The Instructions We're Not Given
From the moment we exit the womb, we are getting instructions.
Don't put your fingers in electrical sockets and hands on hot stoves. Work hard on spelling tests and papers on the Industrial Revolution.
Magazine covers instruct us on what kind of body is beautiful and what kind isn't. People's questions about where we went to college and what we do for work instruct us about what's important.
We get instructions on who we should be. But we rarely get instructions on how to find out who we are.
We are told how to fit in to society, and never told how to belong to ourselves.
Absent instructions on how to find ourselves, it's only human to take on all we get told as our own: I should take this job, wear these pants, eat at this place, we tell ourselves. And if we do it enough, we can mistake our work, calendar, bank account for ourselves.
But I've come to believe that any moment is a moment we can begin waking up to the wholeness of ourselves.
If we recognize that we aren't living our lives, we've already taken the first step. For me, the following steps come through contemplation, and the courage to keep asking myself, What moves me? Makes me feel alive? Nourishes me?, and the patience to trust that answers will come.
A few helpful pieces for me: write answers - however fragmented - and insights in a journal. Have regular meditation or quiet and still moments. Fill the calendar with bold, original souls living themselves out in the world. Lots of sleep. Be gentle with myself.
There's no formula. We don't get taught this, so we're teaching ourselves as we go. But in teaching ourselves, we are learning ourselves. Learning what expands our soul, what habits no longer serve us, what ideas, practices, approaches enliven us.
And ultimately, learning how to come home to ourselves.