Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Difficulty in Listening to Ourselves

The alarm sounded, and I punched snooze. It sounded again, and again, I punched snooze. This was the morning for my art class, and I was struggling about whether to go. I had signed up hoping to see if I might learn to draw, but the class was a formal introduction to the fundamentals of drawing. It wasn’t the fun I had envisioned. It had been instructive though, and drawing was much harder than I thought. I was learning about proportion, perspective, the subtly of shading, and the bending of direct reality to appear more realistic. Fascinating new ideas had been shared and a greater understanding of an artist's craft had emerged. All this new knowledge would certainly make me a more discriminating viewer, but it wasn’t why I had signed up. I signed up because I sensed the need for more play and fun in my life.
So, as I woke up this morning, it was the ambivalence of whether to attend that popped up. I was aware that I wasn’t excited nor inclined to go. Yet, doubt and evaluative thoughts crept in to counter that decision. After all, I had paid for this class, so wasn’t it a waste not go? Certainly there was more information to learn, and I’d miss not getting more instruction. And shouldn’t one stick to what one set out to do? Nonetheless, it was hard to fool myself because on a scale of 1-10, I was hardly even at a 2.   
So, why was I even struggling? Why were these admonishments cajoling me into attendance? It seemed obvious that I didn’t really feel committed and didn’t want to go. Yet, I kept observing how strongly a part of me, that thinking part of my brain, was trying to outfox the feeling part. A lot of effort was going on, just to keep me out of touch with my deeper desire. How easy it is to walk away from that feeling part and do the practical thing. So how do we counter act this? How do we give equal weight to the things we genuinely want to do, rather than the things we think we should do? 
Of course, this decision to go or not go to an art class, is trivial, but it represents the effort required to stay true to our deepest desires and to make space for them. It’s important to say no to the things that are not giving us pleasure. The daily obligations of living: returning that phone call, balancing the check book, picking up the laundry. These things will always be there, but how do we not let those responsibilities take over and block out the things that give us genuine pleasure?
So, I paused and asked myself, "What decision would bring me the most pleasure?" It came with ease. I had always known, but had trouble listening. When I made the decision, I felt a freedom. A space opened up for a new choice. I could go for a walk or spend time on that writing project I was eager to start. I chose to make tea and start the writing project, and I felt content. How often do we deny ourselves these simple choices that can make us happy? I think we fear that we’ll become slothful, indulgent and become irresponsible. Yet, I find the opposite to be true. When I honor my needs, and act on them, I’m more energetic and less resentful of the time needed to do the less pleasant things throughout the day. When you make a conscious decision to nurture yourself, you’re staying true to your feelings. When you listen to your heart, your heart will always make you a priority.