"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched- they must be felt with the heart." – Helen Keller
Thank you childhood innocence for bringing me an adult experience of richness beyond my wildest dreams. Seriously, I never knew that the simple act of focusing my attention could mean the difference between misery or enjoyment in life. I now understand that where you direct your mind’s focus here and now sets the stage for what you feel in the heart in the future. The greatest example of this in my life so far has been my experience in relationship with other people.
I grew up feeling "different," isolated and inadequate. Although I lived in a picturesque part of Kansas and enjoyed a middle-class lifestyle in the country in the 80s and 90s, my mind was constantly critical, full of judgement, and comparing myself to others. Looking back, I believe I lost my focus on joy and simple pleasures around the age of 5. I recall my eyes straining, headaches and feelings of anxiety by the end of first grade. This was the same year we discovered I needed glasses as my vision had suddenly become poor and weak. I found a creative outlet to attempt to manage anxiety through P.E. class, dance and outdoor activities. I started to keep to myself and my friend circle grew smaller every year. Truly, the activity was not enough to keep the anxiety at bay and by 13 years of age I was diagnosed clinically depressed with an eating disorder. All the critical thoughts came crashing in and I would spend the next 17 years in misery, unable to show up fully for school, jobs, family or myself. I thought the world was so unsafe, unfair, an empty rat race, and I began to question why I should bother with it at all. I saw nothing I wanted out there. Under the pressure of much stress, physical pain 24/7, toxic relationships, loneliness, and despair I would finally reach the point of starving for change. With that hunger came a willingness to try anything different than what I had experienced thus far.
When I first began self-awareness and meditation through the Conscious Transformation practices, I just wanted relief from the exhaustion of trying to make it all work and make others happy so I could hopefully be happy too. Change was gradual but steady and within a month people began to notice I was feeling more peaceful and they began to compliment me. Through self-observation, I realized my mind was focused on all the problems in life, all the things and people that were wrong and all the reasons why I was suffering. I learned I had a choice to make: continue that way of thinking or take on new mental patterns. As I cultivated the skills of mental focus, I became more efficient at work and present in conversations. And as my assigned responsibilities went up, so did my salary and perceived value to my employers. I looked forward to accomplishing my tasks with more mental clarity and motivation. I learned to still my mind and center my emotional self. The drama in my life seemed to simply fall away. Some people left my life as did some obligations and expectations. I started feeling free. I began to have more energy and less body aches and pains. I stopped the behavior of the eating disorder. I started to interact with a new community of people in new activities. These new experiences and relationships supported me to accept myself as human, still learning, and cultivating creativity again. My entire life was transforming for the better and my anxiety and need for coping strategies lessened in ways talk therapy, anti-depression medication and exercise never could touch in the past.
Now I am so grateful. I feel I have my heart back. I feel like a child again, in complete joy with all the people, places, things and experiences of life. I know that sounds cliché, yet I have met so many other people in the same experience of life as a result of training self-awareness. Focus for the mind, acceptance of the emotions, care for the physical body and deepening one’s connection to life spirit all are a wellspring of renew, youth and longevity. I do not worry about my past suffering ever returning. I know that the lifestyle of critical thinking, judgement of self or others and a problem-focused mind are no longer for me. My relationships are deeper and more authentic than I ever could have dreamed. My ability to remain focused and complete tasks has expanded my skill and capacity in all roles I take on and my chosen career. I know I am a value to any company I choose to work or volunteer for. Every year my body is stronger, more vibrant, and praiseworthy for all the cool things I get to do with such ease. In other words, I am innocent little old me — open to learning, eager to connect, grateful for the day and a peaceful deep sleeper.
There is so much power in the simple actions. The daily way of thinking, feeling, and acting that compounds and builds a reality that I, as an adult now, get to define as miserable or pleasurable. Misery loves company and that gets boring. I like to feel good, to be better in small ways every day. Thank you for the journey back to the future, from a child to a bitter adult, and back to a child’s heart again in this adult life I am living. I am home.
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Sarah Breedlove consults with private individuals and groups to create ease in posture and all physical activity. She has been sharing the power of body awareness through human anatomy, movement health education, and mindfulness since 1995. Implementing the practices of Conscious Transformation enabled Sarah to realize true experiences of confidence, personal freedom, physical vitality and ultimate fulfillment that propelled her quality of life beyond her wildest imagination!