Starting From Where You Are
Accepting Everything In The Present Moment
Posted April 23, 2012
I don’t know about you, but I usually wish that I were five steps ahead. There is this idea that “further along” is better. I imagine that I’ll feel more settled, have more resources, more smarts, less fear and less of a desire to be further along. But then I arrive those five steps and I feel the same way. I’ve “arrived” but I’m still longing to be somewhere down the road. It’s an exhausting process that doesn’t leave any room for the magic and mystery of the present moment. It keeps us disconnected from ourselves and from one another because we are trying to manage our future rather than being rooted in the now.
I think one of the seductive reasons we try to manage the future is because we think that we will “figure it out,” (i.e. avoid discomfort or challenges.) Sounds appealing, right? Who doesn’t want to navigate around shame and steep learning curves? Of course, the problem with avoiding our challenges is that we also avoid the opportunity to grow. We avoid the lesson. We avoid connection with our true nature and the ability to connect intimately with our fellows. I often wish it weren’t the case, but it is through our contact with the fullness of the present moment and who we are that we recognize our gifts and our purpose. This is where freedom lies. Not down the road, but in the messiness (or the joy) of the now.
Examples of this process can be found in recovery from addiction. While using drugs or alcohol, addicts can avoid contact with the truth; justify their behavior and the pain it is causing, and believe that “tomorrow” will be different. There is magical thinking that everything will eventually be okay. But you can’t take responsibility for something you aren’t willing to see. So nothing changes, and more time goes by, and more pain, and so on. For real change to occur, the addict has to come into contact with the entire truth of who they are and how they are living. They have to face the demon. I know that this is much easier said then done, but I also know that when people face their painful reality, the demon loses its power.
So, it is by facing the sometimes-ugly truth that life opens up to us. This is true for everyone. We don’t need to be addicts to learn this lesson. No matter what our path is in life, when we recognize our inability to control obstacles and outcomes, we start to notice the here and now. When we stop running from ourselves, and what we fear is unworthy or unlovable, we have an opportunity to experience worth and love. When we stop trying to transcend our humanness, we get to fully embrace and experience all that being human affords.
With this in mind, I invite you to take a moment to notice what is happening in your life. What is your experience right now? If you can identify some struggle, perhaps you can attempt to embrace it, knowing that it is the vehicle for the very growth you are longing for. It is the gift. Let the present moment and all it contains be your starting point and move out from there. Don’t try to leap to a future version of yourself, or you will leave necessary parts of you behind. Try and bring some compassion to your struggles, whether they be addiction, shame, or fear—know that contact with these will allow you to release some anxiety, let go of self-doubt, and to grow spiritually and emotionally.
Perhaps the title of this post, Starting From Where You Are, isn’t the best header for this process because it implies that there is a finish line. In my experience, we will always be wrestling with something. What I’m trying to offer is a reframe on the idea that we need to arrive somewhere. So, I’ll take this opportunity to let you know: You. Have. Arrived. No matter what it looks like, you have come a long way, and this is what you’ve been waiting for. Embrace it. Wrap your arms around it. Scoop it up with love and gratitude, and then … do it all over again.
Ingrid Mathieu, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and author of Recovering Spirituality: Achieving Emotional Sobriety in Your Spiritual Practice.
Copyright by Ingrid Mathieu, Ph.D., 2012. All rights reserved. Any excerpts reproduced from this article should include links to the original on Psychology Today.