Finally home from having been away for nearly 2 weeks. What does one do with day-long air and sea travels combined, plus all the time spent waiting at harbors and airports? Watch movies? Yep, 7 in total between my outbound and inbound trips (with Life of Pi being the most thought-provoking). Read? Yes, 2 books (including You Can Create An Exceptional Life). Think and reflect? Check.
I was somewhat sad to have to fly back to the U.S., which was a completely new experience for me. When I left Macau nearly 27 years ago, I was so primed and ready to escape in order to create a new life that I didn’t look back. Sure, I had traveled back a number of times since. However, I was always eager to get back to the U.S., my chosen home. At one point, 7 years went by between visits to Macau.
Farewell, Old Story
On this last trip, I realized something had shifted: My consciousness. Because of my spiritual studies and practice over the last 5 years and counting, I’ve come to appreciate more and more how much life is shaped by our thoughts and beliefs, whether we’re aware of them.
In this particular context, my internalized beliefs about my hometown created a filter through which I experienced my homecoming each time. Specifically, the story I repeatedly told myself over all the years was that I was a misfit in my native culture, my family. Because of that attitudinal predisposition, I kept noticing all the ways in which I didn’t feel at home whenever I was back in Macau and Hong Kong. That’s what our brains are wired to do—look for evidence to support our beliefs. That’s what psychologists call “the self-fulfilling prophecy.”
In the time leading up this last trip, I went through the usual pre-trip anxiety I usually experienced around going back to where I didn’t feel I belong. To deal with the angst, I set a conscious intention to enjoy the trip and to enjoy my time with my family. With that intention set, I also surrendered the longstanding old story of being a misfit; this, in turn, meant giving up the automatic search for supporting evidence for the belief.
New Eyes, New Appreciation
As a result of dropping this lifelong bias, I found myself actually appreciating Macau for what it is and what it has become—the ways it has changed since my childhood and the ways in which it has kept its character through the growth and expansion (as mentioned in last week’s article). Seeing my childhood hometown through a fresh pair of eyes gave me such a newfound appreciation that I found myself being open to living there again! For having rejected Macau for most of my life, that’s a huge change of heart for me.
I also noticed my consciousness shift in my reactions to conversations on this trip. I didn’t want to participate in revisiting old grievances. I wondered how long we wanted to relive all that and for what purpose other than to feed an unconscious addiction to old familiar pain. Moreover, I couldn’t help but notice how often the theme spoken was around all the ways in which people kept disappointing and violating us in ways large and small.
That’s what happens when we’re unaware of our reflexive thought patterns, and words simply roll off our tongues mindlessly. By contrast, when we stop boxing people into our expectations and allow them to be and do their thing as they will, we can see that their behavior is just one possibility out of a range of alternatives. Few things in life are definitively black or white, right or wrong. Our reasons for disliking others’ specific choice of action are our own prerogative for which we can’t hold others responsible, especially if they aren’t aware of our expectations or haven’t agreed to meet them.
A Different Prophecy To Fulfill
In sum, I attribute my overall positive experience on this trip to my shift in consciousness and changing the prophecy I wished to fulfill by intending to have a good trip. It came from having released old grievance stories around my childhood and continuing to cultivate non-striving acceptance—of myself and of others. With that shift, judgment was minimized, which, in turn, allowed me to appreciate the place and the people for what and who they are, respectively, in their own rights.
Over to you: Do you find that your experiences are shaped by your attitudes and beliefs, not the other way around? What self-fulfilling prophecy, if any, might you be ready to release? Please share in the comment box below.
Photo credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net
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