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Learning and Unlearning: A Journey of Self-Acceptance

Sitting by the Water

“What you are is what you have been. What you’ll be is what you do now.” ~Buddha

A teacher of mine once said, “Don’t show up as the person you think you are. Show up as the person you want to be.”

A powerful statement, but I didn’t know who I wanted to be. Even if I did, I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off.

I knew who I didn’t want to be: self-critical, self-conscious, and always focusing on my shortcomings. I wanted to learn how to get out of my own way.

For a long time, I thought improving my external situation by becoming richer, thinner, and smarter meant that I was learning. Not to say that accomplishing those things isn’t learning. However, in that cycle I wasn’t learning, but repeating the same story.

I kept trying to get from A to Z by pushing myself and always expected my results to meet my expectations. And the vicious cycle continued. I thought I’m not good enough; I’m pathetic and I’ll never get it right.

Ironically, my desire to learn continued to work against me.

It only brought me further from what I wanted. I now realize how necessary it was for me to relinquish control and create space for something other than my neurosis.

Today, I’m learning about integral awareness—taking in information on all levels, mind, body, and spirit. Not resisting, not expecting, not judging, but allowing; removing previous ideas about who I am. I have come to realize that true learning is unlearning.

Another word I associate with learning is deprogramming.

In other words, one must begin by emptying one’s cup.

Bruce Lee once said, “Empty your cup so that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality.” By emptying my cup, I am making room for new experiences in my life instead of allowing myself to repeat toxic patterns.

In the process of unlearning and letting go, I have experienced some dramatic changes in several areas:

1. My relationships have become healthier.

In the past, I measured the success of my relationships by how well I could control their outcomes. I was often distraught because I continued to attract uncooperative, uncaring, unsupportive situations.

These days, if I attract someone who doesn’t want to operate from an open, supportive, compassionate place then I am okay with letting it fall away. I am learning to walk away, loosen my grip, and look within to understand my experience of what took place.

I recognize that I cannot look to others to heal what is broken in me. I acknowledge that I have the power to heal myself—to shift my awareness.

I push myself to stop complaining and get to work. My new mantra: the victim reacts; the warrior responds. The ego judges; the spirit absolves.

2. My relationship to my body is also experiencing a shift.

By delving deeper into meditation and other mind-body therapies, I’ve developed a healthier relationship with body. Previously, I was caught up in my appearance but not so concerned with the negative emotions and toxic substances I was stuffing myself with.

I kept telling myself, “If I look good now, I can just deal with the other stuff later.” Operating this way, I wasn’t in touch with my body. I had to unlearn a completely unhealthy approach, dominated by a feeling of separateness from everyone and everything around me.

3. I notice beauty in things I used to take for granted.

A recent experience that stood out was during a mural walk in San Francisco. I’ll never forget standing there in awe of the Mission District. I drank in the colors, symbolism, beauty, vastness, and sacredness of the images.

Connecting to what was actually going on around me, I had a deeper experience of sounds, smells, feelings, and even sensations in my body. I silenced my mind and was rewarded with the ecstatic merging of my inner self and the outer world.

Feet on Ground. Smile on face. Gratitude. Bliss. Peace. Sounds. Sensations. Light and Energy. No purchase necessary. I was truly alive, breathing, in the moment, a drug-free heightened state of awareness. Something a lot easier to achieve than I realized.

4. Writing is no longer a huge source of anxiety.

If “it’s the silence between the notes that makes the music” then it’s pretty much the same with writing. Until recently, I had a difficult relationship with writing. I had so much to say, but lacked the self-worth to actually sit down and get it on paper.

I’m no longer attached to the end result and I actually enjoy the process. Having “unlearned” my original anxiety-driven approach has provided me with a sense of freedom and movement in my writing.

I am learning how to bring together disparate elements and expertly fuse them into a polished stone. The fear and anxiety isn’t as strong. I’m opening up to exploration and possibilities; thus, leaving my former toxic relationship with words by the wayside.

5. I am finally greeting myself at my own door.

No longer so concerned with the person I want to be, my true self is being revealed through the unlearning and removal of what no longer serves me. I am emptying my cup of fear, doubt, and frustration, and am finally looking forward to raising a toast to life.

Photo by Chico.Ferreira

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About Melodi Cowan

Melodi Cowan is the founder of Dharma Pals, an outreach program that provides seniors with healing and support through meditation. Read more of her writing on her blog, Thoughts Become Things.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • Darius

    Did my future self write this?! I am simply amazed at how the content of this entry so accurately reflects my current situation and hopes for my future. Thank you SO much for sharing this! The honesty of this post is vibrating within me and has given me hope. I am sincerely inspired. Blessings to the author and to all who read and relate to her truth. :)

  • ellendiane

    excellent&very vital!

  • Jess

    totally agree with darius. thank you so much for writing.

  • http://twitter.com/dharmamelsf Melodi Cowan

    thank you so much for the feedback, everyone. @darius appreciate you sharing your thoughts-i am so honored to know that i’ve inspired some of you! all the best, melodi.

  • Kathy Delgesso

    Wow Melodi… truly inspiring … really

  • Ross

    Great piece! Thanks for sharing!

  • Pingback: Enlightenment ~ A Journey of Self Acceptance « The Trader's News

  • Bruno

    Thank you so much for your text. It has inspired me to beggin my unlearning way.

  • Hdrosbury

    If you believe that you are an aspect of God, then drop the separative ego and allow God to operate in your behalf and forget the struggle which is only the ego trying to be God which, of course, is impossible.

  • Megan

    I loved this post. That’s all I have to say. Love.

  • nilofer

    Wonderful learning .I totally empathize with you because I went through the same situations.Yes unless you empty yourself of negativism.you cannot imbibe positiveness.Thanks for this lovely article