Over the years I have been swept up in the Mindfulness tsunami and hungrily grabbed many books, listened to Podcasts and watched Youtube videos of amazing teachers. The aim – to understand what it means to be present, be in the now and all the other many ways these ideas are named. In the reading and listening I always felt like I kind of got it. But did I? Well to be honest, not really, until I began to identify my patterns of response and began to have small “aha” moments when reviewing my family of origin and childhood. This does not need to be the daunting and onerous task one may think. It is about taking the stance of being CURIOUS about how it would look, viewing your childhood as an outside-witness, watching the movie of your childhood with as little emotional investment or attachment as possible, but rather with curiosity and interest. If this is too daunting a prospect to do alone then elicit a journey-companion, be it a friend, a family member, a therapist or a mentor. The stance, the positon to assume when watching this movie is something like An awareness of: “oh, wow, that is interesting that mum always said that when my little brother did that. Or: shew I forgot that dad used to avoid making parenting decisions by causing a fight. Or Perhaps: watching myself as a 7-year-old I see how courageous I actually was and not as timid as my cousin always said I was. Of course these are my words and the kind of language that I use so language it in a way that is more fitting to you, but you get the gist of what I am saying!
So it is inviting Curiosity in. It is NOT inviting in Shame, Guilt or hoping to fix things. Big companion-words for me have become: Acknowledging and Accountability. These words have a kind of integrity for me, a solidness, a calm-beauty that gives me comfort. There may be other words that fit better with you, so seek them out and invite them in. What these words invite in, for me:
Acknowledging is about being able to watch the movie of your life and see it for what it is, from a distance, the benefit of hindsight: I can see now that my parents did the best they could given their circumstances, OR: I can see how hurt I was by the actions of my mum, OR: It is not really surprising that I struggle with intimate relationships now that I am looking at the movie of years gone by.
Accountability is about being answerable (accountable) for your own responses and reactions and choices. Being ABLE to see how your childhood and family of origin have impacted certain parts of you and influence how you behave. I have needed special people to accompany me on this journey, to support me in this endeavor as it can be a challenging path. I continue to need the support and guidance of mentors and close people in my life to help me in my watching of the movie and the reflecting. Companions are always required throughout our lives! And then, to be accountable, to me, myself and I, for how I decide to move forward in my own life-movie. And to begin to ask the question: WHAT DO I WANT MY MOVIE TO LOOK LIKE?
So through this process I began to understand, that it is in the NOW, Ekhart Tolle’s NOW, that I was able to start inviting in Curiosity, Acknowledgment and Accountability and that these things helped to locate me more in the present. I also began to realise, after reviewing, editing, re-watching, questioning and being interested, that I began to develop more of a sense of who I am, as a product of my past-movie and creating my from-now-on-movie.
Ahhhh….Light bulb moment! Slowly I began to realise that every time I felt upset when my partner did that thing, that I tend to respond as if I am the 9-year-old little girl again, responding to my father who always let me down. That was pretty game-changing for me! As I began to slow down the moments of dissention in my own home and family, or moments of hurt within my relationships, the clarity had more space to move in and to settle. In the slowing down, the reviewing, the breathing, I began to experience myself more in the present and thus more able to respond to what was unfolding around me at the time, and with the people in the room now!
The words of Gabor Mate began to make more sense – being response-able. I was beginning to learn that only in the present am I truly able to respond to the moment. That is being responsible!
In therapy, whether I am working with a couple, a family or an individual, I become acutely aware of the multi-generational stories which get dragged into the arguments. We all have ingrained ways of responding when certain situations arise, which provoke deeply felt emotions. And most of the time the issue presenting itself in the moment is lost in the chaos of these rote beliefs and stories we tell ourselves or have been told by others. We seem to hold onto these stories because they are so old and comforting that we actually do not even know they are restricting us, or sometimes we know they are but are too terrified to shed them. Oh we are so complex! That is the conundrum of the human experience – yearning for simplicity yet weaving webs of complexity!
However, despite my own complexity, I am trying to locate myself more and more in the present, as clichéd as that may sound. Slowing things down helps. Breathing helps even more. Inviting in Curiosity and giving Judgement the boot….. slowly, slowly ….. I am more here and it feels ….. new, exciting and LIBERATING. I have refrain from ever telling my children that “curiosity killed the cat” …..where did that come from anyway? Who first said that to me and why have I repeated it?….Mmmm you see….repeating stories I don’t even understand!
My new story: Just be CURIOUS