"From Slavery to Freedom": Transformation is in the air! Do you feel it?
Here in the northern hemisphere the start of spring is tangible and with it comes a sense of shifting from a winter mindset which lends itself to cocooning and insulation, to the newness and openness to growth that comes with the advent of spring. Globally we are still in the throws’ of the corona pandemic. What an interesting year it has been and so incredibly challenging on many levels.
When we first entered lockdown, the impression I had was of a temporary closure with return to normality after about a month or so. In fact, when the world first stopped, I was relieved. It gave me an opportunity to breathe and pause the usual rushing around that life had become. As lockdowns have extended and become part of regular life the halt on a rushed life is still appreciated, however the new reality has opened the door to some introspection that I find myself experiencing as well as many of my clients.
I would like to share some of the areas that my clients and I have spent time unpacking, which is particularly relevant to this time of year as we enter spring and move towards the Jewish festival of Pesach (Passover). This festival is marked in the Jewish calendar as a remembrance of how the Jewish nation (who were enslaved in Egypt over 3000 years ago) were finally able to leave and feel freedom for the first time after over 200 years of slavery. Imagine what it must have been like to be enslaved for such an extended period.
Each year as a Jewish nation we celebrate this liberation from slavery with a 7-day (8 days outside of Israel) festival where we are forbidden to eat bread (and any other foods that may become risen). In its place we eat the very flat and often tasteless matzah (unleavened bread). This matzah is seen as a symbol of our freedom from slavery. Many of my clients’ experience panic over the limitations of foods and the dread of what they aren’t able to eat over this time. I find it eases their concern to rather focus on what is still permissible (which is quite considerable when you start to list the foods)
Is the concept of freedom from slavery relevant to our daily lives? Are we able to use this as an analogy for our own lives? Could this shift in mindset and breaking of shackles be representative of self-transformation that can enhance the quality and very fabric of our lives?
How can we understand this slave mentality better? Another way of describing it is being locked into a fixed mindset which is synonymous with feeling constricted. In this frame of mind there is a general feeling of experiencing obstacles and lack of flow in our lives that often seem insurmountable. It is a sense of being stuck in habits, thought patterns, belief systems and situations that we cannot see our way clear of. Often the feeling of being stuck presents itself repeatedly with similar situations coming to challenge us. Often, we feel a sense of frustration and helplessness in the face of them.
The opposite of this is a freedom or growth mindset. The nature of which immediately allows one to draw a deep breath, as with this comes a sense of expansion, flow, and a sense of being able to rise above challenge, accomplish and thrive.
Awareness of how this plays out in everyday life is the starting point to transformation. Setting an intention to move towards establishing habits that fit the freedom/ growth mindset model is really what gets the process going. It is very normal to be able to face certain situations in life from one mindset and others from the complete opposite.
An example of this is an esteemed businessman or woman who is soaring in their career but finds that they cannot break the pattern of bad eating habits and negative self-talk. Their own inner taskmaster/ critic runs like a radio in their mind analysing how they are handling eating experiences and their bodies. In their work life they thrive on challenge and work well to meet deadlines and stay focused, and yet in their private life they don’t believe that they are capable of making the changes necessary to lead a life of health, vitality and wellness. What spurs them on in their work area, breaks them in their personal area.
I often find that one of the greatest obstacles my clients face which keeps them stuck and enslaved to poor habits, is linked to negative self-talk and a feeling that on some level they are not worthy of wellness and taking care of themselves. Oftentimes eating and food is used as a punishment and overindulgence. This can either be due to restricting intake as well as from overeating. It is so common to use food as a means of soothing emotions or repressing emotions and situational triggers constantly keep one stuck in these negative cycles which leads to despair.
How does one move out of this mindset of enslavement, of behaving towards oneself as a cruel taskmaster?
Self-awareness is the first cog in getting the proverbial wheel to turn. This works best when locked into another forward moving wheel, that of an experienced practitioner who can mentor one each step of the way. There are many techniques available to assist in breaking the shackles of slave mindset and each is unique to the individual.
Where in your daily life do you find yourself feeling successful and rising to the challenge? Where do you feel the opposite? Stuck, enslaved and feeling blocked? How would you feel if the situations that you are currently feeling enslaved to were to be removed? What would this mean for your daily life and for your future? Can you picture what that may look like?
This is a wonderful picture to have in one’s mind and despite your inner critic telling you otherwise it is very achievable to get there. All you have to do is take that first step.
If given a choice between wellness and illness, I can confidently say that most people would opt for the former. It is this picture of wellness that can be used as the goal. How does one reach that goal? One micro-step and micro-achievement at a time. Try this on for size the next time you are faced with a choice involving food options that usually challenge you. Ask the question, is this moving me towards my goal or away from my goal?
I encourage you all to use the energy of this time of year to propel yourselves from feeling enslaved in your life, to experiencing freedom in those same areas. May this bring a new meaning to your Pesach seder and allow for the usual recitation of a historical and biblical story, to spark the story of your own redemption.