I wrote this post almost exactly 12 months ago. It appeared on a good friend’s blog at the time and I realise now I never shared it here.
Although things have moved on massively for me in the last year it’s never a bad thing to remind yourself how far you’ve come…
“Change is a powerful thing”Lana Del ray
Change – we think – happens in big Blockbusting Hollywood Movie style moments. We quit the job – Jerry Maguire style; we drop the mic on all the unsaid in a relationship, we walk out of the door, we kick the habit, we do a 180. And although this does happen, these moments are in the minority. They account for maybe 1% of our lived experience. What about the other 99%? The days that drag, the days where we just exist, get through? In each of these days we make a million and one choices. Choices that in fact end up shaping the direction of our lives little by little.
Change, as it turns out doesn’t have to something massive and scary. Something extreme or perfect. So often we visualise an ideal outcome and then scare ourselves silly when we have no concept of how we will achieve it. The result? We do nothing. Paralysis takes hold. Old patterns persist. We stay in the job, the relationship, we keep the weight on, we distract ourselves and numb our discomfort rather than taking steps in the direction that we really want to be going.
Take me for example, I have done the unthinkable this year. And it has felt like it’s happened pretty rapidly in the end. Just a few weeks ago I began a yoga teacher training course. Something I had always daydreamed about but never really thought I could do.
Five years ago I I left my professional career to save my mental health and raise our young family. In doing so I also left behind my professional identity. This left me pretty lost most days. Although I loved being at home to raise the children there was a nagging question hanging over me all the time. Who was I? What did I want? Did I have anything to contribute anymore? There were some days when I didn’t even feel real or visible. Throw in a another new baby, a double family bereavement and I was scuppered. But that’s when things got seriously interesting in terms of personal growth. Uncomfortable yes , painful even, but interesting as that’s when I finally gave myself the permission to re-craft who I thought I was. As the brilliant Elizabeth Gilbert puts it:
“When you come to the end of yourself is where all the interesting stuff starts.”Elizabeth gilbert
I started by quieting the noise of the world. This was a coping mechanism primarily, in the early days, but in hindsight this was the valuable tool which helped me to get to know myself. I threw myself into yoga, meditation, journaling, cut myself off from my usual friends, patterns, obligations and instead turned inwards. Through this process I began un-unearth the things that soothed me, comforted me and made me ME. Me as separate from work, from belongings and status. Separate from my husband, my children, my family or friends.
The me I was at my essence.
The noise of the modern world is so all consuming and our lives are so frantic that unless we carve out time (or have it thrust upon us by a major life event) we rarely take stock of where we are and where we want to go. This is different from just moaning about where we are. It’s looking at everything in your life objectively. In the ’12 Step Programme’ they call it ‘Taking Inventory’. I’m not suggesting you need to take a ‘jack in all in’ to figure it out but taking some time to open up some thinking space can really help.
I would get up a few minutes before the rest of the family and pick and choose from some of the things on the list below. I began to notice that when I started / ended or punctuated my day with these things I was able to keep a focus on how I want to operate within the world. My choices were more conscious and mindful. More in line with who I was and who I wanted to be.
- journaling / doodling / vision boarding
- Swapping social media ogling for reading something uplifting / inspiring
- Listening to a podcast on a subject you are curious about while driving or washing up
- Going outside
- Looking or listening to something beautiful
- Pausing for a moment instead of keeping on keeping on
- Doing something creative just for fun
Until recently, I didn’t know where any of this was leading me or why I was drawn to much of it. I just knew that in small parts this journey was healing me from my grief and trauma and giving my brain time to relax, play and focus on something outside of the daily routines of motherhood.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
Following your curiosity is a much gentler and permissive idea than than attacking something with passion. Which we often mistakenly think we need to have in order to change direction.
Passion can burn us out and burn itself out quickly in the process. It has a pressured, demanding, obsessive energy to it where success is determined by a particular outcome. Curiosity meanders, wanders, takes its time and has no expectation of where it is going, or why. There is no outcome associated with curiosity. Merely pleasure and fascination.
Doing things that we enjoy, with no end in mind or any particular outcome makes us feel energised, empowered. When we feel energised we make different choices. When we know where it is we want to go these choices quickly begin to stack up and begin shaping our life in a different way. We become more open to opportunities and feel more confident in our ability to tackle them. Any action towards your desired direction is a positive step. You don’t have to have it all figured out. As you take one baby step the next step will become clear. Keep trusting that the next step will become obvious when you get there and eventually you will realise you have either gotten to or surpassed the place you had been day dreaming of.
I began my yoga training course, with an abstract longing to be a yoga teacher, but telling myself and everyone else that I didn’t really know whether I would or could do it in reality. I pulled out all the excuses. “I’m too old, I’m not fit enough, I haven’t got the time or the money, what about childcare?” the list of reasons why I couldn’t was endless. The bottom line? I was scared. Fear was running the show. I didn’t want to fail, to be the ‘worst’ (whatever that was) in my class or make a fool of myself. What if I went through all of this and I was no good and nobody came to my classes?
On day 1, our teacher encouraged us to be there for ourselves. Not for anyone or anything else. To absorb the knowledge and the experience and allow wherever it would take us to unfold naturally. I listened and threw myself in.
Even by the end of the first week I had began to not only visualise myself as a yoga teacher but also feel myself becoming a teacher. Through some hard work, emotional graft and practice at teaching this new identify began to take form. Taking my curiosity for yoga and working with it has helped me to realise that the steps to actually becoming a teacher were really quite logical and straightforward and definitely something that I could do.
Once I had put myself in the energy of possiblity (i.e. became a ‘yes’ instead of a ‘no’ for things) and stopped fear from running the show then oportunities began to flow to me. A name for my business, a logo a website and opportunities for teaching manifested themselves easily and quickly. I was now putting myself out in the world in a completely different way. I felt differently about myself, my abilities and my future. I feel proud of what I have acheived so far and excited for the changes that are to come as I finally begin to step into the the life I have imagined for so long.