I hear it all the time from people who work with others in any helping or healing capacity: “I am exhausted. I am not sure I can do this anymore. I need a vacation. Maybe I should go into another line of work.” This same fatigue also affects those who are caring for other people in their lives. It is the result of actively attending to other people’s pain at the expense of your own self-care. It even has its own label: compassion fatigue.
One of the first things that I talk to practitioners about when they start to work with me is their own self-care. The more that you care for yourself, the more you are able to assist other people. The problem is that many helpers and healers get into the work because of their own wounds. This is fine overall; however, you will continue to deplete yourself to the extent that you have not healed.
If you find yourself stressed, with little energy to put into your work, or have noticed your behavior deteriorating in other areas of your life because you are caring a lot for others and little for yourself, try some of the following tips.
Boundaries. You may need to rewrite the way that you do the work you do, or work in a different way. You may need to learn to say no to those you love so that you can do some things for yourself. If you are feeling fatigued and possibly ready to quit, your boundaries are not in the right place. You are giving more than you have to give. Ask yourself: what do you need to make this a healthy arrangement?
Time out. One of the best ways to figure all of this out is to take a break. This can seem like a really big request when you feel like you are barely keeping up as it is. BUT—and it is a big “but”—it can be the smartest and easiest solution to your dilemma. Take as much time as you believe is possible and then take just a little more. The space will give you the perspective to help you see new ways of doing things.
Therapy. As I said, very often we get to this point because of our unresolved issues. Get some help from someone outside of your situation who can help you examine and shift the underlying patterns that are creating your over-giving.
Vision. First, connecting to your vision can be reinvigorating. However, it can do more than that. Take a look at how you are represented in your vision. Is it possible to have a vision where not only are you helping others but you are also well cared for? Write or rewrite a vision statement with this in mind, and read it regularly to keep yourself on track.
Perhaps most importantly, know that this can just be a passing phase. You can offer your amazing gifts to others in whatever way you do and you can be healthy while you do it. Look for new solutions, and don’t settle!
Take a look at my article here for more ideas on why loving yourself is so key >>> “7 Reasons to Love Yourself First.”
It all started in childhood—as things do. I learned not to speak my truth. I learned that speaking my truth meant hurting other people—even if I was reporting the facts, even if was just saying how I felt. I also learned that speaking my truth meant that I would be hurt—rejected, criticized, and misunderstood.
As a result, I have been hyper-vigilant about sharing the “right information.” Trying not to say too much. Not calling a spade a spade when someone wants to believe otherwise. Anything and everything that I can think of to stop the hurt.
All this time, I believed what I had been told: that the hurt was my fault. Because I spoke the truth. So, I tried to hold it in, hold it down, explain a million times what I really meant—hoping to reclaim the truth of myself with someone else’s permission. I also noticed that I was not “allowed” to lie. Not telling the truth was like walking into an electric fence, the outcome of which I would be feeling for a long time afterward. Even the little stuff, the fibs and small concessions.
It’s easy to see how these experiences create stress. If I tell the truth, I hurt others; if I don’t tell the truth, I feel uncomfortable in my own skin. Throughout my life, I have come up with many creative solutions to this challenge, because I believed that I was the problem. I have never been like other people. This is not a claim to uniqueness born of an arrested adolescent belief that I am unlike others so that I can claim my individuated expression. This is a life lesson, hard-won after a lot of observation. I am simply not the average. I have spent my whole life teaching people to understand me. I paint the path. I show the steps. I warn them about the things that they are likely not taking into consideration. My hope has been that if I can create a clear enough path, I will be understood AND I will be loved. When people realize that I am good and loving, then it will finally be safe to speak my truth.
These deep wounds have not totally held me back, but they have dimmed my light. I have lived in their fearful shadow. I have lost my way because of them and not fully stepped in to my truest service: my mission to embody love and to speak truth. This kind of mission is not completed by just stepping in at the end, victorious. This mission is realized through the
deepest possible level of devotion—walking the path of life. The path where I learn step by step what truth is and how to speak it. Along the way, I have been gifted with more and more people who hear my truth even when I keep it inside. Because of them, I have become stronger.
I have also been gifted along the way by people who have taught me through their inability to hear me. While these are painful lessons, I recognize them as just as important. Because of them, I have also become stronger. So, I walk the path of this life to see myself and others as divine and perfect creations, and to offer us all the love we deserve. I walk this path to learn how to hold the truth in everything I do. I live in service to all the hearts that have not been seen and the voices that have not been heard.
I have yet to talk to someone at this particular moment in time who is not wondering in someway what to do. This never before experienced situation is leaving people in mass in question. Am I buying into fear? Am I not being responsive or responsible?
Uncertain situations make us all question both the situation and ourselves.
First, I honor each of our loving and caring hearts that so desire to do the right thing, the good thing, the thing that will help us all and this situation in the best possible way. There are many situations like this in life and we are collectively facing a big one.
So, what can we do to be a positive force of change in a time of upheaval? Center and Align: Knowing who we are and what we are in service to is important in times of change. We are of little service to ourselves or others without this foundational attention to our orientation.
Think constructively: Brilliant solutions come from our deep rootedness in our truth and our working collaboratively to find new and better solutions. Thinking less about the problem and more about what can be created that is in maximum and highest benefit to everyone. Challenging situations benefit from a high degree of creativity.
Act Intelligently: Challenging situations require that we take deliberate actions that are both practical -as in take in as many factors as possible- and creative as in look for new ways that will benefit as many as possible.
Work together: No one person has the answer. Listen and recognize each person’s contributions -especially the ones you find it hardest to hear. Share your own wisdom. Use a combination of your own wisdom and others to know the best course of action. And, repeat the first three steps as needed.
As you move forward, notice how much of your energy is going towards these four points and how much is going towards a contribution to the problem itself -including, arguing about how to solve the problem or endlessly debating the best approach until you are in paralysis.
Get back on track with the four steps as much as you can and take care of yourself along the way.
Multiple hands make the heavy lifting easier. Your wisdom, love, and action is needed.
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 spiritual unfolding.
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.