“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Socrates, an ancient Greek philosopher (470-399 BC), is given the credit for the above. He was right and for many reasons. And yet so many people are so busy avoiding self-examination and reflection. So much of what we do, say, feel is directly tied to our unconscious. Our unconscious , by definition, is not easily accessed by our conscious mind and yet it often dictates our choices. Unless we spend time examining ourselves we finds ourselves “victims” of our own unconscious.
Have you ever said or done something that surprised yourself? Or wondered as you spoke or acted what on earth you were doing but kept doing it anyway? Perhaps you have had the feeling that you were trapped repeating behaviors that you really didn’t want to do but didn’t know how to not do them anymore. These are times when your unconscious is driving you.
Until you do the wondrous and, at times, tough work of discovering what is driving you, you will continue to say, feel and do things that are perhaps unhealthy for you and those around you. Examining ourselves is amazing work. We come to know ourselves and in turn unleash an amazing power from within.
As one who has lived in the mountains of NC, I have found some of my best “self” work has been done on a trail or overlooking a meadow. I have sat many an hour along the streams of the western NC mountains and reflected on my place in the world and taken in the beauty around me.
There are many other more intense ways to begin or continue this internal work. Therapy is one way. A therapist can help you uncover what has happened in your past that is affecting your present . There are many good therapists around the area and in Asheville especially. If your past is still creating havoc in your present, a therapist might very well be a great way to invest in you.
Spiritual direction is a another way to explore your inner world. As a person who believes in God, I have found Spiritual direction very helpful. I, myself, am a certified Spiritual Director.
What is Spiritual direction?
Spiritual direction focuses on religious experience. It is concerned with a person’s actual experience of a relationship with God.
Spiritual direction is about a relationship. The religious experience is not isolated, nor does it consist of extraordinary events. It is what happens in an ongoing relationship between the person and God. Most often this is a relationship that is experienced in prayer.
Spiritual direction is a relationship that is going somewhere. God is leading the person to deeper faith and more generous service. The spiritual director asks not just “what is happening?” but “what is moving forward?”
The real spiritual director is God. God touches the human heart directly. The human spiritual director does not “direct” in the sense of giving advice and solving problems. Rather, the director helps a person respond to God’s invitation to a deeper relationship.
No one knows us better than God, our creator. It is God who “knit us in our mother's womb.” There is within every human being a connection to the divine. The drive to matter, to have significance and meaning is at its root attached to the divine within us. It is what makes us different from the animals. Our “divine spark” is what allows us to overcome our past, heal and grow regardless of age. This power lies within each of us.
Yet another way to “examine” yourself is through “coaching.” Life coaching is a person who walks beside you and helps to encourage and empower you to grow. They set goals and provide actionable steps towards success. Coaches ask the right questions and give the right resources. There are so many ways a coach can come alongside you and help you to help yourself. So often we “get stuck” in life. Maybe we are not even sure where to start to examine ourselves. A coach can help you “get unstuck.” There are so many ways to avail yourself of a coach. Some meet face to face once a week. Some use teleconferencing or other communication technology to connect. Usually a coach will want to meet weekly and establish 2 or 3 goals for you to accomplish. Coaching is a great investment in YOU as well.
Below is a sample of one of the resources a coach might give you to help you care for yourself. This is one I have used through Purposeful Living,llc (purposefullivingllc.org) with my clients. It is called “Active Rest.” And it is a great way to rejuvenate, refocus. I have found this particularly easy to use on a trail in the mountains.
Many of us struggle to give our minds and bodies adequate rest. We all know we need it, but we find a million and one excuses why we can’t. The same is true for what I call “active rest.” “Active rest” is needed throughout the day to rejuvenate or refocus ourselves. While the term might sound like an oxymoron, it's actually a real requirement for your health and wellbeing.
If you've heard about active rest at all, it's probably in the context of physical exercise. For example, you rest your legs while you work your arms, or take up swimming for a month if you're recovering from an injury caused by running.
Active rest can also be applied to other areas of your life. It refers to engaging in a less intense activity or a different kind of activity. It can be anything you do while you're awake to renew and rejuvenate.
If you feel tired much of the time with no physical cause or you just want more joy out of life, take a look at how you spend your days. Try these suggestions for active rest.
Scheduling Active Rest:
Prepare for mid-afternoon. A slump can hit you anytime, but mid-afternoon is especially common. Block out time for a break sometime between 2 and 4 pm.
Pace yourself. Most of us can concentrate for only about 90 minutes to 2 hours at a time. You may even want to take a breather each hour to avoid becoming fatigued.
Increase the frequency. Have you been taking one long vacation each year? It may help to spread your leave time out.
Leave work behind. Resist taking work home with you on weekends and evenings. Make unscheduled free time a priority.
Providing Active Rest for Your Mind:
Zone out. Indulge in mental wandering. Studies show that we sometimes come up with more creative solutions when we stop thinking directly about one predicament or another.
Meditate on mindfulness. Develop a daily meditation practice or find other activities that encourage you to be present. It could be cooking or gardening.
Practice your faith. Connect with the divine. Read inspirational literature. Pray at home or find a spiritual community where you feel like you belong.
Read a book. When was the last time you read a book for pleasure or read anything longer than a social media post? Try losing yourself in a classic novel or expand your knowledge of medieval history or romantic poetry.
Socialize more. Reach out to family and friends. Watch a movie together instead of streaming solo on your own devices. Gather for family dinners and play group sports.
Get outdoors. Take a walk, a bike ride, a horseback ride. Sit in the sun for 15 minutes and breathe. Nature is energizing.
Providing Active Rest for Your Body:
Close your eyes. Give your brain some time off from visual stimulation. Shut your eyes and bring your focus inward. Enjoy the peace and calm.
Breathe deeply. Reduce stress and enhance your circulation. Breathe through your nostrils, bringing the air up from your diaphragm. Lengthen your exhalations until you feel like all the air has gently drifted out of your body.
Move around. Stay active in between your regular workouts. Stand up and stretch each half hour when you’re working at your desk. Perform sit ups during the commercials when you’re watching the evening news.
Do yoga. You may want to become a regular at your local yoga studio or just learn some basic poses you can do anywhere. Ease away tension by lying on your back with your legs up a wall or reenergize with various backbends.
Make time each day to slow down and silence the outside world. Remember that active rest makes you more productive. With enough good quality sleep and rest, you're likely to lead a longer and happier life. The beautiful surroundings of the area is conducive to better self-care. Yet even in the middle of some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, we must be proactive and intentional to care for our bodies, minds, emotions and spirits.
Purposeful living, llc
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