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The Inner-Observer

By: Donna R. Wood, Existential Coach

People-watching is a fascinating pastime that millions of people enjoy on the daily. You see them on the park benches, in the shopping malls, and sitting at al fresco tables along the marketplaces of society. Observing others is something people have done since the beginning of humanity as a survival tool. It was a means of reading the body language of someone new in the midst to determine if they were friend or foe, or sizing up the enemy in times of trouble.

Observing others is a skill that we learn from birth. It comes natural and with ease. However, observing ourselves is another matter entirely. It can be awkward and uncomfortable. Developing the inner-observer takes practice.

The inner-observer is the part of ourselves that allows us to witness the thoughts and feelings we have, without judgement or involvement; otherwise known as, not getting into our feels.

This part of ourselves is what allows us to make conscious decisions, during stressful or painful moments. For example, the old adage, “It’s just business”.  Business people have to make difficult decisions after much consideration, or sometimes on the fly. Successful people make these decisions by not getting caught up in the emotions. They know what lives in their skin. They understand that feelings might get hurt; perhaps even their own. However, they make the decision, and then move forward.

When we live from our emotional dimension of being, we create an imbalance in our lives.  This is the danger of jumping on the “follow your happiness” bandwagon. Being happy all the time is not possible, and it’s not natural. We have our four dimensions of being to help us to shift with the ebb and flow that is life. When the four dimensions are balanced, our inner-observer can see clearly, and our conscious mind can make decisions that allow for the best outcome.

Tip for Developing Your Inner-Observer:

  • Use mindful breathing techniques to relax.
  • Once centered and relaxed observe things as they are; without attaching a story to it.
  • See your reaction as it is in the present moment.
  • Adjust your reaction accordingly and appropriately to the situation.

When we are relaxed, our mind opens a space that allows us to see things as they are, not as we wish them to be. We can be fully present in the moment, which is the key to the inner-observer that is always in the present.

You Can’t Do It Alone

I only ask to be free. The
butterflies are free. ~Charles Dickens

by: Donna R. Wood

Like the butterfly, we create our own prisons; and
like the butterfly it is only through our own fortitude, will, and desire will
we free ourselves. The butterfly has an advantage; it breaks through the walls
through instinct. It just knows at the right time that it must emerge and fly,
or it will die. Contrary to popular belief, butterflies are not social insects.
They live each day flitting to and fro, alone. (The great Monarch migration is
not a social activity.)

People, however, are social creatures. We do not
just desire the company of others, we need others. We seek out those who think,
look, and feel the same way we do. This can serve in one of two ways: freedom
or continued imprisonment.

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those
who you want with you, and those who you don’t. Who do you want on your team?
Those who would rather see you miserable like they are? Or, those who are
willing to lift you up and carry you with them? My mother has told me, since
the time I was young, “Surround
yourself with useful people.

A few years ago, I got my wings clipped on both sides by people whom I had grown to trust. This threw me into a deep chasm of self-doubt, fear, second-guessing, and mistrust. I found myself spiraling out of control, until I heard the bars of my self-made prison clang shut behind me.

In a brief moment of survival instinct, I sought
out the key to unlock the door. I made my cry out into the world, and the key
was thrown to me by an unlikely benefactor. Sometimes, although another
possesses the key, it is not their responsibility to unlock the door. In fact,
they can’t. Especially if we are clutching the door shut with all our might,
covering the key hole. He threw me the word, betrayal. I knew the second I
received it that my whole world was about to crash down around me. I knew that
the walls were about to implode and I was going to be crushed under the rubble.

Knowledge is power. That one simple word was the
power that I needed to take action, or be lost to the ruins of my chrysalis.
Asking for help is not in my nature. I was brought up a boot-strapper much like
the rest of the people my age in North Dakota.

At this point I was so broken and comfortable in
the midst of my chrysalis; I had to make a decision. I took the key and sought
out another who could help me learn to use it. It turned out the key that was
thrown to me was the master key to my life. It unlocked a lot of doors that had
been closed years ago, although the toxicity from those events had been seeping
through the cracks into my life the whole time.

If you do not take another thing away from this
posting, please take this: You can never be free until you clean up the toxic
waste from your past – and even from your present.

Metamorphosis

“Ordinary is painful when you were born to be great!” ~ T. D. Jakes

by: Donna R. Wood

When the Butterfly sheds the chrysalis, there will be loss. There will be collateral damage. It will be uncomfortable and even painful at times. But, when those wings unfurl for the first time, life takes a new path. It is no longer crawling along the branches and leaves, but floating above it all in victory.

I was born in the late 1960s with a congenital heart defect that could have ended my life before it ever began. It didn’t. I spent a good number of years wondering what I had been saved from; surely death at birth would have been a far better alternative than the life I had been born into.

This constant search for the meaning and purpose of my life led me down some very dark and treacherous roads. I found myself in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Everywhere I looked there was death and destruction. I was surrounded by living ghosts – people who only existed, until their bodies wore out, and the reaper came to claim them, one by one.

I was terrified, because I knew with each passing day I was becoming one of them. I found myself very much alone on a road with hundreds of people. We trudged along, bearing the weight of all our shame and guilt for decisions made or not made; for love given or withheld. We trudged along, dragging our baggage with us, hoping to find an oasis in the desert; a place to rest. The oasis never came.

In the end, I was a living ghost, the same as all the rest. However, in the depths of the wells of despair and demoralization, pain and humiliation, there was the glow of a soft flame of strength and courage. With each breath that sustained my life, the flame sputtered, clinging to the hope for redemption.

I struggled with my own perception of myself, placed there by each new label as it had been firmly attached to my soul – single mother [shameful,] Godless [damning,] damaged goods [demoralizing,] and poverty stricken [unworthy.] These are only a few of the labels that had been placed on me by the world; the world, not me.

In the realization that my life was a living testimony to those labels, I began to tear them off one by one.

I couldn’t change the fact that I was a single mother, but I chose to tear the label in half. Now, I am just a mother. How liberating that is.

I couldn’t change the fact that I am damaged goods, I was born that way. I removed the word damaged from the label, and the ‘s’ from the last word. Now I am just good. I am kind and considerate of others. I am not perfect, but I try every day to live in a state of soul over ego.

I could change my socio-economic status. I went to college and graduated – twice – and have recently returned to challenging myself through courses offered on-line. I took the only gift I was given at birth, the gift of writing, and capitalized on it. This is not what makes me simply worthy, but I will talk about this in a future post. Godless – how does one conquer the label of Godless in a world where being damned by your labels prevails? Just be Godly like all the rest? Being like all the rest didn’t seem to work out very well the first time, so it required a bit more work. I found that I could not expect or receive compassion from all the rest – I had too many labels to overcome. I could not expect or receive forgiveness from all the rest – I was a living ghost encroaching on the land of the truly living. I had nothing to offer, nothing to give. I was damned to the wilderness, where I had to find it on my own or not at all.

Your labels and my labels may not be the same; however, what we choose to do with our labels is what really matters in the end.

Breaking the Chrysalis

The butterfly is a flying flower…  ~Ponce Denis Écouchard Lebrun

by: Donna R. Wood

Most people at the age of five dream of being something extraordinary like a firefighter, doctor, lawyer or some other high level profession, but not me. I wanted to be a flower. Flowers were soft, delicate, and beautiful. My grandma and I would pick wildflowers in the fields and ditches along the highway, bring them home, and put them in a vase on the table. I would marvel at the menagerie of colors and design. Oh, how I wanted to be one of them. They were perfect in every way.

That’s the trouble with people; none of us are perfect. We go through life collecting imperfections born out of bad decisions, mistakes, or even through circumstance. We hold on to these imperfections, packing them neatly inside and drag them with us wherever we go. We become so weighed down by all this unnecessary self-perception of imperfection, we cannot begin to imagine the idea of taking flight in life.

I dragged around bag after bag of guilt, worry, bitterness, and regret. The weight of these bags became more than I could carry, but I insisted on taking them with me wherever I went. I would try to fly, only to find myself confined in the chrysalis of the life I had made for myself. I had constructed walls around me so high and thick that no one could get in, and in the process trapped myself inside.

It was dark in that chrysalis. Yet over time, the darkness became a source of comfort. It was familiar. I knew each pain and suffering by name and date. I knew all the characters that had played a role in their creation. I would reminisce in their moments of completion. I began to live in the memory of all that had been, and my world became very small, ending where the chrysalis began.

One day, I stopped struggling to get out. I just stopped. It was a pointless effort. I couldn’t do it. I thought I wasn’t strong enough. I thought I wasn’t perfect enough. In reality, I wasn’t brave enough. I was scared of all the new pains and sufferings that might be out there. It was painful inside the chrysalis, but the risk to emerge was too great. All the what-ifs came into play. What if I get hurt again? What if I’m not good enough? What if…what if…what if… If a butterfly stays too long in the chrysalis it will die. It will suffocate in its own skin, never having felt the soft summer breeze that lifts it to flight.

Every chrysalis has a weak point, a place in the wall that can and should be broken. But how? I learned, inside the chrysalis, where the source of true strength lies – inside us. We have to take that deep breath and expand until the walls break, and we are free. When a butterfly is inside the chrysalis, at the moment before it emerges, it swallows air from the outside world to expand its thorax and break the chrysalis open at the weakest point.

When the butterfly emerges it is no longer a caterpillar. It cannot carry the extra baggage from its previous state with it. The butterfly must leave behind the days of being a caterpillar. It must leave behind the days of struggling to survive – to find food, hide from predators, and live each day until the next. It must leave all the pains and suffering of its caterpillar days in the ruins of the chrysalis. Only then will it truly be free to fly.

Although a butterfly spends but two weeks in the darkness of the chrysalis, shedding its past self, I spent almost three years. Transformation does not happen overnight – for the butterfly or for people. The most frightening moment of the process is in the moment before emergence. Break the chrysalis anyway.