Posts tagged journey
Don't Be Afraid to Check in with Yourself

Which one word from the list below best captures the way you feel about your life right now?

Fill in the blank: I am ________________.











Did you find a word? How difficult was it to select only one word?

Today I would say my word is trusting. Yet, if I put myself back in time to a year ago, or even five years ago when I first wrote the post below, I would not have chosen the same word I picked today. I am happy about that because it tells me that I am making progress in my transformation. I am no longer stuck. For many years during my deep dive into personal growth I continually felt like I was stuck on “searching”.

Years of searching for the missing piece sounds exhausting, and it was. Mistakenly I was always looking ahead for something, anything that was going to be the answer to my happiness.

I wanted change. I wanted more meaning in my life. I wanted to be appreciated in the workplace. I wanted to stop thinking so much. I wanted to sleep like a rock, to experience big joy, to appreciate what I had, to live in the present moment and make impulsive, unplanned decisions.

So I searched and searched, I wrote, I read, I observed and as I kept my eyes on the far off horizon where I was sure the solution was hiding, I missed the life that was happening right in front of me.

I moved further and further away from myself, focusing outward instead of addressing what I needed to most --- the innermost me. A wise person once told me that I could not expect to see healing in those around me, unless I healed myself first.

Me, heal? That would mean admitting I had something to heal from…. a scary and daunting admission.

The answer to everything I wanted was inside me all along and it took me coming undone, me having a “breakdown” of sorts in order to begin to face my biggest fear: Me.

As I write this journal entry I believe I am thriving. I’ve done the hard work. I’ve seen the darkest there is inside of me and faced it head on. She doesn’t scare me anymore. I kind of I won’t let that dark side of me get so big ever again.

For a long time fear held me back from thriving. Fear of what you may be wondering?

Fear of everything. Failure, success, change, embarrassment, fear of not liking myself, fear of everyone else not liking me, fear of losing control, fear that I might lose control and never be able to piece myself back together again. I was afraid because for too many years I had remained in safe mode.

And yet, I lost it anyway-- no matter how hard I tried to stay protected, in the end I still cracked wide open. Some would say I failed, I say I finally opened myself up to begin to thrive.

Interestingly enough, you can’t begin to thrive if you stay safe (and stuck) and protected in your little bubble. You have to take chances and move out of your comfort zone, be willing to take a risk or two, and feel a little out of control in order to truly grow.

The definition of Thrive is:

1. to prosper; be fortunate or successful.

2. to grow or develop vigorously; flourish

Thriving = being brave enough to face your fears, confident enough to let others see you fail, open to growth in any direction, and prepared to succeed.

I love finding old journal entries that speak to me and record my growth. At this very moment the word I would choose is trusting. And I am. Trusting myself and my talents, trusting the universe to support and guide me, and trusting that only I know the way for me.

Purifying My Spirit With An Inipi Native American Winter Sweat
This is a view from the Retreat House across the yard to the lovely yoga/meditation studio and the Inipi is the little mound to the right.

This is a view from the Retreat House across the yard to the lovely yoga/meditation studio and the Inipi is the little mound to the right.

The warm and welcoming Retreat House.

The warm and welcoming Retreat House.

The tobacco taste from the Chanupa is still on my tongue (reminding me of the experience). The stars are still in my eyes (showing me the infinite possibilities of the universe). Maybe most important of all, the smile is still in my heart (allowing the peace of the purification ceremony to remain within me). I will definitely participate in this experience again.

This is how I feel more than a week after my visit to The Higher Haven Retreat Center which included a sacred Lakota Inipi* ceremony also known as a sweat lodge. It was a deeply peaceful experience for me, like I called home a piece of myself I wasn’t even aware I was missing. When I saw the Facebook announcement come across my news feed, I signed up immediately, without overthinking it or talking myself out of it. Instead, I trusted my inner voice. It turned out to be the right ‘next’ thing for me on my journey.

There is something very comforting about the land, the retreat center, the Inipi*, and even in the host Paul’s presence at The Higher Haven Retreat Center. I am a person who usually requires the why and the deeper meaning behind, before I go all in, but in this situation I felt the need to just experience/ participate and not to question it so much.

You could say it called me home.

This winter sweat was a magical experience for me. The lingering tobacco taste on my tongue from the Chanupa* puts me right back into the velvety blackness of the tent. I can still see the faces in the lava rocks, feel the heat of the steam, smell the smoke from the fire, and hear the drum beat and Paul’s hauntingly rich voice fill my soul. In the sacred space of the Inipi* I connected with a primal part of myself, and while the inky blackness left me feeling separate in my experience, I also felt very connected to everyone in the tent and to all my ancestors. Is it silly to say that everything became clearer in the darkness? Because for me it did.

I have mentioned before I am able to see colors when I close my eyes, when I meditate or sit in stillness. Those colors are my way of tuning in and bringing myself home to my body, mind + spirit. For the first time EVER, I was able to experience what I normally do with my eyes closed, with my eyes wide open. I could watch my inner screen and share in the magic with my eyes fully open. It was unbelievably cool. Usually I feel closing myself off from the world leads me to my inner wisdom/vision, in this case it was like my own personal screen was the top of the tent. I am kind of glad no one could see the goofy smile on my face, or the tears that spilled when I realized the colors were all around me even with my eyes open.

Here is the prayer I gave in the darkness of the Inipi:

I ask the ancestors, guides, angels and loved ones to help me release everything that has held me back. To provide closure on the life lessons I have learned thus far, and to illuminate my next step. I ask for guidance, support and clarity. I especially ask for wisdom with the words I will write. I thank you for the healing, the insight, the support, patience and unconditional love I have been given on this night and throughout my lifetime.

After everyone shared their individual prayer(s) we replied with “Mitakuye O’yasin,” meaning “all my relations,” or “all are related.”

I went in with no expectations and left feeling as if I had experienced exactly what I needed. I know the others felt the same way. It may not have gone the way our host Paul had originally planned it, but we all learned that the beauty of surrendering to life as it is, is where the magic happens.

The whole experience; the meditations, the sweat, the quiet time away from electronic devices, making new friends, each piece was necessary to make me feel complete. I felt as if pieces of me came back and filled in the voids. When I left the sacred ground, I felt whole. Calm. Steady. Right.

If your spirit calls you to The Higher Haven Retreat Center, go. Experience it. It could be exactly what you need as well. Paul is doing another winter sweat on Saturday, Feb. 23. Click here for details.

*Inipi is a purification rite and is necessary in order to help the vision quest seeker enter into a state of humility and to undergo a kind of spiritual rebirth. The sweat lodge is central to Inipi. Prayers offered there draw on all the powers of the universe — Earth, Water, Fire and Air.

*Chanupa The sacred pipe and ceremony are at the very heart of the native people's culture as they travel the Red Road. Smoke coming from the mouth represents the truth being spoken, and the smoke coming from the pipe, a path for prayers to reach the great spirit.

Are You Paying Attention to the Signs?

I may or may not have asked this week's question already in one of my 32 previous questions ---honestly, it doesn't matter if I did. A good question needs to be asked over and over again. Depending on your immediate life circumstances, financial situation, mood, heck even the phase of the moon, your answer to it may vary. Or, if you are lucky, it will stay the same, thus giving you clarity. Ask yourself a question enough times, and a pattern eventually unfolds. And patterns are full of great insight.

At least that is how it works for me.

All forward motion for me starts with a "buzz" these days, a feeling of energy that I am "onto" something. My track record does show I have made a few wrong turns and discovered a few dead ends recently -- but I have followed them with surety, always guided by signs I cannot deny.

I used to get mad at myself for taking the wrong turn. Until I realized these little jaunts off the beaten path were life lessons I needed to experience. They are all meant to be, and it is 100% normal to experience them on a journey to self-discovery.

It is all part of the process of becoming aware. Of learning to listen to our inner voice, to dig out our true path.

My version of learning to read the roadsigns in front of me is this: when my buzz fizzles out quickly, I know immediately I am off track. When it takes longer, my warning sign is the feeling that what once "buzzed" me, now seems to drain me.

Take enough wrong turns, learn to pay attention, ask yourself enough questions and soon you will be able to know when you are on the right path. The buzz is constant. You feel energized, not zapped. You lose track of time, you don't catch yourself watching the clock. You crave doing that same thing over and over again, instead of finding excuses not to do it.

When I am aligned with my true path, I now feel it. Goosebumps are constant. I feel alive, like I am buzzing. Life is easy. It is a state I want to stay in.

The question I use to reassess after discovering I made a wrong turn or ran into a dead end is this:

What Makes You Feel Totally Alive? / Question of the Week #33

As with anything that matters, it takes practice to train your mind, body + soul to become aware of this alive feeling.

So you will need to start paying attention to the People, Places & Things that fuel you, if you haven't already started doing this.

  • Which people in your life make you feel alive, build you up, inspire you, energize you, foster growth in you? In other words, you wish to be around them.
  • What places relax you, allow you to think, dream, and receive clarity? In other words, you feel pulled there, often.
  • What things are you doing when you feel at your very best, totally confident, happy, and at ease? In other words, you feel you don't get to do them often enough.

Start thinking about what brings the positive buzz into your world and maybe even start a list  in your journal. This will make it easier to recognize patterns, to connect your own dots later.

And once you pay attention to what it feels like to be on the right path, you will not want to venture too far off it. You will be full of wonder and gratitude at the incredible life you've been blessed with.

When is the last time you felt truly alive? What fills you up?

"Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls." -Joseph Campbell