In the previous post we explored the power of curiosity in neutralizing the fear-fueled, judgmental, discouraging, self-sabotaging and downright cruel voice in our heads. Here’s a brief recap before diving into today’s real life example of curiosity in action.
Fear festers in dark and isolation. The moment you expose fear to examination in the light, you begin to dissipate its power. Nowhere is this more true than when fear shows up as its relentless ugly cousin, judging.
When I talk about judging or judgment, I’m not referring to having good or bad discernment. I’m talking about judging yourself, other people, and situations in dualistic terms such as good or bad, right or wrong, okay or not okay. When we judge things by such simplistic, restrictive polarities, we limit our options, get stuck, and block ourselves from the highest good. When we can neutralize the judge, we get unstuck, expand our possibilities, and increase our ability to grow and move forward.
Judging is a prison of our own making. It is downright miraculous how even a small change in your perception can dramatically expand your perspective. To illustrate, here’s one of countless examples from my own life.
However unconscious the process may feel at the time, I am manifesting the world I choose to see. This is the reason the game of golf can be perceived as any or all of the following, depending on your lenses:
- a delightful afternoon immersed in nature,
- an exhilarating and rewarding competitive event,
- a fun way to exercise with friends, and/or
- an endless day of humiliation and torture.
Let’s look at my own experience with golf to access this insight more deeply. When we lived on the East Coast, my husband and I owned a vacation home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. When my son, Matt, was eleven years old, we enrolled him in kids’ camp to help him enjoy his time there even more by spending it being active outdoors with his peers. One weekend in August, he signed up for a daylong sports camp that provided tennis instruction in the morning and golf in the afternoon. He returned home at the end of the day utterly smitten with golf.
We were so thrilled by Matt’s enthusiasm that we enrolled in a family golf clinic so the three of us could learn and play together. We were all beginners, out there to have fun and enjoy the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We passed many a delightful afternoon playing nine holes. With a tee time late in the day and no one behind us on the course, we could take our time, observing the privilege of unlimited mulligans (do-overs) and stopping to harvest lost golf balls in the woods. Advancing the little white ball down the fairway to the little white cup was always secondary to having a good time.
Until I switched to a consulting firm where golf was not a hobby but a responsibility. One of the benefits—nay, expectations—of being a partner in this firm was that I would play golf with my colleagues and clients. In fact, I would be expected to woo prospective clients on the golf course. To do that, I was expected to be a moderately good golfer, not an embarrassment to my firm and myself.
Gone were the leisurely afternoons on my beloved Blue Ridge golf course. Now my games with family became practice for the performance my partners expected me to deliver. While swearing was not the norm for me, now when I missed the first two shots off the tee, I swore. Now when I hit a shot into a sand trap, I threw my club down the fairway while swearing. When this happened, I’d explain to my companions that my father had been in the merchant marines. They’d say, “Did he swear a lot?” “No,” I’d reply, “evidently it skipped a generation.”
Because children don’t do what we say but rather do what they see us do, it’s unsurprising that, in short order, my eleven-year-old was also throwing his clubs and swearing like a sailor. That’s when I finally got a grip. Matt and I agreed that when either of us behaved badly on the course, we had to take a time-out together in the golf cart until both of us had returned to civility. As a result, Matt and I went through a period where we spent more time in the golf cart than on the course. This may have been just as well, because we were living proof that anger is not necessarily a performance enhancer.
One day, weary of swearing, throwing clubs, and spending time in the cart, the two of us sat there, arms crossed, scowling. After a few minutes of reflection, I said, “Babe, this has got to stop. Neither of us is having any fun anymore. I think I’ve figured out my problem. I’m imagining the potentially angry, ridiculing voices of my partners in my head, and I can’t relax and have fun when I’ve put them in there to beat me up. What’s going on in your head?” He looked at me with all the disgust of a kid who believes his parent has gone ’round the bend and said, “I have no idea. I don’t even know your new partners!”
Here is the essence of what I have learned from over sixty years on this earth. The nugget, the kernel, the gem. The only hope for finding peace in this life—not just comfort but deep abiding peace—is to be insatiably, fearlessly curious about myself.
Not just the attractive ways I show up—my kindness, compassion, wisdom, generosity, and humor. It is important for me to acknowledge those things, but it is not enough. I need to be endlessly inquisitive about all of it, especially the unattractive habits—my insensitivity, impatience, obsession, bitterness, anger, anxiety, and despair. I have grown the most and found deep abiding peace only by embracing the ugly parts as well: appalling thoughts, speech, and behavior. It all matters and must be considered in the mix—the good, the bad, the pretty, and the ugly. All of it acknowledged with courage, compassion, and love. This concoction of disparate and dissonant motivations and behaviors is what it means to be human.
We are all capable of the full range of human motivations and behaviors; none of us is exempt. Refusing to see any part of it, lulling myself into oblivion by clinging to an incomplete, distorted Polly Perfect self-image always leads to my undoing. The greater and deeper the denial, the longer and harder the fall because that which is denied will wreak havoc. Maybe not today or tomorrow. But the longer I look without seeing and hear without listening, the more I stand to lose.
The great irony is that I’m the only person fooled when I deny the full truth of how I show up. I broadcast it through what I say and when I am silent. Through the actions I take and the times I fail to act. Through what I cherish and what I reject. Through what I long for and what I fear. I am the only one kept in the dark by living a life of denial about myself.
One of the greatest gifts I can give anyone is having the honesty and courage to see and share myself fully so that we both might benefit from our shared insight, compassion, and good humor—failures, resilience, victories. We are here to help each other grow by sharing without reservation the only thing we have to give—our authentic selves.
The only person controlling your life is you! Choose your energy and change your life. If you want to keep making yourself miserable and continue contaminating the energy of every situation you encounter, stop reading and keep doing what you’re doing. But if you have had enough, if you are ready to stop the insanity, keep reading. You are going to love what happens when you learn to embrace the next aspect of love in a new two-part series beginning next month: COMPASSION.
Excerpt from “Choose Your Energy: Change Your Life!” © Copyright 2013-2018 DJW Life Coach LLC. All rights reserved.
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