How to simplify the process and make real change from the inside out.
There are many methods available for improving your life.
Sometimes you might need structured change while other times it all boils down to needing to think a bit more positively.
Neither method is effective if the change you need to create is not your outside world, but instead, deep within yourself. To make a soul level change is not a complicated process, but it is a challenging one.
This is my story of finding a process that works to make a soul level change. It is also a caution for what can happen in life when you don’t do the work.
1. Unflinchingly Look at Your Life
Through my 20s and 30s I gained a reputation as a control freak. It was a reputation well earned. I kept a tight rein on all the details of not only my life but also those around me. I decided on an early marriage to my college boyfriend and I decided when that relationship was over. I orchestrated every step of a successful career.
Having obtained a position of authority in business, I controlled the productivity and results of the people who reported to me. My home environment was orderly and, living alone after my divorce, it was easy to have full control over my surroundings, my belongings and my finances.
I didn’t make the connection at the time, but my extreme dislike of surprises, good or bad, stemmed from the same need to control. A surprise was something I didn’t have power over so it was wholly unwelcome.
I married a second time when I was 30 to a beautiful man who was the single father of two babies. Having children who are well behaved and under control; employees who are effective and under control; and a demeanor that is unflappable, also under control; is highly rewarded in our society.
I had no reason to look at my motivators any closer. Maintaining an iron tight grasp on all of life is often exhausting, but it was working for me.
2. Pay Attention to How You Feel
I first became aware that control was no longer just a preference, but a requirement for me in an upsetting situation. My husband surprised me with a stunning necklace for my 31st birthday, and instead of being delighted, I was furious. I yelled and questioned his extravagant choice.
I became aware of a tightening in my stomach, my heart was racing and I began experiencing every physical sign of panic. I vaguely realized that the sensations were fear, but on the outside they presented themselves as anger.
It was only after I settled down that I was able to connect the fear to a sense of having lost control of our money. I knew it was an inappropriate, ungrateful reaction but I didn’t look any deeper to find the trigger.
For years I repeatedly experienced feelings of panic every time life took the slightest turn. Building a family, a career and participating in our community meant there were many opportunities when my day would take an unexpected turn.
Anything from a poor report card to a dip in the stock market, to an unexpected house guest could hurtle me into anxiety and panic so dark I felt like my life was crashing.
The anxiety made me edgy and short tempered. My attempt to suppress my temper resulted in the reappearance of my childhood asthma. My emotional feelings of being suffocated were manifesting into a physical response. My bronchial tubes closed down whenever my fears were triggered.
After a particularly difficult few years when life’s surprises left me in a constant state of tension resulting in a daily dependence on an inhaler, I realized that I couldn’t survive as life’s victim any longer. I had to find a way to live more comfortably with the unexpectedness inherent in life.
3. Grab a Shovel and Start Digging
In retrospect, it seems obvious that my being a control freak, was not about wanting to manage everything so much as a deep fear of the catastrophic disaster that I was certain would result from not having control. For me there was no grey area between complete control and total powerlessness.
Fear had made me hard, brittle and vulnerable to the slightest change in the wind. What I wanted for myself was not to become a pushover to others’ whims, but to develop the strength of resiliency. However, resilience doesn’t co- exist with debilitating fear. Resilience requires the inner power to be open.
To get to a place where I had confidence in my ability to handle whatever came at me, I would first have to excavate the fear.
First I needed to trace the fear back to its origins: How had I learned to equate surprise and setbacks with powerlessness? I spent time mentally traveling backward and started re-looking at each incident when I had felt that I had no control and no voice.
4. Dig Deeper
Over time I followed each of my fears back as far as I could. I looked more closely at memories of my parents’ highly charged divorce and my attempts to create peace. The eventual realization was that I couldn’t fix their problems and neither could they.
I traveled back through the feelings of hopelessness each time my father went into bankruptcy. The experience of being a 13-year-old in charge of paying my father’s bills but unable to stop his free flow spending habits.
Farther back, I reopened the memories of being a sickly child with birth defects that challenged my parents’ emotional and financial stamina. Their tough love attempts to ensure that I didn’t succumb to the weakness of my body.
Physically I grew healthier, but emotionally I withdrew from the intensity of being raised by such strong personalities. I became shy, and I willingly gave up my voice to avoid conflict.
5. Find Your Fears and Embrace Them
With each memory I sat with the fears that surfaced. This is the hardest part of making a deep soul change; stay with it. I let myself re-experience the childhood sensations of life spinning and spiraling downward, my inability to make any of it stop.
To finally turn the corner requires staying with really difficult emotions until they loose their strength and you stop wanting to vomit, hide or run.
Slowly I discovered that my spirit had the strength to withstand the emotions and the terror they brought. I repeatedly told myself as I re-entered old dark places, that the sensations had nothing to do with my present life. These were the demons of a younger me who didn’t have the tools to handle the emotions at the time.
Now, as they resurfaced I made myself face them rather than put a cover on them and hide them. I discovered that when looked at, they lost their strength. I could unravel them, look at them, and let them dissolve.
This is not a complex process, but it can be lengthy and trying.
Holding the course when it becomes deeply uncomfortable is challenging work.
Once completed, its largely permanent, as is the realization that you can create real change, and you’re capable of more than you thought.
Kim Shand is a nationally-renowned yoga expert, on-air personality and founder of Rethink Yoga. She travels nationally on a mission to inspire people to take control of their health, how they think, and how they age, through yoga. She motivates her students to find their power, their joy and to be. All In. All the Time. Follow Kim on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
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Asst. Ed: Christa Angelo / Ed: Lynn Hasselberger