Conscious Incompetence

2012 is evidently the year for consciousness. At least for me. About my own incompetencies.

In the past 6 months, I have been informed of my incompetency as: a daughter, a sister, a community member, a group member, a friend, a blogger, a facilitator, a bread-winner, an appointment keeper… and the list goes on.

In this 2012 deluge of “wrongness,” my ego feels riddled with buckshot; and yet despite limping with self-doubt, I sense an emerging litheness.

New frontiers–beyond perfection–beckon on the horizon; while the onslaught of criticism cripples any thought of turning back in defense.

And yet, what I discovered on the path to the Wild West of Self, was more reckoning. Only this time, I was doing the shooting–coming face to face with my own annoying personality traits.

I won’t bore you with descriptions. I can’t bear them myself.

I will tell you that I wanted to crawl into a ball of despair, or a bowl of chocolate, or even better–a box of hard work.

Ah. Work. The great distraction.

It’s been 17 years (the age of my first born) since I relinquished the full-time weight of that mask.

Staying home with the kids forced me into greater relationship–with self; and together we created a warrior of awareness–and love.

This past weekend, I was reminded of how these two qualities rely on each other.  How awareness without love leaves us hard and vulnerable to breaking; and how heart without clarity leaves us floundering, without purpose.

This study comes as part of a yoga teacher training in which I have embarked. Each month, a dozen of us gather for a weekend of collective consciousness: the more we learn, the more we realize just how much there is to learn; and this awareness threatens to devour us.

Our teacher explains that we have moved from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence. This is the path of becoming, he assures us, relating his own fragile journey.

He tells us that we will gradually move into conscious competency; but of this we are frightened too.  We feel clumsy and self-conscious with these new skills, we complain.

He soothes us by sharing that this new self-consciousness will eventually unfold into unconscious competency; and finally our fluttering hearts settle. For now.

For some, the weekend of yoga and study comes as a welcome retreat, but at this half-year mark, I feel exposed. The quieting of my mind in meditation has left bare my own imperfections.

This is so painful that I desperately want to hide, but unconsciousness no longer fits.

Once home, I try ice cream and Facebook and family, but I climb into bed unsatisfied. I decide that I simply must jump into work first thing in the morning even though I wasn’t scheduled to go in until Tuesday.

My 17 year-old stops in to say goodnight and decides that tonight is the night to open up to all the ways he has felt overwhelmed, and corrected, and confined–by his mother.

If I wasn’t so tired, I would laugh at the way 2012 pursues me.

In the morning, I remain in bed. My husband brings me tea, and I sit up and make a list of all my faults, one by one.

I hold my hand so that I don’t run away.

I remind myself that these expressions were honestly earned by a lifetime of sometimes cruel imbalance.

With compassionate awareness, I accept my imperfect self, while at the same time I commit to building competency:

I want to listen more.

I want to refrain from interrupting.

I want to continue to appreciate my enthusiasm and insight while allowing more space for others to enjoy their own.

Kelly Salasin, June 2012

2 thoughts on “Conscious Incompetence

  1. Hi Kelly, I linked up to one of your old posts on “Thought Anthropology”, while searching “childhood passions”. I did earn a degre in Anthropology (Archaeology), but never used it professionally. It was one of the few indulgences I allowed myself since childhood, and I never regretted it. It helps me remember the joy of doing something for the soul.

    Now that I am in the “Fuck You Fifties”, and the kids have grown, I am searching again to reconnect with more meaningful pursuits.

    Thanks for your thoughtful eloquence.



  2. Thank you for these revealing words so beautifully shared. I see and feel myself in so many of them. Coming to terms with perfectionism is a challenge- I finally realized I just suck at it! There are days I revisit it just to be sure it is not where my efforts are meant to be spent. I am currently a mostly happy work in progress~ kind of like laundry…


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