(Our Family Christmas Vacation 2010)
But who do see? The person you were, the person you are, or the person you want to become?
Self-reflection is recognized as a universal requirement for learning. Maxine Greene PhD, who entered the field of education in 1938 and established herself early on at Columbia University as the "lone female voice" in a male dominated philosophy of education, has this to say about reflection:
"...you can be submerged in the crowd, and if you're submerged in the crowd and have no opportunity to think for yourself, to look through your own eyes, life is dull and flat and boring," she says. "The only way to really awaken to life, awaken to the possibilities, is to be self-aware."
Greene likens reflection to "wide-awakeness." "Without the ability to think about yourself, to reflect on your life, there's really no awareness, no consciousness. Consciousness doesn't come automatically; it comes through being alive, awake, curious, and often furious."
My self reflection practice has revealed to me, through the years, these two truths. Though simple, they have had a profound effect on ordering my life for greatest growth and success.
- Write in pencil. As I order my days and set goals for myself, I now only write in pencil. Whether on my family or google calendar I can swiftly erase or delete whatever no longer serves me or my family's best interests. Putting away the ink pen has freed me to invite new experiences into my life. I am more flexible as a parent and professional and realize I can flow with life's changes gracefully. Wielding a pencil instead of a pen has allowed me to let go so I can grow.
Time has a way of showing us all - that we are not in control. Sooner or later, we have to learn that flexibility, not rigidity, serves us best. My wake up call was my 2 year old son's emergency heart surgery. With his diagnosis and the surgeon's curt announcement, "your son will need cardiothoracic surgery within the month..." suddenly my packed work schedule and all the responsibilities that I had tied to it - paled and fell away. I found myself waiting outside the pediatric neo-natal intensive care unit - pacing and praying for my son's life.
That experience demanded that I write in pencil. Now I don't wait for the proverbial shoe to drop before self-reflecting. I do it every time I plan an event in my calendar.
- Omit possessive vocabulary. I began this practice more than a decade ago, during a humanitarian trip to Alaska to help a community of Native Americans. That trip showed my that nothing I have is mine. It is only gifted to me while I am here on earth. Being Native American myself, I was reminded by this beautiful family of Alaskan Indians that the "my" we use so often - doesn't really exist.
That year I stopped using the word "my." "My" belongings or "my business" or "my skills" were no longer mine. They belonged to a greater good that had nothing to do with me but everything to do with how I used what was entrusted to me and what lasting effect is has in this world. This small practice also helped me more earnestly apply the yogic principle of non-attachment. Situations in life were no longer mine, and as a result, I was able to look at them through a more objective, level-headed, and less emotionally possessive lens.
As a result, relationships I had with others also improved. Annoying habits or hurtful behaviors from others were just that - only habits or behaviors - but they did not own the person. As a result, I was able to detach the bad experience from the person, which left me free to forgive and open myself up to healing and growth in the relationship.
Here are a few blogs from BITL and other bloggers which can help you on the path toward growth and wisdom in 2011.
Self-Reflection: How To Do It Right
Freedom To Live Your Life: But Are You?
Midwife For Your Life
Is Your Life in Perspective?
The Person Next To You Is
Self Reflection for Entrepreneurs
Self Reflect Instead of Self Neglect