I’m a Gestalt therapist. As such, I always work with what’s present for a person in the here and now. Sometimes, the problem for my client stems from a lack of awareness of that presence; at other times, it’s more a matter of what they choose to focus on. Kind of like not seeing the forest for the trees.
For instance … and I’ll use my life as an example … I’m like a terrier. Terriers tend to focus on whatever it is they’re after to the exclusion of everything else. I understand terriers. Seamus – my little buddy for many years – had this thing about cats. And bones. And anyone walking past the front gate. And mail people. Many, many things. One at a time. When he was interested in a particular bone, that’s all he cared about: he would chew on the bone for a while, then place it strategically in a location he could survey, daring any other being to come near it, summarily ejecting them if they dared.
I have a thing, among many other things, about walking. Especially since my partner gave me a Fitbit a few years ago. I walk at least 10,000 steps a day. Not because someone said so and now it’s LAW. Well, Ok, that’s part of it. But mostly because it’s a focal point for me, and ensures I stay fit and healthy.
In some ways, that single-mindedness is commendable. In other ways, both Seamus and I miss out. In my case, I’ll talk myself into walking even if I actually shouldn’t; like when I’m getting over the flu. I do this by deliberately ignoring what my body is trying to tell me, overruling that voice with the command in my brain that says I must walk.
I should say, I did this – past tense. I eventually contracted an illness that would show up, very loudly, every time I ignored that voice. After getting particularly ill, I missed an event I’d planned and co-organized for 3 months. That was really disappointing, but that wasn’t the ah ha moment for me. My ah ha came when a colleague volunteered for something I would have jumped at had I been there, even though I didn’t have the bandwidth for it. With everything I’ve been through, I wanted that opportunity so much that I would, once again, have ignored my physical needs. Instead, Scott volunteered.
Thank you, Scott! And thank you, benevolent universe!
Sometimes ah ha moments aren’t a surprise, like mine was. You can discover them more regularly with the following exercise:
1. First, make some time where you won’t be distracted for an hour. Turn your phone off; put your PC away; close the door, and let your friends and loved ones know you won’t be free for that hour. Then, before doing anything, close your eyes and be still for at least three minutes.
2. Now, with pen and paper, write down 3 to 5 things that came up for you during those few minutes of silence. It might be something like “I couldn’t stop thinking about a problem at work no matter how hard I tried.” Or “I’m so tired!”.
3. Then, review what you wrote, highlighting anything you weren’t aware of before you did this exercise. If your focus was totally on a problem, were you aware of how much you missed because of that? If you’re really tired, are you aware of how that happened?
This awareness is key, because it opens a previously closed door. Being totally focused might mean you don’t have to dwell on something that makes you uncomfortable. What happens when you uncover that? Being tired might be from insomnia as your subconscious wrestles with an issue that bothers you deep down.
4. Finally, once you’ve become aware of what you previously missed, take anther few minutes to check in with yourself. What have you learned? How are you feeling? How can you take what you now know to a new level of awareness?
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Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist. To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .