How would you go through your life? What is it you would do right now? What is it you adore? How would you spend the rest of your life if it wasn’t influenced by anyone else? Aren’t these questions we should all ask ourselves more often? Not only can they show you where to go in life, but they also make you more aware of yourself. They make you aware of how you feel, what dreams you have, what things you love to do, and what things you hate to do.
I asked myself this question a few weeks back. ‘What is my way?’ After I followed another lesson on mindfulness and meditation. The teacher, Jon Kabat-Zinn, shared this profound question with me. He did so because he believed that we should never simply follow another’s advice blindly. Not even his. In this lesson, Jon was teaching some Yoga practices to do in the morning as you arise. To feel your body, to start the day aware and awakened. Not just in the body, but in the mind as well. He started the lesson with this one question “Always ask yourself, what is my way? How would I like to do it? What would I like to do? When do I like to do it?” These are questions of far more importance, than just blindly following someone’s advice.
Now Jon has been a mindfulness teacher, and publicly known author of many books on topics like meditation, spirituality, and mindfulness. He has a lot of wisdom, experience, and practice on these topics. Still, he claimed that no one should blindly follow his advice. I loved this. It is humble and honest. It inspired me to not just ask whether or not I wanted to incorporate a little Yoga in my morning routine, but it also inspired me to ask this question in general.
What is my way? How would I wish to go through my life?
It is important to ask this, for you are living your life your way. We often forget this. We follow others’ advice, both from gurus, mentors, friends, and family. All of this advice is often given out of love, but this might not always be the right advice to follow. This question can help you with that.
Part One: Clarity and Space
I think this is a lesson to incorporate into your life more often. It’s easy to get stuck into a rat race of some kind. Whether that be with working all the time, learning for school, or making sure the household is nice and organized. All of these can become either stressful or dull. It is at these moments a question like this one can help us steer through our lives.
I believe that this question cuts deep into the core of who we are. We could ask ourselves what we like to do, or how we want to do it, but these all involve the word doing. They all suggest that life is all about doing. When in truth it isn’t always about the things you do, but how you feel whilst doing them. That why I believe asking yourself “what’s my way?” will show you a more peaceful way of living.
By asking what is my way, we not just open up to answer what we like to do, but also how this will feel. Let me give you a personal example of that. I asked myself
“What is my way?” to which I responded unusually. I didn’t answer with, I want to write, or I want to have this or that, or do this. Instead, the first answer that arose in me was:
“My way is peaceful and stress-free, I don’t rush, I don’t push.” That’s the answer I gave to myself. With that, a lot of memories arose. Of me at the dinner table arguing with my dad about school. I remember how anxious I felt, and how anxious he was about his work. I remembered how each day most of our family felt stressed and anxious. My dad even ended up burning out twice.
It was this that I didn’t want. I didn’t want to burn out, be stressed, and be rushed. That not only happens when we do too much in general but also if we do too much of what we don’t like. This could mean that you feel burned out working just 4 days a week doing something you don’t like.
The point I am trying to make here is that this one question gave me clarity, not into what it was specifically I wanted to do, or obtain, but rather how I wanted to be. How I wanted to experience life.
For me, that was a peaceful, stress-free, and calm life. Filled with joy. Sounds like an obvious answer, but if you are caught up in ‘doing’ all the time we forget this regularly.
The first thing this question can do for us is: give us clarity and space in our lives. It lifts the veil of always doing and dives straight into being. How do we want to go through our lives, what is it we want to feel?
Part Two: Pick, Choose, Implement
You could stop there. Just asking it once, and find out how you want to be going through your life. But I found that if I asked it a second time I came up with practices, and habits to reinforce this way of being that I so desperately craved. Asking ourselves “what is my way, too feeling (fill in the blank)?” Can help us find those practices, implementation, and actions to take to go through life in our way.
So once more I asked myself “What is my way, to feel more peaceful, stress-free, and calm?” I found many answers. I discovered that my morning routine and midday meditation were profound practices to remain this feeling of peace and wakefulness throughout the day. Not only that but I once again saw the memories of my youth coming up. They didn’t just play before my eyes, they started to feel washy, almost as if I finally poked the bubble of this memory and they popped before my eyes. I noticed for a few minutes how the anxiety, rush, and stress I had been feeling for many years had nothing to do with the work I did, nor with the amount of work I took on. It had everything to do with the need to always do more, or do things quicker.
That’s just because I thought this was hard work. I always looked up to my dad, and how hard he worked. But in that, I took on his way of working. Which was highly stressful and burned him out. I now noticed that I was doing the exact same thing in my life.
The second time I asked this question I, therefore, found practices and actions to take to live that life I want to live. To not just find out what is my way, but to start living that way as well. To take decisive action. It is at this part that I also started changing some of my habits and practices. I decided to try new things like writing again each day, meditating twice a day, and some others. Which are all practices I learned through people I adore on the internet.
It’s when we ask the question “what’s my way?” For a second time that we can start picking and choosing the right practices and actions to take. This is what I believe, Jon was trying to say with his lesson. That we should first figure out our unique way of going through life, before picking actions and habits to go with that.
Following advice, and practices of mentors or gurus blindly are like picking a random item of clothing in the store. Not looking at the price or the size. Then when you get home, you find that it doesn’t fit you and that it cost you a fortune to buy.
It’s important for us to first find out what our way of living is. This is our way, the reason why we do things. Only when we know this can we choose and implement the right actions. Then we will carefully pick a hoodie from the store, knowing we love it, it looks good, the size is perfect, and the price is just right. We don’t feel bad about our purchase anymore. We then instead feel satisfied and content, because it is meeting our deepest needs.
The same goes for picking the right practices. They will feel stressed and unpleasant if they don’t aline with our deepest needs. If they do fit we will be able to stick to these actions no matter if they are hard or at times uncomfortable. We simply know that these practices are aligned with our way.
Part Three: Stay on Course, or Take Another
Now I found that there is a third part to this. Once we have found our way, why we do things, and the actions we take, we will change. That change will invoke a natural intention in others to question you. The only way to manage this is to stay on course.
Normally I would quickly reside back into old habits the moment others questioned my new methods. I found myself questioning myself quickly and quitting the practices that I thought would have a profound impact on my life. I now know that this is because I wasn’t following my way. I was either following the ways an author spoke about in their book or the advice a YouTuber gave in one of their videos. Or I would follow the advice of my family members or friends. Now all of these are done with the best of intentions. They don’t want to hold you down, the thing that’s making them not work is because they aren’t your way.
They are their way. It’s how they have lived, and are living. But that is not your way. It is the very same reason Jon Kabat-Zinn didn’t want his students to blindly take on his practices. He knew that if it didn’t match your way it would not last. It would not hold through the storm of life.
To stay on our course, our own way, the only thing to do for us is to find out what our way is in the first place. If we don’t know what it is, we can not stay on course. We can not continue. That’s why we often doubt ourselves when others share their opinions with us.
To find out our unique way in life is the essence of remaining on the right course, the right path, that was given to you at birth. Only your heart and body know this way. So follow them, instead of the advice of others.
Another thing is to go off course when you feel like the course isn’t working for you anymore. Our hearts change, there is not just one set path for us. Not all of us go through life the same way all the time. We change. We might want to be a professional designer for years, but find ourselves wanting to become a teacher after 10 maybe 20 years of designing. That’s okay. We do not need to stick to one course in life all the time. You can take another course if your heart tells you this.
Just be mindful that this new course is your way. That it aligns which your way of living, and the way you want to go through life. That’s the most important thing here. To ask yourself “What is my way?” That way we will always feel alive. So that we can end our day and say Today I Lived! I made the most of it.