondly, patience. I’ve been waiting on a delivery and an important email the past week and I’ve been so impatient it’s actually ridiculous. I must’ve been checking my email ten times a day. Thirdly, positive habits. I want to establish a healthier and more effective routine with habits that benefit me. And lastly, positive interactions with others. I want to be a help, not a hindrance, to those around me and I want my relationships with others to thrive as much as possible. Here’s how I plan to cultivate these things in my life:
- Follow a weekly planner
- Meditate daily
- Journal daily
- Focus on the breath when feeling emotionally overwhelmed
- Limit social media use
Following a weekly planner is something I implemented in my life when I was overcoming depression and I found it to be paramount to my recovery. It’s tried and tested and I know what a positive influence it has on my life. Daily guided meditation with an app called buddhify is also something I did to combat depression and I’ve been a bit lazy with it recently so I’m looking forward to being more disciplined. The gentle wisdom that arises from cultivating stillness is truly amazing.
I haven’t done daily journalling for a long time. I view the mind to be a bundle of tangled strings that slowly start to unravel and straighten out when you write about your thoughts and feelings. It can be quite time consuming but with all the time I’ve spent on my phone recently, I’m sure I can reprioritise it for something beneficial. Focusing on the breath is something I hope will help when I’m feeling overwhelmed and out of control. I’m going to leave intermittent phone reminders to make sure I follow through. The cool thing about the breath is that it’s always there and it can actively help to calm you down. I’m hoping that this will also prevent reactionary responses to people and situations. If I can first focus on the breath, maybe the way I react to things will be different. And then there’s social media. It really is an addiction and I need to curb it. A while back I had a rule where I wouldn’t use my phone until half an hour after I woke up and I’d stop using it half an hour before I went to sleep. In addition to implementing this rule this week, I’m also going to turn the WiFi on my mobile off when I go to work. Too often, I’m checking my phone at work, obsessing over whether people have messaged me back and it’s stopping me from being present at my job. I’d leave it at home altogether but I like to use buddhify on my walk home.
I think this week is going to be challenging. Whilst self parenting was mostly about reconnecting with my inner child through childlike activities and talking kindly to myself, this week I’m really going to be owning my feelings and forgoing quick fixes to difficult situations. Here goes nothing! Next week’s post will be an evaluation on my week of self awareness. Thank you for reading!
– SMUT. xxx ❤