It’s been 2019 for a couple weeks now. While I haven’t completely overlooked this changing of the year, I have certainly allowed “Baja beach brain” to slow down my roll.
But, alas, another year, another globally recognized (if not obligatory), new beginning.
Do you consider the beginning of a new year a blank canvas to create something new in your life?
As a therapist and mindset coach, I had always believed that we, as individuals possess the creative power and personal control to design the fate of our lives.
I believed this, almost exclusively, until this past year, when a lot of life happened far beyond my control and almost exactly how I didn’t want it to be. No matter how much Pema Chödrön, Ram Dass and Byron Katie I read, I felt lost and un-accepting of this fate, of my own reality. My orientation to life and managing expectations, hopes and dreams failed me. I was stuck in magical thinking and an egoic-based mindset of if I want it badly enough, then shouldn’t I achieve it and receive it?
I was earnest and authentic and hard working. I was diligent and committed, or so I thought. In retrospect, I was rigid, stuck, steadfast and unyielding in a way that the only success was what I had narrowly defined as such. I didn’t have a chance at feeling fulfilled unless it was the precise vision I had created.
How can I reconcile this entire orientation to empowerment work?
As a support to my clients, I want to encourage them to be in action for creating the life they want—but balancing this with acceptance—not resignation.
A dear friend sent me a magnet during the most challenging of my 2018 days. It said, “everything will be ok in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end.”
At this point in my dark days, I was tired of cheerful memes, optimistic insights and supportive suggestions, but this one resonated. I read it over and over, morning and night.
I had to believe in something beyond my fractured self and fixated mind. This was as impactful a mantra as I’d find right about then.
I received a lot of support from friends and family over the year. I could sit and reflect on those that were so obviously not present for the fall, but for the first time in my life, instead I poured gratitude into every moment I had with friends and family willing to lament and lift, tolerating my circuitous thoughts and puncturing the bubble with wisdom and get-off-your-ass motivating advice.
I wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t lying in bed, either. This was the most remarkably active and successful year of my life when it came to running. I ran my first 50k, completed a ten year project of running the six World Major Marathons by running London in April and Berlin in September. I qualified for the Boston Marathon for the 4th time and ran a total of four marathons and the 50k in less than seven months. I came in first in my age range at the Boulder Marathon and second in my age at the Broomfield Trails Marathon. I had no idea I could sustain such a healthy body and running mindset when I was stuck in other ways in my life.
I wondered, how could my heart and mind feel so stagnant, while I was moving my body so powerfully and effectively?
I wanted to move the circumstances in my life that were holding me back and holding my mind hostage as well as I moved my body. No practice, no meditating, no surrender to life as is, provided any comfort.
After teaching a yoga class, Scott, my friend and the studio owner at Radiance, who had been in the class and had known I was personally struggling noticed my eyes welling up with tears. I asked him why all the tools and practices I had weren’t making a dent on the loneliness and lost-ed-ness I was feeling. He said no amount of tools can stop a tsunami and a squirt gun can’t put out a house fire. Sometimes we just have to feel the heat of the house burning and feel the flood of painful waters.
Tears stopped. I felt seen, heard and understood, without needing to be fixed, changed, up-leveled or lifted.
I like to think in metaphors, so these images resonated with me. They became another pair of mantras to see me through the restless nights and shaky mornings.
As the year came to a close, I didn’t lament on what a shitty year it was. Years coming and going have no significance on packaging my life experiences as good or bad. I see the progression from light to dark and dark to light as natural as the moon’s cycle, always occurring. While we see only portions of the moon at different times of the month, she’s always whole. Just like us, we’re always whole, through dark and light times. This mighty metaphor is another that comforts me.
Now, one of the final conversations of the year with yet, another life-line of a friend. Topic: to surrender or not to surrender?
Yoga training is replete with the surrender-and-all-will be-well kind of tutelage. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some reality-grounded Buddhist contemplative wisdom about accepting what is and letting go, but I also believe something else. Help is not on the way and some things we do have to do on our own. If we really want to create actionable change, we have to be willing to do something.
I ascribe to Planned Happenstance. This career-counseling theory, developed by Mitchell, Levin and Krumboltz in 1999 purports that “chance favors the prepared mind.” Having a plan in this orientation does not mean a linear path to one ideal. Instead, according to Landon and Hammock at nacada.ksu.edu, “planned happenstance lists five traits [people] must develop to take advantage of opportunity: curiosity, persistence, flexibility, optimism, and risk-taking.”
We create our ideals, but remain open to chance opportunities as they come up, living as authentically and in line with our desires along the way.
I was miserable surrendering to the circumstances that were happening in my life. I also knew I couldn’t control my way out of them, but I wasn’t going to give up. I struggled for months and finally had a break through. I stopped crying and complaining and came out asserting and affirming my ideals—not demanding them, but clearly defining them to craft a more empowering outcome. I prepared by creating a solid idea of what I wanted, but then mindfully accepted that if it didn’t turn out how I wanted at that moment, I was creating an overall “plan” for future opportunities to arise.
My assertive request was tricky because it involved other people and people are not always reliable and negotiable. But, I chose to be in action, not surrender at this time in my life.
What happened was incredible. A complete shift occurred, almost overnight in my mind, body and spirit. A dark cloud lifted as I embodied a new way of being. I decided that with curiosity, persistence, flexibility, optimism, and risk-taking, I was going to take back my life.
I am going to add another big one here: Patience, with a capital P!
I know our plans don’t always pan out in our ideal timeline, but if we continue nurturing our authentic path, the opportunities we create along the way will continue to provide choices that allow us to balance surrender with action.
What vision for your life are you creating on the precipice of this New Year?
Are you ready to mindfully explore the balance between surrender and action?
What are you surrendering in your life right now and what are you taking action toward?
While the New Year is a motivating time to ponder what you want to change in your life, I am a big fan of creating vision all year long.
Book Creative Vision and Insight Sessions with me online or in person in Boulder or Naples. I offer immersion adventure wellness weekends in Boulder throughout the year.
Women! Mujeres! Hermanas! Besties! Babes!