I recently led a group of older elementary school students through the experience of walking a labyrinth as a symbolic pilgrimage. Beforehand, I encouraged them to become aware of three different parts of themselves: 1) Who they really are, or their Spirit essence, 2) Who they think they are, or their beliefs, and, 3) Who they want everyone else to think they are, or their façade. We talked about the difference and about a pilgrimage as a spiritually focused journey. Finally, I sent them into the Chartres Cathedral-style labyrinth with the instructions of seeing if they could mindfully walk as their authentic “spirit-selves.”
When one boy emerged he shared this: “I got to the center and I heard my Spirit talking to me. Then, when I was walking back out, my thoughts tried to ambush me and my Spirit had to fight them off.” A girl added, “When I reached the center, I could feel all my anger wash away.” All of the students agreed that when they felt most like themselves, they felt more connected to others.
As a relationship specialist, this was an important “aha" moment for me. People often misperceive the spiritual journey as a self-focused or selfish one. In actuality, the search to find oneself allows us to better connect with others, to feel less isolated, and, in the words of these young students, “more real.”
The only actual instruction I gave these kids was to be self-observant. Self-observation is the primary skill required for accessing our “spirit-selves,” which in turn allows us to welcome love, compassion, strength, forgiveness, discernment, intuition, wisdom, and creativity. While some of these qualities are rarely identified as such, they are all critical to creating healthy relationships.
So now, I invite you to become self-observant. Self-observation will allow you to become self-aware. Self-awareness will allow you to see what you are doing and offer you choices. And the ability to make choices is what makes you powerful. You can choose thoughts and actions that lead you away from your goals, or those that lead you toward them.
-Be mindful of your thoughts and notice which ones serve you and which ones don’t.
-Be mindful of the meaning you make out of things that happen, and notice when the story you are making up causes you to feel closer to others, and when it causes you to feel separate.
-Be mindful of your words and notice which ones serve your relationships and which ones don’t.
-Be mindful of your actions and notice which ones lead toward your desired destination and which ones lead away.
The simple act of self-observation will lead to a higher level of awareness and there is nothing quite as powerful as a new perspective to bring about change. Now, see if you can walk the pilgrimage of life as your “Spirit-Self” and grow your relationships!