As far back as I can recall, my curiosities have often proven to be deeply annoying to many of those around me. Over time, if that changed at all, it was with an increasing perturbation of the murky waters of the status quo. I wanted to see what was under the surface… to see what littered the bottom that might trip us up should we choose to attempt to stand on our own rather than float across the surface.
For many years, I was part of an effective duo that offered certification trainings in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) to the Master Practitioner level. To keep myself interested, I found it became imperative to develop capacity to dive beneath those waters and explore what might ‘trip us up’ should we choose to take that stand for ourselves, at some point in our lives. It became evident that the bigger the question, the (potentially) greater the leap. I was into leaping!
One of the processes our clients experienced was a values elicitation: a way of bringing into clear focus and mindfulness the network of values that kept the structure of our ‘reality’ in place… and, too often, locked into the past. In those moments, potential becomes very difficult to manifest when our desire to move forward is met squarely by our deeply-rooted fear of doing so!
Far too often, that which holds the deepest meaning for us is kept in the dark and covered in the cultural waste of our societal taboos. At some level (and it never goes away!), we long to be in the full light of day; surrounded by the glorious potential of the colour and texture of a deeply meaningful life! This is not a luxury – it is the birthright of our potential, expressed.
A typical approach to this process would be a line of enquiry that might ask such questions as: what’s important to you about work? Or, what’s important to you about family? Or, what’s important to you about success? I found these wore thin over time and did not allow for the deep press that just might open a gateway into a new world. For me, the line of enquiry we offered to our clients was: “What’s important to you about being alive?” Consider: what is so important to you about being alive that if that were not present, you would have no desire to live.
That is a question that rattles the cage of habituated thinking! That is question that, in its underpinnings, causes us to confront the spectre of our own mortality. THAT is a question that is worth investing the time and effort and consideration to explore – and it is also the question that can profoundly shock us in its emerging imperative.
In that simple process of elicitation, lives changed. It took courage to allow what began to rise to the top of those murky waters to take shape and reveal itself to us. It took courage to allow the introduction into our neat little lives of the very thought of that which was contrary to the neat and tidy lives we had shaped for ourselves. And it took even greater courage to stay present to that discomfort and follow the enquiry further into the depths, that we might disturb the long-standing sediment that had encased that which might just open up our world!
I can think of no more compelling and urgent time than the one we are in, to become adept in this line of enquiry. As our world spirals into accelerating change, those external touchstones begin to move and slide. It is becoming increasingly necessary that we come to better know ourselves and connect deeply to that within us, that will become our most reliable guide.
So, if you’re interested in this line of enquiry for yourself, here is a short version of how to go about it.
* With paper and pen, find a quiet and comfortable place where you will not be disturbed for at least an hour. Do whatever you need to do to ensure that you are not distracted from the task at hand for at least that hour. Trips to the washroom; the need for water/tea/coffee should be addressed before you begin. They are too easily the escape hatch from the discomfort of an emerging discovery too long held in check that threatens to disrupt the habituation of our lives.
* Out loud, ask yourself: ‘What’s important to me about being alive?” When something comes to mind, write it down. Write down whatever words come to mind for that insight. There could be many or few. Write until there is nothing left for you to write.
* When your body settles, ask yourself out loud: “What’s important to me about being alive?” Do the same again – write what comes to mind; and allow all the words that flow from that to be captured and put to the page.
* Repeat this process (out loud) until you have 10 different items on your page, with all the words that go with it.
* Move to a clean piece of paper and begin a different line of enquiry. As you look at the first two items on your list, ask yourself out loud: “Which is more important to me: item 1 (read out loud the words you have used for that first sentence) or item 2 (read out loud the words you have used for that first sentence)? Go with the first thing that comes to mind – and write it down at the top of that clean piece of paper. Then, move to the second item and compare it to what is now the new No. 1. Same question. If No. 1 still holds, move to the third item and compare to No.1, and ask: What’s more important to me: item No. 1 or No. 3?
Repeat that process until you have the item at the top of your list that holds through the comparisons of all ten items. As a generalization, it sometimes takes a few layers to get to the discovery of the really critical discovery. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself startled by something which is completely new to your experience of your own deeply personal interests.
Once you have the ‘item’ in first place that stays in first place, you may want to begin to journal to explore how that item – the one at the top of your list for being alive – fits in with the way you’ve structured your life. Creating a meaningful life and managing a comfortable lifestyle are not the same thing. Perhaps this process will help you notice the distinctions. What you do with those distinctions is entirely up to you.
If you want support in making your way through the enquiry, the Decloaking and Living Authentically audio material will provide you with a framework to become both more willing and able to begin to press up against the seemingly fixed structures of your reality. The illusion from which we live is not that we can’t – it’s that we can and are often too afraid to do so.
If you want to connect with someone who can help in guiding you through this process, contact Sheila Winter Wallace. This is a familiar road for Sheila and one along which her good company can make the journey feel safer and more interesting.