Before the start of each new year, I meditate on the overall themes and lessons that I need to explore in the year ahead. One of the big themes that came forward for 2018 is to EXPAND - on all levels of being and in all areas of my life. To push myself past the confines of my comfort zone and break free of any boxes that my fears and false beliefs have kept me in. To be bigger, bolder, and braver. To shine brighter, speak louder and open my heart wider than ever before.
Science has proven that the universe is constantly expanding, and it’s our nature to as well, since we are made of the same stardust. This is both a scary and exciting challenge for someone who spent most of her life doing the opposite.
When I was in kindergarten, two boys chased me home from school one day and threatened to stuff me in a trash bag. I raced in the front door, nearly hyperventilating, and straight up to my room, where I hid myself in the deepest, darkest corner of my closet. I figured if they couldn’t see me, they couldn’t hurt me. And long after I’d come out of that closet and long after the boys had apologized, I continued to carry that mentality out into the world: if they couldn’t see me, they couldn’t hurt me. It was an unconscious mantra that I carried with me everywhere. Into relationships, where I kept my walls up at all times and ran at the first sign of emotional intimacy. Into jobs, where I’d get anxious at the very thought of speaking up and giving my opinion. And into unfamiliar or uncomfortable social situations, where I would try to make myself as small and invisible as possible.
Over time, I got so good at shrinking, at keeping myself small, that I actually started to believe that I was small. Too small, too weak, too insignificant to do the things that I dreamed. My spirit got used to living in a tiny, cramped cage. My voice got used to its lockbox. I told myself it was enough. After all, I was safe here, hidden from the world. Except that it wasn’t enough. I was suffocating.
It wasn’t until I began to practice yoga and meditation and got to know myself in a deeper, truer way that I discovered that I wasn’t small at all. For years, I’d been stopping myself from using my voice, following my passions and opening myself up to love because I thought I wasn’t good enough, big enough, brave enough or worthy enough. Yet, now I realized that the problem wasn’t me. It was my thinking. This idea that I was small was just a story I’d been telling myself—a carefully crafted identity that I’d perfected over years and years of practice—and one that I’d gotten really good at believing. (In yoga, we call an old energy pattern a samskara, which translates to “something done well.” The more we repeat a habit or belief or thought, the “better” we get at it, but that doesn’t mean it’s in our best interest.)
According to Malcolm Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at something (for more on this, check out his book, Outliers). That breaks down to about 417 days. Just over a year. Now think about how many years—or decades—you’ve been telling yourself the same false stories and thinking the same limiting thoughts. In my case, I had almost 30 years of mastery!
So how do we begin to shift these literally limiting thoughts and patterns that we’ve spent so long perfecting? The first step is to recognize them. When Dorothy pulled back the curtain in The Wizard of Oz and discovered who “Oz” really was, he no longer seemed Great and Powerful. The same is true for our fears and false beliefs; by recognizing them for what they truly are, we strip them of their power. This is mastery in another context: instead of letting our fears and false beliefs run the show, we become the masters and commanders of our own lives. The captains of our own ships, free to steer by our bright inner starlight.
Below is a written meditation to help you identify your own limiting stories and false beliefs so that you can shed or transform them. It is my hope that, by asking these questions and listening to the answers of your own deep inner wisdom, you will let go of the idea that you need to become a “new you” in the new year, and instead embrace the TRUE you in the new year.
As you do this exercise, it’s important that you put your pen to paper and just write, stream-of-conscious, without censoring yourself or judging what you’re writing. You’ll need at least a half an hour of uninterrupted time, so block out your schedule and find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Set a timer for at least 5 minutes for each of the following prompts (or if you want to focus on only one of the prompts, set a timer for 15-20 minutes), and don’t stop moving your pen until the timer goes off. No matter what happens during that time, keep writing. If you don’t know what to write, simply write “I don’t know what to write” until something else comes. Just keep your hand moving and don’t think about what you are writing, so that your intuition has a chance to take the lead and express itself.
Write out your answer to each of the following questions:
What negative thought patterns and false beliefs have I mastered? Which have mastered me?
What stories about myself have I become an expert at telling? Are these stories true?
What parts of myself have I hidden or ignored because of these false stories and beliefs? How can I express them now?
In what ways are my self-limiting beliefs keeping me from being my true, authentic Self and living my truest, most authentic life?
How can I push myself past these self-imposed limitations and expand myself on all levels this year?
Wishing you a big, bold, bright and EXPANSIVE new year!!