I've been wondering lately...can you be too mindful? Can practicing too much mindfulness actually imprison you just as much as being unmindful can? I'm starting think perhaps it is so. Hear me out.
Let me zoom back to a memory many years ago when I was on retreat. During lunchtime I was sitting at a table of women small talking about ourselves. During the conversation at one point I mentioned my husband (I was married at the time). One of the women nearly dropped her food and looked at me stunned. "You...married? How? You're such a free bird!" She was certain any person attempting to build a partnership with me would have quite the challenge on their hand because I was so independent. And she saw how comfortable in my own skin I was on my own. I imagine that her perception of partnership would require a free bird like me to tame myself.
In many ways she was right. The truth is that I've always been that free bird she was talking about. A bit of a rebel. Dancing to the beat of my own drum. Intense. Quite opinionated. Downright stubborn at times. Society and partners at different points along the way have told me that the free bird in me needed to turn the volume down. It was too much. That I needed to clip a few feathers here and there to make make things work. To make different relationships, work situations, and human interactions in my life work. Compromise became the mantra at times. Accommodation became the practice. This paved my way for people pleasing patterns, which by the way...you always loose in. People left that part of the bargain out when I learned people pleasing.
So here I was, this weekend, reflecting on my experimentation with dating over the last ten months. And a realization that I'd been clipping the wings on this free bird on and off quite a bit. Sometimes I've "toned down my intensity" at times, I've stayed quiet rather than speak up, I've practiced listening more than sharing, I practiced bending in moments when I'd stubbornly stand firm. Did I learn a lot? Certainly. It was an experiment. It was a different way of being at times. But at the end of the day what I learned most is that you can't take the free bird out of the free bird. And when I did, I was really unhappy. I was stressed. I was resentful. I was frustrated. And I absolutely did not feel like myself.
It's ironic when I look back at it. I started this latest dating journey as an experimentation in radically being myself. In the beginning I always was the free bird, but then over time people pleasing would start to creep in the longer I got to know someone.
Earlier this year I revisited the words that I chose to reflect the "essence" of who I was and one that came up in this year's revisit was "wild." According to Merriam-Webster wild is "living in a state of nature and not ordinarily tame or domesticated." When I read this definition many months ago, I thought...that's it. That's the part of me that I keep loosing along the way for the sake of mindfulness. For the sake of taking responsibility for problems without asking the other person to do the same. For the sake of trying to make things work.
In reality, I'm realizing that "wild" may be more important than any other part of my essence at this point in my life. Because when I'm not in alignment with my natural state, things don't flow. My ego gets triggered more. I overanalyze...think paralysis by analysis. I attempt to make others happy at the expense of my own wellbeing and peace. And I absolutely no longer feel whole.
As the Universe would have it, I watched Frida this weekend. A film I've been meaning to watch for years. As I sat on the couch, forced to slow down by a cold I'm getting over, there it was...Frida...in my Amazon film suggestions. There had been some signs earlier in the week that had pointed to Frida Kahlo as well. So I took the Universe's invitation and watched.
There on the screen I watched the story of a magnificent woman. A woman who was rebellious. Who absolutely only marched to the beat of her own drum. Who radically created and shared what was in her heart no matter what. Who wouldn't bend to the winds of societal pressure no matter how hard they blew. And who never expected herself to be anything other than who she was. I was mesmirized by her story and I heard the Universe speaking through her loud and clear.
I value mindfulness. A process of really reflecting on what your saying, thinking, and doing. A practice to cultivate more love, compassion, and forgiveness with others. But one piece I've neglected at different points along the way for the sake of mindfulness, is my own truth. When I start to cut out pieces of myself, overly edit my words and actions, for the sake of your happiness, I neglect my own. And when I neglect my own. I build connections where you do not honestly see me. And I veil you from the free bird inside of me, a part of me you may decide you dislike later when I can no longer hold her back and she comes flying out...wilder than ever.
Mindfulness is about understanding how your words and actions impact others. It is about reducing suffering. But this cannot come at the expense of yourself.
This week's Joy Tip Wednesday is about noticing where you hold back your own "free bird" back. Your wild self. The natural state of who you are for the sake of thinking, saying, or doing the right thing. Get ready to walk where the wild things are...