Before I sat down to write my thoughts on the remaining 25% – I introduced this concept in my last post, Overcoming Not Knowing: Part I, which is essentially giving oneself time and permission for finding one’s true path in life – I reflected on a question someone recently asked me. Why, he asked, if I kind of knew the general direction of where I want to be in 2 – 5 years, didn’t I just leave everything behind to pursue my dreams, full time? To his credit, this was not a far-fetched question. Most of our conversations centered around plotting our next big move in life. For most people reading this – the idea of leaving one’s current path to pursue a new one seems quite daunting, whether because they have family that rely on them, and/or bills to pay like a mortgage, student debt, etc. Personally though, I have some but little of these obligations. But what I do have is a fully baked inner-script: from the age of 8, I had already begun working to help support my recently immigrated family. My family and I had a shared sense of purpose to fully live out the American Dream. Thirty-one years later, now at the age of 39, I still live with a sense of purpose and a strong work ethic, even if my purpose in life has changed.

In this post, I want to share my own framework for embarking on inner questings that does not require leaving everything behind to start anew: basically for anyone that’s interested in leading a life closer to or is their true calling. I’ll discuss three elements that make up this 25%: extending timescale, practicing mindfulness, and getting comfortable with failure.

I’ve seen lots of people give up on creative pursuits, because they just don’t know where to start, or if they’ve started, they later find they just aren’t any good. To this I say, you probably made the mistake of trying to evaluate yourself against the same yardstick as things you currently do well in. My advice is give yourself lots of time, and try your damn best to not judge yourself so harshly. For one – it’s really very possible that you’re not very good at this new pursuit! Not only are you likely using the same yardstick to judge yourself… you’re also using the same set of skills and tools – likely the only ones you have – and trying to power through. Go acquire some new skills and tools!

But more importantly, you are definitely going to find your inner kingdom at war. For most of us, we’ve been given a script to live by from a young age. In order to live by this script, you’ve pretty much stuffed your inner self down some hole; so you’ve now got some inner questing to do in order to dig your true self out. While on your inner quest, you’ll like find some old wound that you didn’t know was there, and now needs your attention and healing (of course I’ve devoted not one but two posts on healing!) Getting through and winning this internal conflict is the most crucial stage to making this creative pursuit a success. And by winning, i mean gaining a different perspective on your own life. To listen to what your heart tells you is your true life’s path. In order to hear the whisper of your heart’s one message to you, you have to challenge the many (much louder) voices in your head.

Which leads me to a very important issue of staying sane through the creative process. Because while engaging with this inner conflict is crucial, you’ll likely meet your inner demon (in a future post, I’ll write about shapeshifting, where your inner demon can take infinite forms.) Sorry, I haven’t found a silver bullet to staying sane through one’s creative process, other than dousing your inner demon with patience, and where time is of the essence.

Now that you’ve decided to expand your timescale, how really, will you engage your new, creative pursuit – your true heart’s calling? For this post, I want to borrow concepts from the “investigation” stage of the artist/designer/writer’s creative process, which is to say, trying to better understand the thing you’re creating through questioning and exploring. Some approach this stage by methodically collecting data. They are taking in all the information, sorting, analyzing, making decisions, learning… Others approach the investigation stage by manifesting the feelings behind what might be the result. There’s no right or wrong approach to the investigation stage; but I want to share what I think is key to leading yourself into a more creative life, which is to practice mindfulness as you investigate. There’s lots written out there on mindfulness, but I want to boil it down to this: listen and notice what makes you happy, and conversely, what does not appeal to you any more than going to your 9 to 5 job does. By simply practicing more mindfulness, you can create some space for your heart and mind to work together.

Finally, I want to discuss how, risking failure, while seemingly scary to some and perhaps an act of martyrdom to others, is actually neither within this 25% framework. Let’s quickly summarize what I mean by failure: by letting go of perfection, and embracing some unknown, you have the potential of gaining insight into your true self and what brings you true joy and happiness. But you might find that you’re not the best at the thing that brings you true joy and happiness. If you find that your true calling is playing the piano, and instead of selling millions of records, you only get to play out of pure joy and happiness. For the perfectionist in us, being mediocre is quite a tough pill to swallow. But you must get comfortable in what you now perceive as failure – it’s your mind that cares about prestige while your heart does not.

True joy and happiness comes from allowing yourself to change and to embrace the new you every day or as often as your heart wants to be (re)discovered. To live your life guided by your true self, your heart must find and trust in its home – you – as a refuge. By operating really well at both 75% and 25% scales, we can give our hearts more space: the heart space of the unknown often holds both fear and joy, and are often one and the same.

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When I first began blogging on change and transformation, I didn’t know I’d eventually be writing and processing the issue of Faith. Growing up, my connection to God was disjointed and confusing: I was brought up in a home where both Roman Catholicism and Taoism was practiced. By the time I approached adulthood, I thought myself an agnostic, my actions based on complete self-determination.

And so, I am often surprised during my own process of change and transformation that Faith keeps coming up. Perhaps for many who are faithful, in whatever religious classification, that Faith would be a crucial element is obvious. For how else do you walk into the unknown, without an ounce of Faith?

But I’m not quite ready to give in to blind Faith either. Where is that in-between? To approach this question, let me tell you how I met my Faith about five years ago…

Since my early thirties, I’ve struggled with big existential questions like, “what’s the meaning of life?” “What’s my calling and purpose?” and “what does the afterlife look like?” Looking back, I now realize that working in challenging contexts in Africa and Asia since my early twenties meant that I encountered almost too much suffering for someone who had not regularly leaned in on Faith. I was without the means to process the existential questions that came to mind.

In came a dear friend (a holistic medical doctor by profession) who saw my need for emotional healing and recommended me an unconventional treatment: psilocybin mushrooms.* A note for the uninformed: magic mushrooms is a psychedelic drug or hallucinogen which often creates a spiritual experience for the user. Through my trips, I gained insight into answering those existential questions. The one insight I share with you here resonates with me most in terms of Faith in the unknown. And yes, this insight came in the words of God him/herself.

God’s message for me was that this is the only life where we get to be completely autonomous and have independent thought. In other words: we can be who we want to be, but we only get this lifetime to do so.

Simple right? But the flip side, is that we don’t get to know everything. Read together: having independent thought means we cannot truly know the things that do not depend on our autonomous selves, outside our autonomous minds.

After that message was revealed to me, I became disillusioned with the idea that I was not actually going to gain answers to the questions that led me down this spiritual questing. Over time, however, I came to realize that while I did not gain knowledge, I did gain insight.

I emphasize this idea of insight, because having gone down many paths of change and transformation, I now understand that insight is all I ever get. It is the key to my process of becoming my true self. Faith, by definition, is having trust in the unknown, and holds the other piece of the puzzle. Understood together, if the thing we’re transforming into is a mystery, then hold onto that bit of insight, and lean hard into Faith. The rest, is your genius and hard work.

Before I wrap up, let’s visit this idea of self-determination.

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“The Na’vi say that every person is born twice. The second time is when you earn your place among the people… forever.” – Jake Sully, Avatar, the movie.

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In the movie Avatar, Jake Sully (played by Sam Worthington) uttered those words above as he was coming out from his initiation rite into the Na’vi tribe. There’s 8 minutes of deleted scene of his initiation rite, “The Dreamhunt”, viewable in Avatar’s Extended Collector’s Edition. In this deleted scene Jake eats a worm with psychoactive alkaloid and is subjected to a scorpion venomous sting, in order to gain a vision (as explained by Sigourney Weaver’s character, Dr. Grace Augustine.) During Jake’s psychedelic trip, he sees and connects with Toruk, his spirit animal. Without going into too much detail, the Toruk is important in the story to Jake leading the Na’vi tribe into victory against the “sky people.”

By deleting this vision quest scene from the final finished film, Jake’s employing Toruk is presented instead as an act of self-determination. “Sometimes your whole life boils down to one insane move,” says Jake, as he seeks out Toruk.

Similar to the way Jake Sully’s heroic story was finalized, how often do we consciously or subconsciously edit out Faith, and only leave in “self-determination” as we process our own story of becoming? Our Hero’s Journey to our truth?

While we’re not here to know the unknowable, we ought not edit out the other forces at play either. There is mystery in this world, as well as meaning of life and purpose. There are also ideas buried in our dreams and imagination waiting to be discovered. Those things that rely on an ounce of Faith to take on.

 

*Disclaimer: all opinions expressed here are my own and are a result of the way in which my somewhat dysfunctional mind interprets a particular situation and or concept. Should you decide to act upon or reuse any information provided by me, you are doing so at your own responsibility.

 

 

We live much of our lives not realizing that our inner self has healing work that needs our attention. In my last post, I listed ways to accessing healing. In this post, I want to get a bit deeper into what I think a process of healing looks like, illustrated in more or less chronological order:

1. Inciting incident. True story: I got really angry at an ex-boyfriend once (okay, maybe more than once), because he called me “lazy.” Why? Growing up, my mother used name calling to shame me and my siblings into submission. One of the names she called me was lazy. Or that time when I broke down because my doctor called me with a report on some negative result. And sure enough, there was an emotional wound attached to this physical ailment.

Or maybe your inciting incident comes as a dream, an unfortunate event such as divorce or getting fired at work, etc. Whatever its form, inciting incidents are invaluable because it is one way that the universe sends you a reminder that you’ve strayed off course from living and being your true authentic self. So next time you stumble upon an inciting incident, rather than getting angry or running from it, try embracing it (or parts of it.) Because it will lead to…

2. Insight. Following the inciting incident comes insight. To be clear though, insight comes with staying open and listening to your true authentic self. Otherwise, it’s just gut reaction. And gut reactions are useful when you need to react quickly to a swerving car in front of your’s on the highway, but no good, when it comes to healing an emotional wound. Put another way, gut reactions to an inciting incident often manifest itself in the form of anger or fear.

Instead, if your mind can stay quiet and really listen, insight will come. For me, I had a recent insight where I realized the totality of the universe and where my place was within it. I also realized that I was on the course of my true calling in life. Now, not everyone will have the same insight: but your insight will be equally profound. One where you come into awareness of whatever the universe wants you to know in that moment.

3. Inward journey. It should be clear that everyone’s inward journey is going to be a bit different, depending on the insight they just gained. My favorite way to relating to this part of the healing process is to borrow Joseph Campbell’s template of the Hero’s Journey, as described in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Readers, don’t skim on this part of the healing process! If you must, throw all your eggs into this basket. Because this is the part where you will learn new skills, gain new experiences. By devoting your time and energy to your inward journey, you might have a shot at becoming the person that you were suppose to be, or wish to become.

And as such – embarking on your inward journey will feel right and true. Yes there will be moments where you will fall or fail. But for the most part, if you’re doing it right, it will feel like the best ride of your life. In fact, it can feel like you are creating your own life from scratch. Sounds amazing, right?

Now if you’re completely lost as to where to begin, read my last post, Accessing Healing Part 1, where you can get some ideas on how to kick start your inward journey. Some advice: be kind to yourself, never judge yourself or your pace, and stay open to whatever possibilities that might shore up.

4. Teachers and guides 2.0. It dawned on me in recent weeks that most of us traverse the bulk of our adult lives with no teachers, guides, or mentors at our side. Where did they go after we completed high school or college? As part of your inward journey, you will hopefully meet teachers, guides, and mentors that will help you along your way. But they will be masked by some other profession or identity – because our society tells us that we’re done with learning after formal schooling.

Personally, I work with a coach, a reiki teacher, and an acupuncturist and consider them my teachers and guides. I have a professor from college that I keep in touch with that I consider my lifelong teacher. And I connect with the Dalai Lama’s work at a spiritual and soulful level.

I also have a friend who, when asked about her teachers, responded that her best teacher has been herself. Whatever works for you. Just remember that only a fraction of what there is to know is within our immediate reach, and someone (or your intuition) has another layer of information we still want to have access to.

5. Learning. After you’ve completed your inward journey, you’ve now learned a bit more about your true self, what you are capable of, and who you are capable of becoming. The new skills we’ve gained now requires practice. Constant practice. I find this to be the most frustrating part. In the end, my mother was right: I am lazy. Well, sort of – the wound ran deep because therein lies a truth! But it is not the only truth.

No matter who you are (or how hardworking you are,) this part is difficult because it is unnatural to our decades-old self. But for those of us who has a tremendous amount of patience, persistence, and/or perseverance, this stage will feel easier and more natural. Either way, the next and what I consider as the final stage of the healing process will forever impress upon you as the person you were meant to become…

6. Re-scripting. We’ve got muscle memory, and/or an inner script that’s outdated, and therefore false, to replace. In fact, you were probably never really the person that you thought you were – it was just a script, a narrative, that you or others told of you. But guess what? That old you, whether s/he was real, is still in the background, waiting for the perfect opportunity to make a comeback.

Re-scripting is therefore crucial to cementing your new identity. Re-scripting is the culmination of insight, learning and practice of becoming the new you. Re-scripting means replacing your old identity, roles and behavior with new ones, and telling yourself who you’ve now become and who you’re now made of. Whether because you’ve now become a great daughter, singer, writer: you now get to say it, own it, and be it. Re-script creatively – you might even stumble upon another insight for another inward journey.

There’s a reason why they call it the art of healing… There’s an art to it, and art takes process. Art is also creative, and creation takes time. Be gentle and kind to yourself as you embark on your healing process. Give yourself time to master your own healing process! What’s more: once you’ve mastered this art, you’ve now become its next great teacher.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about healing. This, following reading news of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington’s suicide on Chris Cornell’s birthday.

Specifically, I’ve been contemplative about the difference between those of us who overcome depression and those who do not, and if the key is our ability to access healing.

So, my first post on this topic is a simple but thoughtful and honest list of the ways I’ve been able to overcome adversity, depression, anxiety and worry… and access the power of healing. As I put this list together though, I also realized that using any one of these in excess has also led me to further addiction, pain and suffering, depending on where in life I was at… As such, not only should one use in moderation, it’s important to recognize that there’s a fine line between healthy practice and addiction: know the difference, choose to be kind to yourself, and stop when you’ve crossed that line. So without further ado*:

  1. exercise (this is obvious, but do so in moderation)
  2. eating healthy (as my friend Derek warned: this is not the same as dieting)*
  3. sharing sadness with friends and family
  4. vacation (beach ones are my favorite)
  5. making new friends (usually comes easiest when you’re pursuing a new social hobby)
  6. dessert
  7. reading (one of my favorites: Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance)
  8. listening to music (Frank Sinatra tops the list)
  9. yoga, meditation, and reiki
  10. restyle, your hair and/or wardrobe
  11. tattoo (go for a small one)
  12. hobbies, new and old
  13. write, from the heart (I’m not one for journaling, but prefer poetry writing)
  14. talk therapy (in my personal experience, this is an entry point to healing, but in and of itself talk therapy hasn’t healed me)
  15. working with a life coach (where talk therapy has gotten me to the entry point, a life coach has guided me the rest of the way)
  16. alternative medicine (acupuncture has helped me, though there are others)

Do you have a favorite you want to share that’s not on my list? Please feel free to leave a comment!

*Disclaimer: all opinions expressed here are my own and are a result of the way in which my somewhat dysfunctional mind interprets a particular situation and or concept. Should you decide to act upon or reuse any information provided by me, you are doing so at your own responsibility.