It was the fall of 2006 and I was exhausted. I had recently come back from a trip to Australia. My intention was to spend time with a good friend and rejuvenate. The spending time with a good friend part was great. The rejuvenation part didn’t last long.
My vacation buzz quickly wore off and before long I was back at work. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. Later I would realize that I was actually the one putting it there.
Because of my past experiences launching high-profile products at Yahoo!, I was asked to be on a newly formed team where that was part of our mission. Given the heavily matrixed organization we were in and the size of the projects we were given, it started to feel like trying to move entire mountains with a pinky. My team had experienced these challenges before, only this time I was getting burned out after years of trying to ‘move the needle’ and putting everything I had into high priority projects at the company.
I found myself dreaming about my next vacation. Peru, Iceland, India…where to go next? Only I wasn’t there. I was here, smack dab in the middle of the matrix working harder than ever before. I was working on the newest of the new projects and simply pushing on through to the next vacation. Wash, rinse, repeat.
The feeling in my gut was screaming: “Are you nuts?” But I wouldn’t listen. I was too scared to make a change. And if I did, I wouldn’t know what to do next anyways. It was just too fuzzy of a plan to make a move.
One night I woke up around 3am and felt the walls closing in on me. I had to rush to my patio to catch my breath. Still feeling enclosed, I ran out of my building and onto the street. I sat on the sidewalk and started to catch my breath. I knew right then that this was the beginning of the end for me in this kind of life.
When you start feeling claustrophobic in a 1200 square ft. loft with 30 foot ceilings, then you know something’s wrong. My body was telling me it was time for a change or it would shut down. I liked my body and I also enjoyed being on this planet, so I decided to listen for the first time in a very long time to see what it had to say.
After a few minutes some images came to me. I envisioned what it would be like in five years at the age of 40 – working in the same company and with the same two hour round trip commute. Only this time I imagined being an SVP of Marketing, the role I had always been striving for. That claustrophobic feeling immediately started to come back. And there it was. The path I was headed down made me feel more and more compressed, less fully alive, and, frankly, physically ill. And the funny part about all of it was this: I created this world for myself. Not because I had to, but because I thought I would be happy and fulfilled. I felt that if I just pushed a little bit more, I’d be totally secure and free of all financial worries.
Practically speaking, of course, staying on with my company was somewhat of a known quantity. And, if not there, then another similar company. Another couple of years and I would have had the chance to become a VP making even more money and in charge of an even larger team. I imagined what that felt like and observed the sensations in my body at the very thought of it. First, the nausea (spitting up what I knew would poison my soul), then the claustrophobia (feeling trapped on a path that wasn’t for me), and finally a feeling of sadness and helplessness (my anger at myself turned inwards that I wasn’t owning my freedom to choose).
Quitting and maybe even traveling abroad, on the other hand, was a complete unknown and scary but again I observed my feelings and physical reactions — lightness (freedom to reinvent myself) and nervous yet energetic excitement (the prospects of new people, new passions and new adventures).
That was enough for me. A week later I handed in my resignation and started planning an extended trip through Latin America, many of the experiences of which I captured in my travel blog.
And it was from that day onward, that I started a four year journey into the unknown. Travels through remote lands, ‘successes’ and ‘failures’ of new businesses and relationships, universal mysteries revealed, even more questions and mysteries surfaced, moments of complete confusion and fear, times of absolute clarity and peace.
Would I trade any of it? Never. The most challenging four years of my life were the ones during which I felt most fully alive.
Anyone who goes through a process of breaking free of their own version of the matrix may have a different set of circumstances but the emotional experience is often the same. Right before it starts and the black hole of opportunity opens, there’s a sense that there’s something more. There’s a feeling of longing for something that you just can’t put your finger on. There’s a terrified feeling of the unknown and questions about how you’re going to manage without all of the answers laid out right in front of you. There’s exhilaration at the thought of freedom — the freedom to be who you really are and to live that fully whatever that may be.
And then one day you take the leap off a cliff only to realize that you’re falling without an end point. It just keeps going. Ever changing. Ever moving. The exhilaration, the fear, the joy, the anger, the sadness, all rolled up into one big leap of faith.
And it’s that jump for me that led to an extraordinary journey that continues to this day. Yes, when I returned, I took adventurous leaps into new businesses and relationships, but the biggest jump was inward. And with that came a process of remembering who I really am. ‘Self-remembering’ was not just a set of words anymore but a deep feeling of who I am as a Spirit in this body. Of what I’m here to do and be. Of how I’m here for others. And a new and completely unexpected version of that continues to unfold.
This kind of path is a different one than before. Although there’s a time for planning and goal-setting, there’s a different quality to the experience. A recognition perhaps that no matter how many goals we set, or plans we make, there’s still a grand mystery to it all. Maybe we’re not meant to completely understand everything or know how every intention we set out will turn out. Maybe it’s more about how we respond and awaken to the mysteries that unfold right in front of us rather than to the actual content or outcome that we originally expected.
Perhaps it’s really about the type of person we become along the way. It’s about the capacities we cultivate in ourselves to speak our truth with strength and dignity but also with compassion and discernment vs. blame and judgment towards others with a different view. Maybe it’s a holding of our intentions with a powerful energetic, focused presence but also with a kind of gentleness, or lightness, for how the outcome will really appear to us in the end. Perhaps it’s about a sense of openness about what wants to emerge from deep within…something much bigger than ourselves. It is life expressing itself through us. And it’s the very art of surrendering and then allowing that brings forth this new creation into the world.
Maybe it’s really a journey about how we treat others under the most trying of circumstances. And, of course, how we treat ourselves even with all of the mistakes we make, the shame or guilt we feel, the broken promises we’ve made along the way. Perhaps it’s, ultimately, about how much love and kindness we can show ourselves in the midst of it all.
There’s a painting in my house that says: “Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.” As people on a spiritual path, we are all on a sacred journey that takes an extra-ordinary amount of faith and trust in ourselves. We are on a personal journey of healing and through our presence we create a space for the healing of those all around us. For our clients, our friends, our families, our communities, our partners.
Whatever our path may be, creating social change through personal transformation is no easy calling. It takes patience, diligence and immense kindness towards ourselves to explore the truth behind who we really are and work with others to do the same. Our work does not come with a rule book or a set of predefined answers but simply with the presence of our hearts and the support of others to help us move forward.
I want to thank you for doing what you do and for the very presence that you bring into the world.
I will do my best to support you in this journey.