People love roadmaps and step by step guides. The three step guide to a spotless house. Your dream job in six easy steps. Five steps to a stress free life.
Magazines, the internet, online courses: they are all infested with multiple step action plans. Always just a few (no more than eight), and the result is always amázing.
Just follow the simple steps and your problem (shitty relationship, shitty stress, shitty mess) is a thing of the past.
When I started writing my books, this was the first thing my publisher told me to do: describe steps! Eight at most. And so I did, although I called the steps ‘lessons’, and ‘roads’.
And sure thing, it worked!
Like I said, we love step by step guides.
But if I’m being painfully honest: I don’t really believe in step by step guides. So I really admired Brene Brown’s candidness in her book Gifts of imperfection: she refuses to do this. Because it doesn’t work like that. Life is pretty messy, freakish, unpredictable and whether you follow three, five or eight steps: it kind of stays that way.
Sure, if you want to explain something – whether it’s French grammar, stress, relationships or life in general – it helps to break things down in smaller subjects and name those subjects. Let’s be honest, even the Buddha knew how to deliver his teachings in bite-sized chunks: the four noble truths, the eightfold path…
God was a class act too, with his ten commandments.
But that doesn’t mean those chunks will always neatly present themselves in that particular order and manner, in real life.
When I was once asked what to me was the main ‘road’ of the eight roads I describe in my book Eenvoudig Spiritueel (Simply Spiritual) I said, without hesitation: Awareness. Eight steps sound more plausible than one, but really, I believe we only need one.
All the others follow naturally, if we do it right.
Everything starts with awareness. You cannot learn anything if you are not aware that there is something you need to learn. You cannot change when you don’t realize something needs to change. Growing consciousness, growing awareness, means: paying attention. Not look away, not ignore, not bypass or belittle.
Nor jumping straight into action.
But pause and feel, stop and experience – whatever the experience is. Wait. See what emerges, see what unfolds – for example your own automatic reaction pattern. So leave them be and wait some more. Beyond the reaction, beyond our frantic actions, our hectic attempts to control everything – there is silence. And in that silence lies our wisdom.
It is only accessible and available when we become aware.
So how do you practice awareness? Alas – we are not aware automatically. Our minds have a tendency to run off and create havoc. But it can be learnt, and that takes practice. I’m teaching a mindfulness course in Utrecht in May/June.
If you don’t want to wait that long or don’t live anywhere near Utrecht, I have two options for you. You can either take the course individually (in person or online), or start with my FREE 3-part video course (Dutch).