Last year was about risk for me. Risking my heart, my business, my relationships.
There was a moment during the retreat in Thailand that I stopped and looked around at the glowing faces of my students as they danced around the room, embracing each other, revelling in the week they had shared, and I felt possibly the greatest happiness I had ever known. First: I had caused that! I had so much pride that it had come together, that it was worth all the work and hours and preparation.
Mostly, I felt such a profound gratitude that I was able to share myself with these people and have it land with them in a way that made a difference in their lives. Doing this work has become about what I can give away, and it has been the most rewarding experience of my life.
And then I decided to move to the big smoke.
“Why don’t you stay in the wilderness? Because that isn’t where it is at; it’s back in the city, back in downtown St. Louis, back in Los Angeles. The final test is whether your experience of the sacred in nature enables you to cope more effectively with the problems of people. If it does not enable you to cope more effectively with the problems – and sometimes it doesn’t, it sometimes sucks you right out into the wilderness and you stay there the rest of your Life – then when that happens, by my scale of value; it’s failed. You go to nature for an experience of the sacred…to re-establish your contact with the core of things, where it’s really at, in order to enable you to come back to the world of people and operate more effectively. Seek ye first the kingdom of nature, that the kingdom of people might be realized.”
I’m so excited about the possibilities of bringing this work to city life. It’s one thing for me to be balanced and zen in the jungle in Bali, on a beach in Thailand or Mexico. It’s quite another to bring it into fluorescent lit office buildings, to stressed workers, glued to phones and computers, panicking about mortgages, obsessed with having the latest products or thinking that life can never be any other way.
But how can I operate in that world and not suffer from the same malaise?
My transition to San Francisco has plugged me back into the matrix, the perfect way for me to better understand and empathize with the people I am teaching. Yet I am also experiencing a world where kindness doesn’t always feel like the best answer; where rampant honesty is not always welcomed; where bringing your heart fully can mean being battered and bruised.
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.”
- Mahatma Ghandi
Is it naive to think I can “be the change I want to see in the world”?
I know when I show up with a full heart, good intentions and an earnest approach, my life feels more full, I expect the best in people and I feel more alive. Seeing the glass half full makes me happy.
But it’s also teaching me that bringing that energy is not always the best path. Sometimes, what’s needed is both a soft heart and a sharp elbow.
The Bhagavad Gita talks about ten Yamas, what we sometimes call the Yogi Commandments for ethical living. Dhŗiti, the sixth of these, has been translated as “to act with determination”, “patience” and “perseverance”. I love to describe it as “steadfastness”. You can read more about this tenet here, but at its core, practicing Dhŗiti, you “succeed in every undertaking by having a clear purpose, a wise plan, persistence and push.”
Sometimes, life here feels impossibly difficult. I’ve stood in front of an entire aisle of unknown brands of toilet paper and felt overwhelmed. Negotiations feel unkind. Showing too much of yourself, or admitting weakness might not be admired. Sometimes it feels like the work I’ve done to become more vulnerable and to wear my heart on my sleeve is a distinct disadvantage.
And yet, my students and clients seek that same openness. They are desperately looking for connection and a way to safely express a more vulnerable heart.
Maybe, what’s actually needed is more conviction to inhabit that space.
So with that, I declare 2015 to be a year of courage, growth and determination.
I will bring my heart to every aspect of my life, even though I’m scared to do it. I will fail and get back up again. Reconnect with nature and myself. Be big and bold and vulnerable.
And practice, practice, practice, with ferocity. For all is coming.