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 makes it challenging to go with the flow and let that path evolve. We can get stuck on autopilot, constantly moving forward in habits and patterns that are familiar, not always checking 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 us to be brave—it takes 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. It requires that we hold up the mirror, look within and acknowledge the pieces that we don’t like. And to change our way of life requires stepping into the unknown on faith.
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 let go of many “should.” The journey was not easy by any means, but it led me to an authentic life in which I strive to be fully present in all aspects.
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 where I accompany my clients through examining their thoughts, habits and patterns to be able to live in alignment with their heart, mind and soul. Visit mindfulnessandtherapycenter.com for more information or to set up a free consultation.
Joree Rosenblatt, MA, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and founder of The Bay Area Mindfulness and Therapy Center. She has a passion for helping others live their optimal life through the cultivation of a mindfulness practice. Contact her for more information or to set up an appointment. email@example.com