I have a new favorite word. And I won’t lie – I got great satisfaction when even the biggest self-proclaimed logophile (someone who is a lover of words) I know had never heard of it. It’s not just that I like the way it sounds; it’s my new favorite word because I really love what it means.
Metanoia – (n) the journey of changing one’s mind, heart, self or way of life
Metanoia has Greek roots meaning “repentance.” However, in our modern, secular society, its contemporary meaning has a much broader application, and to me, doesn’t imply any religious or negative connotation. To repent infers regret, sorrow, shame, remorse, and to change your ways or habits as a result of a past sin. When I think of the word repent, I also think of it as an act of letting go – letting go of previous unjust actions, thoughts or habits directed towards oneself or others. And so even if we were to hold to this Greek root as a modern understanding of metanoia, there is still a process, a journey of letting go and becoming who we are ultimately meant to be.
I love that this one word encapsulates this process of transformation that touches each part of our being. We all know the old adage; “it’s about the journey, not the destination…” We get so focused on the outcome that we forget to notice what is arising along the way. It’s so common to start life on a certain path, assume that it will be a straight line, and then never check in to see if it’s still the right one. The reality is that our life’s path is one of many curves; it’s possible we may never quite arrive at the elusive destination because we are constantly changing. What our destination may have looked like at 25 years old, likely is very different at 35, 45 or 60 years old, but we often hold onto that original ideal. This make it challenging to go with the flow and let that path evolve; we get stuck on autopilot, constantly moving forward in habits and patterns that are familiar. We don’t always check in with ourselves to see if we are living in alignment with our heads and our hearts.
Even though the most constant thing in life is change, it can be very scary. Change is hard to accept, even more difficult to enact and so many of us rarely do it. Metanoia requires you to be very brave; it takes a lot of courage to make a shift to any aspect of ourselves, big or small. To go through the journey of changing one’s mind is a process of looking at all of our thoughts, habits and patterns and asking if they are in alignment with who we are in the here and now, along with being open to seeing the world through fresh eyes. To change one’s heart is to reconcile past hurts and let go of what is no longer serving us, along with the ability to practice forgiveness, compassion and loving-kindness to ourselves and others. To change ourselves requires us to hold the mirror up and acknowledge the pieces that we don’t like and have the ability to look within. And to change our way of life takes requires stepping into the unknown with faith and trust.
My own metanoia has been a work in process for many years, part of which lead me to the practice of mindfulness, the practice of living my life with intentional, present moment awareness. By shifting from autopilot to paying attention, I have let go of many “shoulds” of how I thought I was supposed to be and delved deeper into myself to discover who I am in the here and now. The journey was not an easy one, by any means, but it has lead me to an authentic life in which I strive to be fully present in all aspects. And my mind, heart, self and way of life are finally all in alignment.
I recently opened the Bay Area Mindfulness and Therapy Center, in Danville, where I offer individual and couples therapy, as well as a variety of original mindfulness classes. My focus and specialty is working with those going through life transitions, as well as parenting struggles, to help them reach their own metanoia. I provide a safe, confidential environment for which I accompany my clients through examining their thoughts, habits and patterns to be able to live their best, most present life that is in alignment with their heart, mind and soul.
*** This article originally published in the September 2016 issue of Alive magazine