Throwing Caution, Paths and Purpose to the Wind

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I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination – Jimmy Dean

Today, as I write this, the wind is blowing ferociously, the remnants of a tropical cyclone. The wind also acts as a great metaphor for this post because, today, I have let go of the need for a path or purpose, of a mind constantly searching, and instead have thrown myself at the mercy of the wind, allowing it to guide me. It’s a leap of faith.

In today’s world, not seeking direction sounds like madness. How can one be happy about not finding their purpose? Isn’t it the holy grail, the thing that will make us happy?” Well, yes and no.

Yes, we all like to know why we’re here, how we are to use the gifts we are given, and not waste time going down multiple “wrong” roads.

No, because seeking “the” path and purpose is not only exhausting, it can actually throw us off track, off our path. Confused? So was I, which is why it has taken me over a decade and a battle with poor health to get a handle on this.

Here’s what I’ve learnt. Years ago, a wise teacher told me that as a perfectionist, I wanted to know “every damned step” before I made a move. At the time I thought, well yeah, of course I do, otherwise how can I know which way to go, right? She also said, “The steps only appear, once you make the first move.” At the time, this made no sense. How can I step forward if I can’t see where I’m supposed to step?

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Well the secret is in stepping where there is no step. Sounds crazy but stay with me. I’ve learnt that we often don’t get a billboard with arrows saying “Go this way”. Instead, we have to make the first move in whatever direction “feels” right and then the next step appears.

This is where intuition comes in. It’s that gentle sensation, like butterfly wings that flutter around your heart, hinting that you’re onto something. It doesn’t give exact instructions, just a feeling, a hint to use our soul as a weather vane, see which way it’s pointing, then head in that direction, no instructions, just follow the breeze. When we take the first step, if it’s in alignment with our soul’s desire, and not just our head, then the universe will reveal the next step. It’s our reward for being brave, trusting and using “feeling” as a compass, not just logic.

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Intuitive Processes and Creativity

Here’s how this intuitive process worked for me. Regular readers know that 10 years of poor health forced me to examine how my thoughts were impacting my life and health. Perfectionism is bad for your health and your career. I could no longer work in my field of marketing communications, or do much else. On the advise of a stranger, I took up a creative pursuit. Mine was sewing. The stranger also suggested not doing it as a career or creating a business, but simply as an exploratory process. I had no idea what she meant. Perfectionists only do things that have useful outcomes, but being unwell, I had no choice but to do art for art’s sake.

Stepping into the creative unknown, I had no idea how or why it would help, just that I should trust my gut and follow this lead. Creativity restored my connection to my intuition, calmed my mind and allowed new insights to emerge. My health improved enough for me to consider my other passion, protecting our beautiful planet. But in what capacity? The next invisible step was about to emerge.

Recently I saw a story on the environmental impact of plastic bags, and decided to stop moaning, take action and find an organisation I could help lobby for a ban plastic bags. My search led me to the website of not-for-profit group, Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland. They help protect wildlife, their habitats and campaigned against plastic bags. Something about their website attracted me, like a hidden force. It was a heart flutter moment that prompted me to call and see if they needed a volunteer. I spoke to the lovely manager who gratefully accepted my help. I felt an instant connection.

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Image: Wildlife Preservation Society Queensland

Remember, if we take the first intuitive step, the universe will reveal the next. It did for me. The manager said they welcomed all help, but desperately needed someone with marketing communications skills. Bingo! When I surrendered the need to know the path, magic happened. I was happy to help make coffee but instead, the universe gifted me the chance to use my work experience and do something purposeful. As an added bonus, and to confirm I was in the right place, I discovered that the manager and I both share a love of sewing.

While I still have poor health days, challenges managing teenagers and juggling the needs of a family, relinquishing the search for a purpose has led to internal peace. When I gave up the need to know, a purpose found me. And it’s not to say that this is “the purpose”, it’s what is right for me right now. It’s all about letting go, and letting be(come).

Intuition is your greatest gift. If you can’t feel guidance, make time to be still for at least 5-10 minutes every day, whatever time you can spare. Don’t discount the advice of family and friends and your own mind, but always check in with your internal compass and see which way it’s pointing, because your heart and soul will always be your best guides towards your next step.

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Have you felt any flutters that might be trying to guide you?

Don’t ignore that tap on the shoulder

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Image: canyon-news.com

There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen. – Rumi

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had something tugging at my sleeve for many years now. It feels like a pestering tug that won’t let up, that keeps stubbornly trying to get my attention and just won’t go away. I knew that I had to acknowledge that ‘unseen’ part of me, that deep presence, the place of knowing that can only be felt and not reasoned. I didn’t want to acknowledge it because I knew that it was coaxing me into action. It would push me into that super uncomfortable zone, the place where all shields are down and you go out, fully exposed. But the time had come. I had to listen.

That “thing” that was desperately trying to get my attention was my soul’s yearning, it was calling, begging me to follow a hunch, with no details, instructions or landing sight. And I’m not talking about “purpose” here, I’m talking about something that needs to be  undertaken, for it’s own purpose. I was being called to open myself up to a mystery, to tune in to a desire, a yearning buried so deep, that I was no longer completely sure what IT was. What did it look like, feel like, taste like? Is it something that excited me? We are so good at cutting ourselves off from our deepest passions that a mere spider’s thread connects us to our golden orb, our soul. That orb is like the light that shines from our heart when we are totally immersed in our pleasure, in the “thing” that makes us unique, in the thing that takes us out of time and space, and drops us into the timeless dimension.

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But why, oh why, do we allow the very thing that excites us, that sustains our souls to perish, little by little, like a neglected toy, gathering dust and mould in a darkened corner? We neglect our “joy generators” at our peril because in today’s detached world, we need something to anchor us, to help us connect to our authentic selves and to the infinite and creative source of all existence.

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Image: Highheelrunner.wordpress.com

Tofu-man takes control

I was one such person. Many years ago my love of music saw me performing in very small venues with a band of wannabes and even after a long day at the office, performing had me on such a high that I thought I would burst. Every cell in my body began to shimmer with joy and satisfaction, with no agenda other than being in love with the act of creation, but then, my mind took control. It told me that I could never make it to the top because of a lack of talent, looks, connections, the X factor, you name it, the excuses came thick and fast. And so, because of a bunch of dialogue made up by a lump of tofu like mass inside my skull, I gave it away. Years later, my creative soul tried tapping me on the shoulder again, but this time enticing me with art, then ceramics, but each time, tofu-man stood like judge and jury and began to pronounce my ideas as being guilty of a crime against my ego, that following such silly creative pursuits was wasteful of time and money, contributed nothing to the world economy, would not keep the insatiable machine of industry fed and was about as useful as concrete wings on a bird. So again, I gave up. Not realising that I had just replaced my own wings with concrete ones.

Fast forward many years and I learnt to ignore my creativity, and instead adopted a “normal life”, pursuing the nice house, car, balancing career, family, friends, pets etc., leaving me no time for anything else. Phew! It meant tofu-man would be happy, at least for a while, but then slowly but surely, my body began to crumble. You see egos don’t have the brains to understand that suppressing one’s ‘soul-vocation’ in favour of following social dictators would eventually hurt my body, my soul, and ultimately, all of me.

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Hundreds of hours of self-analysis made me realise that Tofu-man was not me, he is just a bunch of programs that were passed on from other tofu brains whose initial intention was to keep us safe, but sadly, this kind of thinking is based on fear.  Over time, this fear was used to keep us all under control, to make us conform so that we remain on the economic treadmill, earn money, spend money and keep a few individuals in the monetarily rich life they had become accustomed to. To control the masses, there is absolutely no room for individuation, for soul expression or living a passionate life. We are told that creativity doesn’t pay the bills. No, it doesn’t always produce monetary results, but it does nourish our hearts and souls and helps pave the way to better health and a more satisfied life. Creativity calls for chaos, for challenging the social norms, for expressing beauty for the sake of it, for shaking people out of their stupor and saying, “Hey you? Look at this amazing photo of the soon to be extinct white tiger.” It triggers us into creating music that soothes our frazzled nerves one minute and then propels us into social action the next. Creativity provides solutions to problems, it is meditative and healing. I’m guessing if creativity was at the top of our priority lists, that we’d reduce our hospital admissions by 80%.

For me, a sick body forced me to see for the first time that tofu-man had been running my life. He’s not just my judge and jury, but also my jailer. He’d kept me from the things I truly loved but was afraid to follow. So, despite being around the “middle” age of my life, I say to my tofu-man, no more. I’m taking back control. Last week I took my first guitar lesson in years and wow did it feel good!  The next day I purchased some watercolour paints and coloured pencils. Just looking at the beautiful colours sets my heart a racing.

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And to my tofu-man I say thanks for trying to protect me, but your kind of protection is like spraying weed killer on a plant that’s about to blossom. We often do this to our children too. Just as they’re about to open their buds and burst into the world in a blaze of colour, we pass on tofu-man’s fears and shut them down. Well, it’s never too late to make scrambled tofu with your ego, instead of letting it run your life. If you can relate to this but don’t know how to move forward, then here’s a suggestion.

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Find your silly happy

Find a quiet place and put on some music that calms and soothes you. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and time travel to happy childhood moments when you were doing something that made you silly happy. If like me, you buried your silly happy moments deep in your memory banks, don’t worry, be patient and just sit with it. You may have to try this a few times.

If that doesn’t work, then you get to play, to experiment and try a whole host of creative things to see if you can reconnect with that deep joyful love that you once had for a particular activity. Take photos, join a choir, learn an instrument, take up sewing, restore furniture, gardening and so on.  Counselling, Hypnotherapy or Art therapy might help too. Whatever you do, don’t give up, keep looking. Your health, wellbeing and full expression of your life depend on it.

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Testing Space and Stillness

Life is so much kinder and wiser than your mind imagines. Trust and be still. – Mooji

Some days, I wish my bed would swallow me whole, incubate me for a while, then spit me out, rearranged, refashioned and with the “Forward” button firmly pressed.

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Instead, I’m having to do it the hard way. Get up, get dressed and face the ever mounting brick walls that seem to expel themselves out of the ground, like rogue missiles. They appear each time I do something that I think will move me forward. It seems my idea of forward needs redressing.

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Today is just another in a long string of days pushing me into muddy swamps and endless questions. As someone who’s suffered with long term chronic illness of an undiagnosed kind, I did what many people who seek answers do, and that is read self-help books, do courses, workshops, seminars, study counselling – you name it, I’ve done it.

So I get that my thoughts affect my life, that my anxiety has an undercurrent of distorted childhood thinking and these two need to be remoulded into something new and useful. For many years I thought that if I found my “thing”, then the ensuing passion would thrust me forward like a massive tsunami, dumping me on the shore of everlasting happiness, wealth and just general abundance. That’s ‘The Secret’ right? No actually, it’s not.  You see despite uncovering that I make a good counsellor, and awakening my deeply dormant creative interests, these discoveries are not facilitating the miraculous healing I was after.

Instead, the past weeks have brought a hormonally challenged body, a strained back muscle, aches in new places and a bewildered mind that couldn’t understand why my health had suddenly shifted into reverse, again. I felt like I was in a vehicle with a crazy and evil driver at the wheel. I was sure that doing my artistic pursuits would provide the answer, but instead both my overlocker/serger and sewing machine quit working, with little or no explanation. It seems, my machines are mimicking my physical body. So if I strip away the desire for perfect health, my work as a counsellor and artistic pursuits, what am I left with? Nothing, and therein lies the answer.

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At various times in our life, we are called to strip back, spring clean, sanitise and deodorise our old houses to make way for the new. Years ago, I would have thrown a tantrum the minute my life went AWOL, submerged into a sloppy pool of self-pity, crying, “foul” at the umpire. The gift of being a long-term wellness seeker means that I’ve learnt to look at these obstacles with different eyes. No longer do I seek to blame the universe, or simply think I’ve been cursed for some kind of karmic indiscretion. Instead, I see that failing machines, failing bodies and failed attempts at keeping busy are all attempting to keep me still. Enlightenment can only be gained by being anchored and going within. As long as I’m writing, sewing, gardening or counselling others, I’m not allowing me to be my ‘self’, I’m not creating the space to be still and enter the void, that place that I’ve tried to a-void! But the signs are there. Stop or be stopped. Time to rest and not achieve. Time to be still to be refilled because only then can creativity flow from the great cosmic cauldron of inspiration and creation.

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So if you find yourself suddenly up against an endless row of barriers too high to leap over, step off life’s travelator for a while and just be.  Just as Star Wars heroes Hans Solo and Chewbacca set their intention to enter another dimension, they hit the “warp speed” button and then sat back and watched the light show, knowing that as their craft enters that space between worlds, that they are no longer in control but instead at the mercy of “the force”. They have in mind their destination, but only greater cosmic forces will determine if they reach their destination and their prize.

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Image: dailytech.com

In reading the galactic map around us, stargazing and meditating under a full moon, we will come to know those moments in life that need warp speed and those that need us to be suspended in the void.  Allowing ourselves the gift of stillness means we can expel the old and then refill with the new, giving us all we need to be thrust into the new and unknown frontiers of our evolving life.

Have you found a way to tune in to your soul’s navigational system?

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Passion, Focus and Courage

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“Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you’re passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks.” – Yo-Yo Ma

Some time ago, I was grappling with focus, as in trying to focus on one thing I loved, instead of many. You see I have many “loves” or passions, that all pull me in their own respective directions. Unlike my neighbour who says she has no interests outside family and work, I have an encyclopaedia of delicious creative underlings all vying for my attention, from counselling and mentoring to writing, sewing, photography, gardening, the list goes on and on.

So how to focus and do “that one thing”?  I recalled some advice from a clever coach who asked his students to try and identify what I call the “time munchers”.  He used sensible words like, “identify those activities , those pursuits, where time seems to stand still and yet so much time has passed without you realising it”. I have to admit that all my interests are time munchers but there is one that seems to call more loudly than the rest and it is writing.

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When I’m doing the dishes and staring blankly at the foaming water, dialogue forms in my head, as though a secret little stash of ideas just sits, waiting to hitch a ride on a soapy bubble and float it up into my “head-o-sphere”. Or when I’m making soup, in a queue at the supermarket, or sweeping a floor. Ideas emerge from the ether with little effort or even a request on my part. And so, many hours are happily munched away as my fingers transmit the offerings into shapely things on a screen. And then they wait, and wait, and wait in cyber-land until I channel a brave archetype, and realise that it’s ok to share these musings. You see I, like many writers I suffer with the “good enough syndrome” – that debilitating state of mind that judges and critiques and compares and never seems to be satisfied.

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So, to cure this syndrome, I had to remind myself that anyone can call themselves a writer, there aren’t any prerequisites, no forms to fill in, no DNA checks required – you call yourself a writer because you love to write. I’m also a photographer and a crocheter because these are the things I do. I may not have a PhD in any of my interests but I make no claims to be an expert, simply a lover of creative pursuits. Creativity is like manna from heaven, a golden faucet allowing inspiration to flow and inspire, a poultice for a wounded heart or a frazzled mind.

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Twice today I’ve munched away my time doing something I love, and I sincerely hope you will too. Take courage and take the first step towards doing something that helps you jump on that space-time continuum, where you disappear into the “time munching” field of creation. Taking the bold step to follow creative urges, particularly when we are newbies, does take courage but each time you make a new beginning, you will strengthen your courage to step into the unknown, after all, despite all our cleverness, no one knows what tomorrow holds.

So to help you make a start in following your passion, I shall leave you with these beautiful words, from a truly expert wordsmith, the late and great mystic John O’Donahue, from his book “Benedictus”. John truly understood the divine act of creation and that we have to simply trust our own hearts and intuition, make a start and follow that which is already here.

“Indeed, our very life here depends directly on continuous acts of beginning; but these beginnings are out of our hands; they decided themselves. Beginning precedes us, creates us and constantly takes us to new levels and places and people. There is nothing to fear in the act of beginning. More often than not, it knows the journey ahead better than we ever could.”

So what is your passion?  Why not take one small step towards it today.

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No map required

Ever have times in your life, when day, after hilly day, you feel like life is just one constant uphill climb, but not the climbing up the ladder kind of climb, with all its pots of gold and rainbows as dangling temptations, nope. This is the “Oh my goodness, when will life just plateau a little so I can catch my breath kind of climb, and where did that boulder come from?”

Image Courtesy: kindasassy.com
Image Courtesy: kindasassy.com

You see, as a perfectionist, I like to be in control.  I like to know where I’m going, what’s the journey going to be like, what’s the weather forecast, what’s around the corner, what does the corner even look like and what’s at the end of the journey.  I want details, details, details.  I want directions. Lots of them.

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So what does directions have to do with pushing boulders up hills?  Well, with perfectionism, comes the desire to tell the universe just how you’d like it.  I’m talking specifics here, in full technicolour glory, about doing it your way, because your conscious mind knows better, and yet, continually pursuing that dead-end job, or that crumbling relationship means you are pushing it up hill.  Despite the advice of some well meaning gurus, you know that thing about manifesting what you want, well sometimes what you think you want, isn’t what your soul really needs, and so all this wishful thinking means, your “thing” just ain’t gonna happen.  We think we know what we want, what course our life should take, the right job, the right house, and the right possessions that will really make us happy, but too often, those are things we “think” we want.

Right now you’re scratching your head saying, “Yeah, that’s right it’s what I think, so it’s what I want.  What else is there?”  Well you see there’s this “thing” we carry with us into adulthood and it’s a bunch of circuitry that has it’s own unique program. That circuitry is our brain and the program comes from the environment we grow up in.  We are deeply influenced by the thoughts and beliefs of our caregivers as we are growing up.  So when we consciously think we want the White car, is it really “our” choice or that subconscious parental voice saying, “White is the safer colour. Choose no other”, when what we really want is the Orange one because it better matches our own soul’s desire.

Image Courtesy: pressrewindblog.com
Image Courtesy: pressrewindblog.com

Excessive Perfectionism, like all other limiting or self-defeating beliefs requires us to stop and examine which are programmed thoughts and which are those coming from our heart and soul.  So back to uphill climbs.  If we can move from “thinking” what we think we want, and instead connecting in with our heart’s desire, and then step back, we allow the universe to meet us half way and give us what our soul needs, thus removing many a boulder and hilly climbs.

Like all reforming perfectionists, I’ve had to let  go of the need for details and directions, and understand that the universe dishes out information on an “needs to know” basis.  The more I let go of what I think I should be doing in any aspect of my life, the more I get clarity on where I really need to go.  Mysterious synchronicity weaves it’s web, one strand at a time, so that like a graceful spider, I can inch my way along the path, as each delicate thread magically appears. And while the journey may not always move forward and more often sideways, it is the detours that can often yield the most unexpected surprises!

Image Courtesy: sodahead.com
Image Courtesy: sodahead.com

I’m certain about uncertainty

Image courtesy: apkdownloadget.blogspot.com
Image courtesy: apkdownloadget.blogspot.com

Uncertainty, how you seem to want to follow me

I seek to rest on a safe and stable shores,

And yet, an ocean of unknown destinies dislodges me even more.

The more I resist, the more you persist.

Why can’t you let me be, with my diary of certainties that help me avoid calamities.

But you won’t be beaten, you stalk me, an ever present shadow.

I feel secure in my safe haven of monotony and predictability,

But you laugh as you continually pull the rug out from under me.

So today I stop, I no longer insist.

Your mysterious ways can have me,

For resistance is useless and fighting, wasteful.

I fling myself into the open, uncertain if you will catch me.

But throw myself I will, trusting in uncertainty’s whim.

Silvana Nagl 2015 (copyright)