I realized that I’m losing a bit of the concept of time without having as much structure right now. I struggle to remember how long we’ve been in shelter in place and even what I would be doing if I could be out and about and keeping busier. It’s feeling like this will be my life now and forever so I allow myself to lose my focus since there appears to be plenty of extra time.
Then I missed a deadline the other day because I had completely forgotten about it a project that was due. Ugh… I felt my self-judgement rear its’ head for not keeping better track of my commitments.
My mind was racing with thoughts like “I should be more on top of things! Why hadn’t I written it down somewhere? How will this affect my relationship with the person who was counting on me?”
I took my one misstep to mean that I am not the reliable, professional woman I claim to be rather than see it as simply adjusting to a new rhythm of life that got a bit bumpy.
So, why such a big response to one mistake?
You see, it was beyond the one mishap – it was a faulty perception of myself, a blindness about my own reality. I mistakenly took the thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations I was feeling to be who I am rather than remembering the true nature of my spirit and the connectedness of all things. I was experiencing what is in yoga philosophy is called Avidya, or false perceptions.
Avidya is a core ignorance, a wound to the self that makes it difficult to really to experience your deep connection to others and to the source of being. It shows up in your relationships, in how you cope and survive, in the things you long for and in your fears. It’s often described as veils that shield you from shining brightly as your highest, truest self – one of love, contentment and connection to something bigger than you.
In order to shift yourself away from this wounding and the trance-like state avidya puts you in, you are asked to look beyond your moods and thoughts and recognize that there is something unchanging and joyful underneath it all.
For example, when I missed a deadline, my inner dialogue leaped quickly from “oops! I forgot all about that project” to “I’m not reliable” because I was identifying with a thought loop that had been running in my mind for years that being undependable would cause me to not be taken seriously and therefore left behind and alone.
I was mistaking that loop that ran in my mind as something that was true and would always stay the same. I didn’t have the thought “here’s a fear” as if I were witnessing it, instead my thought was “I’m afraid” as if I were the emotion itself. The concept of Avidya helped me to understand my thoughts just pass through me and are ever-changing like the weather and all of life around me.
I got that I’m not defined by my moods or even my actions. I saw that the pure consciousness that is that visceral feeling within me is my True Self – and the real source of happiness, not something outside of me.
When you don’t see, hear, know or feel accurately, you prevent yourself from acting skillfully. To wake yourself up from the misperceived idea that the way you think or feel things is how they are, become a witness to your mind and what it is constantly telling you.
Try noticing the first conscious thoughts after waking in the morning and see where they take you. Notice how your emotions color your world and where you feel them in your body. Question the broad conclusions your mind comes up with about reality.
You’ll be amazed at how much your mind attempts to identify the “me” that you are with your personality, thoughts or physical body. Each time you turn your attention within and focus on the subtle meaning of your physical or emotional reactions, you peel back layers of avidya and understand the brilliance that you truly are. ✨
Beth Nelson is an inspiration and leader for women who are ready to awaken into the fullest version of themselves at midlife and leave a meaningful impact on the world. As a Women’s Midlife Mentor, confused and disengaged women in their 50s and 60s hire her to build the necessary confidence to reinvent themselves and create a life full of passion, purpose and authenticity.