by Maria Sirois
I’m staring as I write this at two bookcases full of self-help and psychology books. They represent a small portion of my collection of texts, cds, videos, tapes, poems, and inspirational quotes and stories. I’ve collected knowledge and wisdom about transformation since I can remember, taping Emily Dickinson’s words about not living in vain to my wall sometime during the year I turned ten. I’ve leaned on all these, and will continue to do so. In the school of positive transformation, I’m a lifer. But the one thing I wish I had absorbed much sooner, the one piece of knowledge I regret not copying 100 times on my yellow lined paper as I was learning my letters in first grade is the truth that we have and have always had: control over the one thing we must in order to grow.
Change requires wisdom, guidance, tools, mentorship, and the bolt of inspiration now and then. And yet none of that matters if we have not first learned to put our attention where we must: toward who we are and how we choose to respond in each and every present moment. We have control over little else. But every moment of every day we do have control, if we choose to attend, over who we are in the moment and how we will respond.
This knowing, for most of us, is not intuitive. We have to learn it over and over again and become reschooled in the challenge Viktor Frankl offered us, “Who am I in the presence of this?” as he explored man’s capacity to address our ultimate freedom–the freedom to be whomever we choose to be. We can be mean while waiting in line or we can be kind. We can be thoughtful in the presence of suffering or we can be curt. We can make mistakes and love ourselves anyway, or amplify the error by hating ourselves for being human. We can laugh at the child with a disability or join with her in open-heartedness. We can ignore the abandoned puppy, the injured horse, the damaged man or we can serve the highest good as best we can with them in mind. We can forgive or we become embittered. We can laugh with, or laugh at. So many choices … so many shapes to the human being.
So as we watch ourselves searching the shelves for the next great text or video, know that whatever learning is embedded in anyone else’s words has the best chance of landing home and of making a real difference in our lives when we first begin to practice the art of being present to who we are in response to the very life we are already living.
No child will write a story without first learning language. No adult will shape a life of positivity, of meaning, and uplift without first learning to attend to who he is, who she is, in the present moment.
Dr. Maria Sirois, PsyD, is the Vice President of Curriculum at Wholebeing Institute and an inspirational speaker, seminar leader, and author who has worked at the intersections of wellness, psychology, and spirituality for nearly 20 years. As a wellness guide, Maria has been invited to keynote throughout the country at conferences for wellness centers, hospitals, hospices, philanthropy, business, academic and corporate institutions, as well as for the general public. She has been called both a “true teacher” and “an orator of great power and beauty.” Her book, “Every Day Counts: Lessons in Love, Faith, and Resilience from Children Facing Illness, was published in 2006.”