Surprise Yourself

The Art of Personal Change

Without some level of memory loss, surprising yourself is a fairly impossible feat to accomplish. Can you imagine wrapping a gift to yourself, hoping to have it be a surprise when you open it later on? Believe it or not, trying to change yourself is similar and equally as difficult.

With any direct approach of one’s own doing, bringing about personal change is actually very difficult– if not impossible. The mind that decides it no longer wants to act in a particular way is the same mind that still desires to do so. Saint Paul clearly expresses this inner conflict when he states, “I do very the thing I hate. The thing I ought to do I don’t do and the thing I shouldn’t do is the very thing I do.”
The very system that desires change is the same system that hates the idea. So when we say within ourselves, “I am going to change,” we unwittingly activate and endorse another part of our mind to be the change agent. Doing this is similar to calling the sheriff of the community to report an outbreak of burglaries in the neighborhood. The sheriff says willfully, “Sure, I will work on fixing that problem.” You see the sheriff taking efforts within the community but the burglaries continue. You soon learn the reason for this: the sheriff and the burglar are the same person.

It may seem strange, but personal change requires a more indirect approach and mindfulness is just that type of approach. Mindfulness or awareness is a way to get outside the system. It is the practice of viewing the system (the mind) with curiosity and without bias or judgment. The simple act of being aware of our thoughts and feelings whether they be for or against life’s
experiences is enough to enact a kind of change that is natural and effortless and yes, surprising.

This kind of surprise is what is often referred to as an “awakening.” It is those “ah-ha” moments in life that affect our human experience most. With a heightened level of awareness, what was hidden in secret is surprisingly and suddenly revealed. By means of a kind (gentle) non-judgmental awareness of what is, we find a surprising change – a change affecting the condition we experience around us and a change affecting the way in which we experience those conditions.

St. Francis of Assi once pointed out this idea when he stated, “What you are looking for is what is looking.” Awakening is often thought of as a discovery of the true self but, with the true self at the center of being, this is an outside-in perspective. Rather, awakening is more the sudden awareness of the false self, an inside-out perspective. The source within is… “what is looking.”

A great surprise to many is that we can view our thoughts, feelings, and intentions (inside-out) and simply know that they are there. So surprise yourself. Find a place of stillness and quiet and with curiosity simply observe your thoughts and feelings as they come and go. Take an inside-out perspective to the world around you and… surprise yourself!