Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Best Exam Ever!

From the time we come into this world and even before our birth we are under examination. The doctor examines us from the point of conception to make sure that all of our physiological and developmental functioning is working and we are healthy, our family and community watch, cultivate and experience us by way of examination; and of course, throughout our academic development, we are nurtured to embrace scholastic preparation and the examination of our knowledge as keys to a successful life.  However self-examination, although extremely important is often either delayed, non-existent, prioritized last or lacks the level of emphasis needed to embrace it as a lifelong process.
Self-examination may be one of the most challenging yet rewarding processes we can experience.  The question may become, so when do we begin a life of self-examination? And how do we go about it? Is it productive examining or scrutiny? Is it informed by a healthy voice within us?  Or is it a negative voice within us? Is it even a voice from within? Maybe it’s the voice of someone else that causes a constructive examination or the scrutiny of oneself? 
Let’s look at the definition of the term to examine….. To “examine” means to look at critically or methodically; to investigate; inspect; and to test by questioning. 
For some the idea of doing this with respect to oneself may create feelings of anxiety, judgment and pressure; for others the idea of examination may be considered a hokey or corny idea that is far from interesting.  If this is the case, I suggest we reframe the idea without losing the importance that the definition of examining offers us.  Sometimes by adjusting our perception, it is possible for us to do a new thing with an old issue, such as committing to the process of “self-examination.”   In order to do this we must identify the perceptions we do have and ask some of the tough questions I spoke about earlier, such as: When should I examine myself? How do I go about it? What informs how I go about it? Is self-examining informed by positive or negative influences? 
Identifying and examining our current perceptions enables us to:
·       Understand more about ourselves
·       Empowers us to be intentional about our choices
·       Be in a creative space to use what works to achieve our goals
·       Shed unproductive thought patterns and behaviors and replace them with productive ones.  
While the subject of “self-examination” may refer to an introspect look at oneself, do not be fooled to think that this process should happen in isolation.  We are behavioral and intellectual beings and some of our patterns of functioning are those that we learn from others. When doing the work of “self-examination” it is important to be open-minded, yet intentional about whom and what we allow as influences on how we examine ourselves. 
Observe and appreciate other people’s thoughts and experiences, while determining what is useful. Use whatever is nurturing from these observations to add characteristics of courage, patience, love and respect to your process of self-examining.  Be willing to find great mentorship in someone who is intentional about self-examination.  Having someone who can offer positive critiques that contribute to your awareness is an invaluable tool.  Sure even the most graceful critique can hurt a little, but learn to accept that sometimes this is going to be a part of the birthing process of “The You that you are Becoming.” The pain that is sometimes felt from learning to accept new ideas serves a great purpose also.  This part of the experience builds compassion in how you examine yourself and others, which leads to a level of awareness that is quite enriching.  

I encourage you to seek to examine and open yourself up to limitless learning.  Push past the unrealistic idea of perfecting yourself and strive for self-awareness, environmental awareness and the awareness of the varying perspectives of others.   Don’t avoid the examination process because you fear being wrong.  Don’t seek the examination process to ensure being right!  Move beyond those limiting theories and let your goal be to become an Explorer of Self and use all that you learn to serve and enrich yourself and your community.
~ Be ~
Written By Nieema Alford

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Gardener in You

Every morning on my way to work I walk pass a man who is tending to his garden.  As people walk by the garden, he stops gardening to smile, says “Hello” and offers his blessing for a good day.
What is unique about this garden is that it is set on the usually barren grounds of a local housing project in the Bronx.  Equally unique is the spirit that exudes from the gardener which is much like the unexpected joy of seeing a long lost friend.
I find myself looking for his greeting everyday as part of my morning ritual.  By the time I reach the garden, I am in some segment of my morning mental prayer.  I remember the first time I saw him in the garden he was standing at attention in the soil with his shovel in hand looking at me as I approached.  His eyes were lit up as if he was so happy to see me and couldn’t wait to say “Hello”.   I simply nodded in his direction a gesture of “Good Morning” as not to interrupt my mental prayer by speaking.  His response was a full bow, a tip of his hat and a loud “Good Morning My Dear!”  Startled by his greeting and embarrassed that I didn’t verbally greet him; I just giggled thinking maybe that was God’s way of welcoming me to “how” I should experience my day. 
This got me to thinking about how powerful we are as human beings who have the ability to create meaning for others.  We never know what it truly means to someone, by offering a simple greeting or a well-meaning inquiry about how they are doing.   This man not only focuses on creating a garden that is visibly beautiful, he is also intentionally graceful about how he interacts with the environment and everyone in it, despite all the things that the community may be deficient of.
His presence offers great metaphorical insight on how we can approach life and is nothing short of a blessing about “The Art of Becoming……..” 
The Art of Becoming is not only about what you can do when all things come together naturally and easily, rather it’s more about “how” you create amid the challenges in life.  The Art of it requires thinking creatively, using the resources within the environment and challenging concepts that cause and maintain dysfunction, much like what this Bronx Gardener is doing.
Some of the concepts of gardening require that the gardener have a vision, a plan for structuring and the openness to learn from the environment that will bare its fruit.  The same skill set can be used as we tend to ourselves and become gardeners to our life experiences, envisioning our  goals and how others will experience us, planning for and ensuring growth in life and creating meaningful opportunities when challenges present themselves.  
I welcome you to journey with me as I tend to a section of my life’s garden on “The Art of Becoming” and explore many of the ideas, blessings, challenges and concepts that life offers as food for thought.

~ Be ~
Written By Nieema Alford