Are we missing the power our experiences hold for us because our attention is scattered, so we feel overwhelmed and as a consequence only superficially engage them? How often are we in such a rush to accomplish something and move on to the next thing that we are left feeling depleted and on a treadmill with no off switch? Exploring our experiences more deeply may not seem a priority compared with the relentless pressure to succeed in school, build a career, raise a family, or run a business, but could this just be our unconscious conditioned habit? What if engaging on a deeper level supported us in our endeavors rather than becoming one more thing on the ‘to do list’?
Let’s explore why we would want to engage our experiences on a deeper level and then how to give it a try.
Slowing down and going deeper when we are already too busy may seem counter-intuitive, but by immersing ourselves in both our inner and outer experiences we will find we get where we want to go more quickly and with less stress by stepping into the flow of life. We are also able to reclaim the freedom and sense of wonder we experienced when we were young.
If that is true, why we don’t go deep?
- We’ve forgotten how
- We think we already understand everything perfectly and don’t realize we are acting unconsciously
- We are afraid of what we’ll find because in order to go deeper we must connect with life in a way that might expose our vulnerability
- It seems like too much of an effort with all the other responsibilities we feel burdened by
When we are young, our natural curiosity prompts us to ask questions that get to the heart of what we are experiencing. We are fully absorbed in wonder at the simplest of experiences and often blown away by the answers we find. Then as we grow up we are taught to judge ourselves, others, and all our experiences as right or wrong. For most of us, the answers become a choice between black and white in order for us to make sense of the perceived duality of our existence. Each of these choices, then, becomes a ‘truth’ in our belief system. The more we accept this duality, the less inclined we are to question the reality we create going forward.
The fallout of this static process is the loss of nuance and depth that connects us to everything animate and inanimate. The more we defer to unconscious thoughts, behaviors, and actions, the more we forget that all our experiences, if explored, have the potential to infuse us with the vital life force that effortlessly reveals the wonder and joy that creates meaning.
How do we begin to live more deeply? We take the time to notice both our outer and inner environments.
Start small and think of a time when you slowed down enough to really notice something. Maybe it was a particularly insightful comment from a friend that stopped you in your tracks because of the power of the truth it held, maybe it was a bite of food that made you put your fork down and savor the intense flavor, maybe a night sky so full of stars you got goose bumps, or a silence so profound you felt connected to everything. It is in these experiences that we transcend the superficial to feel power, wonder, and joy. Many of us assume these feelings are isolated and rare events, but they are available in all our experiences if we refrain from judging, are curious as to why they are showing up, listen for the messages they hold, and allow them to be just as they are without trying to change them.
We can also develop a practice of exploring our inner experiences to help us make sense of the outer ones. I often hear people say they’ve tried consciousness-expanding practices such as meditation but then go on to insist that it’s not for them or that they couldn’t sit still. This resistance might be a consequence of our sound byte, on demand culture, but regardless of our tolerance for stillness and depth, it is an option that’s available and effective if we choose to explore it.
There are as many ways to engage a meditative practice as there are people, so think about the things that have previously put you in a space of restful non-thinking and explore ways to reactivate that environment. Have fun exploring it, but once you find something that helps you shift, it will be important to commit to the practice to feel its deeper centering, grounding, and expansive effects.
By taking the time to notice life, read its cues, and absorb its messages, we become aware of our own energy. We become acutely tuned in to when it is low, high, engaged, or distracted. We are naturally focused, open and receptive. We stop forcing our own agenda on the world and stop resisting life. Once we are aware of ourselves we can learn to sense the energy of the people and situations around us and choose how to engage most effectively.
You may be thinking it is unrealistic to think about paying so much attention to every inner and outer experience you have, but I am suggesting you start with one area of your life or one relationship. Explore it deeply, with curiosity and see what shifts for you. If your experience adds richness and makes you feel more alive, try it in another aspect of your life. Follow the flow of where your urge to go deeper takes you. Why not share your experiences with others while you’re at it? That is another way to go deeper in your relationships. Notice how much more connected and supported you feel and compare that with feeling overwhelmed, stretched too thin, and alone.
It’s not about results. Results will come with engagement. It is a process of finding ways to live in each moment as it unfolds and learning to shift from resisting what presents itself to saying YES to life.