I have noticed lately how easy it is to hold onto the old. By old I mean old ways, old thoughts, old memories, old experiences, old customs, etc. By holding on so tightly to what we have from the past we leave neither opening nor room for future growth or evolution.
I have great respect for traditions so this post is not about knocking them. What it is about is posing the question whether you are stuck in a rut of old you or expanding and opening up and growing into the new you. You choose where you live through the thoughts related to both old and new and what meaning you attribute. So its worth taking the time to see whether your in a rut or evolving.
How to know when you are holding onto the old
Holding on is the energetic equivalent of wrapping something up in knots and ropes so you can’t escape. The trick here is you do it to yourself and often don’t realise you did. You can hold onto the past in just a few areas or be completely trapped. The areas that you might notice old and dominant include:
Language. How we express ourselves is an indicator of our views in the world. When we reference to the way things used to be or were in the past then we stay with the old. Basically what we say shows people where we stand so notice this in your own words.
Actions. What we do makes a difference. When we choose to do something it is an indicator of what we support. Taking action that keeps us where we are or even more so in the old ways helps reinforce the old ways.
Choices. We choose old or new all the time. When presented with emerging trends or new information we all have different levels of tolerance and acceptance. Like Rogers’ innovation curve, we all go through various stages before we accept new ideas. With choices some of us are able to more quickly adapt than others. Again this is related to our state of being and ability to know who we really are.
Relationships. As we grow and develop in our life what we desire in relationships – whether friend, family or partner changes. If our relationships do not sustain us in our current world-view then we grow apart or lose strength of connection. We engage in different degrees. The challenge here is when we are the anchor holding the other person back.
Rituals. We all have various rituals, routines or practices that serve us well. What happens when they don’t serve us anymore? A person holding onto the old will keep doing these for the sake that they are what they have always done, without question. So noticing when a ritual or practice no longer serves you is a clue to being stuck in the old.
Money. Many say that the money we spend is a great example of what we value. What you invest in and what you choose to do with your money will tell you and others a lot about your values. So coming from the deeper place of value this can be an opportunity for insight. Have a look at your bank account. Notice what you get paid to do in your work. If you had a windfall or extra cash what would you do with it? Would you maintain the status quo or innovate?
Lifestyle. Overall how we live our life can reflect an attachment to old versus new. I am often inspired by stories of people who can get rid of all their personal belongings, head off as nomadic travelers and just enjoy every moment (eg Elizabeth Gilbert, James Ray, Ray Martin, plus many more). For them every moment of their life is new. Yet not all of us can do this due to other choices. So what we need to do is consider how we can have the new in our everyday lives.
Work. For me what we do for work, not matter how much we are paid or not paid, is one of the best examples of old versus new. For many of us our work has a hold on us because of the way it sustains our lifestyle. When we work just for the sake of it (pay the mortgage, put the kids through school) or because we have to (stay at home mom) then our opportunity to experience the new is diminished. When we work from a place of service, love, passion, enjoyment then even the most mundane of jobs can be new. Just think of how many people you can meet in one day through the work you do (eg taxi drivers). Just think of how many new situations and learning opportunities you face each day ‘at work’. So with an adjustment of perhaps attitude even our work becomes a way to engage in the new rather than hold onto the old.
Appearance. How you look matters. Not in a superficial sense but in a way it reflects where you are in life. What does it feel like to try on a new outfit or a new pair of shoes? How do you feel when you dress up for an occasion or decide to go casual? No makeup or makeup. Be feminine or masculine. The variety and opportunity to explore, test out new directions, and be someone you are not (yet?) for a minute, is all there in how you appear. For some there is the style factor as well. The beauty (no pun intended) of playing with your appearance is that when you discover what feels right for you then that’s what is right – for now. The newness of the playing is what makes it interesting.
Environment. Changing environments gives us a chance to grow. How many of you are in the same house you grew up in? Same street? Same suburb? Same country? What about the way your place you live in supports you. Is it filled with reminders of the old that don’t sustain you or really nurturing and supportive of where you are right now and want to be? I am a big believer in de-cluttering (though admit to being a life long learner in this one - anyone want an old windsurfer :-)) and the energy of space. I love the advice from experts like Denise Linn and many others who practice Feng Shui to ‘love it, use it or lose it’.
There are many more areas but for now this will give you a starting point. Make up your own list and your own insights. Mine are just to get you going so that you notice the old and new in your life and where it comes from.
Using the past as the excuse
So you read the above and you realise that you are attached to the old. Now what. Well firstly, no one else is to blame. The ultimate example of holding onto the past is the excuse syndrome. I find this a variation of the victim mentality – ie woe is me about everything in life. You know these people. The bus is late so it’s the bus driver’s fault that they didn’t get to work on time. In terms of the past it comes out in comments like “so and so did this to me when I was 10 so I don’t talk to her anymore.” Not great, especially when you are 25 or 40.
On a more serious note I really mean this. The past is no excuse. Old baggage needs to be thrown out. In fact it is likely that only you are carrying this baggage. How you get rid of this baggage is a bit tricker. I also am a lot more sensitive about this area than may come across. Even so the first step is to stop making excuses up by blaming others for old ways and old news. Just starting with that can help. So this means not bringing up the old story and reliving it, replaying and giving it life. This means not saying over and over again in your head what you think about the person because of the old experience.
Well its not as easy as throwing away the old is it. To some it is. Really its more a natural reordering of your life when you start to pay attention to what works and does not work anymore.
Take learning for example. As you are investing in your own learning and experiences in life you are going to shift in your views, values, beliefs and ways. This is natural, especially if you are a truly open and engaged learner. If not then you would not be open to learning in the first place. So I assume at least a basic level of reflection.
So you go to a lecture, take a course, visit a new country, take a trip somewhere, go to a suburb you never went to before. You have an experience that is new, that challenges your perceptions and world-view. What do you do? Well you can resist it, not deal with it and avoid it all together. Or you can embrace the opportunity to challenge your thinking and being as a person. It is still up to you whether and how you integrate the experience.
Every moment you can choose to welcome the new. You don’t have to stay in the old thoughts. Every moment is a new beginning to wipe the slate clean from the previous thought. Not as easily said than done. You need more practices and tools to help you in this regard. Meditation is a great way to still the mind and come back to centre, reorient you and start again. Sleep is a good one too, at least with happy thoughts as you go to bed.
It’s your life so you can always press the restart button, again and again.
The barometer is on the inside not the outside
You are not required nor forced to adopt everything and anything that comes your way. How we express ourselves on the outside though is not necessarily a reflection of who we are on the inside. In fact it is fun to play with the outside to see what it’s like. We can dress differently; choose to be in places that we normally would not go, hang with different people. In the end if you measured from the outside only you will say things like this fits or doesn’t fit.
Think of an actor playing a part in a movie. If they were to dress as they normally do in their day-to-day lives would you believe them? If the acting was really good you just might. Yet part of the entertainment experience is the fun of the costume. So see we can use the outside to play, experiment and try something new.
Yet on the inside what matters is how you feel in all of these experiences. What is going on inside will tell you far more than whether someone likes your new dress sense or not.
So check in with how you are feeling in new situations. What makes you feel uncomfortable what makes you feel comfortable? If you are feeling comfortable then I would suggest the situation is NOT new. If you are feeling a bit on your edge then good you are definitely moving more towards the edge.
If you judge (or more politically correctly discern) between people based on the outside you are missing the point.
Comfort zones are personal
Now if you have worked in the corporate world, gone to a training course or done any form of self-development you know what comfort zones mean. If you don’t then look them up as this is not a place to define them. What I do want to say is that our comfort zones that we like to hang in are all different. We therefore really need to respect the ways and ability each of us has to move from old to new. If you are able to push yourself way out of your comfort zone to grow then great. But don’t expect your partner or best friend to do the same.
When we consistently push ourselves then gradually we expand. It is when we expand into this new territory of our own life that others may think we are different. Suddenly you are now living what looks like new to others but not yourself. You are off and running for the next step in your growth.
Great. Again you are having a PERSONAL growth experience.
Old can still be new
I love the expression where you just fill in the two blanks: “______ is the new ______”. People who say these comments usually are being witty and showing that they are in and with it but have a new twist on something. Yet on another level they are identifying and noticing what is happening around them. They are witnessing the “tipping points” in society as Malcolm Gladwell describes them or shifts in the way our human mind works (eg. Daniel Pink). I think they are making commentary on how people begin to follow a trend.
If you are not setting the trend, then following a trend is a great way to bring in the new. At first it may feel like its not you. You try whatever the new idea is out and see if you like it. At first it is uncomfortable, has a learning curve and then all of the sudden you get into it. With a bit of first hand experience you may also move on from this as well.
Ultimately the new becomes right for you when you adjust it to fit you. What I mean by this is that you still hold on to your values, beliefs and integrity yet express them through the new. As more and more of us do this we continue to evolve and recycle values and beliefs that may be old but withstand the tests of time (sorry for the overused adage).
Ancient wisdom, new expression
My final comment on old to new is the way many in the world are discovering traditions from the past that have applicability today. In fact several commentators (my mind just collects this information so no way to name them) have noted how so many of the self help authors today are restating long standing wisdom in modern day language. I am included in this category, as I believe that what I say has surely been said before, only the voice is different.
In my journey of development so far I have explored and experienced many different learning paths. In each I encounter a passionate collection of people who intensely focus on their niche and live and breathe what they teach. This gives me the learner the opportunity to get an intense dose of something new. Why? Because people who are passionate about what they teach focus on their topic. They continue to restate, reinforce and relive their words. For some this may be over many years and thus the teaching can be old. Yet for true teachers, even their own message evolves (eg Wayne Dyer). I bet you could find 10 people in your network of teachers right now who are not teaching the same thing they thought 10 years ago. (Exception I did have a university professor who read the same notes every year.) Well then that is unless you are still living in your old world. Then maybe you are all in the same place.
Opportunities for new come to you without asking
One learning point that stands out for me is the fact that when we don’t take the initiative to grow and try new then somehow life has a way of creating the opportunity. The opportunity will often come in the form of crisis, disaster or other crescendo of doom. When we avoid making the changes or shifting then the shift seems to happen all at once. I call these life earthquakes. They shake you up a bit and get you to re look at every aspect of your life. Kind of a clean out the closet of your self experience.
So how do we shift from old to new when we have no choice?
We allow it to happen and embrace the change.
Approach your life from your heart with love rather than through your head and judgment. Ultimately live your life with intuition; trust in yourself and your connection to whatever comes to you. Doubt not from where the message, thought, idea comes. If it feels right and it moves you to step into the new and grow, then do it.
So I invite you to notice where you are at in the spectrum of old to new. Pay attention to what you hold onto, feel attached to. Notice what seems to ‘trap’ you in the way we have always done it mentality versus I love doing this mentality. Ultimately welcoming the new is about movement, shifting and welcoming an evolved place in your life. You and only you can determine the pace and way in which you do it. However to not do anything and stay stuck means you miss out on life and miss out on your opportunity to have a real experience.
Let’s go there…