As I sat this morning, I reflected on my mental state the past several weeks, and how the attitude I bring to my days, beginning with my first thoughts and actions each morning, follows me throughout the rest of my day. If I wake up and am frustrated with my reality, my day will be a struggle.
This morning, as with many mornings recently, I carried into the waking world the anxiety-inducing thoughts that have crept into my consciousness in the pre-dawn hours lately: the annoying details of life, the frustrating parts of work, the doubts of where I am and what I'm doing. Meditating on my emotional reaction to these thoughts this morning, I wondered how I could use these thoughts to create curiosity and inspiration, instead of frustration and anxiety. How could I shift my perspective to see that these unsettling thoughts don't have to be negative - that a shift in my outlook can actually create positive feelings of curiosity and inspiration?
I recalled the medicine wheel, and how it can be applied to our lives, on a micro to macro time scale. Evolving within the natural world, we function best when living aligned to the natural cycles: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. Sunrise, Noon, Sunset, Midnight. Educators have translated this into the Natural Learning Cycle, which encourages the design of curriculum and programming, from an hour-long class to a year-long program, based on this cycle. It goes something like this:
Beginning with the East (Sunrise, Spring, Inspiration), we inspire and cultivate curiosity. Moving to the South (Noon,, Summer, Work), we do work to quench our initial curiosities. In the West (Sunset, Fall, Reflection), we reflect on the work of the day and pull out whatever meanings we can. In the North (Midnight, Winter, Integration), we let our subconscious incorporate these lessons into our psyche while we sleep, transforming us and letting this process lead us to inspiration and curiosity as we arise for the following day/year.
Recalling all of this, I asked myself, how is my current reality aligned with this cycle? Am I letting myself be inspired and curious each day I wake up? The answer, lately, has been "no". Looking at the thoughts I awake with us as things to struggle against, I have not approached them with curiosity, and thus have not been inspired to do each day's work. If I can shift my perspective to approach these 'issues' not with frustration but with curiosity, it has the power to completely change how I approach my day, and thus my mental/emotional state throughout the day.
For example, I could stick to: "I am not looking forward to going to work", and then struggle the whole time I'm at work. OR, I could use the thought to get curious about my life: "Why I am not looking forward to going to work?" Any responses to this question can inspire more questions, and perhaps even action: "Is there something I can change about my work situation to make me more inspired to go?"
Just this very act of shifting to curiosity can be transformative. If we think of the frustrations in our life as important information guiding us forward, from our daily decisions to our life path, then struggling against what is frustrating leads us nowhere - the medicine wheel inside of us is stuck in a figurative rut (hence the idea of struggle), and we can not access the wisdom we inherently hold. Approaching these negative feedbacks loops with curiosity helps us turn the medicine wheel within us, tuning into our essential nature to create a life of more momentary peace and ultimate fulfillment.