Living Real: Remembering What It Means to Follow Our Intuition.
Living our best life doesn’t mean living a perfect life. Perfect, after all, is relative.
Living well means living real. It means acknowledging our flaws, our uncertainty, and our bullshit. It means celebrating our curiosities, leaning back from and then leaning in to our tendencies and patterns, attachments and aversions.
It means allowing for vulnerability, because let’s face it, vulnerability isn’t a choice, it’s inevitable; life is unpredictable and fragile, relationships are continually evolving (growing or dying), human emotions, circumstances and situations are in a constant state of flux.
We are almost completely out of control. Always.
And so, living real, really living, means to practice.
Practice being kind, generous, honest and compassionate.
Practice being accepting and aware and awake in the world.
Kindness is a practice.
Honesty takes effort.
Compassion comes from cultivation.
Showing up is a choice.
Staying awake, rather than going back to sleep takes determination.
Because, damn if at times it wouldn’t be easier to hide, to run away, to avoid, to numb or lash out.
Being selfish is easy.
Being kind, being generous, being honest, being real and staying awake takes effort.
Living real means recognizing that all of us at one time or another will mess up.
We’re going to be a part of the conditions that cause hurt and pain and suffering for others.
And others will play a part in the circumstances that ignite those hurtful, painful, heartbreaking feelings within us.
As long as we have expectations, as long as we develop attachments, as long as we have preferences, likes and dislikes, as long as we have plans of any kind, we will feel hurt, disappointment, betrayal, and all of the other feels that arise as a result of things not going the way we feel they should or shouldn’t.
This is the human experience.
It’s about learning to navigate through it all. It’s about following our intuition, and possibly for many of us, remembering what that even means — what it feels like, what it means to listen, to trust, to follow.
If we’ve lost touch with ourselves through painful relationships, experiences of loss or disconnection, we may need to spend time re-calibrating and realigning with our own true north. And from there, we must slow down and listen to that voice inside. The wisdom inside each and every one of us, the voice beyond that of the critics, both inside our heads and out in the world.
When we take time to consciously slow down, with the intention to listen, trust and follow, we will have more fully begun the practice of living.
Living real is about getting curious about our preferences, tendencies, attachments, labels and judgments. Doing this with kindness and compassion for ourselves and others, developing the wisdom to see this as a human condition from which no one is free. Everyone is going through it. Everyone is feeling pain and experiencing suffering.
Everyone is stumbling and flailing and questioning and crying and laughing and loving and losing and moving forward and falling behind… everyone.
With this understanding, we can practice seeing all beings with empathy.
As a mirror of ourselves.
We can let go of anger and resentment, and instead see people as they are;
they too simply want to feel love and connection.
They too seek joy and security in a world full of sorrow and insecurity.
They too attempt to find solid ground on a constantly shifting and changing trail.
With practice, we come to see that we’re all just trying in our own, often misdirected, way to find our way home.
This awareness is what makes our lives especially precious, and particularly worth waking up to and fully living.
One of the primary things setting us aside from all other animals is our ability to choose.
To discern. To pause between the stimuli and our response.
We have this precious gift to be able to consider, to contemplate how we want to be.
We can decide to react with selfishness, anger or bitterness, or we can choose to respond with integrity, truth and kindness.
We’re responsible for that choice. Every single time.
Yet, as we’ve established, this is easier said than done — feels way easier sometimes to just go back to bed, have another drink, eat another donut or watch another episode.
And this is why cultivating these virtues, these qualities, takes conscious effort and continual practice.
Fortunately, our entire human life provides opportunity after opportunity for this practice. Every day, every situation, provides the perfect conditions for us to wake up.
To wake up from self-absorption, greed, anger, bitterness.
To wake up and break free from the self-imposed chains of not enough or too much, to rise above the ignorance of fear and doubt and unworthiness.
With practice, we come to see, bit by bit, step by small step that beneath the bullshit, we’re all beautiful. Beneath the layers of emotions, thoughts, beliefs, judgments, we’re all innately worthy. We’re all equally deserving of joy. We’re all doing the best we can do. We’re all pure and kind and searching for a way back home.
It’s just that we’ve lost sight of ourselves. Those layers are thick and heavy, and sometimes so all-encompassing that we can’t see the truth within us, our pure nature and potential.
And so, with a curious mind and open heart, we continue to practice. To undress and unravel. Shedding false skins, letting go of layers, dropping the labels and storylines and bullshit taken on over years, decades, maybe lifetimes. And the more we undo, the closer we come to returning home. The closer we come to love and truth and really living.
Continue to practice. Continue to step forward on your own unique path with patient acceptance, gratitude and curiosity… knowing you are not your perceived faults or mistakes, you are not your past, you are not your baggage — you are perfection covered only by blankets of ignorance and delusions, fear and attachments. Perfection in disguise. Keep walking, see you at home.
Cat O’Connor is a lover of the written word, inspired thinking, speaking and sharing, Saturday nights, Sunday afternoons, and Yoga… oh yes, Yoga. Look for her in used books stores or out-of-the-way coffee shops, on solo or family adventures, and when in doubt, on her Yoga mat. For Cat, writing isn’t an option. It’s therapy. It’s sanity. It’s purpose. She truly and humbly hopes that what she shares here stirs something in your mind, heart and, wouldn’t it be magic if it stirred just a little something in your soul? You can find Cat on Instagram.