At the moment of our conception, we begin life with the potential for wholeness. We are then birthed into the physical world with a full sense of aliveness; balanced, connected, and attuned to ourselves and those around us. We are whole, complete, and perfect. As we pulsate through time and space we endure wounding, usually unintentional, and internalize these events that then harden our hearts. As we mature, life becomes an arduous juggling act of responsibilities, emotions, needs, and wants. This constructed chaos can take a toll on our well-being and leave us with a sense of imbalance, creating a disconnect from both our own true nature and that of others. This detachment drives us to live in our mind, despite our body, and fuels the wearisome cycle of our superficial search for completeness. We get tricked into believing that wholeness exists outside of ourselves–through the love of another or maybe through the endless accomplishments that attempt to prove our self-worth. Yet beneath the surface of our thoughts, we may sense unevenness about our daily experience as we move along our unique journey of life. It is in this sensing or deep knowing, that we find the spark that has the power to return us to our original wholeness. Coming back to ourselves in this way, reveals our capacity to sustain our inner balance, opening to a life filled with ease, abundance and joy.
Reuniting with ourselves requires that we take a candid self-inventory; one that discovers and encompasses both the inner gifts that we are willing to own as well as the inner demons that we struggle so tirelessly against. Begin to ask yourself questions such as, “What do I like about myself? If I could change one thing about myself, what would that be? What values have I taken with me into adulthood? How do I spend my time? Where do I fit in? When do I feel most unlike myself?” As we authentically answer these core questions, we gain a heightened awareness into the essence of ourselves and ultimately see the paradoxical, imperfect nature of our humanness. Becoming aware of and allowing the both/and of our inner landscape—giving/selfish, truthful/dishonest, loving/hateful, compassionate/judgmental, proud/shameful, connected/aloof—without judgment or aversion, are the seeds that actualize our true nature once again. Attuning to our paradoxical nature in this way, just as we did when we took our first few breaths, provides us with a sense of completeness, of nothing lacking. Allowing and accepting our imperfect foundation leads us to a fluid integration of our many parts. This integration is both the stream of tranquility and the sustenance of our wholeness.
Maintaining this integration requires that we compassionately return to the truthfulness of our existence, again and again. This homecoming—coming back to ourselves—compels us to cultivate self-awareness, which softens our hearts and promotes radical self-acceptance through moment-to-moment allowing of each experience. It is our birthright to be deeply connected to ourselves, yet it is our choice to devote time to settling in, in this way. Well-known writer and Buddhist nun Pema Chodron reminds us to “Stop. Notice. Appreciate. Share.” These four words can be pivotal in staying awake to who we are, while providing us with a simple structure that will support the daily integration of our many parts, ultimately connecting us with our true essence.
Each day, in the morning as you arise and in the evening as you lie down to sleep, begin a practice of mindfulness, using the structure of Stop–Notice–Appreciate—Share. First, stop. Take a comfortable seat in a quiet place. Next, begin to notice the quality of your breath. Is it shallow or deep, forced or easy? Begin to fully experience—watch, sense, hear—your breath. You will become distracted with thoughts, yet each distraction is an opportunity to return to yourself. Returning to the breath again and again, that is, shifting our awareness from thoughts to the sensations of the breath, connects us to our true nature and deepens our sense of completeness. As you go through the cycles of distraction and awareness, gently bring yourself back to the breath, without judgment or disdain. As you settle in, identify one thing in your experience that merits appreciation. Maybe it’s your ability to take the time to stop, or maybe it’s the calm you feel as you sit. Maybe it’s appreciating the pain you feel and your ability to develop compassion for others. Once identified, share this appreciation with others. Sharing takes on many forms—through helpful actions, through verbal expression, or through prayer. This simple practice of authentically being with ourselves is all we need to reconnect with our completeness and perfection. It is the ground that fully supports and sustains our wholeness.