The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door. ~Clarissa Pinkola Estes
We are living in a time of great challenge, change and uncertainty. Overpopulation, climate change, and corporate controlled industry are just a few of the social and economic issues that we face today. Environmental activist Joanna Macy describes the essential adventure of our time as “the Great Turning,” marking a shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization. Macy declares:
“A revolution is underway because people are realizing that our needs can be met without destroying our world. We have the technical knowledge, the communication tools, and material resources to grow enough food, ensure clean air and water, and meet rational energy needs. Future generations, if there is a livable world for them, will look back at the epochal transition we are making to a life-sustaining society. And they may well call this the time of the Great Turning. It is happening now.”
We are part of this revolution and our contribution to the healing and transformation of the planet begins with our personal commitment to our own awakening. Sri T. Krishnamacharya described yoga as the process where the impossible becomes possible and the possible over a long period of time becomes easy. If we consider our human development, this process becomes clear—as babies it seems impossible that we will ever walk or run, adolescence and young adulthood highlight the challenge of finding our identity apart from our families of origin, and the tests of adulthood and aging are centered around generativity and continued growth rather than stagnation and regression. Each stage of life presents specific crises to aid in our transformation into fully actualized human beings. The word “crisis” comes from the Greek krisis and literally means “decision,” such as the time when an important decision must be made or as the turning point of a disease when an important change takes place, indicating either recovery or death. Crises in our lives are actually vital junctures or thresholds to be crossed that cultivate the conditions necessary for the impossible to become possible in our lives. Crisis is often the carrier pigeon of calling in our lives and ushers us into a new way of being or living. We cannot separate our adventures from our ordeals—they exist hand in hand to elicit deeper truths about ourselves and greater meaning for our lives. These challenges act as sacred portals initiating us into an entirely new life.
Ordeal as Opportunity
The Hero Journey is a motif that was developed by American scholar Joseph Campbell who studied stories from various cultures around the world to discover the one universal story that each myth contains. As a “monomyth,” or the one great story, it represents the archetypal journey of transformation that every person must undergo in order to become a whole human being. It is a cyclical journey where one is called away from the familiar, often through a significant challenge or difficulty that disrupts the status quo, into the wild terrain of the unconscious psyche. The hero encounters extreme difficulty (lifelong saboteurs, past traumas, etc.) and must face and slay the dragon (that which we most fear) in order to recover a lost treasure (our individual “bliss”). Returning to the very place from which we started--home--we must complete the journey by offering the jewel to the world. Each of our unique lives is the myth that we must live out to realize our full potential and bring forth our gifts in service of the greater good. In every adventure story the hero or heroine encounters an ordeal (or several) that test the limits of what (s)he thought possible.
In the movie The Wizard of Oz, for example, Dorothy is tested all along the way by the Wicked Witch of the West who uses all of her power to scare and divert Dorothy from her quest while seeking to destroy her ability to believe in herself. Dorothy’s greatest challenge occurs in the Witch’s castle when she is forced to choose whether to give up the magic red slippers or her precious Toto. The ordeal that ensues is when the Witch torches the Scarecrow and he begins to burn. In an effort to protect her friend, Dorothy douses the fire and accidentally wets the Wicked Witch who melts into a puddle on the floor. Eventually she is rewarded for her bravery and returns home to Kansas with the knowledge that what she was seeking, she had all along. The heroine had to experience the tests and trials in order to discover the gift—she had to encounter her own crucible challenge to make the impossible possible.
Just like Dorothy, our personal adventures come with their own ordeals. The antagonist may come in the form of an illness, a difficult relationship, the loss of a job, divorce, or death. Mid-life as well as other major transitions can initiate a crisis. In my own life marriage and motherhood have proven to be the ultimate ordeals! While also full of unexpected blessings, these relationships induce great challenge. Nothing can fully prepare us for the ordeals, yet the hidden beauty contained within them allows us to discover entirely new aspects of ourselves that would otherwise remain unknown. Our ordeals will ask something from us; we will have to give something up in order to gain the treasure. Using my own life as an example: my choice to nurture a family as one of my primary values has meant that I have had to sacrifice a full time career outside of the home. While I respect and admire the women that are mothers and have careers, I recognize my personal need to prioritize and place my family first. Being a mother is the most difficult job I have ever had and through it I have learned about my greatest limitations as well as the source of my deepest strength. Navigating ordeals with grace and grit is what being a mother is all about! Learning to let go is a daily and sometimes momentary reality. My capacity to love has been enlarged well beyond myself and even my own children to include all of the mothers on the ground each and everyday doing their part to keep the family together. Most significantly, my understanding of what it means to be a woman, reclaiming and honoring the feminine principles of grounding, containment, compassion, ferocity and creativity have become prominent in my awakening. Our ordeals contain countless opportunities for self-discovery if we are willing to see the blessings in the challenges.
Dorothy is not alone in her journey to Oz. Along the way she encounters those with whom she creates an alliance of friendship and mutual support: her dog Toto, Glinda The Good Witch, the Scarecrow, the Tin man and the Cowardly Lion.
The discovery of allies is an important part of the journey. Very often the particular adventures that we undertake will also include the helpers that will provide the aid we most need. Allies are distinctly different than someone we may consider more casually as a friend. Very specifically, allies are the ones that can really be in it with us. One of my teachers, Michael Mervosh, explains that an ally is someone who has been through similar trials and ordeals and yet “is able to have a differing perspective from our own, which we will need as we journey through life.” It is foolish to think that we can make the journey on our own. We need those who help us. Allies can come in the form of visible and invisible aid. Benevolent strangers that appear when we are most in need are our allies. Angels, ancestors and spirit guides can assist our walking from the other side. The natural world and all of its beauty can act as healer for us. Even animals can provide companionship and unconditional love when we are struggling. Our allies appear when we are in need; we must be open to receiving the help!
Useful Tips for Navigating Ordeals
When we are in the throes of an ordeal it can be very difficult to maintain our connection to center and the challenges can induce fear and self-doubt causing us to believe that there is something wrong with us that must be fixed. Do your best not to take your ordeals too personally—remember that they are part of the universal experience of being human—everyone experiences them! I encourage you to do your best to practice self-care in the following ways:
What seems “impossible” for you now? Rather than engaging your logical mind, answer this question more intuitively by practicing stream of consciousness writing for ten minutes or longer. Simply write the question at the top of your page and then commit to writing without stopping or censoring your words. Just let it flow and see what emerges.
Reflect back upon the span of your life. Revisit that which has been the “Supreme Ordeal” of your life's time, to date. What was it about the experience that made it feel like such an ordeal for you? What have you learned from this profound life experience that moved you closer toward your authentic self?
What is the most significant or meaningful adventure/ordeal in your present day life? What is it that makes it such an adventure or ordeal for you? As you reflect on your answers to the previous question, what opportunity do you see lying before you, for your unfolding future, from here?
Who are your allies? Who is able to be in it with you? What places or people feel supportive for you?
What kind of self-care do you most need now? Is there a particular practice that you would like to emphasize at this time?
We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For
As the Great Turning is underway and we are in the process of our own transformational growth process, we can call on the wisdom of those who have gone before us to help us find the way. The Native Americans considered the impact of their choices by the 7 generation principle: for every personal, governmental or corporate decision made, it was taken into account how it would affect the next seven generations into the future. A generation is thought to be 25 years—so that’s 175 years impact to consider. “Sustainability” for the indigenous people meant living in balance and harmony with the world around them. Mitakuye oyasin is the term used by the Lakota that means “we are all related to, and respect, everything in life.” Take to heart this message from the Hopi Elders as a timely reminder for you, who have been called on a sacred mission as artists, yogis, helpers, healers, and light bearers to make the impossible, possible through your commitment and courage to the realizing the essential teaching of the path—we are that which we are seeking; only ONE exists and we are the individual expressions of that Unity. We need not feel small and insignificant in the face of the world's problems. We are the ones we have been waiting for. . .
Message From the Hopi Elders:
You have been telling people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour. And there are things to be considered…
Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.
It is time to speak your truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for your leader.
Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, “This could be a good time! There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.
And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.
The time of the one wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word ’struggle’ from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
--Hopi Elders' Prophecy, June 8, 2000
"Lighthouse Collage by Jenny
“Gathering in circles is an ancient practice being revived in our time. We have dialogue circles to improve communication, conflict resolution circles to negotiate crises, therapeutic circles to explore our emotions, problem-solving circles to puzzle out hard questions, team-building circles to cheerlead for a common cause, and collaborative learning circles to deepen our education. All of them have worthy purposes, but none of them has the singular intent of a circle of trust: to make it safe for the soul to show up and offer us its guidance.” ~Parker Palmer
Yesterday was my monthly Women’s Wisdom Circle gathering and today I am still reflecting on the experience. One of my intentions this year is to dig deep into what “self-care” really means for me—what does it look like to be impeccable about how I care for myself everyday? How do I nurture and nourish myself on every level? How can I let go of the hustle and live closer to the flow state? What do I really need and how do I make it a priority in my daily life to take responsibility for myself in this way? In order to support this inquiry, I have invited a conversation around this theme of self-care with other women.
Because we have so few role models for what a truly vital, nourished, radiant, whole woman looks like, we need to begin the quest to discover it for ourselves and then share our findings with each other. Here is what I know for sure right now: yes, we must take good care of our bodies through diet, exercise and rest. Yes, we need to deal with our emotional baggage and clean up the past. Yes, our minds can benefit from regular de-cluttering and some kind of meditation practice. But, most importantly, how we connect with and relate to our SOUL is everything. When a woman is connected to her Soul essence, she is her most authentic self. She is strong, wise, creative, intuitive, charismatic, dignified, and POWERFUL. In the yogic tradition, this is the Shakti—or feminine force that gets activated and unleashed. A woman connected to her soul is a lighthouse—she is able to elevate others just by her presence. She is beautiful because she radiates self-love and radical acceptance of both her divinity and her humanity. She is a genius because she is sharing her unique brilliance by standing completely in the light of her inherent giftedness rather than the shadow of her doubt. A woman connected to her soul is a genuine blessing to others.
What I witnessed in circle yesterday was the emergence of this soul essence in each woman. Here is what else I know for sure: given the space, time and invitation—the soul will show up. As John O’Donohue, the great Irish writer says, the soul is a “shy presence” and it will never force its way, uninvited, into your life. You need to open the door, step back, let her enter freely, give her a cup of tea, invite her to take a seat and then just wait for her to speak. Host the soul just as you would the most special guest. It really doesn’t need to be more complicated than that. As I had the privilege of observing in circle yesterday—when a woman begins to speak from her soul, she taps into, and pours forth from, an inner spring of wisdom, truth and beauty. It doesn't necessarily translate as profound or otherworldly. But it is moving. When she is giving from her essence there is a natural strength that she is drawing on and it transmits as unmistakable grace.
I am grateful to be a part of the creation of such a “circle of trust” in this capacity. Here are a few more things that I know for sure regarding what happens, particularly, when women gather in this way:
• Our struggles look very similar, while our strengths shine with a distinction unique to each of us. Our soul gifts are given the space to emerge in circle relationship.
• A natural healing intelligence is cultivated when women gather with intention. That’s because the archetype of wholeness (and femininity) has a shape and it’s a circle.
• Our stories are medicinal—embedded within them lie our deepest wisdom. Sharing our stories consciously sets the wisdom (and us) free--allowing the healing to complete.
• Learning to truly love and accept ourselves is the greatest self-help. Waking up to our real beauty—as an embodiment of the Divine—is what self-empowerment is all about.
• We are all leaders and guides in some capacity in our lives. To be a leader is to bring out the highest and best in ourselves and each other. When we lead from our strengths, we inspire others to do the same.
• We are all infinitely creative and resourceful. When we allow our wise, intuitive heart to guide us, we will know exactly what to do and how to do it. Who and what you surround yourself with will influence your creation. Choose the highest caliber!
Who is in your circle of trust? What makes your soul sing? Are you listening? This month practice being hospitable to your own soul and investigate what would nourish and revitalize your connection to the wise self who may just be the one patiently holding the door open waiting for you to step inside and take a seat.
For more information on my monthly women’s circle contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reaching the "mental and spiritual nature of ourselves" is what spiritual practices are designed to do. Spiritual vision has inspired sages throughout history and been called many names. Both Christians and Plato named it the "eye of the soul." For Sufis it is the "the eye of the heart," and for Taoists the "eye of Tao" or the "inner eye." Whatever its name, it represents a flowering of intuitive awareness that recognizes the sacred in all people, in all things, and within ourselves. This potent awareness penetrates far below the ego's restless turmoil to the sacred core of our being. St. Augustine described how he turned attention inward "and beheld with the eye of my soul- the Light Unchangeable." He concluded, "It is with the interior eye that truth is seen," and our whole business therefore in this life is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen." ~Roger Walsh
Consider for a moment: how do you know what you know? Do you tend to be more rational and logical; relying on empirical evidence over theoretical knowledge? Do you appreciate gathering all the facts before you make decisions or are you more intuitive and idealistic; closely attuned to your feelings as your guidepost for decision making? Maybe you fall somewhere in the middle? In addition to the ability of the intellect to employ reason and logic to learn, multiple intelligences such as bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal and existential have been identified within the world of psychology to help people recognize how we best discover new things.
Dreams, visions, creativity and body awareness are all ways of connecting to our intuition. Wendy Palmer’s book Inner Knowing examines the intuitive faculty we all share and sheds a light on how to cultivate our intuition:
Intuitive practices work their magic by shaping different routes to inner knowing, and just as the outer sense allows us to see, hear, and orient to the physical environment, intuition also has its organs of perception. The three primary “organs,” or centers of subtle knowing, are experienced as being the head where dreams appear at night, in the abdomen where breath and attention join, and in the area of the heart. There is also a fourth form of intuition, called “direct knowing,” that does not rely on intermediary cues (p. 175).
These areas of the head, heart and belly work together to support our inner knowing and I believe that as we learn to strengthen our connection to these areas and practice trusting our intuitive hunches, deep healing and growth result. I think that one of the greatest benefits of a regular yoga practice is the intimate connection that we begin to forge with the body as well as learning how to trust the natural intelligence or consciousness of the body/mind/heart landscape. The breath practices teach us how to center ourselves in the belly with a sense of groundedness and clarity. From that sense of stability and support, the necessary conditions are created for the heart to open and expand to include a wider capacity for compassion and love to emerge. With a solid foundation and a fluid heart, an expanded vision is made possible as we begin to see, feel and hear in new ways. All of this requires the capacity for deep listening--to our bodies, hearts and visions.
Although I believe that I have been able to cultivate my intuition through my yoga and spiritual practices, I am aware that much of my personal knowing falls into the category of “direct knowing.” I often take for granted the fact that I just know without being able to explain, justify or rationalize why. And very often it takes time for me to articulate that knowing with words. That capacity, however, is responsible for guiding me throughout my life. As I look back, every major decision I have ever made came from a deep and direct knowing in what I needed to do. I am drawn to people, places, and circumstances because of this knowing. As I continue to learn to trust it, a greater respect for intuition has grown. I see the cultivation of a relationship to our intuition as vital to living a soulful and authentic life. Without it, we are tempted to model our lives on what the society, culture or outer world believes is right for us. To live an intuitive life defies much of what we have been taught to value in our highly rational, empirical Western culture and it requires a certain degree of courage to live according to a more subtle pull.
Maybe as you read this you became aware of the ways that you are naturally intuitive. One of my mentors, Nancy Rowe, teaches about connecting to our “felt sense.” Do you gain information through your body? Do you have a “gut” level knowing about certain things--have you been in an uncomfortable situation where your body responds adversely? Or are you more visual, receiving impressions in the form of colors or images? Do you have dreams that offer important guidance or messages? Perhaps, like me, you just know what you know? There is a clear and direct understanding that seems to come from some deeper place both within and beyond the mind and body.
This month practice developing TRUST in your inner knowing. It’s common for the mind to discount what we know to be true and right. Practice shifting from doubt to knowing by acting on your intuitions and learning from them. As you move through your days trust your intuition with small choices at first--let your intuition choose what to eat or wear or to help you set your pace for the day, for example. Perhaps begin each day asking your higher knowing “What is most important for me to do today?” The more I practice in this way, the more surprised I am at the difference between what I think is most important and the guidance I receive. I find that things often transpire on those days that I ask for guidance that are far beyond what I could have planned! Like anything, developing trust in our intuition is a practice and takes time, so be patient but consistent in your effort.
Our inner knowing holds the potential to connect us with our unique gifts. Ultimately the different ways of knowing are thresholds between worlds--they serve as a bridge between the known and unknown leading us to health and wholeness. Set your intention to listen for and practice following your intuitive hunches. Call on the wise part of yourself to guide you. As you develop the trust in yourself to discern the voice of your intuition and follow its promptings, you won’t be infallible or perfect but you will begin to uncover new understandings that will reveal more than any book or class ever could.
We don't always get what we think we want but we always (without fail) get the precise support that our soul needs. Our dream can often be a lure, the intention of which is to lead us to a state and a place higher than the dream itself. To align our will with divine will requires total trust especially when the diversions from what we desire and how we imagined things would be start to happen. We have to constantly surrender in order to flow towards our destiny without manifesting unnecessary fear and suffering. This is where the gold is, it's not in the goal. ~Caroline de Lisser
The numbers 2+0+1+7 add up to 10--and according to numerology, this is a number of leadership and mastery . Pesonally, I feel the call to step up and out of the trance of self-doubt and discouragement and into the current of change that is available to those of us who are really ready. No more waiting until the perfect time or holding out for better circumsances. Don't be lukewarm. The time is now. All of my practice, training and education has prepared me for what is emerging and today I recieved the invitation loud and clear: Will you do what is being asked of you? Of course, the invitation comes without specific details--just the first step of commitment; of willingness and saying "Yes."
This call to personal mastery means knowing and loving ourselves completely and honoring the dreams that were planted inside of us when we were born. Our dreams for our lives are vital to our health and well-being because they connect us to our purpose for being alive. The deep desires of our hearts offer a pathway to one of the most vital qualitites of our human expereince: hope. This gift of hope provides a necessary counterbalance to the rigors, routines and habits of our lives. Dreams give us a glimpse into what is possible for each of us. Unfortunatley we are taught from a young age to "stop daydreaming" and we are conditioned to give up our cherished dreams in favor of "reality." While we all must come to terms with what our version of reality presents to us, we need not forfeit our dreams. The dream itself provides the fuel for our destiny, which is our ultimate destination. For this reason, our dreams don't have to be exactly fulfilled to be useful for our lives. I love this idea that Caroline de Lisser presents: the dream could actually be leading us elsewhere--it may be serving as a vehicle, rather than the destination itself.
So much of the energy around the new year has to do with making our plans and hitting the ground running. There is a starting line buzz that I always feel in these first few weeks that tends to feel like people lacing up their new shoes, jogging around in circles to warm up-- anxious to be first to run at the sound of "go"; single focused on making it to the finish line in record time. But my rhythm always feels less hurried and more introspective this time of year and I believe that January should be dedicated to dreaming and establishing your own pace as you begin to bridge your heart's desire with your priorites for the new year.
Here are a few suggestions to help you renew and refresh your connection to your dreams:
Keep your dream close to you as you move forward into this new year. Remember that you don't have to fulfill your desinty or realize your dream in a single day, month or year. Set your own pace; it's not a race. Commit to your own call to mastery, do what needs to be done and trust that all is well.
All is well!
Beauty, in the variety of ways it is expressed in this world, makes me feel close to the way I am made. A couple of years ago I took a class where we were asked to take a character strengths test to determine where our natural aptitudes lie. I was surprised to learn that my top strength is a “love of beauty.” I never would have thought of that as a “strength” but as I have begun to see it as such, it has become clear that being able to identify beauty in others and the world is a gift that invites that artistry to be known and celebrated. Our truest strengths aren’t always the the things we are good at, but can be found in the things that make us feel more energized and alive.
I am brought more alive every time I see a beautiful sunset or natural landscape or when I hear a song that literally moves me to get up and dance and in the simple arrangement of a few cherished objects on my altar space. It’s not just in the obviously aesthetically pleasing that I am inspired, but also in the ordinary everyday world where I am often taken by what others may not even recognize as beautiful. The deep lines on an old woman’s face that map all that she has lived, the decaying building with broken windows and lacy spider webs growing from the corners or the young man who I saw today sitting peacefully alone on the park bench eating peanut butter out of a jar while reading Kurt Vonnegut. These little bits of beauty not only remind me that I am alive but that I also possess the capacity to create the most beautiful life that I can imagine.
In the Navajo tradition, the spiritual path is translated as “The Beauty Way.” It represents a way of living that respects and honors all of life as our “relations”. Balance, harmonious relationship and interconnection among all things is central to Native American spirituality. To live in “Beauty” is to center our awareness on that which is Sacred in all things, people and the earth. So in this way, beauty becomes a practice of walking in two worlds and bridging the gap between our humanity and divinity by remembering the Source that sustains us all. All of creation points us back to the Creator.
As this year concludes, I invite you to consciously look for the beauty that 2016 brought for you.
Consider your responses to the following questions:
Discovering, appreciating and creating beauty has become a spiritual practice for me. Here is a Navajo prayer that is often woven into sacred ceremony that you can incorporate into your last days of the year. I have been saying it each morning and it is also wonderful to use as a walking meditation:
Today I will walk out, today everything evil will leave me,
I will be as I was before, I will have a cool breeze over my body.
I will have a light body, I will be happy forever,
nothing will hinder me.
I walk with beauty before me. I walk with beauty behind me.
I walk with beauty below me. I walk with beauty above me.
I walk with beauty around me. My words will be beautiful.
In beauty all day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons, may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With dew about my feet, may I walk.
With beauty before me may I walk.
With beauty behind me may I walk.
With beauty below me may I walk.
With beauty above me may I walk.
With beauty all around me may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty,
lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty,
living again, may I walk.
My words will be beautiful.
Wishing you a peaceful and joyous holiday season.
Photo: Jamie Heiden
To journey without being changed is to be a nomad. To change without journeying is to be a chameleon. To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim. -Mark Nepo
I am utterly fascinated by people who, tired of a grid-locked life, decide to leave their routine and predictable lives in favor of adventure. I am especially interested in the modern day sojourners who are taking on an ancient pilgrimage that Christians began in the Middle Ages. The Camino de Santiago is a 500 mile trek that begins in Southern France and ends in Northern Spain. The passage marks the “Way of St. James” or the route that the remains of the great Saint were carried from Jerusalem to his burial site in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The people that walk the Camino are referred to as “pilgrims” and each town offers special lodging, food rates and specific care such as washing and bandaging their sore and blistered feet. The journey is undertaken by people from all walks of life and varying ages—there are no particular requirements for the pilgrimage--just that one cultivate the heart of the pilgrim by opening oneself to be transformed by the journey.
People from various religious and spiritual traditions have been making pilgrimages for centuries. The most well known pilgrimage sites are places where saints lived and died, miracles were performed and other numinous events took place. These sacred sites honor the meeting places of the Divine and human; the merging of the timeless with the temporal on this planet. Pilgrimages honor our personal quests for truth, awakening, transformation and healing. They temporarily call us out of and away from our familiar lives in order to experience life on different terms—terms not entirely of our own making which create the exact opportunities necessary for our personal transformation. The real pilgrimage points us in the direction of an inner journey to self-discovery and true soul fulfillment.
We are each invited to make our own particular pilgrimages throughout the course of our lives. It takes tremendous courage to accept the calls of our lives because the nature of a calling is that we are invited to step into an entirely new experience. We are asked to go where we have never gone before. The way may not be clear and well-travelled. As the Spanish poet Antonio Machado declares: "Traveler, there is no path. Paths are made by walking."
Recognizing a Calling in Our Lives
The definitive qualities of a calling can be contrasted with the familiar habits and ways of living that can be understood as our conditioning. Here is a brief look at some of the differences between the two:
Intrinsic (motivated from within) Extrinsic (motivated from outside)
Adventure Pre-planned tour
While a calling is connected to an inner longing that puts us on the path to fulfilling our purpose, the initial catalyst to making a significant change in our lives is often initiated by outer life circumstances or events such as new discoveries or experiences, transitions, or specific crises or challenges such as illness, death, or divorce. For others there is a restlessness or subtle sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo and a readiness for “something more.”
I have been able to identify five distinct characteristics of a calling:
Your Pilgrim Heart
Not all of us are able to undertake the kind of pilgrimages that would have us take leave of our everyday lives for an extended period of time, nor is it necessary. However, we can always choose to view our current lives as a sacred journey. What would it mean for you to step into this metaphor of pilgrimage within the context of your life? How would perceiving yourself as a pilgrim on a sacred adventure alter your the ways you experience the everyday adventure? Cultivating a pilgrim’s heart requires a willingness to release your fixed expectations or rigid attachments while doing your best to remain open and curious; allowing the journey itself to inform your walking. While the framework and pathways of a traditional pilgrimage have already been established, the nature of what you will experience and receive personally will differ greatly from another and cannot be predicted. Trust that you will be given exactly what you need as you go. Call on the help of guides and allies in both the visible and invisible worlds. Allow one step to lead to the next—trust the process. Expect the alchemy of the adventure to work miracles in your life. Magic happens when we are willing to follow our heart’s call more fully into this wild and wondrous world while holding the tender remembrance that we are only passing through this place.
To deepen your own understanding of calling in your life, consider journaling your responses to these questions:
When have you received a call in the past? Describe the time and what was happening in your life.
What current discoveries, circumstances or events in your own life might be catalyzing a call?
Are you able to identify the deeper longing of your heart by saying “yes” to this call?
Which of the five characteristics of a call resonate most with you? Why?
A few qualities of the “pilgrim heart” that I name are “openness, connection to invisible and visible help, curiosity, trust, and willingness.” What specific qualities do you feel are important for you to cultivate for your personal journey?
Collage: "Help is all around you."
“Hello, nice to see you….” she said with a warm smile and twinkling eyes peeking out from under a red baseball cap. “Are you ready to work?” We nod slowly; weary with the residue of a long day of travel. “Ok, good because we’re going to work. Let’s talk about hell. The stuck places of darkened dreams. . .”
This was how Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes began the training that I recently attended called “Original Voice: Getting Unstuck—Journey Through Hell to the Hidden Heart.” Over the course of five days, roughly 100 people made a deep dive into “hell” with Dante’s famous work The Divine Comedy and Dr. Estes’ 30+ years as a Jungian Analyst as our formidable guides. Although Dante wrote in the 14th century, his work is applicable today as an archetypal story describing, in detail, the perilous journey and accompanying pitfalls that we are called into to recover the true Self. The classic story begins with Dante finding himself lost in mid-life. Who of us, that have been fortunate enough to make it this far in life, can’t identify with this feeling of being lost in some ways—if not entirely? The dreams that we once had for our lives have been replaced with another form of "reality" and we question who we are and what our life is really about anyway. This is a crucial threshold in our lives and if we choose to enter it consciously, we are offered an opportunity to become, as Dr. Estes says, Ser hermano—to become true human beings.
Together we journeyed through Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell, taking pause inside each layer in order to carefully examine our own lives in relation to the particular form of hell described. We asked the hard questions of ourselves and spoke the answers to each other: How did I come to get stuck in this place? Why do I remain here? What will I do in order to move out of this place? This radical kind of truth telling begins to free the creative spirit within us so that we are able, again, to use our precious life force on behalf of the unique callings that each of our Souls came into this world promising to fulfill. The symptoms of being trapped in hell are many—fear, anger, violence toward ourselves or others, jealousy, shame, addiction, etc., while the result of making our way out of hell is single-purposed: to be free to create what is uniquely ours to create.
For your own consideration this month, I will share with you the three most important aspects of Dante’s Divine Comedy that you can apply to your own life. These relate to the three main characters of the story: Dante, Virgil and Beatriz. I suggest reflecting in your journal on these questions:
While I am certain that I will have much more to share about this profound experience as I assimilate all that was transmitted directly into my own Soul, I'd like to offer a poem that I wrote upon returning home that represents, in one way, my personal journey.
Its roots may grow old in the ground
and its stump die in the soil,
Yet at the scent of water it will bud,
And put forth shoots like a plant.
The Scent of Water
What begins as a barely detectable thirst,
becomes the drought that sends us on our way.
The search for water,
a taste of the life
that lives just for us,
presses in on every side.
thirst turns our pain
into a prayer.
We pass through the valley
of hopes shattered
and dreams abandoned
like dusty old towns
Pausing in the desolation
to honor the aborted ones,
the evicted innocence;
the dry bones of what never came to be.
Tears softening the cracked earth,
a stuttered cry for that
which no longer lives.
traversing the desert of
Liminal wonderland of
just a thought
passing on the wind.
to the surface of things.
Just when I thought
it was over--
not another drop
to be given,
She appears to me.
A mirage of beauty,
the definition of Grace,
I meet her in the middle
of my unknowing.
She says nothing
but takes my hand
to lead me forward.
I give myself completely,
relieved to have such a
magnificent companion guide.
At last we reach the end
of the desert and she ushers me
to the edge of a mighty shore.
Silent, she makes her way into the sea~
for a moment she looks over her shoulder
and smiles at me.
As I begin to reach for her
I bow down to the water
at my feet,
Her wordless command
gave me all that I needed to know.
My tears, my sweat,
my hopes and dreams
washing over me
in a single billowing tide.
For the first time,
I behold my true reflection.
I am born again
from the secret,
How do we move through the stuck places of darkened dreams? The answer is two-fold to begin. First, ask for help from the benevolent forces of the seen and unseen worlds--supplicate, ask, pray, knock, seek. Second, take some kind of deliberate, intentional action. Move in any way that you are able--walk, run, crawl, jump, step. If you would like help in navigating the stuck places in your life and are seeking guidance in freeing your creative spirit, I would like to invite you to consider my unique 8 week coaching program called "The Courage to Create: Awakening to an Authentic Vision for Your Life." It is designed to walk you, step by step, through a transformational process that will lead you to discover what you have been called to create in your own life and offer the tools to support you on your journey. Please go to my "Services" page for more details.
Self -care is just this: lovingly meeting ourselves exactly where we are and allowing things to be as they are. When we can hold ourselves in this way, our inner world starts to become softer, gentler. We start to trust our own basic goodness, and we even come to learn that irritation, aversion, doubt, and resistance aren't to be evicted through our self-care; they are to be allowed and included by it. ~Sara Avant Stover
This morning, as I type, the smell of banana bread is filling the kitchen. It's Monday morning--the kids are back to school and the house is quiet. Rather than tackling my to-do list or diving into emails, I baked. Instead of pushing myself through some foot pain to do my usual 3-4 mile run, I rolled out my yoga mat and spent a half an hour attuning to my body and breath through flowing movement. Then I stood for a few minutes barefoot on the grass and felt myself ground into the earth and I offered a simple prayer for today: "May I be forgiven for all of the ways that I have knowingly or unknowingly hurt myself or another. May I remember Your Love and Grace in all that I do today. May I show up wholeheartedly and do my best. Thank you." I let the spirit of gratitude fill me. I felt ready for the day. My daily practices, even though they may shift according to my current needs, are a "non-negotiable" in my life because they anchor me into feeling grounded in my body and connected to something bigger than myself.
The photo that I chose for this month's post came from my summer sabbatical on Lake Ontario. It reminds me of the importance of tending well to my own inner fire so that I can give to my family, work and relationships from my very best self. My annual vacation prompted me to recommit to my own radical self-care. Even the things that we love and rely on the most for our well-being--our loved ones, exercise habits, creative projects, and spiritual practices--can become depleting rather than nourishing if what we are really needing is simply rest! The women whom I admire the most are creative, productive and respectful of their needs for healthy downtime. I am re-examinng my relationship to rest on a daily basis and finding ways to incorporate it into my busy life rather than counting the days until next summer.
As women, often in a caregiving or supportive role for others, we give from our desire to help, nurture, champion, and affirm those people and projects that we love. We do this naturally, as we are neurobiologically wired with this maternal instinct. Research has shown how our brain patterns change in response to our babies distress signals. Thanks to this instinct we know how to respond to our babies and maybe even our businesses, but we have forgotten how to use it for our own flourishing. The good news is that it is within us, we just need to access the feminine wisdom we carry.
It is through truly knowing and being in touch with all aspects of ourselves that we can experience real nourishment. In my life coaching practice I have seen women from various backgrounds struggle with the very same issues regarding self-care. Our families and culture have taught us to ignore our needs for rest and renewal by rewarding high level productivity at any cost. These same messages are responsible for making us feel guilty for taking time for ourselves. It is our responsibility now, as women in touch with our femininity, to challenge these expectations and fiercely protect our precious life energy so that we can live from our sensitively attuned inner knowing. It's not enough to just take a day or week or even a month off if what we need is deeper than our physicality. We need to nourish on all levels. Holistic nourishment looks something like this:
We certainly need more role models of women who are doing self-care well. If you would like support in making self-care a priority in your life or would just like a designated time each week to be, please join me for a brand new Women's Wisdom Circle beginning October 4th at One Yoga and Fitness. This four week series will provide authentic connection to other women in community by holding "circle space" for each other. Each week you will be guided through specific practices that will become essential tools that you can easily integrate into your everyday life . For more details on this event or to register go to: Nourish.
What My Clients Are Saying:
"I know that “life changing” is a bit over used but it best describes how I feel about what Jenny Clarke offers with "The Courage to Create" course. She uses the metaphor of the labyrinth. A twisted turning path with hidden chambers that takes you to the center and then back out again with new insights. I took the private version of this program. The weekly lessons took me to the core of who I am. Along the way looking into some long closed chambers where we cleared out a few ghosts and discovered some buried gems. At the end of the course I emerged forever changed with a new understanding and appreciation of who I am. You can not get lost in a labyrinth as long as you keep moving forward. The journey begins when you take the first step. I highly recommend that you take the first step and sign up for the Courage to Create!" ~L.H.
Connect with Me