I encourage gentleness.
Gentleness is your birthright.
When you are watering your plant, nourishing your vision, gentleness needs to come along for the ride.
Sometimes when I encourage gentleness, I suspect that the person I’m speaking with thinks that I’m just “trying to be nice.” Like maybe the gentleness isn’t really what they need, but I don’t want them to be hard on themselves because it’s painful to watch.
But that’s not why.
I encourage gentleness because I believe that there’s such freedom in adding that to whatever I do. There are so very many things that I’m not perfect at, and when I’m beating myself up over that it’s a kind of hell, and when I’m gentle with myself, I can sink more deeply into what is.Whenever I can sink into what is, I’ve unlocked myself from the cage with the key that I was holding in my hand the entire time.
There’s a kind of honesty that goes along with gentleness, if you think about it. I say “honesty” because gentleness acknowledges all of the parts that are imperfect and creates a space for them to exist. There’s something dishonest about pushing away the parts we don’t want to see with harshness, trying desperately to hide them.
Gentleness allows time for transforming something while acknowledging the truth of the present moment.
Gentleness frees us up to BE who we already are.
Gentleness allows us to sink into that tender spot, and forgive ourselves and others.
Perhaps we never really transform anything until we’re able to look at ourselves with kind eyes–and that means gentleness.
Where in your life would you like to see more gentleness along the way?
I’ve been wanting for some time now to pull together a blog entry in which I was concrete and specific about all the different principles that I believe to go into what I term “courageous living.”
But first, I’ll just briefly state what I don’t think “courageous living” is. I don’t believe that courageous living is doing all kinds of spontaneous or wild things, like you have to quit your job and move to Bali, or start parachuting out of planes, so that you can call yourself “courageous”. I don’t believe that it’s what I think so many of us beat ourselves up in the pursuit of: some version of waking in the morning, having a yoga and meditation practice and gliding seamlessly through your day, sporting the latest gear from Anthropologie, eating some really hip diet, never breaking a sweat while working at your dream job, laughing with friends, falling into the arms of a loving family at the end of the day, everyone getting along, planning a dashing getaway to some exotic locale. Let me be clear that that vision for one’s life is not something I’m knocking–it sounds great–but it’s certainly not what my life looks like and I think I’m not alone in saying that I’ve wasted a lot of energy striving to attain something that looks like that, and so have most of the women I’ve known. I don’t think that courageous living is a 1-2-3 plan, nor is it a finished product.
I believe all of us contain the capacity to act with courage. I believe that courage is feeling afraid, diving in anyway, and transforming. Whenever we lean into that edge, there’s juicy stuff there. What’s the juicy stuff? What’s the leaning to the edge look like? What’s courageous living based on? Here’s a start:
Courageous living is about:
- BEing your journey/being in process
- A commitment to your vision for yourself, with gentleness along the way.
- Slowing down
- Prioritizing self-care
- Making room for passion and play–even if it’s only 5 minutes a day
- Feeling your feelings (no more reciting affirmations or pushing oneself to “think positive” until the very real feelings have been acknowledged and worked through)
- Risking being seen by others
- Unconditional love and acceptance (and that means no more hating your inner critic, calling it a Gremlin or a monster or all sorts of other names that that sad, scared, triggered little piece of the heart is so often called)
- A commitment to your life vision, with gentleness along the way (and that means that on the days where you don’t risk being seen, or you don’t have unconditional love and acceptance, or you don’t…whatever…you step into some gentleness that you are a tender and lovely human being. It’s okay.)
- Returning to the present moment and using it as a source of power. Coming to just breathing and getting present is the most powerful tool I know.
- Releasing the Stories. (“Capital-S” Stories are those habituated beliefs/ways of thinking/assumptions that are so conditioned that they seem real, even if they might not be).
- Honoring your integrity. Matching your words and actions. Aligning them with your vision.
- This is a big one: claiming your choices, and claiming your life. Accept responsibility for all of it.
- Forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness. Living 100% fully alive cannot co-exist with resentment.
- Respectfully speaking your truth.
- Noticing your resistance and then working with it from a place of curiosity: what do you have to teach me?
- Creating intimacy and connection in your relationships
- Being a stand for connection between human beings–which means, that chick that you “hate” at your office? Try out some compassion. That guy who just acted all road-ragey? Send him some love. Clearly, he needs it.
- Dreaming big.
- Being open to magical possibility, and, if it resonates for you, spirit/the Universe/ some kind of unseen force for good
And how does having a life vision help with any of that? My life vision is to completely and totally love and accept all parts of myself, so that I can completely and totally love and accept others, and thus facilitate healing in the world.
It’s a big life vision. It’s not something that one can check off of a to-do list.
But having it really grounds me. I can ask–in my relationships, in my job, in my financial decisions, with my body, and in the moments when I really want to snap someone’s head off–is this my vision for myself? How will I step into my vision for myself, right now?
I mentioned “feeling the feelings” up there. Right here’s where I’ll tell you that I believe that 90% of my work is actually stopping, slowing down, and getting conscious enough to ask myself, “Is this my vision for myself?” If I can do that much, chances are good that I’ll go the extra 10% and act with absolute clarity that I don’t want to act on the urge to snap at someone. (I’ll probably still want to snap at them. But even that urge loses steam when seen through the lens of my vision, and then to stay in integrity with me there are a whole range of tools that I can use to discharge the emotions–I get to have my anger, if I want to…I can just work with it differently).
The slowing down? That’s the link between self-care and all of the other stuff. It all pieces itself together, knits itself you might say. When I’m not prioritizing self-care, I don’t slow down enough. I go, go, go and that’s where my life can get sloppy.
But this is a vision I’m stepping into–and with gentleness. Lots and lots of gentleness for the tenderness of us human beings.
Another thing–my vision? Feel free to share it. I almost typed “steal” it, but of course, a vision is hardly something that can be stolen. It’s definitely something that can be shared! Or take a stab at clarifying your own vision. A life vision is a statement of what your life is about. A good hint that you’ve come across it is that it works across multiple categories–when it comes to any area of my life, from my health to my relationships to the way that I decorate my home, that desire to create a space of love and acceptance for myself that then radiates out to the world, is the foundation.
Alright, I showed you mine. You show me yours!
All of these things are great, but they’re not the be-all-end-all of success, living well, or making your dreams happen. So here are ten things you don’t need in order to be successful (with success being defined in whatever way you choose):
1.) An organized desk. “My desk is so disorganized,” someone says, as if that’s what keeps them from any hope of seeing their dreams come true. But I think that the hyper-organized types in our society are few and far between. With those few exceptions, the idea that organization is tantamount to success is something that people use as a delay tactic to get started. And the grief so many of us give ourselves because we aren’t “more organized?” Goodness. Let’s just save that energy for something else.
2.) A specific, step-by-step plan. I believe in specifics, and I even believe in step-by-steps and plans. But if there’s too much rigid attachment to the step-by-step, lovely diversions along the way can be missed. Far better to go by instinct. Learn the art of following your inner YES.
3.) Schedules. I’ve been interviewing people for Across Mediums, and one question I keep putting into these interviews is how they make time for artmaking and creativity. I’ve been asking this because I consider myself to be someone recovering from the land of “if you’re serious about something, you make a schedule.” I have a theory that this emphasis/pressure on scheduling our lives down to the minute as a measure of discipline or aptitude has something to do with school and how we did math at 10:00 followed by reading at 11:00 followed by lunch at noon and…you know, it’s taken me years to stop eating at noon just because it was noon, and start eating when I was actually hungry.
4.) A perfectly clean diet. Good grief, the energy I’ve put into finding the perfect diet, thinking that once I found it I would have boundless energy and no stress. Just recently, I started avoiding refined sugar and I feel so much better, but of course what really brings a quality of calm to my day is how present I am in it, and whether or not I’m making a choice to be passionate about whatever it is that’s right before me.
5.) A private office. I love my office. It’s yellow and beautiful. But I spend a fair amount of time writing at my local library, and if I spend too much time in here, I start to feel nuts. In fact, a home office makes self-care harder–because there’s always that thought, “Oh, I could head in there and get this or that done…”
6.) A meditation practice. Meditation is great, but presence is better. Noticing is better. Watching those judgements and opinions and where they create drama and disconnection in your life–all better. Meditation is a great vehicle for learning how to get good at the noticing and watching, but if you’re not making the time for it each day, far better to funnel the energy of beating yourself up into just noticing, watching, and being conscious about your choices.
7.) To work for yourself. There are so many people out there who have great 9-5 jobs and then they do something more creative in a freelance capacity, or not for any money at all, but just for themselves. Your life is a success because you say it is–because you claim your choices and are behind them. Working for someone else is not tyranny (unless you say so). Your life is not a success because you are the next “I quit my job and followed my dreams” poster child on the internet. (If you are that poster child, that’s great–I totally support you. I just don’t believe that it’s what works for all people, and want to support those who are feeling stuck with the Story that they have to quit their job in order to do what they love).
8.) A lot of money. The quality of our lives depends more on how we claim our lives and our choices than it does on the money. Next time you’re worrying about money, consider asking yourself where in your life you aren’t “behind” your recent financial choices. What financial decisions have you made lately that you have a nagging feeling about? Which ones didn’t feel really great to make? Cut those out of your life, and you cut out a lot of the pressure to come up with a lot of money.
9.) To live an esoteric existence. I don’t like the emphasis people put on material things. I’m all about sustainability. I support people who make choices to have few or no possessions if that’s a match for them. I even agree that saving money in all of those areas means more money available, and that this causes less financial stress. However–every choice we have has its flip side. For instance, Andy and I chose to rent our own, stand-alone house. We’re paying more rent this year than we have in years past, at a time when the economy sucks. Of course–We could save money by living in the places we’ve lived in in the past, with shared walls. But then there was stress in other areas–like when the neighbors blasted their music during the day, or woke us in the middle of the night. I like books, comfy chairs to read them in, and chai. I feel more financial stress making things work with this home, but my home is one that I genuinely enjoy being in, so it’s worth it to me to do what it takes to pull in a bit more rent money. In essence, let’s strike a balance between excess and minimalism.
10.) Constant internal monitoring. The inner critic/Ego/fear-based self, whatever you want to call it, that lurks within? Let’s soften that. Let’s have some gentleness. Let’s sink into the choices we make and get behind them, and then accept that some people will look at those choices and write a blog post on “10 Things You’re Not Doing That You Should Be Doing” and maybe those 10 things will be “Get organized!” and “Make a Plan!” and “Set a Schedule” and “Eat Right!” and all of those things. You get to decide what resonates with you, which of them will be necessary for making your life workable.
What would you add to this list? What’s something that you feel you’ve been oft-told is necessary for success (any kind, whether entreprenuerial or otherwise) and really, it wasn’t absolutely necessary?