Purpose Pursuers, I’ve started a public Facebook page in the hopes of connecting with you more in the coming days, though the blog will still be a big part of what I offer. This is my first share on that page inspired by the arduous task we all know as “getting started.” Onward and upward.
Perhaps it’s the fact that I could hear the streets of London in the background of my friend’s voice message over Whatsapp… or maybe it’s the dream I had last night that I was hanging out with the Royal Family and sheepishly fishing under an ornate, velvet-covered bench to find my slippers before clumsily upsetting an entire basket of the Queen’s jewels.
Or maybe (and most likely) I’m just thinking of England as a distraction and, therefore, feeling this sobering quote from Hugh Laurie crying out to me from a bulletin board near our kitchen because there is a fresh page waiting here in cyberspace — a work in progress — that needs someone to open the gates for it to start running.
Mr. Laurie says, “It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”
I am suddenly resolute. “Now… Ok, I’ll do it now. But I’ll use something I wrote a while ago.”
As I rooted through the bookshelf to find a nugget of something I’d written back in 2000-whatever that might be worth sharing, I stopped myself…
START WHERE YOU ARE.
Sure, dig back into the past as much as you like to find what you thought might be perfect, or more carefully crafted, but nothing holds more meaning than what exists in the present, than the richness of the soil underneath your feet right now (or the laminate underneath your slippers).
No wisdom gleaned from some golden epoch where you were at the height of clarity on whatever you were working with at the time can be nearly as poignant as admitting your own pajama-clad, mussed-up haired, bare-faced-and-surrounded-by-tea-cups-and-your half-done-taxes imperfection in the moment; your not-ready-ness, your uncertainty, your trepidation, your humanity.
We can ask why we’re here, what we have to offer, the ‘why mes’ that only stifle, squelch and stop us in our tracks.
But on top of making us stuck, those questions only lead to more questions…
Why would we be here if we had everything figured out?
And who can identify with perfection anyway?
Aren’t we all just figuring it out as we go?
Aren’t we all just learning in the midst of the mess?
Aren’t we all just doing our best with what we have?
So, my friends if you find yourself overwhelmed with where you think you might need to go, start where you are — glamorous or not. It might seem like the furthest place from where you want to be, but if you can, find it in your heart to see it as the first step of many. And sometimes, one imperfect step means more than a host of expertly calculated ones.
When I graduated from high school, I remember breathing a giant sigh of relief as a 3-year-long weight lifted.
It was over.
I hadn’t been one of the popular kids, nor had I been one of those kids who just couldn’t seem to fit anywhere.
I hadn’t been bullied, but I had been teased on occasion, and my gentle, non-confrontational nature had put me in a place where, when faced with petty judgement, I wasn’t really sure how to stand up for myself besides taking it (stunned) and walking away.
I had excelled in languages and the arts, but I had endured my fair share of mediocrity, and yes, even “failure” in math and science.
I wasn’t remarkably athletic, but I could play a mean game of badminton.
I had good friends who were good kids, and I didn’t have any enemies that I can remember, though I did learn to keep my distance from those I knew to be two-faced, energy vampires, or fair weather friends.
There had been highs and lows. It hadn’t been easy, but it hadn’t been total hell. I had made it through in one piece, and now it was time to move on, to grow up, which was, after all, one of the things I had looked forward to the most. I had been an old soul in a young body for a long time and I was ready for my ‘ages’ to match up a bit more closely.
In those final few days of high school, all I could taste was, well, the Summer, first and foremost, but a close second was the university experience. It just had to be above and beyond the cliqueyness, a different world than the one where students complained about “religious kids” praying around the flagpole in the mornings, or where gentle souls were harassed on account of their sexual orientation.
One morning, on the drive to one of the final days of school, I expressed to my Dad how grateful I was to no longer have to put up with the pettiness and judgement that occurs in that messy fishbowl time of life. He promptly let me in on a little secret:
“High school never really ends.”
My heart sank. Way to burst my bubble, Dad.
I couldn’t fathom at the time how this could be true…
But he was right.
And it wasn’t in University that I began to see this playing out…
It was in the “real world.”
Over the last few years, I have watched my friends establish themselves in marriages, career paths of all varieties, and eventually begin to start families. Though I am fortunate to be connected to — and surrounded by — people who are generally very accepting, understanding and open-minded, it doesn’t make us all immune to the judgements of those who haven’t figured out that their high school high horse isn’t the only mode of transportation on the long trail ride of life.
These stories of ‘adult shaming’ aren’t always told, but I know amazing, compassionate, intelligent and devoted women and men, mums and dads, who have been given raised eyebrows or flat-out judgement for their choices in every arena from their intimate relationships to their careers, pregnancies/childbirths, and eventually scrutinized for every micro decision possible involved in raising and caring for their children. The easy access soapbox of the internet and social media doesn’t always make this easier on anyone. No one can even make a peep about vaccination online without provoking a fiery debate, and dietary choices that are made for the betterment of health become the subject of questioning and criticism. We’re all learning to navigate the world in the best way that we can, and instead of extending a hand of understanding, we create a wall of difference and separation.
I’m positive this ad put out by Similac last week will be making serious rounds on the internet. If you haven’t seen it, do, whether you’re a parent or not. I found my laughter turning, on a dime, into tears. It was enough to make me realize what ridiculous lengths we can go to in order to prove we are ‘right,’ when in fact, our intentions, though different on the outside, may very likely be growing from the very same root — a strong, sincere, imperfect desire to do our best, and to keep ourselves and our loved ones thriving. As the prolific poet and philosopher Mark Nepo said, “What we reach for may be different, but what makes us reach is the same.”
Despite my efforts to re-capture my childhood effervescence around the approaching of the holiday season, I’ve found, with each passing year, an increasing sense of pre-Christmas dread. No matter what change or hardship may come, I have begun to cultivate a more profound awareness of how my circumstances are not permanent, and how, oftentimes, the discomfort and resistance I may feel in any given situation is one of two things: an indicator of something new burning its way into my world, or a lesson to be learned before I can proceed to the next chapter in my “Life workbook.”
Even optimists have their down days. Most days, the mess reveals itself to be beautiful design work in disguise. Other days, it’s just…mess.
It pains me to say it, but the approach of the Christmas season this year has brought the pessimist out of me. These last couple of weeks have been marked by unfortunate global and local events that cause my burning faith in the basic goodness of human kind to wane, and my despair over the injustices of the world to grow. I have found myself grappling with a dizzying lack of understanding around why bad things continue to happen, why unhappy, fearful people are giving us all greater reason to be terrified, why souls of all ages go missing and families are left to worry themselves sick…and why oh why has it become acceptable to go out to dinner with your child and have them sit in neglected silence while you give your undivided attention to your phone!?
I thought that was enough of the world’s problems to feel through, but apparently I hadn’t come face-to-face with the tip of the iceberg yet — the place that has, somehow, become as synonymous with Christmas as Santa Claus:
It was a regular Friday night and I was feeling pretty good about life in general as Joel & I walked hand-in-hand, laughing at our usual weirdo banter. I wasn’t dressed up — jeans, winter boots, a blue long-sleeved t-shirt and a scarf. I very rarely wear make-up, so I certainly wasn’t made up for the occasion. This was meant to be a quick mission — in, out, done.
As we walked in the doors, I felt that familiar feeling of overwhelm ooze over me. Typically, the sheer amount of stimulation from walking into a mall (heck, even the grocery store!) makes me spacey and unfocused, but this was different. Christmastime at the mall is basically the mall on steroids. All I could see were strollers and arms laden with bags. There was a line-up into the jewelry store that snaked around far outside the paned glass entrance into the shop. Men & women alike were crowded over pamphlets, presumably selecting what charms or pieces of jewelry they would be purchasing once the security guard let them past the door. We wandered into a clothing store and I saw a pair of soft, knit leggings that I thought were pretty scrumptious. I checked the price tag, and they were $108. For leggings. A woman nearby stared blankly at the display table, quietly rubbing an over-priced scarf between her fingers. I wondered whether this was, in fact, the kind of gift that would make someone realize how much this person truly loved them.
Maybe my fault was in projecting how valuable these physical items might actually be to a person, or maybe it was letting the tissue paper-stuffed Armani shopping bags and the price of wooly leggings get my goat, but it didn’t take much to spiral from there. I felt a weakening in my spirit as I began to fight back tears and attempted to reign in an increasing feeling of helplessness. We were surrounded by STUFF, all around us, but yet we couldn’t find the small, simple item we were looking for. As we walked the halls from store to store, I reached for Joel’s hand. In one hand, I felt his steady presence, and in the other, any previous shred of appreciation and joy I had for everything about myself and my life when I came in the door began to dissolve.
Nothing felt like enough. I wasn’t well-dressed enough, pretty enough, successful enough, good enough… I even got as far as wondering whether I was completely deluding myself in even trying to make a go of creating a fulfilling, meaningful career for myself… Maybe it was time to banish any insecurity around what I feel other people might think about what I do, jump into the stream of corporate conformity and shelf my quest to bring greater peace, wholeness and wellness to humankind. From this vantage point in commercial mayhem, it was easy to believe that there was more value being placed on finding material things to shower upon family and friends than anything that enriches the grist of who they are. If anyone had cared to count, there were probably more people in the mall at that moment than at every Yoga studio in the city.
As I held the hand of the man I love, I knew that these negative thoughts were the true delusion, but something about this vortex made it harder to see that my thoughts were as false and impermanent as the gussied-up brick & mortar around me.
I truly believe that a Yoga practice is just that — a practiceof honing our inner tools to put them into action when we experience challenge out in the world. I am also all for deep breaths and allowing emotions to be felt and honoured as they are coming up, but at this point, Joel knew that the best place for me to re-group and do those things more fully would be at a table in the food court, sharing a Blizzard. (And for the record, the seasonal flavour right now is delicious.)
As I spooned in mouthfuls of ice cream, my tears of sadness and frustration spilled out. I heavy-heartedly laid my mind’s turmoil out on the table while Joel listened and responded with deep compassion and understanding. The mall was near to closing, the crowds growing thin. If the mall had a sanctuary in that moment, it was the breathing space of the food court, at the small table in front of the DQ where there was Love, and a connection that not even wireless technology can emulate. I thought about a lovely compliment that my future sister-in-law paid me in a text message this Fall — that she admired my ability to keep perspective and see the positive in a given situation. Her words have fueled me to keep my eyes on the big picture as much I can, even if I feel my heart raising its protection level up a notch. Amidst my tears, I knew it was the feeling I had going into the mall, simply holding a hand and knowing I was ok in the world, that was more truthful than any single fear-based thought or doubt that my mind had created in that palace of excess.
As down as I felt, I knew that I hadn’t lost my ability to see the silver linings, or to know in my heart what was really true.
Cliché as it is, I don’t know if we always remember that all the shiny baubles, new technology, or overpriced items of clothing don’t really take us to the heart of what matters, not only at this time of year, but all year-long.
Maybe what appeared to me to be disenchantment over the Christmas season (and thus my entire existence and purpose in life, apparently!) was actually a re-framing of what we need to hold onto as truth in a culture that thrives on our fear of not having or being enough; that we need more of something — anything! — just to be happier.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my loved ones to stress out over giving me stuff, just as much as I don’t want to feel that putting something in their hands on December 25th is the only way they’ll know how much I value their presence in my life. That text my future sister-in-law sent me was a gift that keeps on giving. The way my husband looks at me and listens with his eyes wide and soft is something I never ask for, but receive without condition time and time again, even when my gaze drops from the horizon of greater knowing and possibility. The feeling I had as a kid on Christmas morning is now contained in the joyful embrace I share with my brother and his fiancée every time they come home, and in seeing my whole family share laughter and stories around the dinner table. My parents may worry about me more than I know, and love me more than it is comfortable for them to say at times, but I know that they will always see me for who I am. And no matter how much in-laws get a bad rap, I am blessed with a mother-in-law generous to the point that I don’t even know how to say thank you anymore, and a father-in-law who seems perfectly content just to hug & kiss me every time I walk in their front door; a sister-&-brother-in-law who, from a distance, teach me how a passion for the great outdoors is a direct line to what actually matters in life.
All this, without even scratching the surface of the friendships — old & new — that enrich my life beyond measure, the teachers and mentors who nourish my soul, the practitioners who inspire me to give simply by showing up, and all the strangers who, when I’ve smiled at them, have chosen to smile back.
Everything that has allowed me to grow wiser, stronger, more compassionate, joyful and peaceful this year cannot be gift-wrapped. It exists within a moment, a lesson, a touch, a word, a laugh, a story, a meal shared, a silence, a gesture of kindness, a breath, a sunrise, a knowing look or a starry sky.
The true joy and sparkle of Christmas lies in the hearts of those whose hands we hold, of those who give us the truest versions of themselves all year round, and in doing so, aspire us to greater light in our lives, knowing all the while that we always have, and always will be, enough. Just as we are.
Call me old-fashioned, but I’m perfectly content to give Love this Christmas, and always.
It’s no secret — I love food. I love food A LOT. Like, to the ends of the earth, back, back to the ends, and back again. I’ve even been known to reminisce/drool over a past delicious meal WHILE ENJOYING a scrumptious feast. In our family, if anyone returns from traveling somewhere (anywhere!), it’s pretty much guaranteed that one of the first questions you ask (or get asked) is about the food. Yup, there is no foreseeable end to my appreciation of the eats.
Hmm…that’s another story.
It wasn’t until a box of produce showed up on my doorstep one day that I came face to face with a belief I’ve unconsciously held about myself for some time…
I am so grateful to share my culinary angst & revelations with my friends at Green Earth Organics on their blog this week. Click the link below wherein I dish on “produce anxiety” and meeting your bananas (and your imperfections) right where they are.
***Bonus! Just for you special Calgarian folks, Green Earth Organics Calgary is offering readers of this blog a 10% discount on your first delivery when you sign up for oh-so-convenient (and tasty!) home delivery with GEO! It’s like Christmas in November! Enter “Allison Goundry” in the Promotions Code field when you place your order, and let the home-delivered-grocery fiesta begin!!!
And to be fair, someone else probably coined that term, and probably says that they made it up.
I’m not going to claim that I did or that I didn’t since, really, it’s the most unoriginal (and literal) thing to call a moment of truth.
But sometimes “literal” is brilliant — that’s just what it is, a moment of honesty; those are the two words that genuinely come up when I am about to say something that I feel to be gut-wrenching-and-heart-gushing truth, or when I see something that draws up a neglected file of haphazard, half-processed materials from the recesses of my brain; from the messy file room of EVERYTHING that I have been thinking, worrying, musing, sorting, contemplating as of late…
And this is when the worry comes that I’ve ALREADY written about something to this effect (see Nothing Is Yours), and perhaps I am only triple underlining the fact that, no matter how hard we try to be original in this big, bold, creative world, we still find ourselves coming up short and re-inventing someone else’s wheel. And maybe I’m being unoriginal or predictable by drawing from a beautiful writer who I consider, at afar, to be someone who teaches me a great deal more about the world within and without us than she probably will ever realize (or ever intended to when she wrote her wildly successful memoir unveiling her journey into wholeness after heartache).
Today, on the good old Facebook, this torchbearing warrior goddess of truth shared this:
It hit me so hard that all I could bring myself to comment back to her was “Yes. This. Yes. Ugh. Yes.” Or something to that effect.
Even our speechlessness can be the most truthful response of all.
I am certain A LOT of you will get this too, so naturally, I’m sharing it.
And now, trusting in my own words, I’d like to share something else:
Navigating this world from the space of my heart (and trusting my intuition) has made my life richer, more colourful and more meaningful. It has also made things both clear and confusing in equal measure. There are stretches of the journey where I feel well-equipped, strong, confident, hopeful, and absolutely in my stride. On others, I feel like I’m missing a shoelace on one shoe, short on snacks, tired, losing daylight, and needing to pause for an indefinite period of time to gaze up at the perceived Summit and wondering how on earth I ever thought I could get up there. There’s also the part of me that gets much joy out of seeing other awe-inspiring people succeed, witnessing them finding that place of flow and meaning in their lives, the space and clarity where everything is clicking. After all, they have earned it. I’ve seen them struggle and press on to be where they are, to realize their dreams, and they deserve every single second.
Another of part me just wishes I was up there with them already, bypassing the part that I’m working with, and coming up with mere scraps of clarity. It can feel like I’ve been asked to solve a Rubix Cube to proceed, and I ain’t NO master of the Rubix Cube!
The compass that guides me in my life will never direct me wrong. I know that to be true. On some legs of this journey, though, the needle begins to spin every which way, pulling me between what I know within myself to be more valuable and more lasting, and the realities of the material world. I have already answered The Call; I can’t un-answer, nor would I want to. I am 7 (maybe even 8) years deep into this particular answering and there is absolutely no turning back. I have chosen my work, and I would never wish to undo anything that has unfolded, or bypass the mysteries and beautiful surprises yet to come. For everything that I ever feel is unclear or uncertain in my life, there are many more things that I know in my bones to be true, good, and purposeful.
You can’t put a price tag on those.
We’ve probably all heard at some point that we are here to offer our unique gifts to the people of this world and to the planet we live on. I am fortunate to know some incredible people who have the best intentions to make lives healthier, happier, brighter, and more easeful… Lucky me, I am surrounded by this kind of light a lot of the time. But what if, by job description or title, what you do isn’t unique?
The other night, I had the immense privilege of helping out at Mastin Kipp‘s ‘Growing Into Grace‘ event here in Calgary. It got my week off with such an epic bang that I am reeling to piece together everything I learned and all the questions that have come up as a result… which are really an extension of all the questions I have been asking since I leapt to find greater purpose in my work life 3 years ago. I’m going to bet that the vast majority of the people in the room that night want to do some variation of what he does — write/blog, teach, speak, inspire, mentor, lead, and ultimately, change lives for the better around the world while having financial wellness that not only allows them to take care of themselves, but also to make contributions towards the betterment of others.
And if I’m even more honest, I would love nothing more than that myself, in my own unique way. (“Unique” meaning in knowing for certain what my capital-S Service is that I enrich the world with, and how I offer it. We’ve already acknowledged, even silently, that this world is practically being taken over by blogging yoga teachers. ;-))
Mastin told us that, before he began this ever-growing venture that became The Daily Love, he checked to see how many people do something to the effect that he does:
90,000 people (!!!!)
Later on, when I heard one of the ladies there mention this kind of work was something she felt she could/wanted to do, I felt any fragments of a dream I had created for myself start to dissolve. And why, WHY, would I do that to my own dreams, just because someone else was showing a sliver of confidence in their desire to create something more meaningful for themselves?!
I know in my heart that everything is here, that you can only truly be THERE by being HERE, and that THERE is really just HERE.
Read: The treasure you are seeking is in this moment.
You are already living your purpose, whether it is your ‘job’ or not.
HERE is IT. THIS is IT.
And then, some days, I feel like I couldn’t be more far away from where I feel I need or want to be, and HERE just seems to be a puddle of uncertainty and fog.
I am also learning that what falls away in our lives is just as important as what falls into place.
What was never ours is giving us the gift of something greater…an opportunity. I wouldn’t call myself a religious person, but I’ve got my eyes on the bigger picture through it all. One definition of Grace is “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration.”
Regeneration. Re-inspiration. An opportunity to dig deeper, burn brighter, dream bigger, see clearer.
When you’re navigating rough seas, nothing feels better than knowing you are not unique in your seeking, that you are not as alone in your storm as you may feel. Being “unoriginal” never felt better than when you are facing life’s trials.
Be that as it may, what we DO need to know is that, though each of our situations may not look much different from the outside, our ability to be authentic about it, to summon our courage and tell our story… IS.
The steps along the path may be smaller some days, but they are still steps worth taking… And I’m going to let Liz close this one, because hey, I’m not going to re-invent the wheel, and her authenticity speaks loud and clear to me this morning:
“So whatever it is that you dream of doing (creating, traveling, loving, inventing, transforming) just do it. Don’t worry if you’re the 100th person to do it. Just do it, anyhow, and be sure that you bring the highest purity of intention to your pursuit. Act from a place of your deepest authenticity, and the rest of it will take care of itself…
And trust me, if you are authentic, you WILL be original.”
It is far earlier in the morning than I would care to be awake, the second morning within the bookends of this week that I have found myself wondering, “Really?! Now?! Can’t I just sleep?!”
I immediately think of my friends with babies. This is their norm, except the bonus is that when they wake up, they have the eyes of a sweet, innocent little soul to look into; I am sure I could promptly get the comeback that this early-rising of mine doesn’t involve someone needing something of me, or the cacophony that ‘needing’ creates, and at least I am waking to relative quiet, to my own thoughts…
True enough, I guess…
I am falling into that place of recognition and gratitude for the moments of ‘freedom’ where I will, one day, have the needs of my children at the forefront of my mind. I know the frustration of restless slumber (and early rising when there is no clear desire to do so) is strikingly similar across the board whether we have children or not, and being the baby-lover and wannabe mother that I am, I still haven’t heard a single one of my new parent friends say they look into the faces of their young early birds and wish that little smile wasn’t there to greet them in the wee hours. Like any other, parent or non-parent, I’d prefer to have some good sleep so l can live fully in the world and in the lightness of my own being. Until parenthood becomes my reality, what I am waking up to when I am called out of bed at what would be referred to as ‘ungodly hours’ (others would say this is some of the most ‘godly’ time of all) is far less tangible…and let’s face it, waking to the hamster wheel of ‘my own thoughts’ is not always what could be deemed a relaxing experience.
It may not be a baby crying out for me, but something else is.
In previous incarnations of this scenario, I would resist. I would lie in bed, my mind processing scraps of thoughts and seemingly unrelated emotions, tinged by an overarching shade of exasperation at the fact that I’m not sawing logs like the darling man in bed beside me.
Very recently, I’ve stopped resisting.
There must be a reason for this. Go with it.
I have really come to appreciate that Yoga is labeled as a ‘practice’ – a commitment to coming to a mat with whatever you’ve got, over and over and over. As a student said to me yesterday, “there is comfort in consistency.” The container of the practice can look very much the same in some contexts, but the more I release expectation and surrender, the more I learn. It’s bigger than just learning, though. It’s experiencing something in present moment time, exactly as it is meant to unfold, with all its kinks, smudges, and glimmers of light.
When I come to my mat, I almost ritualistically ease back into child’s pose with a sigh (the comfort in the consistency), gather the steadiness of my breath, then start to move instinctively, with no real knowing of what might arise.
What if I do this in Life? What if I silently answer “Present” right off the top, open up… and trust?
I wish I could say when I began to see the truth-telling mirror of Life and Practice, but I can certainly attest that, in the lead up to our wedding, there was a distinct acknowledgement of how futile it is to micro-manage and control — how we can set the foundation, the main plot points, but what unfolds from there is all up to the moment, that we need to be OK with that, and for extra brownie points, see that as being the magic. I used to be one of those people who tried to fit life into a box because it was a thing that we humans had to do. Doing so created an anxious need to know more, to know what’s next, and to be assured of all the details so I could feel at ease. Before I went to Bali, I remember pestering my teacher for as many details as I could as to how the whole week of training would go, what material we would cover, who I would be rooming with, blah blah blah. She gently called me out on my need-to-know-ness and did something really great that has radically changed my perception of how things can or should be:
She gave me enough to reinforce a strong, positive feeling in my gut, enough to get me from Point A to Point B safely and on schedule, and not nearly enough to cause my own expectations to ruin the experience.
Show up. Trust. Allow.
The result? Mindblowing. Changed my life. For real.
I’m not only seeing this yielding to uncertainty through glass-half-full, rose-coloured glasses, though I can attest that showing up with peace in my heart and nearly-zero expectations has yielded to some of the most beautiful, most connected and honest moments of my life to date. Just as truthfully, there have been seemingly normal, happy days that have been game-changers in more shocking ways than I could have ever expected. Regardless of their ‘tone,’ these events have shaped my life, each carrying their own lessons, wisdom and experience. I don’t regret them existing for a single second. They are my teachers.
Showing up, however, becomes much harder when things don’t go the way you planned, or when you feel like things aren’t going your way. Within the last few days, I have faced unexpected obstacles and that heave-ho of resistance, which, in the past, would have had me turning away from the horizon and feeling all my efforts were in vain; or contrarily, feeling I need to put on a brave face and just get to the other side, to a place that feels “better” than whatever is being felt in the Now.
On Sunday morning, reluctant to get out of my PJs and greet the world, I took solace in Elizabeth Gilbert’s recent interview with Oprah. It was like the internet heavens opened up and, in the form of a Liz (some of my favourite people on this planet are Lizzes), what I needed to hear was dropped into my blanket-covered lap. In their discussion around Joseph Campbell’s concept of “The Hero’s Journey,” Liz brought in the idea of “The Call” — that this “Call” may very likely come at an inopportune time, and when called, you are faced with a choice: refuse the call, or answer.
Refuse? Go ahead, but expect nothing to change.
Answer? Well…buckle up.
Back when I chose the path of Yoga practice as an anchor in a time of uncertainty and tumult, I was naive to the fact that I was committing to answering a call that would ring not just once…but over and over and over again. The physical postures still teach me and humble me to no end, but it is through the quiet, meditative practice of Yoga Nidra (and in particular, in the past year of working through my limiting beliefs in the space of that practice) that has required digging to untouched and sometimes murky depths. Each belief, each day, each scenario, each interaction, offers me the opportunity to either put up the blinders and stay stuck and safe, or to recognize the faces of my limitations and conquer them heart on, to clear space amidst the weeds, sow seeds of positive intention and be totally open to how they will blossom.
Now, I see with more clarity the nuance of what needs to Be and what needs to fall away for something better, what needs to be ‘slept on’ and what needs to be faced. I have also had to reconcile myself with the fact that, no matter what we may be working through, there is a time for being alone and processing your emotions without the filters, risk of judgement or lofty expectations from anyone around you. There is also, however, an immense strength and courage in being present in your community, in your tribe, simply as you are.
On Monday morning, once again awake before the crack of dawn and still not quite on the other side of my cloud, I felt a habitual pull to stay in my pajamas, to conquer my to-do list from the comfort of home and avoid human contact for one more day. Only 24 hours before this, this cocooning was my most potent form of medicine, but on this particular day, something was calling me from the other side of the haze. I gathered the bits of me I felt were intact, cobbled them together and promptly took them out the door for a long walk to the yoga studio to practice. When I walked through the door, I saw beautiful, familiar faces of those who, whether I knew it or not, were all fighting their own battles that day. I knew in an instant that I had made the right choice. We all rolled out our mats and showed up to what was.
Messy and true, “what was” was the gift.
“What was” was the doorway, and no matter what I may find on the other side, I chose to answer the call. I choose to answer. I choose to listen.
It’s Wednesday, October 8th, 2014. It’s 4:30 AM. Your eyes are wide open. Why sleep? Why not just be what you are: Awake.
One of the rituals I most enjoyed in childhood was waking up in the morning, shuffling to the kitchen, and after “good-mornings” were exchanged between my parents and brother and I, we would launch into a recall of our meandering through our individual dream lands. My brother, always a champion of the hilarious, nonsensical dreams, had stories that would make us laugh and shake our heads as if to say, “What the….?!”
I mention my brother for a reason. Not only is he one of the most important and loved people in my life, he is the person I remember most vividly as populating my dreams from the earliest age. My deep care, love and concern for my younger sibling was shown to my childhood self in strong images that I have never quite been able to kick. I wouldn’t call them nightmares, but for an older sister navigating growing up on her own terms, they could certainly be called as such… Whether it was dreaming of walking into a giant hotel elevator and finding my brother tangled in the wires snaking out from the electrical panel inside, or seeing him climb to the top of a high diving board at the local pool to jump into the water below and, as he was hurtling towards the ground, realizing it was pure concrete, these dreams would cause me to wake with a start…and eventually, upon stumbling into the kitchen, finding floods of relief in learning that these images were mere figments of my imagination.
Inevitably, there he would be, eating cereal like nothing had ever happened. All was well.
When I look back on those particular dreams, they so starkly contrasted what actually would be occurring in waking life. Little boys can be very daring, but my brother would never have so willingly thrown himself at a hard pool deck the way he did in my dream. They show me now how I have always had an almost motherly concern for his well-being, and I am grateful to learn that in hindsight. Dreams are one of my most cherished teachers.
Nowadays, when I wake up from my dreams in the morning, though the imagery and circumstances I have dreamed about may still cling to the hyper-real artistry that dreams so fascinatingly possess, I often am seeking to find the separation between what is dream, and what is real.
When I committed to getting to know myself more deeply through the path of yoga, meditation and self-inquiry, I wouldn’t have fathomed that I would begin to see so many parallels.
My work, while awake, is now seeping so densely into my work while asleep. It is becoming hard to distinguish which is which.
Not even a week after Joel & I were married, we found ourselves in a scenario that has become a powerful symbol in our first year of marriage, but one that epitomizes much of what I consciously feel is the theme of most of the last decade of my life.
I call it, THE LEAP or to melt it down into one word, JUMPING.
There we were, each in turn standing at the top of a high rock in the middle of a lake, staring down at the water below and weighing the options: summon deep courage and Jump, or turn around to take an even more difficult journey over jagged rocks back down to where we came from. I climbed to the top of the rock first, felt the fear arise, and then pushed with all the strength of my legs to fly off the rock (screaming all the way, mind you) into the blue below. Joel, however, took more time. Always a more calculated soul, this particular challenge was unlike any other he had ever faced. With the sun beating down on us, I steadily treaded water for what turned into the next 40 minutes, calling out to the top of the rock where he was pacing nervously back and forth, encouraging him to take the leap, that it was ok, he would be fine, he could do it. The act of committing to the rest of our lives together had come with such certainty and ease, but this was a whole different beast. I watched him venture to the ledge, assess the height, turn around and check out the path from where he came… I knew he was trying to think his way through it, but this was one moment that couldn’t be rationalized or over-strategized. It required that instant of surrender where the outcome had to be released, the fear transformed into fuel.
A leap of faith. An unconditional acceptance of the unknown.
For a very long time, I played it pretty safe. I wasn’t a party animal. I steered clear of high school dances, and in university, I chose my parties very carefully. I moved out of home a bit later than most. I’ve never been into high-adrenaline sports or behaviors. I’m the gal who gets an immense amount of thrill from a good conversation with a close friend, a day of exploring a new place, or spending time with a good book and a cup of tea (bonus points if this is in Summer, the tea is actually ice cream, and the ‘reading nook’ is under a canopy of trees). I will make a legend out of an incredible meal (even if it’s poutine on a rainy day!), or be jazzed for days after spending time with a baby. Heck, I actually encourage my friends to send photos of their little ones whenever they like.
You catch my drift…Simple pleasures = massive impact.
When I first began my exploration into the world of Yoga, getting past the awkward stage of figuring out ‘the moves’ aside, I began to love and appreciate its predictability, the consistency of the sequence it followed. There was steadiness and stability to it. In an uncertain time, it became a rock. The feeling of the free-fall of brokenheartedness had become so exhausting, and coming to Yoga, to my mat, felt certain. The movement in the physical practice kept me moving forward in my life, even if I felt as if I was going backwards on some days.
Then, I decided to give Yoga Nidra a try — my world, and who I am, began to change.
This practice wasn’t about movement. It was about stillness. It was about finding a place that was so still that you could access a depth inside of you that you barely knew existed. It was about working with a single, powerful intention to break down the barriers that you had so meticulously and purposefully built up over time. I wish I could remember at the time if I was willing to tackle those barriers, but clearly, I sure as hell was ready for something to shift because my whole world began to shapeshift. I grasped a hold of my intention like a life raft, and the more I worked with it, the more transformed, for the better. Even when things were messy, they became achingly beautiful and dripping with meaning and a deeper sense of purpose. I became stronger. I became brighter. I became more joyful. All the things that I held at the altar of my intention were breaking through dammed up spaces inside me that had been clogged with sadness, hurt, anger and grief. I felt it all. I never denied it. It all began to flood from me, and before my eyes, transform into a strength and resolve I never knew I could access.
THAT’s when I started to jump.
THAT’s when THE LEAP began to permeate everything.
I started JUMPING, and I feel like I’ve been doing it every day since.
The jumps I took, at that time, were in relationships. Even the jumps that appeared to draw me away ended up bringing me closer. Letting go, and finding a depth, a closeness, a realness, that I hadn’t felt until then. Appreciating what they were meant to be, how they were meant to serve and teach me, and how they could bring me closer to my heart, no matter the timeline, no matter the outcome. In recent years, the JUMPING has become more about my Purpose. It has become a practice of listening deeply to my gut, my heart, and not succumbing to the fear that wants to prevent me from moving forward. It’s about getting out of my own way, meeting the walls head on, facing the beliefs that keep me small, feeling the illusion of security melt away and resting in the uncertainty of presence, change and a steady increase of inner light.
My life IS the THE LEAP. My practice is JUMPING.
And in my dreams, I Jump too.
The dream I had 4 nights ago was so vivid and real, it makes me vibrate to recall it.
I was having a conversation with the teacher who brought Yoga Nidra into my life, the teacher who continues to guide and inspire me to infinite depths in this mysterious, potent practice. In this dream, Tanis told me that a small group of us was going to jump off a rock. With the ‘Honeymoon Jump’ fresh in my mind, I told her I was well equipped — how high could it be, really? If I could jump off that rock, I could jump off this one. “This one,” she said, “is much higher… Significantly higher. I’ve jumped from this rock before, and if you do, the healing you will experience is substantial.” If she’s done it, then why can’t I? Soon enough, we were wading through waist-high water towards what appeared to be the edge of an infinity pool. Water spilled from the pool over a smooth, stone ledge. The sound of a roaring waterfall echoed through my ears. How high is this rock? How far from the ground are we? I felt my insides begin to churn as I reached my hand out to touch the hard stone, the single wall of rock that was keeping us at this height. I peered over. The drop was massive, but I couldn’t see the water. All I could see was dense fog. The small group that was with us strode confidently through the water towards the ledge, and without any hesitation, began to hurl themselves into the abyss below. One by one they went…leaving me and Tanis to bring up the rear. I was terrified. More than that, I was scared that I would be the last one up there, the only one left in hesitation and paralytic fear with no seeming way back besides diving in. Tanis swung one leg over the wall. This is my moment. In a second, she’d be off. “Tanis, can we jump together?” She reached out to clasp my hand in hers. Both sets of our legs were over the wall, and before I had time to think, Tanis initiated our jump. I expected to feel the plummeting sensation of dropping like a stone, but the fog all around us instantly created this deep web of support. We were held. We had taken the leap, and we were falling, but we were held every step of the way. As we dropped through the layers of fog, a vortex of light appeared beneath us, and just as we brushed the edge, I woke with a start.
Shuffling my way into the kitchen that morning, I replayed this scene over and over in my mind.
I knew the Dream leap had ended, but the waking one was just beginning.