by Kimberlea Chabot
I stood on a small bridge, deciding if I should follow the path along the winding river that brought me to a familiar spot or if I should climb the hill to unknown territory. I stood quietly, and the sound of the brook babbling below helped me make the decision. Half way down the path along the river, I looked up and noticed a massive stone structure. My first thought was “I took the wrong path!” I had been enjoying my experience in the woods until I had glimpsed at the “might have been” reminder. I could only laugh at myself.
Dr. Maria Sirois, nationally renowned clinical psychologist and inspirational speaker, might describe this as being able to move from a negative mindset to a positive framework. I recently spoke with Dr. Sirois about these concepts, her soon-to-be-released new book and her upcoming weekend retreat at Copper Beech Institute, “Mindful Authenticity: Giving Up All Other Lives Except the One That’s Ours.” In our interview, Maria Sirois explains how choosing to come from "mindful authenticity" will help us stay present on the path meant for us.
“When we look at the question of authenticity, we need to ask questions about what is true for us now,” said Maria.“We make the mistake of living lives that were true for us ten years ago, or maybe we are living lives that were never true for us. Sometimes we need to consider that our lives would be much richer if we moved in a different direction, a more honest direction in the present moment. Authenticity requires that we seek alignment so that what we think, what we feel, and where we act from are all stem from within.”
Maria is a masterful storyteller and brings together scientific research, humor, and a fresh perspective on our every day lives. The first time I heard Maria speak to a group, I was immediately pulled in by her quick-wit and rich voice. She made me laugh, moved me to tears, and inspired me to take action on those things I was looking to change in my life.
Maria’s new book, “A Short Course in Happiness After Loss (and Other Dark, Difficult Times)” challenges the often-held belief that life at any one time is either good or bad, but rather each part is tightly woven together, creating a deep richness to the fabric of our lives.
“What we need to understand is that we will always have darkness, we will always have light, but the more we practice mindfulness, the closer we can get to what is true for us,” she explained. “We have the best chance for living in the paradox of light and dark coming together, if we have already cultivated vitality, joy and good health. All of these stem from mindfulness. And with these elements of resilient living our lives develop a deeper significance. We form a grounding that is strong and steady, and from that place, when life hits us hard, we are still rooted and we know with clarity who we are and what we want to bring forward in life. This is crucial to actually live well and die right when the time is comes. If we can accept that there will be high and low times, and that we need to be rooted and firmly planted in who we are, then we can rely on this as a resource to manage the next difficult wave.”
One practical way to put Maria’s wisdom to work in your own life is to choose to elevate one aspect of who you are. By focusing on this one aspect, “it gives you a foundation within yourself, so no matter what is coming your way, you know who you are and you can act from that place. Confucius said it this way, ‘Our rituals affirm us.’ If I have ritualized one of my signature strengths, such as the strength of generosity or compassion, I am affirmed in my day. I know what I am doing. This rootedness in the good within me makes a huge difference in terms of being in life and dancing with life versus feeling victimized by life.”
Maria teaches based on her years of experience from working with cancer patients and her extensive research in this area, but also from a deep desire to understand her own life. The next decade for her work is at the “intersection of art and science rising.” When I first heard Maria present, I noticed that when she illustrated a concept about alignment or transformation, her examples felt like she was addressing my own situation. Even though each of us in that room had walked a different path, she touched upon the threads of humanity that connect us all. I left her presentation feeling lighter, centered and more in control. Her work stayed with me long after her words were gone. Others have said after a full weekend with Maria, you will leave rested and rejuvenated with a clearer vision and practical ways to move forward in your one, true life.