In a previous post I talked a bit about svādhyāya, and my love-affair with self-improvement in its various forms, both professionally and personally. Here are some follow-up thoughts for your pondering pleasure.
My Initial Picture of “Residue”
I still remember when I first heard my mentor use the word residue: my mind went to a commercial for bathroom cleaner. Not quite into the toilet, but you know, to one with the impeccably-dressed woman (in a white-button down shirt, no less!) with perfect hair and makeup, sporting yellow rubber gloves up to her elbows, smiling beautifully as she removes the ring of gunk from the bathtub . . . THAT was what residue meant to me.
Yet my teacher was talking about residue as a good thing. I’m sure my bitchy-resting-face was on as I struggled to comprehend this as something different from my original mental picture.
Residue: “something that remains after a part is taken, separated, or designated, or after the completion of a process”. (Merriam-Webster)
Well that sounds less icky all around! What’s even more interesting is the idea that residue is “something that REMAINS”.
From that, I began to think that perhaps there’s something (good, or better) that already exists inside me, but that needs to be uncovered to be seen or truly experienced.
Now I’m not a religious person by any means, but I’m becoming much more spiritual as I grow older; this new concept had my attention.
Adding More Isn’t Always the Answer
So was it possible that improving myself didn’t actually require adding something, as I was told by my binder of techniques and tools? Was it possible that self-improvement was something that came from inside, rather than from other people’s advice and recommendations? Was it possible that the answer was buried underneath all those attempts to be fixed? (And therefore, that I was never broken?) And even better—since I loved the idea of it—that I could separate out those fabulous parts of myself via the help of a . . . PROCESS!?
It’s Simple, But That Doesn’t Mean it’s Easy!
Here’s what I’ve come up with as my process. Like the last step process itself indicates, it’s subject to change. :-) It’s simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy!
- Reduce self-judgment and critical thoughts. When you can do this, something interesting happens: you uncover the beautiful residue of curiosity.
- Become more curious about yourself. When you start saying things like, “wow, isn’t that fascinating!” about your own behaviors and thoughts, then you’re really onto something! Here you will often discover interesting things about yourself that you hadn’t been consciously aware of before.
- Notice the patterns. The more you’re curious and the more things you discover, the more likely it is that you’ll start to see themes in how you behave and think. Keep being curious, and notice what pops up again and again and again (staying judgment free of course)! Here it is sometimes possible to stumble upon the “root cause” of the pattern, or the ultimate why behind it. But don’t actively go looking for it: that’s the very best way for it to continue to allude you. Rather, let it spontaneously arise. Remember, we’re peeling away things to find that beautiful residue!
- Practice new patterns. Remember the episode of Seinfeld where George did the opposite of everything? When you’ve reduced the self-judgment and critical thoughts, when you’ve become curious about yourself AND you notice the patterns before you act, you have a choice about what to do next. Now, the choice you make may not be the exact opposite of what you always do, but it will at least be different somehow. Trust in your insights, and go with it. You cannot expect to grow if you continue to have the same automatic reactions, thoughts, and behaviors over and over again.
- Evaluate the outcome and adjust. Did the outcome of your different behavior bring (even slightly better) results? If so, do it again. If not, don’t beat yourself up (remember step 1!), just try something different Once you’ve practiced step 3, you have a powerful, newfound awareness at your disposal.
Used to Going it Alone?
Life is an experiment.
Life (including making mistakes) is a fabulous teacher.
And sometimes it’s really hard to acknowledge that it would be easier to remember this if you had some support. I know what it’s like to want to be independent, to want to be self-sufficient, and to be stubborn about doing things yourself. However, I’ve also learned how amazing the journey can be when I have people supporting me in this process.
I’m what’s called a “truth guide”. I’m not going to tell you what to do. And, I can help you find your own answers.
What do you want to change? Have you been wrapped up in the “fixing” of yourself? Can you see or imagine how the “discovery” of what’s already within you is much more powerful? If so, I’d love to talk with you!