Tunnel with opening at the far endMindfulness is multifaceted. This is the first in a series of three articles in which mindfulness’s elemental parts are examined and foundationally applied to benefit you, your relationship and your contribution to life on this planet.

Part one—Living in the dark

I used to change or progress in roles every few years. I’d try a new activity every fall. I typically have two to four books on the go. I’m outspoken, have opinions, and can easily see the bigger strategic picture, understanding how all the elements engage and rely on one another. I’ve always considered myself somewhat of a natural-born leader as friends, peers or direct reports would turn to hear what I had to say. I’ve even got balls, travelling to war-torn countries—on holiday—by myself.

I achieved a level of success in my life, battling to be seen, recognized and sought after. After all, isn’t that what working blindly is all about?

Confident. Driven. Accomplished. Visionary. Direct. Adventurous. Competitive. Ambitious.

These behaviours garnered me money, great memories and stories, and general materialistic items. It felt appropriate for what society deemed acceptable.

I wasn’t simply working absent-mindedly. I was blind. I was blind to what I didn’t know I was doing. I was too busy doing rather than simply being.

What I truly failed to realize was that everything I did or was doing was based on a belief system I held that didn’t serve me.

What it actually created was struggle, pain, surface level relationships, and put a massive spotlight on how I didn’t truly know who I was, what mattered to me or why it mattered.

Rising above growing up in the projects, being well educated, and even having worldly experiences to draw upon, I never took time to slow down and really get to know me.

Beyond the surface

When was the last time you asked yourself why did I just do/say what I just did? and seriously sat with yourself to understand? Or wondered why, despite external successes, you still didn’t feel like it wasn’t enough? That you didn’t feel like you thought you might? Maybe you’ve questioned why you get along amazingly with some people and not others.  And the one I hear most often is they don’t understand… (me, the situation, etc.).

Well… it’s you. It’s your doing. And, just so you’re aware, you won’t get any sugar coating from me.

As I turn the spotlight your way, it’s not intended to be received as me shaming you. It’s really not. What I mean is that you have the power to tweak or change your situation. Nobody else. You. So if two plus two equals you, there’s no other equation to consider. You hold the answer in your hands.

Inquiry + Willingness = Change

In this equation, you need to be ready. You need to want something to change—even if you have no idea how, what, or the when of it all. You need to be willing to let go, change, view matters and experiences differently.

Start with taking the first step—Where are you blind today?

Blind spots are simply places where you currently lack awareness. Two foundational areas to consider as starting points are by inventorying what you are conscious to already about yourself and how well do you understand your energy/presence.

Personal inventory – I know you know these things about you in theory, but have you actually ever captured who you are or what you offer that is different from your friends, family or colleagues on paper?

Writing can be a useful tool—for everyone. Research has proven that expressive writing can elevate your mood, offers therapeutic value, can help you think more effectively and can enable the skill of self-articulation (a term I just created whereby you’re more equipped and able to articulate a better picture of yourself to others, reducing any frustration of trying to find the right words, phrases or descriptive words to describe who and what you’re about).

Thought starters:

  • What are your preferences? Habits? Quirks?
  • What do you value? And the opposite—what drives you crazy?
  • What natural skills and talents do you possess? (and truly enjoy doing)
  • What competencies have you learned through your life/work experiences?
  • Ask others for input as well. What do they see as your greatest skills, strengths? What might they say is an area of opportunity for you?

By no means is this a one-time only exercise. As you realize more things about you, as others help you to see some potential darker spots, start taking note of any themes or patterns you might not have been aware of before. (I’ll let you in on a little secret—we all have areas like this so don’t be shocked or dismayed by discovering them).

Energy – Energy can be a more difficult element to identify and/or articulate. You may not even realize you give off an energy or get triggered by somebody else’s. Don’t mistake energies as ego. Think of ego in this case as the behaviour someone displays for an ulterior motive (consciously or not). Energy is natural and underlies your behaviour.

When matters are heavy, do you interject humour or wit to lighten the feeling in the room? When chaos takes hold of a situation, do you take a leadership position, inspiring others to follow your direction? Do you have the presence that relaxes people, helping them get comfortable around you that they open up, making you feel like you’ve known them for years? Have you fought for the underdog your whole life, advocating, speaking on behalf of, or seeking justice so that those not at the table could thrive and prosper? Or do you recognize that feeling you get within your body when someone enters the room and they stir you up? Or when someone simply enters the room, you can sense it?

Those are all different examples of energies. Many times people are unaware of their energy and the impact it has on others. What kind of energy comes naturally to you? Do you sense your presence invites calmness, compassion, a sense of urgency, is perceived as closed off, demanding, loud, neighbourly, perhaps quietness, or something else? How might your energy be unintentionally received?

Add these insights to your personal inventory. Again, watch for patterns and themes—do you dim your energy in certain situations? Or dial it up?

As you go through the following week, be mindful to what was once a blind spot. Notice how this new-found insight may impact your relationships, how you engage with others, your ability to be more present to circumstances or even how your confidence levels shift.

Next week, we’ll dive deeper into how to apply this insight to create more conscious, mindful behaviour across many aspects of life.

Sophie Turner is a professional coach, mentor, facilitator, social entrepreneur and creator of the Marquee Personality Profile and founder of The Conversation Project, inspiring action for conscious living.

image: Psychedelic tunnel to the light via Shutterstock