“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ~Marcel Proust
I was asleep for the first thirty-two years of my life. I was jolted awake when my daughter was born unable to sustain her own breath.
I sat beside her in the NICU helplessly every day for three months, unable to hold or feed her due to her fragility. I watched as she endured two surgeries before six weeks of age.
She was diagnosed with a rare muscular disease that required significant medical intervention and around-the-clock nursing care. In those first few months following her birth, the picture of the life I had painted with its carefully selected colors and images, began to bleed into unrecognizable shapes around me. This was my awakening.
Awakening happens when the veil drops away and we discover we have very little, if any, control over what happens outside of ourselves.
It’s easy to believe in the fallacy of control when things go according to our predetermined plan. It’s much harder when things do not align with the image we have painted for ourselves. When we don’t get the promotion we have worked so hard for, the lover we have pined for, or the healthy child we always dreamed of. What happens to our happiness when we attach ourselves to these external outcomes?
Before my awakening my self-worth was tied to the success of my career, the balance of my bank account, and whether others approved of my life and my choices. I had to take a close look at myself and dive deep. What was my heart telling me? I broke open.
I left a marriage and a job that I had let define me for over a decade. I pursued a path of practicing and teaching yoga. I learned to appreciate the many gifts and lessons my daughter offered me each day. I watched her overcome physical limitations and grow to become a beautiful, sweet, and sassy little girl, full of humor and enthusiasm for life.
Every day she would wake up and exclaim “I’m so excited!” Whether it was school, errands or a stroll through the park, she saw the beauty of each moment.
We can never fully realize our potential if we are too stuck in tunnel vision to see the vast expansiveness of possibilities that exist.
What if not getting that promotion leads us to our true passion? Or that unrequited love creates space to meet our soul partner? Or the disabled child we did not plan for wakes us up to the things in life that truly matter?
If we’re consumed by our idea of what we want our life to be, or we wallow in disappointment when things don’t go to plan, we close ourselves off from all the blessings that lie before us.
How can we expand our own perception of reality and surrender to our path?
1. Stop blaming.
Every decision you have or have not made has led you exactly where you are. So often we play the blame game with accusations of “this is their fault” or “they made me feel this way.”
Though we may have been victims in the past, and we didn’t get to choose our circumstances as kids, as adults we are responsible for our own emotions and circumstances. When we choose to no longer hold a victim mindset, we are empowered to take the reins of our own life and make choices in line with our highest path.
2. Focus on the now.
When we put our energy into thoughts of past regrets or future fears, we often suffer anxiety or depression. When we shift our thoughts to the present moment, we tune into the blessings that are happening right now. Yoga and meditation are great tools for practicing presence. The more we remain present with each moment as it comes, the less fear and anxiety we experience.
3. Connect to nature.
Nature heals. It’s that simple. Go outside. Put your bare feet on the Earth. Dig your hands in the dirt. Climb a tree. Look at the star-filled sky. Learn from the reliability and consistency of nature. The sun always rises and sets each day. The seasons change without fail. These truths remind us of the divine timing of everything, and we too are a part of this universal tapestry.
4. Connect with a friend.
We are social creatures. We crave connection—whether it’s FaceTime or face-to-face. While it is often necessary to go inward, sometimes what we need is to get out of our own head and spend time connecting with a close friend. Practice complete presence. Laugh and be silly. Cry and be vulnerable. Be real. Engage in friendships where you can show up exactly as you are, without judgment. Choose interactions and connections that leave you feeling lighter.
5. Give to others.
Often when we feel sorry for ourselves, the best way to get out of our “woe is me” space is to do something kind for someone else. There are so many ways we can give back to others or to the community. Get involved in charitable work. Send a care package to a loved one. Send your energy into something that creates a shift from your own perceived problems to helping those around you.
6. Live with purpose.
Engage in work that lights you up. You may already have a career that’s driven by passion and purpose. Or perhaps you have a side gig or hobby that fills you up. It could be drawing or playing music, teaching, or coaching others. Say yes to things that bring you joy and a sense of purpose. Say no to things that drain your spirit, unless they’re responsibilities you can’t neglect, and it will be much easier to find time, even if only small windows.
7. Establish a daily gratitude practice.
Gratitude is a daily choice. We can focus on what is missing or we can choose to focus on the blessings right before us. Put pen to paper. It can be something small, like a morning cup of coffee, or something more grandiose, like the ability to love and be loved. Focus your energy on what you are grateful and shift from a mindset of lack to one of abundance.
Waking up is a process that unfolds the moment we decide to relinquish control and surrender to the flow of life.
I was asked again to surrender when my daughter passed away at the age of four. Even with deep grief and loss in my heart, her memory floods me with so much light that it is impossible to go back to sleep. Every time I feel sorry for myself or worry about things outside of my control, all I have to do is think of her. Her life illuminated my own path to self-love and surrender.
The more we trust our own path, the more peacefully we can navigate our way through this world. In each moment we can choose gratitude over disappointment, love over hate, abundance over lack, and trust over fear. Through these daily choices our original painting will transform into a landscape more magnificent than we ever could have dreamed of.
What are you not seeing because you are seeing what you are seeing? Are you ready to awaken to the illuminated path that is unfolding right before you? All you have to do is open your eyes.
About Shannon Leigh
Shannon Leigh is a student and creator of life. She is here to learn and share experiences with others through the practice of yoga. She believes yoga brings us back to our most authentic self, and the best way we can be a light for others is to cultivate self-love and acceptance. From unconditional love the magic of our lives can unfold in the most beautiful ways. Visit her at beloveleigh.com.