Stoking the embers: an ode to growth

Inspiration is often fleeting.

Sometimes it floats in on a bright morning breath, trickles down the spine like wildfire, ignites to the very core. It gets hot, burns through doubts and worries, elates the soul, energizes the body.

But then that heat starts to fade. It’s too hot to handle, we need it to cool. And as it cools, our spirits fade too and we open the doors once again to doubt, worry, fear. The hows, the whys, weigh heavy as they climb each vertebrae, shrinking stealthily over the shoulders, and pulling down the collarbones, curling the head to hover over the heart in protection. And before we know it, we’re clawing our fingernails against the earth, longing for change but immobilized by fear of it.

We go through this process time and time again- sometimes the cycle is complete in a few hours or days, sometimes longer. The higher we get, the deeper the lull appears. We sabotage the high in fear and dread of the lull. Worst yet, we get stuck in the cycles spinning round and round until we lose orientation and start digging down when we mean to go up, losing ourselves in the pit. Our experience in the pit is a powerful one, and those embers of inspiration have trouble catching fire when smothered by the weight of a heavy heart. Subsequent experiences begin to grow their vines around the heart and the lungs, gently and consistently tightening their hold on our creativity, our air, our life. Each strand stronger than the last, we give in, allow them to victimize us, pushing us deeper into the pit- so deep that the flight of inspiration, of freedom, appears to be available only to other beings, and we watch them too. We watch through the peephole of our pit, gazing up, allowing the elations of others to increase the space between us.  We watch the waves of inspiration passing us over time and time again on the winds of change that no longer graze the surface of our skin. We watch ourselves settle, again stuck in the intensity of a craving and filling it with tastes that don’t satiate the palate. Tastes that are ‘safe.’ Tastes like job security. Tastes like a mortgage payment. Tastes like routine, and chores. We continue filling our plate with these monotonous, bland tastes, becoming a slave to them, replacing them with more bland, monotonous tastes the moment we finish so as not to leave any blank space, any inkling of a home for something ostentatious and sweet like creativity or spontaneity, though on some level we are aware that we ache for it.

Fear not the pit, because the deeper we dig down into the earth of the soul, the more fertile the soil for even the smallest seeds. The deeper the darkness, the brighter our smallest ember of inspiration can shine, grabbing our attention and commanding our focus. If we have a breath left beneath the weight on the chest, we have enough oxygen to fan our small embers to flames. These flames are flames of transformation, transmuting that which no longer serves. The fire revolves in the darkness, evolving the dormant edges of the body, asking us to move, to go, to do. Our task is to be open to these flames of initiation, our work is to allow it to move us. It matters little what we do with it; what matters is simply that we do. We follow the illumination of the flame to see through the darkness. We go. We Allow. We accept the cycles and seasons of our spirit and know that the dark is not a place to be ashamed of, it is a place to visit frequently for a humble reminder of the grounds of our soul, those spaces waiting patiently for the light. Each time we visit, a new evolution can begin, setting the next cycle into motion as we break outdated agreements and burn down the walls of restrictions, deepening our roots and expanding through our flaming branches. When we go through the painful, cracking, messy process with patience, peace, and love in our heart, we are growth embodied. Fear not the pit. Fear not the process. Stoke the embers and watch your innate, awesome power move. 

Here Goes Nothin’

Here Goes Nothin.

 

Gotta love when you hear that! We all know that means something that is very much NOT nothin’ is about to go down. So here’s mine.

2017 has been a year of learning. A year of emotional turmoil. A year of many personal highs and even more societal lows. I can remember this time last year, feeling desperately hopeful that we had hit the bottom and the only way left to go was up.  Haaa. While I could go down that rabbit hole (and I will), I’ll save it because there’s another something that’s not quite nothing a’coming.

Three months ago, I decided it was finally time to quit my day job. It wasn’t because it was a soul-sucking, ass-kissing, culture-squashing corporate job, it was quite the opposite. I was managing and Adult Education program for an amazing nonprofit organization with a fantastically supportive team at my side. However, juggling that plus teaching yoga PLUS trying to dip my newly licensed toes in the Massage Therapy world was too much. “My plate overfloweth” and something had to go, so I took my biggest responsibility (and therefore stressor, and therefore Self Identifier) off the books. I went on vacation and didn’t open my email once. I released myself of the need to put out all the fires. I thought it would be liberating. Exhilarating, even.  I did not expect all of my newly freed time to leave me exhausted under a heavy load of guilt, ego, and loss. Months after the clothes from that trip were put away, I’m still here unpacking what it means to no longer work in the nonprofit world, and even deeper, what it means to feel all of these crazy emotions about no longer working in the nonprofit world. I’ve come a long way, but the first few times people asked the daunting “What do you do?” question, I felt like I needed to give them a resume along with my new job title; as if I needed to explain why I’m more than a Yoga Teacher, or not just a massage therapist. It makes me cringe to admit how much value I inevitably put on my super-cool do-gooder past in nonprofit. Ugh.

“A real sign of progress is knowing that your natural worth does not change depending on what you do” –yung pueblo

I read this quote to myself just about every day. The first time I saw it was long before this big transition, I’ve quit many jobs that didn’t serve me and never looked back. Hell, I’d even coached my friends through leaving their own jobs, preaching this same ideal. This time was just so different, it was my turn for the lesson. I know that there are a lot of reasons why I felt defined by this role- I loved what I did. I believed in our mission, wholeheartedly. I left some of the most amazing coworkers I’ve ever had there. I spent a lot of time defending it to my friends and family who just “didn’t get it.” And then I gave it up for something of which they had even less understanding. Stated bluntly, wherever understanding is missing, respect often is unheard of. I am so happy with the work that I do now, but I know that many people that I love dearly cannot make heads or tails of it, and that’s OK.

The purpose of this post is not to defend the virtue of one industry over the other. Let this serve as a reminder that you are not what you do. That your worth is not defined by your paycheck or the hours you put in to earn it. That only your actions can define the person you are. And most importantly, that it works both ways. Everyone knows an asshat that does charitable work and a saint in a cruel industry. There will always be so much more to the story, and defining ourselves and others by our line of work is unrealistic. Just as working for an undesirable company does not automatically make you bad, long hours at a nonprofit does not automatically make you good.

Now I work at a spa. An expensive one at that. Each time I look at my schedule, there is a big part of me that aches for clients that don’t have “Spa Retreat” in their vocabulary. It’s not on my employer to make that happen*, it’s on me. I need to be the person I think I am and go out there and do the work that I value. After weeks spent chewing on these thoughts and cultivating this acceptance, I am finally out of my own way and re-energized on this path. The timing of this epiphany is impeccable too, because…and drumroll please…I’m moving to Costa Rica next month. More to come on that. Here goes Somethin!

 

*Special note, my spa does a TON as a business to give back in other ways, just sayin