Our environment has an enormous impact on who we become (please refer to the Becoming article to learn more about the “ego building” process). Our family, community, religion, traditions, even our country determine to a very large degree the person we grow up to be and the set of beliefs that we live by. And of course it makes sense that the experiences of our childhood (brain developing years) would set the tone for the rest of your lives. But sometimes life throws some new set of circumstances our way that are designed to help us grow beyond ourselves.
When I moved to Canada twenty years ago, I realized how fragile and futile my beliefs really were. My first awakening moment came on the wings of the coldest winter of my life. Freshly emigrated from France and working three jobs to make ends meet, I wasn’t prepared for the sudden drop of temperature. I was broke, tired and cold but determine to make it. Going back was not an option. For the first time in my life I was faced with discrimination (I am French and barely spoke English), poverty (my education didn’t count for anything and I had barely enough money to keep a roof above our heads) and humiliation. It was a rude awakening for someone who had lived a care free life in Paris suburbs for the past few years.
But physical hardship and isolation taught me a few things. I learned that I was much tougher than I ever thought possible. Over and over again, I proved to myself that I could adapt, survive, and even thrive in the face of any circumstance. But most importantly, I realized that the absence of family pressure allowed me to truly be myself. In a way Canada taught me what my native land couldn’t. Life’s rules were not set in stone but determined by our surroundings, judgment and racism were fabricated by minds too small and too afraid to embrace differences and people everywhere were striving to meet the same goals. We were all trying our best to be happy and avoid pain.
You see, our environment too often limits our field of vision. Like wearing glasses with multiple lenses, our surrounding is distorted by pre-conceived ideas and notions. And more often than not, the rules and walls we put up to protect ourselves are the very obstacles to our happiness. Over the past two decades, I have learned to look at reality with a curious mind and found within myself, through spiritual guidance and trial/error, the values that I needed to follow. There is no doubt in my mind that our environment shapes us right from the beginning. But opening our heart to new possibilities, and the inner guidance we all have access to, is a personal choice that we need to make every day to see the world with brand new eyes.
Much love: Sandrine
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