Most of the people whom I work with are driven by something greater than themselves. They feel a call deep inside to make a difference in the world. I am like this myself.
One thing that I have noticed in myself is that there are two parts to this drive that benefit from being seen as distinct: my personal/egoic need to be something as a result of life influences (often because of damage) and my deeper soul’s calling to my true mission. Very often when I go to create something in the world, it is inspired by my deeper Self but driven by my injury. This very often leads to experiences that I see often in other people’s lives as well: varying results, frustration, being overwhelmed, and even burnout.
As a result of these experiences, it is easy to ask the question, “Am I even on the right track?” And then, “What is Truth, and what is fantasy?” For some people, this is followed by, “Should I give up my dreams and do something ‘reasonable’?”—“reasonable” meaning whatever we have been told is the correct way to live our life. I have come to see this process—for those of us who are unlocking our true gifts and rising to our calling—as refinement. I have come to see this process as that of an old soul who knows better than to set up their life in a way that can get too far off track and who instead orchestrates things to play out so that the ego is thinned and the deeper self can truly shine through.
And so I have learned to be grateful for the frustrations that show me exactly where I am aligned with the lesser aspects of myself. I choose more and more to see this and make the necessary shifts, rather than seeing the obstacles as a sign of my lack or inability and then judging the worthiness or potentiality of my mission. The answer for me is in letting go of the idea that my mission is an outcome and seeing it instead as a process—a beautifully unfolding evolution of a way of being that I cannot fully understand and of which I will never entirely know the impact.
There is a bit of a mystery as we unfold on our life’s path. What seems clear in one moment seems obscure in the next. What works at one time no longer seems to apply as we move forward. We might wonder, why this information that way? Why is it rolling out over this stretch of time? Why is it happening this way? The mind desires to be able to know the reasons behind the unfolding. And you can ponder the whys of it all forever—or you can just let it inform you. What new information is this providing for you? How is this helping you see or understand yourself?
And instead of trying to understand our life from a more masculine, solution-focused orientation (“Here’s my problem, it needs to be fixed”), we might try viewing a challenging dynamic, situation or event as instructing us about how to unfold more completely. How is it informing me? What can I learn from it? Recognize that we can’t rush our unfolding. Wish as we
might, that’s not what this path is like. It is not about demanding that certain skills unfold when we want them to because there’s a job to be done. It’s a much more comprehensive path and calling that usually spans not just a lifetime or an eight-month program but multiple lifetimes of
developing skills—and also developing bad habits.
So sometimes when you are up against the things that are most challenging for you, you are not just up against your childhood conditioning. You can be locked a habitual pattern because you were or are living in an environment, a culture, a time where this is the only way to act. Or your
current challenge may be necessary to your development at this time. Sometimes we lose a faculty because we need it to be offline to accommodate another, growing one. What we see as our greatest challenge might not be a problem to solve but an aspect of the larger picture of our
Whenever we start something new, at varying points in the process, things will feel a bit shaky. Your task is less to fix or eradicate the problem and more to learn how to create the maximum health, strength, and resiliency. It’s just like when a baby starts to walk: you make sure that the
baby is supported enough for them to learn how. Sometimes you provide extra support, sometimes you let the baby work through it alone. But there is nothing wrong with a baby who can’t walk gracefully. That’s what you’re doing with yourself. Sometimes the remedy for feeling shaky because you are stretching past your capacity is to bring yourself back to a place where
you are fully resourced. And other times, it is best to take the risk.
You can move yourself in the direction of what you are creating, knowing that of course it’s going to happen because that’s the direction you’re going. You can make the trip as easy as possible, or you can worry the whole way. You pay attention: “This is where I can hold really well. Okay, this is the line where I’m not holding really well. Okay, let me find my edge. Let me
take half a step instead of a full step. Okay. Still happened. Let me take a quarter step instead of a half step. All right, got it. All right, now let me try again.”
Slowing down to the rate of your unfolding rather than driving it forward with some sort of expectation ultimately makes the process easier and (believe it or not) faster. This is true for all of us when it comes to the unfolding of our lives. The slowing down is actually the speeding up
of the process, and it requires maturity.
As we focus on slowing down and resourcing ourselves, it almost magically shifts our focus so that we worry less about making sense of it all and fixing the problem, and pay more attention to the types of things that get the job done. The reasons behind what is happening become more readily apparent, and we can work more skillfully with what we have.
I have spent a lot of time in life wanting something. Wanting what is next to come faster. Wanting something different than what is there. Wanting something I don’t have. A good part of my mental process was constructed to evaluate what is happening in order to determine whether it should in fact be happening and then creating a desire around what I would like to
be happening instead. You can laugh—and it is funny. And I know it is a common problem. So you are likely laughing because you can relate.
I am learning to be patient, to be present, and to welcome what is. I am learning to refine myself rather than desiring that something be different outside myself. This shift in perspective has been really threatening to my ego, which has been fighting back by intensifying its antics. Mostly it throws me into my evaluating mind so that I feel in some way that I am doing
something—when in reality, I am simply getting in the way. It also complicates matters by telling intricate stories about straightforward events. It feels like parenting a toddler—somewhat tedious attentiveness, making sure that my ego does not pull things off the shelf, drink Drano, or run into the street. It requires the deep patience of the wise mother to
lovingly stay on the task at hand and not descend into her own inner child, making a mess out of what is really a natural and beautiful developmental process. It requires the ability to return to center—to alignment—as quickly as possible after each event. It requires not taking myself too seriously or getting hooked on the idea that things should different, thereby getting lost within the cycle of wanting yet again, if at a loftier level.
Creating space for the deeper Self to come more fully into life is skill that develops over time through devotion and the healthiest types of discipline. How are you doing this in your life? How are you learning to love what is?
Life often requires that we do things in a less than ideal way along the journey to achieving our ideal. We simply do the best we can with what we have. It is challenging to balance the demands of the material world with our greater visions. It is difficult to work through our developmental stages when they are impacting some aspect of our life, especially when it is our work.
There are a number of ways people can get caught in this process, making the challenging even more difficult or at very least lengthy. One way is that we want things to be different than they are—we want more ease, flow, and joy—and we are frustrated with all the ways that we might not yet have accomplished this.
When we pit our ideal outcome against our current situation, we set up a dynamic that blocks forward movement. One might say, “I don’t want it to be this way anymore, and so I’m really trying to create a different way of being.” The tension created between the “I don’t want” and the trying to have something different holds the problem in place. It is more helpful in these moments to release the tension than it is to strive toward the ideal.
There is not one solution for this in general, or for you over time. The key is to think creatively about how to release your tension—that will free you up to move forward. For example, you might persist in an action because “I’ve got bills to pay and I need to get the job done.” If you have thoughts like this, you can explore their energetic impact on you. This increases your awareness, which helps to open the door to new opportunities. As a result of the awareness, you might have a moment, for whatever reason, where you experience some kind of breakthrough. Because of this breakthrough, you may suddenly be in the flow of things and show up to the task that you need to do. When you do this, you can feel that there’s a totally different energy moving inside of you. And then you can attune to that energy and how that energy moves in you and start to learn about it.
This is one example of how to move through a block and create more of the ideal instead of creating the type of tension that impedes the process. There are numerous other ways, but the point is that you approach things from a new angle and pay attention to what is working or not working in a way that allows you to gain understanding about the problem and align with new solutions.
By working in ways like this, you eliminate or decrease disruption and move into a state of more neutrality. The more you can base yourself in this neutrality, the more you can set yourself up for realizing your ideal sense of flow or whatever you desire to bring into your life.
Once you’re working mostly from neutrality and less in feeding the tension, you will naturally break through into forward momentum. Once there, you pay attention to the qualities of what that is, what brought that into being, how it feels, what the difference is to your orientation. You attune so that this experience becomes like a compass. And the more you practice this, the easier it is to simply switch into that mode. But trying to force the new way of being—trying to process it out or using your mind to override what is with what you want—usually does not work. It will, however, increase the tension between where you want to go and where you are. So, it is most often most helpful to look for creative ways to release these tensions so that you can function more and more in a state of neutrality that is more welcoming to your ideal. Then use your awareness to learn everything you can about this new way.
During a transformational process with you as the guide, people work out their relationships to what they want but don’t know how to have, in a sometimes challenging dance.
During some of these encounters, I have been told that I don’t care enough, that I am not spiritual enough, that I am responsible for another person’s pain because I cannot save them, that I led them to treacherous waters, that I should be doing things another way or with a specific agenda, and more. I have been blamed for taking too much control, taking not enough control, over sharing, under sharing, being manipulative, being too materialistic, being too driven, and not being driven enough. I have had my life picked through and my body picked over so that the other person can get what it is they feel they need on the way to becoming who they want to be.
There is nothing wrong with this process or either of the people involved in it. It is a facet of the healing process. Still, I am a human and I have feelings, so sometimes this process is harder than other times. Most of the time I am able to see if for what it is: the transference that is needed for healing to happen. But when it brushes up against my own wounds—especially the places where I have bought in to the lie that there is something wrong with me—I can lose my way and begin to wonder if they are right.
These are teaching moments for me. Moments in which I can learn to trust more. Moments when I can learn to expand the borders of my limitations and to be more deeply committed to my work in general. To face these moments, I benefit from the solid knowledge that I do my work and I don’t hide from my limitations. I open the door to them, welcome them in, and hold myself accountable to what I see. This willingness builds my faith in myself and my work.
I benefit from knowing that I am a vessel for transformation, not the creator of transformation. This transformation may look like many things; it is not my job to judge it one way or another, only to trust each type of unfolding. I benefit from knowing that each person has a path and what they need to walk that path. I have faith in this. I don’t need to worry that something has gone wrong. I can simply offer what is right for me, and let go.
Essentially, I need faith—faith in me, faith in them, faith in the process. Healing can be mysterious, and some of what appear to be “mistakes” or “problems” end up being the catalyst for powerful transformations. In fact, this can always be the case if we want to look at it that way.
If you have walked the path of healer, guide, or teacher, you likely know that it is full of misunderstandings. This is partly because so much is not known by one or both parties about what healing really entails for the individual. There is an element that lives in mystery, out of our understanding and control. And it is partly because you can’t lead transformation from inside the crowd. Healing often requires a different orientation to the problem -an outside perspective that acts as a catalyst for the new.
And, you can’t expect to be understood if you are bringing something new. Understanding comes when we have spent some time and become more accustomed to what is. The new brings up an entirely different experience.
But of course, I want to be understood. I think that most people do; for me, it was important to the degree that it sometimes got in my way. I learned as a child to be acutely attuned to the perceptions of others and, in many ways, to prioritize their perceptions over my own. By doing this, I learned to understand the experiences of others. And, my understanding brought compassion and empathy to my encounters. However, these early experiences also brought persistent fear and self-doubt in the face of other people’s opinions.
The degree to which I am caught in these others’ opinions, transient emotions, or storylines about me affects my availability in doing the work that I love. My job is to be a conduit for what is needed. When my ego dominates and I get caught in others’ views of me, I am limited in my capacity.
To stay the course and do the work I am here to do, I believe I must continually engage in the practice of aligning with source. As I strengthen this alignment, I am able to hold the truth of the moment more completely and therefore do my work more thoroughly. My personal wounds still ache when poked, but this pain does not hold the same power as it once did. The truth of the alignment with source is irrefutable. Because of this, it is easier to stay open and clear, and to continue the work.
The power and resonance of this alignment allows me to hold the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of others in perspective and in the proper relationship, eliminating many problems. So, I pay less attention to why I get caught in a projection of another person and more attention to strengthening my alignment. I put less time into understanding the mechanics of my pain and more time building my resiliency and connection to source.
For me, leading ceremony is not about making something happen. Yes, there are structural and energetic components to attend to, but the real work is creating a space for people to have a direct spiritual connection inside and outside themselves.
It is the art of un-doing, the space holding, the emptying.
We have been taught to look to someone else to tell us our deepest knowing and show us what spiritual connection means to us. We have given up our own power and because of this, we are eager to place it on others. This is hurting us individually and collectively quite deeply.
For me, leading is as much about disentangling from this dynamic as it is about the creation of the ceremony.
If you want to deepen your spiritual practice, learn to listen. If you want to create a ceremony, learn to listen.
It does not matter whether you get a form just right – that your hand moves precisely the right way, that your prayer is spoken perfectly, that you even know exactly what you are doing.
I say this as an artist and someone who deeply honors a well-developed technique, and as an academic who values knowing. These are beautiful embellishments, but not necessities.
What is necessary is the unmediated connection with spirit. A connection that is yours and yours alone.
For me, my non-doing speaks louder than my doing. My lack of showmanship is a vehicle for others to see their own brilliance. The emptiness or absence of activities is an opportunity for others to step forward.
Disentangling from the misplaced spiritual power dynamic is complex. As soon as the space is open, it is often filled with all sorts of things that are not in service of direct spiritual connection or upliftment to try and put the familiar dynamic back in place.
Stepping out of the “I have the spiritual truth” game brings up unconscious fears. Fears because suddenly we are faced with our own spiritual nakedness and want desperately for someone to wrap us in the blanket of “you don’t need to know because I do.” These fears can be projected on leaders in the form of “you need to do more so that I feel secure.”
The remedy is that we vulnerably step in and ask for our own spiritual connection.
It can also call forward an ego-driven superiority simply because the person experiences that lack of condescension and middle-manning as an indication of limitation. They have bought in, so deeply, to the idea that competence and spiritual connection mean dominance and oppression.
The remedy again is to work on our own spiritual connection. Direct contact makes these dynamics untenable.
When I am talking about divine feminine principles, I am not talking about goddess work. There are plenty (and most setting predominantly are) goddess works that support the patriarchal structure that keep us detached from our inner knowing all while having a fabulous goddessy face.
I am talking deep in the bones dismantling of the structures that keep us from ourselves and our deepest spiritual truth. I am talking the remembering of how to steward our own spiritual journey and gather the wisdom from the universe one handful at a time.
This requires something totally different.
Yes, it is divine feminine work. It is the work of non-doing. It is the void, the vessel, the opening.
And like the feminine, it gets devalued, criticized, feared and condemned.
And like the feminine, it has been told that it is nothing and that something needs to go in its place. It forgets its own value. Yet it gives and gives and gives to us because it is the divine mother herself understanding that we, as children, need time to grow up.
So ceremony for me is not about doing something, it is about creating an opening – or in some cases working to create even a small crack so that this wisdom can find its way into the room and hopefully the world. Because I know that people with a direct spiritual connection can heal themselves and heal the world.
For a long time, I lived the belief that to create the life I wanted, I needed to work harder. This meant less sleep, long hours, and even “forgetting” to eat so that I could get the job done.
There is a place for rolling up your sleeves and doing the hard work that is called for. This is an ability that many people lack and because of it they stay stuck in one area or another in their life. But for me, I’ve overused this ability to my own detriment.
I started out my adult life with a trial by fire – no resources, no direction, and a baby. I was fortunate enough at the time to call on this ability to work hard and not quit. Because of this, I put myself through school and developed my business, along with a number of other accomplishments.
Whether it was true or not, my ability to work hard became linked to my ability to get results. In other words – hard work meant survival.
But it goes further than that. There were a number of other beliefs that were strengthened at the same time, including:
Again, there are whole segments of people who would benefit from some deeper understanding of hard work and sacrifice. But above all else at this time, I needed to remember self-care, support, sustainability, and nourishment. Cultivating the psychological and energetic capacity to embody this shift in the way that I show up to life, has been critical in the unlocking of my personal power and stepping into my calling.
I circled through this territory time and time again. But I was so deficient in my understanding, that try as I might, I could not get these things to stick.
Until one day, I found myself cracking. My patience was thin, more and more situations were bothering me, I wasn’t enjoying the people I usually enjoy, I was super thin and really tired. Because of this I was making bad choices and errors in judgment.
It is scary that when you are in a place of leadership, so few people are willing to call you on your dysfunction even when it is staring them in the face – but this is a topic for another day.
Long story short, I was swimming as fast as I could and sinking from exhaustion.
I had learned along the way that I needed to ask for help. So, I asked for help and got a cosmic level dose of instruction. Some amazing support came my way – just enough to stop me from sinking. However, I also received an enormous heap of challenges, and this was the true teaching.
Opposition can show us exactly where and how we need to grow. Here, I was shown the internal mechanisms that were putting this all in place.
I don’t like to repeatedly bang the drum of a certain brand of oppression – throw all my “problems” into one bucket and blame it for everything. Life is much more complicated, and I would rather not make my life story about victimhood. However, that is very different from turning a blind eye to some of the realities of the world we live in.
And for me, this particular issue is about the oppression of the feminine force within us all.
I learned to survive from doing rather than being, so I was not standing in my genius.
I learned to identify my value with my looks, so I never got to know my own beauty.
I learned that care of others was more important than care of myself, so I lived in a place of depletion.
I learned to ask permission to stand in my power, so I was never fully in it.
I learned that the wisdom of my body was inferior to the knowledge of my mind, so I neglected my truth and covered up my wisdom.
I learned that it was ok for others to use my hard work and life force and call it their own, so I let them take without giving until I was exhausted.
And, yes, I believe that this is symptomatic of the long-standing historical oppression of the feminine force and its wisdom – and it affects most of us in some way.
Historically, women have been the home-makers.
They clean the house, tend the fire, and cook the food.
But the wisdom of any oppressed group survives. It just goes underground. It gets preserved and encoded in the simple acts of every day.
So look closely, for the greater healing is here:
Clean the house.
Tend the fire.
Cook the food.
So, I started cleaning my house. I put boundaries in place and moved unsupportive people to more distant places in my life. I looked at the places where I was out of alignment with myself and my deeper truth, and I made shifts to get back on track. I repeat as is necessary. And, yes, I literally clean my house.
I started a desire journal and wrote at least one thing each day that stoked the fire of my life. I added in one activity that was just about enjoyment for each day. I paid closer attention to where I lit up and what brought me joy, and recognized this as my divine intelligence.
I looked at what sustains me, what supports me, and what allows me to thrive, and to this day I continue to make choices to bring this into my life. I am taking time to see what will truly nourish me, and make sure that I have put it on the table.
As I do these things, I heal. I love myself more. I find it easier to stand in my power. And as I make these shifts, I uncover a new way of working where I am cared for, supported, and can create more with less effort. Today is your opportunity, and I invite you to gently allow the feminine force within to come alive.
As a being who is intrinsically connected to the rest of the world—whose personal wants are the whispers of the universe—your longings are not arbitrary, but essential. They are not whims, but movements of the divine. The deep wellspring from which your true nature flows is both unique and part of the divine unfolding.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray.”
While it is impossible to deny who we are—how can we be anything other than ourselves—paradoxically, we learn through the course of our lives to be more or (in many cases) less pure expressions of what resides in our heart of hearts. Being ourselves is the most natural and simple thing in the world, yet it can take quite a bit of effort.
To truly be living beings, we must surrender to the deeper truth of who we are, found through the exploration of what we love the most. It is when we are inspired, lit up, and aligned that we will find this wellspring of our eternal nature. And when it comes right down to it, anything besides being and doing what we love is, quite simply, a waste of our time.
“You are the perfect expression of the universe exactly where you are in this moment.” ~Alan Watts
Let’s not get confused on this point and think that life is easy and that our true nature will unfold without effort if only we are connected to it. All great works of art require effort and sometimes sacrifice. At times, our confusion about who we are can lead us to fixate on people, places, things, or ways of life that are not in alignment with who we truly are. In these moments of forgetting our self, we can be convinced that attaining the object of our desire will confirm something about us that we desperately want to believe (or disbelieve). These experiences can leave us wondering if we can trust the expressions of our deeper nature’s wants and desires.
But we can also use these moments to show us the nature of our own heart instead. We may learn through them what is not real and true, and we may find the opportunity to slip more deeply into what is. We can learn through these experiences that some love affairs are dalliances while others are romances that cross lifetimes, but all are beautiful teachers about the nature of our soul.
We can also sometimes be deeply disappointed by the twists and turns of life—what was once so clear and certain falling away as if it never was. We can feel in the words of Jennifer Welwood’s “The Dakini Speaks” that “life has broken her secret promise to us.”
In situations like these, we might start to doubt our direction and our deeper nature that called it forward, thinking that “we have been wrong before” and perhaps “it is better to save myself the heartache.” As we do this, our essential nature becomes more and more abstract and less and less realized. Or confusion increases and our investment in what is less ourselves does too.
Once we get confused and disconnected from our deeper nature, we are lucky if we can remember that our lives are meant to be an unfolding of our selves to ourselves. We are meant to be guided by our love, our happiness, and our dreams. We are meant to have our hearts broken as well so that we can continue to expand into bigger and truer dreams.
We really only have this one job in the course of our lives: being who it is we truly are. Navigating the pains that make us hold back and shut down. Finding, loving, and caring for what we are by our very design. Learning to bring that into the world with each opportunity. Living the paradox of knowing and not knowing ourselves.
Why do we dance this dance of being ourselves? Because there is a sacred fire burning in each one of us that demands a life fully lived.
Like all relationships, our relationships with ourselves are strengthened by time, attention, and respect. Through the course of a day, we can make countless large and small choices to honor the truth of who we are and what it is that we believe. We can strengthen ourselves and support our own development by making these choices in the way that is truly right for us. We can also focus our attention on the honoring of our truth in specific and deliberate ways so that we can feel more fully expressed and more completely alive.
01 Creativity: Speak it, dance it, write it, draw it, play it. Creative mediums give form to what is true inside of us. The medium itself can draw out, refine, and help us see our truth in a different way. Once it is outside of us, we can see it from a new, more objective angle.
02 Livelihood: When we live out a major part of our life in a way that is right for us, it is a way of honoring the truth of who we are. Do something that you love with people whom you love, and you will feel a sense of authenticity—not to mention joy—permeate your life.
03 Ritual: Like creativity, ritual gives us a medium to express what is most important to us. You can use ritual to honor yourself directly or to honor deities, animals, and plants that represent things that are important to you. Taking the time to do something where the main purpose is to acknowledge, mark, or clarify intention strengthens our connection to what is important.
04 Communication: Especially if you tend to hold your words back, learning to speak what is true for you throughout your life and with all people is a powerful way to honor yourself. No more hiding, adjusting, or omitting. Know and speak your truth as often as you can.
05 Dream: There is what is true now, and then there is the truth that will emerge over time. One can be an echo of the other. We can honor ourselves by letting ourselves envision our futures, feel our potential, and dream our desires.
When we honor what is most true about us, what we most value, what is most important—that is when we strengthen ourselves, show ourselves respect, and create avenues for our full expression in the world.