Cultivating Devotion over Perfection

One of my best practices for overcoming my perfectionist tendencies is to cultivate a mindset of devotion.

For me, this means remembering that creativity, at its core, is about a commitment I’m making to myself and to my process of *becoming a person who creates consistently*, no matter the outcome.

So rather than getting stuck on one small part, trying to make my creations perfect, or obsessing over merits and metrics, I remember I’m *creating a body of work*. 

And a body of work requires me to keep moving, keep trying, and keep creating – in a spirit of devotion.

This gets me in a headspace of remembering that creativity is an ongoing, unfolding practice of becoming and stepping into stretchy identities (writer, artist, coach, etc.) – so if I’m creating and moving forward, this means I’m already succeeding and meeting my goals.

So when I put something out into the world and it falls flat or when I try something new and I fail or when I feel like my creative magic has disappeared, I return to this question: what am I most devoted to?  What am I trying to create for myself at the deepest level?  These questions help me find my way back to something good and true for me.

My own commitment is to live an out-loud, alive, creative life.  What’s yours?  And how it that vision guiding your life, process, and day-to-day?

Sinking into Time

I used to see time as a static, uncomplicated resource. I have 24 hours in a day, and there’s nothing more to it than that.

But lately, I’ve been exploring the depths of time.

This is the way I’m starting to see it: there is a limited width to linear time – a minute is a minute – but there’s also a depth inside of that linear time that’s available to us as a resource.

As I’m tracking my own relationship with time, I’m asking myself: is my experience of time more like sinking into something good, deep, and satisfying, or is it more like trying to outrun something (a deadline, an outcome, my own feelings)?

I’ve found I can only ever sink into time if I’m also grounded in my body. My body is my way into deep time.

It also helps to shift my focus from managing my time to managing my attention. Because in my experience, the quantity of time I have to work with matters less than the intentional focus I give and bring to what’s present.

How about you? How do you relate to time, as well as to yourself within the time you have? How do you sink into a moment and take advantage of the depths available to you there?

Confronting the Lies

I think it’s important to remember that the dominant culture we live in lies to us on a regular basis – about who we are, what’s real and what matters, how we “should” live and spend our energies, what’s within the realm of possibility, etc.

And I believe we need to name and call this out because lying and manipulation are abusive tactics (whether those abusers are people, institutions, or systems). Denying reality, deflecting responsibility, and unilaterally defining the narrative are all ways of maintaining power and control over others.

There’s also lying in the form of gaslighting, which is the strategy of using lies and manipulation to destabilize another person’s sense of reality by telling them over and over again that their perception and memory are wrong (and can’t be trusted) to create a sense of separation from their embodied knowing and inner truth (often in a very direct way, like telling someone they left the oven on when it was the abuser who turned it back on – or hiding their keys and pretending to help them look).

And because we sort of expect people to tell the truth unless they have a compelling reason not to, a steady stream of lies can be super disorienting and eventually make us question our own experience, memory, and sanity.

There are nuances to the ways abuse happens on interpersonal, institutional, and systemic levels, but a common goal of these tactics, whoever/whatever employs them, is to maintain a power dynamic of control over another person through confusion, disorientation, and disconnection.

Systems of oppression do this; capitalism does this - because if we’re confused and ungrounded, we’re easier to control and more vulnerable to suggestion because we’re seeking that equilibrium and solidity wherever we can find it after being pushed off our center.

And in such a reality, getting grounded in our bodies and developing strategies of deepening into self-trust, personal power, and embodied truth are essential (and radical) practices.

Calling out lies and manipulative tactics when we see them is an essential practice.

Telling our stories and speaking our truths are essential practices.

Seeking out support, affirmation, and connection are essential practices.

Engaging in these practices of embodiment, truth-telling, and self-trust are not only essential for our own well-being; they also disrupt systems that depend on lies and other abusive tactics to maintain the status quo and create spaces in which abuse is named, challenged, and resisted.

So when we trust and love ourselves - when we tune in to our deep, embodied knowing - we create more flourishing, not only for ourselves but also for others and for the world.

Finding Our Way Back

Getting off track is part of the process.

This is what I try to remind myself when I’m frustrated with my progress, or when I’ve fallen (yet again) into the grooves and patterns I’ve been trying to unlearn.

I remind myself that we forget so that we can remember.  And that it’s the work of going back in, returning to the practices I know work for me, and trying again that deepens transformation.

When we learn (again) what we already know, we’re building resiliency and capacity.

So there’s an opportunity in these moments of failure and frustration to remember that living a good life isn’t about doing it perfectly or always staying on track – it’s about finding our way back and developing practices of pausing, noticing, and returning to what we know in those hard moments.

So if things go awry, no need to panic!  You have what you need to take that first step back toward where you want to be.

Our Right to Imperfection

I believe we all have the right to make mistakes. Not just that we have made mistakes and will make them again, but that we have the right to make them. We have the right to not be perfect.

It’s a common abusive tactic (as I’ve seen via my DV advocacy work) to blame victims for their abuse by pointing out their mistakes as the reason for that abuse. I’ve spoken with lots of survivors who take ownership of what isn’t theirs (like responsibility for the abuse) because they’ve internalized this idea that mistakes warrant punishment, and that they’re only true, legitimate victims if they’re perfect and faultless. They talk about how they started an argument, stirred up drama, cheated, or fucked up something important – as if any of that was justification for violence.

Abusers demand perfection from their victims, but at the same time, they secretly want failure – because the mistakes are what give them justification (in their minds) for their abusive behavior. Their victim’s imperfections are a way to maintain power and control.

And one of the reasons this works so well as an abusive tactic is because of the ways our culture demands perfection from victims of abuse and violence (especially if the victim has a marginalized identity) – and demands perfection in general and punishes and shames mistakes, failures, and imperfections, rather than engaging them in a meaningful, productive, and life-affirming way.

We can take responsibility for our mistakes and do a deep accounting of behavior we regret without making that mean something about our worthiness and deservedness; we can apologize, change, and move forward without punishing ourselves, submitting to another’s authority, or subjecting ourselves to harm.

Our mistakes ask things of us and invite us into processes of reconciliation, learning, and growing, but our mistakes never strip us of our human sovereignty and should never be used as justification for harm or abuse.

When I remember I have the right to make mistakes, I feel freer to try, risk, and live big. I feel more grace toward myself and others, and more understanding and compassion around what we’re all trying to do and become in messy and imperfect circumstances.

Who Benefits?

One of my best tools for self-love is this simple question: who benefits?

I get political with my self-love. I think about everyone who benefits from my self-hatred – all the CEO’s getting rich off our collective insecurities, the systems of oppression fueled and bolstered by the lies we internalize, abusive people who manipulate our self-doubt for their own ends.

This is the way I see it: if I’m not enjoying and spending and reveling in and claiming my own aliveness, someone else is using that life-force energy for their own agenda.

And remembering this gets me back on track real quick.

Think about it: when you’re busy calling yourself a failure, criticizing your body, or telling yourself you’re not enough – where is that energy going? Not into your deep passions or desires, not into your creativity, not into your voice (which the world definitely needs, by the way).

And no shame or blame around this - it makes sense that lots of us struggle with self-love, body image, and positive self-regard. We live in toxic systems that tell us lies about ourselves and the world and do all sorts of things to turn us against ourselves and each other.

But self-love is our work. And I believe that work is one of the most important journeys we walk in this lifetime.

I don’t believe any of us are here to objectify, judge, or criticize ourselves. I believe we’re here to step into our bodies and into the current of our aliveness. We’re here to claim and enjoy and spend our life-force. We’re here to choose ourselves.

I know we’re all on this journey together, and I send all my love, support, and encouragement to my fellow travelers, along with my own commitment to never give up on this self-love quest. I hope all of you join me on that journey. 

The Power of Desire

Desire is a powerful resource, and it’s an energy I’m always trying to connect with and draw on in my own life.  I often ask myself: how’s my desire doing, and how’s my relationship with my desire doing?

Because it matters how I respond to my desire.  It matters what I do with that energy pulling me forward into what I most want.

I’ve experienced the power of channeling my desire into imagination and creation and movement, just as I’ve experienced the destruction of pushing my desire away or making my desire mean that I’ll never reach what I want, that I’m not worthy of what I most yearn for, or that my desire is pointing toward the impossible.

Desire is a powerful force – and whether that’s a force for creation and aliveness or for destruction and despair largely depends on my relationship with it and my response to it.

This is some of what I’ve found helpful in cultivating a more positive and powerful relationship with my desire:

  1. Affirm and celebrate desire when it comes up.  Because it’s sort of amazing to want things and be fueled by that wanting.  My desire means I’m alive, and it’s a gift I am free to use and work with to create, grow, and deepen into my life.

  1. Celebrate the ways desire has pulled you forward into beauty, creativity, and growth.  I know my desire has prompted me to do things my fear would have preferred I definitely not do: get on a plane and travel to another country alone, go on that first date, publish and share my creative work.  Without desire, none of that awesomeness would have happened.  Think back.  What has your desire done for you?

  1. Get familiar with your desire.  How does it feel in your body?  What are its different shades, textures, and energies?  How does it ripple through your life?

So what do you want?  Where’s your desire pulling you next?  I hope that as you explore and lean into your own desire, you also feel into the power, possibility, and creativity that exists within it and lives within you.

Lessons from 5 Years Meditating

I remembered this week that it’s been over 5 years since I started meditating!

Meditation was something that intrigued me long before I made it a habit, but I couldnever carve out the time or summon the patience to make it happen. Until one day, I just decided it was time. And today, meditation is one of my non-negotiable daily practices.

Meditation sounds fancy (or at least, it sounded super fancy to me before I was doing it). But it’s not. It’s simple and ordinary and grounding and frustrating. It often feels like a waste of time.

My approach to meditation has changed a lot in the past 5 years, along with my reasons for doing it, but overall, this is what it gives me: an experience of my own humanness.

That experience is sometimes transcendent, sometimes boring, sometimes painful – but it’s always real, and it’s always grounding.

Because nothing gets me in touch with my raw, empty humanity as much as sitting in silence trying to settle my energy and get grounded in my body.

Looking at it now, meditation is really just a practice of pausing, noticing, experiencing, and checking in with myself (and learning not to be afraid of what I’ll find there).

And the reason I keep doing it, the reason it’s been so worthwhile, is because it deepens my capacity to be with emptiness, discomfort, and uncertainty – and helps me see and remember the truth of about myself: that I have a body, a mind, and wild collection of emotions, that I’m immensely powerful and creative; that I’m going to die (and that’s okay), and that there’s more to the nothingness and emptiness than we think.

So I’m celebrating 5 years of devotion to this practice that works for me! And I wish everyone success in finding, maintaining, and deepening into practices that give you life, joy, and goodness.

Hard Emotions as a Path to Bigness

One of the most toxic messages we've learned from the culture (speaking generally and collectively) is that we should feel good and happy 100% of the time and if we're not, something has gone terribly wrong.

I know I've fallen into this lie, and I know where it has led me: to spiritual bypassing, denial, fragmentation, and smallness.

I also know that feeling hard emotions is a powerful act of realness, self-love, and power.

Every time I do it, it reminds me I'm big enough and brave enough to do hard things and feel hard things, and this deepens my experience of life.

Of course, there are things I can do alleviate emotional suffering (mostly working through my thoughts and stories that create them), but this is always after I feel and allow what's present and real in the moment.

(And also: sometimes our emotions have no deep reason and just want to be felt so they can move on).

Embracing this both/and in my emotional life and landscape has led to so much goodness and richness because in the process, the good emotions have a deeper, vaster space to land and be absorbed in my system because there's more room for everything and everyone - the sadness and the joy, the frustration and the delight, the fear and the comfort.

And all of it together makes for a rich and deep life and a big and brave self.

The Power of Planning

I used to resist planning because I thought it was tedious, controlling, and restrictive, but I changed my mind about this recently when I began to understand planning as just another form of setting boundaries.

When it comes to creating the life I want, boundaries have taught me the non-negotiable power of “no” (as a way of saying "yes" and investing in the thing that's the priority in the moment). And when I decide ahead of time, this is essentially what I’m doing - saying no to all other possibilities except this one for right now.

When I make a plan, I’m building a fence around my most important thing (an hour writing, dinner with my sweetheart, my meditation time, etc.) and saying “no” to everything else for that allotted time.

I used to think planning would make life smaller by eliminating spontaneity and freedom when actually, it's made life deeper by bringing that freedom and spontaneity in a clearer, more focused way.

So I don’t plan everything, but I do try to plan the most important things - and make them priorities by creating space and choosing them ahead of time.

Power vs. Control

Power vs. Control

This was a topic that came up on a coaching call today that led to a rich discussion.

Words mean different things to different people, but to this person, control was about force, pushing, and extremes, while power was about both/and, groundedness, and capacity.

Control was about fear. Power was about love.

In a world in which we experience hard things and where there is so much beyond our control, power asks to deepen into the infinity within our own borders and reminds us that there is always possibility we can create with our own magic and within our own being.

The beautiful thing about power is that it's big enough to hold the hard stuff (whereas control seeks smallness by pushing all the bad stuff away until we too shrink into oblivion).

There is power in presence - in not abandoning ourselves when things get hard (so we won't have to experience the hard thing).

Power reminds us that there are things within us (mystery, beauty, magic, and strength) bigger than the hard experiences and emotions that are passing through.

Paradoxically, the hard stuff often reminds us of our brilliance and strength - that we can be in the both/and and find our power and aliveness in that space.

Birthday Musings

Earlier this week (before the snow and the storms), I took a birthday visit to the lake yesterday to celebrate and do some reflecting about the transition into a new decade.

One of the things I thought about was how, in my twenties, I felt a lot of pressure to be good and feel good – to manage and maximize my life through positivity, productivity, and perfectionism.

But I began to see somewhere along the way that this focus was off – and that it was a better investment to pour my time and energy into the project of becoming a person big enough to hold the hard stuff – the complexity, imperfection, failures, hard emotions, and bad days – rather than pushing them away.

Ultimately, the focus on goodness, positivity, and perfection made me smaller because, in my efforts to maintain them, I often shrunk away from the real and hard stuff that was asking something of me.

And now, in all my 30 year-old wisdom, I feel pretty confident saying that living a good and deep life is far more than a collection of good feelings, positive thoughts, and productive days strung together.

It’s about our capacity to be with their opposites; it’s about becoming a person who can do a hard thing and feel a painful emotion rather than let them stop us.

Which is probably why being in the presence of the lake was so comforting - a perfect metaphor for becoming a vast container to carry whatever flows within it.

Here’s to a decade of bigness, flow, and power.

Amping Up Your Beautiful Weirdness

As a 6’0” American woman, I fall in the 99.38th percentile of height. (Info courtesy of this calculator).

People see my tallness first. It’s the thing about me that’s most noticeable and conspicuous.

People often look at me with wide eyes and say the obvious, “you’re tall.” (or random dude on the street one day: “your daddy must be biiiiig!”).

People ask me if I play basketball. Or used to model. Or if my (male) partner is shorter than me (he is) and how he feels about that (totally emasculated, obviously).

All of this is only sometimes and sort of annoying (and there’s actually a lot of social privilege in being tall), but my height is definitely a thing. It leads the way and defines how I show up and occupy space in the world.

After the awkward teen years, I got better at standing up straight, not shrinking away, and enjoying the benefits of getting things off the top shelf and being able to see and breathe fresh air in crowds.

But I pretty much always wore flat shoes. Because I thought I couldn’t wear heels (isn’t it awkward and rude to tower over people like that?) or because I thought I wouldn’t be able to walk gracefully (higher center of gravity and all).

But I recently got a couple of pairs that make me about 6’2”, and the experience of wearing them has rocked my world.

These shoes make me feel like I have superpowers, which makes sense – because they do amp something about me (my tallness) that actually is a sort of weird, mutant superpower (statistically speaking).

It makes me wonder: why don’t more of us amp up rather than tone down what makes us weird, different, and special?

The places we don’t fit (maybe literally) are portals into so much beauty, power, and realness.

I’m finding that for me, wearing shoes that make me taller is an act of embracing my bigness – not only my actual physical size, but also the fullness of who I really am.

And there’s something catalyzing and life-affirming about stepping into that simple truth.

It feels good to feel like more of myself.

I’m tall. So I might as well own that shit.

Is there anything about you you've been toning down that wants to be amped up? Where is your invitation to step into your bigness?

Whatever weirdness, uniqueness, or realness is waiting to find deeper expression in and through you, I encourage you to embrace it, own it, and let it take you to truer depths of your vast and beautiful being.

The Honest, Gritty Truth about Change

Our capacity as human creatures to change, shift, and transform – to upend a life, identity, or trajectory to create a new one – is one of the most awe-inspiring marvels of life, in my experience.

We all possess this power, and that’s a beautiful truth.

But I don’t often see a lot of honest conversations about what change actually is and what it requires.

Change is wonderful – it’s also often hard and weird. It’s dangerous alchemy and volatile combustion. This is true whether the changes are good or bad, chosen or not, external or internal.

Because when we undergo a change that cracks or shatters our sense of reality or asks parts of us to die to be reborn, there are moments of empty (and perhaps terrifying) uncertainty, moments when we are confronted with the questions: who am I, and what is real? – and don’t know the answers.

And this unknowingness is destabilizing and catalytic – and certainly not as safe as the status quo.

I was reminded of this recently. I was having a hard mental health day and feeling confused about it, until I remembered I was in my own process of transformation. And since those changes were internal (and invisible) rather than obvious in my external world, I had overlooked the care I needed to navigate the process.

Because often, the actual, lived experience of transforming is one of our whole system being wobbly, out of alignment, and in an uneven, jumbled mess as parts of us deepen, grow, and expand, while others are left behind and trying to catch up.

I try to remember to expect all of this so that I can be intentional in creating space for my body and spirit to integrate, rest, and heal. Because there will probably be hard days, and things will probably get broken along the way. And when I can expect this and (sort of) prepare for it, I can more easily let the current carry me along and invite care and grace into the process.

Knowing vs. Certainty

When I feel like I don’t know what to do next, there’s a good chance I’m confusing certainty with knowing.

Here’s the difference as I understand it:

Certainty wants a guaranteed outcome, promise of safety, clear view of the whole path, and list of step-by-step instruction, whereas knowing is the truth available now that takes me to the next right thing.

Knowing unfolds as we go.

This is often super frustrating to me. Because I even though I know (or can find a way to know) what’s true for me now and what the next right thing is, this often doesn’t feel like enough – at least to my anxious, small self who prefers certainty and would choose the guarantee every time.

But the path is unfolding and so are we, so the truth of our knowing is never a once-and-for-all conclusion we can hold ahead of time.

Instead, knowing comes with engaging life, walking the road, making wrong turns, and deepening into our embodied, intuitive wisdom.

This way of knowing reminds me that life is an adventure of trusting what I know in the moment and remembering that for now, this is enough – the rest will unfold when it’s time, and I can trust my own capacity to be with the uncertainty in the meantime.

The Vastness of You + a Tool for Discernment

Who am I? is one of my favorite questions.  And it's an important one - because what we know and believe and understand about ourselves shapes how we live, dream, and engage others and the world around us.

However, I find the answer people give to this question is often a role - a set of expectations and ideas defined by others - when who we are at the core is so much deeper than that.  I think this is because we are asked and conditioned to extract the truth of our identity (in all its wondrous, paradoxical vastness) and shove it into too-small containers.

Roles (like student, teacher, parent, partner, employee, etc.) can be useful and even accurate, but they never tell the whole story and can never contain or hold us in our bigness, depth, and wholeness. 

I was working with a client recently who was in the midst of a significant ending and life transition.  As the roles that used to define this person’s life and self broke apart, one-by-one, they felt like they were dissolving into nothing, when really, they were being invited into a deeper conversation with identity.  Underneath all of those roles and external expectations, who were they really?

What they found was that this transition was an invitation into depth, vastness, and mystery – an opening into looking at self, identity, and possibility in a new way.

If you too are being invited into explorations of self and identity, here is a simple exercise I recommend for getting in touch with the wisdom of your identity.

1) Get grounded and settled in your body and take a few deep breaths.
2) Come into connection with the vastest, deepest, wisest part of you – the part of you that is fully alive and dangerously powerful.
3) Ask this self: what do I know?

What is the profound, resonant, dangerous, deep-in-your-bones truth of the moment?

Maybe it’s that you need something you’re afraid to ask for or claim; maybe it’s an insight into a relationship or life situation; maybe it’s a knowing about who you really are at your core.

Maybe this knowing is lighthearted and simple; maybe it’s alchemical and potent; maybe it’s terrifying and electrifying; maybe it’s hilarious and beautiful. Whatever it is, you’ll know it’s right by how it lands in your body: clear, resonant, powerful, expanded, enlivened, relaxed.

When I did this exercise earlier this week, mine was: my freedom is worth any price.

This knowing asks something of me and isn’t super easy in terms of its implications, but it’s also a truth that when it landed, immediately clarified my next steps and intentions around a tricky life situation I have been trying to sort out for the past couple of months.

The trick is to be willing and brave enough to be with the answers that arise within us, to confront our truth with power, authority, and self-possession, and to trust our ability to hold complexity and stay with ourselves when it gets hard.

Not always easy, but worth it (in my experience). Because when our introspection, courage, and truth-telling collide, shit gets magical.

Cultivating Loving Feeling + Tools for Deepening Self-Love

I grew up with the maxim that love isn’t a feeling; it’s an action. Which I appreciate. Because love is gritty and hard and takes us to depths in ourselves and reveals truths about our human condition that can rock our worlds and shake us to the core. And when it comes to love, sometimes we just have to put our heads down and power through.

But somewhere in this pragmatic, sensible approach, I lost the truth that love is not only practical action and no-nonsense work, but also a feeling we cultivate with intention. And this feeling bit is just as important.

My relationships – with my partner, with my people, with myself, with the earth, with my creativity – all require my investment in creating feelings of connection, appreciation, and awe, as much as they require concrete action and commitment.

I felt this most recently in my relationship with myself, which had become all action, no feeling.  Even though I was loving myself with action – acting and advocating on my behalf, taking care of my body, mind, and spirit, setting boundaries, and going after my dreams and honoring my desires – there was a gap in feeling that left me with a missing piece and asked me to consciously nurture positive feelings toward myself to love myself better.

Because feelings aren’t just fleeting hits of emotional sensation – they are deep energetic compass points, transporting currents of power, and spiritual fuel. And my own tendency to dismiss feelings when it came to love was leaving my love relationships unbalanced and deprived of this essential ingredient.

So I’m welcoming feeling back into the mix and attempting to bring more warmth, appreciation, and wonder to love so that I can create energies that connect me with the world, feed and inspire my relational commitments, and ultimately make love an act of devotion, joy, and transcendence.

Here are some ideas for deepening your experience of self-love:

1) Let yourself feel all your feelings, even (especially) if they seem silly, contradictory, or nonsensical.  Give yourself safe space to feel, and let yourself laugh, cry, and rage.  Speak to yourself like you would to a toddler who is overwhelmed or tantruming.  

2) Answer the following questions: what do I appreciate about myself?  How can I cultivate feelings of warmth and connection with myself?  How might I deepen into delight in my own aliveness and being?

3)Give yourself experiences of wonder.  What takes your breath away?  What inspires and awes you?  Give yourself space to feel, experience, and allow those feelings, experiences, and memories.

4) Ask: What do I most need to deepen self-trust?  Maybe it's prioritizing your basic needs, fortifying your boundaries, cultivating positive feelings for yourself, or deepening your routines of care.

5) Honor your desire, and let yourself want what you want.  Too often, we push down what we yearn for, believing it's too big, too shallow, too frivolous, etc.  What might it mean to let yourself have it, and to allow that energy to pull you forward into mystery?

Wishing you all so much beautiful love and deep relationship.

Working with Fear to Create Goodness

Life has been reminding me recently that deepening my capacity to feel fear, discomfort, and uncertainty is a nonnegotiable part of living a big life.

Going after what I want, being real and vulnerable about who I am, stepping into newness, and seeking out unpredictable, raw experiences in the world often scares (and sometimes terrifies) me.

But more often than not, good stuff is waiting for me on the other side of that fear.

When I think of my first date with my spouse, getting on that plane to travel alone, starting my coaching business, or preparing for all of those high-stakes swim meets, job interviews, or exams, I can still feel the nervous butterflies and/or heavy pit of terror in my stomach, but I also remember that those feelings were all that stood between me and the beauty, goodness, and accomplishment waiting on the other side.

Deepening my capacity to feel fear helps me not run from life. And being with uncertainty and discomfort helps me stay in the moment I’m in (and not opt out by turning to escapism or avoidance).

And when I can do that, fear becomes an essential compass point – an indication I’m at the edge of my comfort and on the verge of the next new thing calling me forward.

Also: feeling fear and getting clear about what it’s communicating is a core component of discernment – because sometimes, fear is telling us it’s time to take our next step (or leap) towards a coherent desire, goal, or possibility, and sometimes, our fear is telling us we got off track and are on a path that is not right, safe, or good for us.

So how do we discern the difference? By getting clear on how each feels in our body.

I love the metaphor Martha Beck uses to talk about these two types of fear: does it feel more like you’re standing on a high dive about to jump into cool, clear water on a hot day, or more like you’re about to jump from the high dive into toxic sludge? Either way, the jump is high and frightening, but are you leaping toward something glorious, right, and clear, or not so much?

A helpful way to calibrate this compass is to return to times you felt fear. What did you feel in your body when the fear was leading you toward goodness, and what did you feel when the fear was warning you to stay away from something unhelpful or harmful? What do you notice about the differences between the two in how they show up as a feeling in your body?

Either way, fear is an important thing to feel and allow (unless we have traumas, addictions, or mental health issues that make it problematic for us to feel anxiety and fear, which is another conversation), because those feelings – as they show up in our bodies – are what give us the data we need to respond clearly and coherently to what life offers. And when we listen to our emotions and our bodies, we not only have more clarity for the path ahead, but also a deepened sense of inner knowing and self-trust.

Creating When You Don't Feel Good

I had a life-changing realization recently that I don’t have to feel good to create.

Much to my surprise, I’ve found that I can sit down to write, paint, or make something when I’m not feeling amazing.

And perhaps this is obvious, but it was sure a revelation to me.

Here’s a nuanced distinction I wasn’t quite getting:

Being connected and in flow with good energy matters in creativity. It definitely helps to have access to my vision and imagination. It’s good to have a solid energetic grounding in what gives my creativity life.

But this isn’t the same thing as feeling emotionally good.

The work I do to cultivate and plug into my deep creative energies is something I do on an ongoing, regular basis and not something I have to capture in a moment in order to do a thing in the material world. I can trust the inner work I’ve done already and also trust myself to access it when it matters, even if I don’t feel it emotionally.

(Plus, it is often the act of creating – actually doing the work – that connects me with good energy and gets me feeling good and in flow).

So sharing in case it’s helpful. As someone who personally benefits from so much of y’all’s creativity, I never want to pass up an opportunity to encourage folks to keep going. The world needs your art.

Returning to the Basics

This year, I’m reminding myself to return to the basics.

Because in the journey of deepening into who I am (sharpening my devotion and commitment to what matters, becoming a more effective life coach, growing spiritually and emotionally, etc.), I’ve noticed a temptation to bypass the basics (the work at its most fundamental level) in search of the next practice, insight, method, framework, or idea that will (magically) take me to new heights and depths of connectedness, joy, and wisdom.

And while seeking out new opportunities is part of the journey, it’s usually not what I most need.

Usually, if I’m craving connection or seeking transformation, I find I need to deepen into the basics of what I already know (and know to do).

For me, it’s the trifecta of awareness (body, emotion, and mind):

1) Getting grounded and checking in with my body, experiencing and settling into my embodied energy, listening and responding to what my body has to say.

2) Letting myself feel and have embodied experiences of my emotions (without needing to make them mean anything).

3) Managing my mind and working with the thoughts I think and beliefs I carry that keep me small, suffering, and stunted. Basically, identifying those thoughts/beliefs and doing to the work of choosing better ones.

All of this is infuriating simple (which, just to be clear, is not the same as being easy).

No matter how much I grow, transform, or deepen into this experience of life, I still have to be with myself, feel what’s happening inside, and question what I think.

No matter how much progress I make, the starting point is still more or less the same: breathe, sit, feel, connect, question. (It's pretty much always unhelpful to skip these steps.)

All of this reminds me that there is infinite depth in what is already here and available – and infinite possibility in the simple, foundational, unsexy work I know is mine to do and know will take me where I most want to go next.