“It is in such small things that we fulfill the lessons of the heart. It is from our intentions that our life grows. It is in opening to one another that our path is made whole.” Jack Kornfield
Now that we have Charted our North Star, we need to map the route to get there. We have to quit waiting for someone to rescue us and to map our route. As I see it, that includes having a skillful view, using skillful thinking and skillful effort to ensure we have skillful speech and skillful action.
In the last session, we talked about Charting Your North Star, setting the compass of your life. But even if we have charted our North Star, we won’t see the view if we are moving too fast in life. To map our route, we need to find time to reflect on our aspirations regularly. Remember where attention goes; energy flows. And we will need the energy to get there.
Another way to increase our energy is to resource ourselves by taking in the good or practicing loving kindness. Our minds were developed with a negativity bias. Our view defaults to seeing the negative. We can train our brains to see the positive. When our perspective is contracted, we don’t see all the possibilities for our lives. We are too busy being focused on what we can’t do or don’t have to see what we can do or do have.
We need to see how we suffer, how our life is out of kilter, and that we can do something about it. Skillful view is the forerunner of the entire path, the guide. It enables us to understand our starting point, our destination, and the successive landmarks to pass.
Once our view is skillful, our thinking can become more proficient. We can see how our old stories limit us and hold us back. It is being aware of our habit energies and avoiding thoughts of attachment, hatred, and harmful intent. With skillful thinking, we see where our intentions are marbled with wanting and fear.
We begin by accepting where we are and what is happening both inside us and around us right now. Acceptance allows us to see the reality of the present moment. It keeps us from being paralyzed by fear. Practicing acceptance is the most effective way of moving forward.
“People often swerve away from their dreams to avoid risking experiences they dread…The edges of the experiences we fear form a kind of invisible force that limits the life we allow ourselves to have.” Rick Hanson
Too much effort can be as detrimental to change as not enough effort. If we are doing too much, we are moving too fast to see the view. When we try too hard, we lose the energy we need to keep moving forward. The path towards our North Star is a marathon, not a sprint. When we are meditating, it is using just the effort needed to bring ourselves back to the present moment. In life, it is just the effort required to pause so we can respond rather than react.
“The energy we send out in the world is the energy we get back. If you want kindness and love, send out kindness and love. If you wonder why there are so many angry people in your life, look no further than the resentment you hold in your own heart.” Oprah Winfrey
Our speech can move us along on our path, or it can derail us. To go in the right direction, we need to stop and listen. We listen not just to whoever is talking but also to our authentic self instead of our ego. Our authentic self speaks very softly, sending subtle guidance via the gut, the heart, or a more profound knowing.
After listening, we can choose how to respond.
“Sometimes we speak clumsily and create internal knots in others. Then we say, “I was just telling the truth.” It may be the truth, but if our way of speaking causes unnecessary suffering, it is not Right Speech. The truth must be presented in ways that others can accept. Words that damage or destroy are not Right Speech. Before you speak, understand the person you are speaking to. Consider each word carefully before you say anything, so that your speech is “Right” in both form and content.” Thich Nhat Hanh
We can use these questions to guide us:
- What is my highest goal?
- What is my best intention for them and myself?
- What matters to me in this response?
- Do I want to be right, understand differently, or connect?
If we have slowed down enough to see reality and think about our options, we will choose actions and situations that align us with our intention. We will act in ways that reduce suffering rather than increase it. Oprah’s advice for skillful action is:
“Before you agree to do anything that might add even the smallest amount of stress to your life, ask yourself: What is my truest intention? Give yourself time to let a yes resound within you. When it’s right, I guarantee that your entire body will feel it.” Oprah Winfrey
Before acting, we take a mindful pause in which we consider whether that action will move us along our path or pull us away from the course. There are many activities we can incorporate into our daily lives. Commit to one thing, that you are not already doing, that you will do for at least 1 minute a day for the next two weeks.
- Take in the good
- Practice gratitude
- Make and keep a small promise to yourself
- Commit to one self-care (not self-indulgence) activity
- Question the truth of your inner critic’s chatter
- Take a mindful pause before reacting
- Ask yourself “What can I do in this moment to move in the direction of my North Star?”
- Acknowledge your suffering
- Talk to yourself as you would a good friend
- Tell yourself “I am worthy.” Or “I am enough.”
- Watch your thoughts as you meditate
- Meditate by sending kindness to yourself and others
“The question is, what do you want to remember that you drew on your etch-a-sketch when you remember this period of your life?” David Emerald
Being your authentic self means that you are using all your skills, talents, and wisdom. It’s doing things that are uniquely you. Your actions arise from who you are, not what you believe you are supposed to do. You may ask yourself:
- What choice will create peace within me?
- What action is the most loving to me and others?
“Being authentic means loving who you love, pursuing the stuff you’re interested in, laughing at the sh*t you find funny, and fighting for what you think is right. Being authentic also means giving yourself permission to change your mind, to make mistakes, to be a jerk, to beg forgiveness, to be sad, lonely, stupid, and lazy.” Jen Sincero