Mindfully on the way to a destination which does not exist
(This post is a bit of a break from the first, more information-driven, posts. Bear with me as I share something of my current reality and personal thoughts. Growth and becoming are a journey. By sharing a part of my journey, I hope to provide you with the reassurance that you are not alone in yours, and perhaps also some food for thought.)
As a child we are told not to “grow up too quickly” or to “wish away” our lives as we yearn for adulthood. As parents, we easily get caught up in the idea of “one day” – I can’t wait until she can walk… I can’t wait until she can swim … I can’t wait until I can have a proper conversation with her … This deep seated sense of waiting for something is the cause of lost moments. It is the reason why we are told to “live in the moment”.
I recently discovered that I was losing moments in this way. I never realised it. Sometimes it just takes someone commenting from the outside for you to notice a perspective which, in hindsight, seems obvious. But let me explain how I managed to get myself into the type of mindset that caused this “loss of moments,” or, perpetual sense of “waiting”.
I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had two of the most loving, inspiring and intelligent parents in the world (and of course, I’m not at all biased)! Without being put under any pressure, I was encouraged and a very specific belief was trained into me: Your potential has no limit. This message about potential is dear to me and it is the reason why I have devoted much of my life and research to Positive Psychology. It is not the message itself which led me to my realisation about losing time, it was the way in which I pursued my “potential”.
You see, this path I am on, which is dedicated to potential development and personal growth, has driven me to become. I enjoy learning, reading, researching, changing, reflecting, making adjustments and more changing – to keep working towards growth. And it has been good! I can say without a doubt that I have grown! But it took an outsider to point out to me that through valuing growth so much, I have overlooked the value I already have, where I am right now. I have, in a way, tied my own worth – how I believe others view me and how I view myself – to the fact that I have not yet reached my destination … But my destination (goal) is growth and, as such, does not actually have a destination! Growth is a continuous process, not a destination. If I think of how others look at me and how I see myself, I never feel quite good enough because I haven’t achieved this unreachable “goal” or destination that I have subconsciously set for myself. This is how I have been living, subconsciously. It has been the driving force that has kept me working, striving and passionate. However, I now realise that this driving force has a dark side and that it has blinded me to that which I have already attained and my value as a person in the present moment.
I am learning that optimal functioning, which is what I study, isn’t always about change; sometimes, it’s about being. I need to learn to just be.
In this process of (ironic) growth, I further realised the connection between all of this and mindfulness. Mindfulness means to be fully and non-judgmentally aware of the present moment. In other words, to be aware of the moment, along with your thoughts and feelings within that moment. Mindfully inhabiting the moment, however, is something more. It means taking up your rightful space in the world, in that moment, with all you are and all you have to offer, owning it fully. This takes mindfulness from being in the moment, to BEING in the moment. I have learnt that “better days” and optimal functioning are not only to be found in the future, they are part of the present as well. The value of living mindfully consists of not only one part, but two: An awareness of the value of this particular moment in time, and, my value as a person, here and now, along with everything I have already experienced and achieved.
This realisation leads me to believe that what I am in need of, is a level of comfort with the duality of life and living: On the one hand there is striving, growth and becoming, and on the other hand, there is being. As simple as it sounds, it’s turning out to be the challenge I currently (and gladly) face.