Fear or Faith: My Choice

Can you keep a secret? The trainings in which I’ve been entrenched since before the pandemic’s shutdown began are coming to a welcome end and I find myself with a strange amount of time on my hands. But please. Let’s agree to keep this little admission between friends. I don’t want the universe catching wind of my twiddling thumbs because you know as well as I do that empty space loves to be filled. I’d like a chance to see what I do with all this spare time before that happens.

But I’m wondering…now that I have the chance to dive into all those ‘things’ I’ve always wanted to do but never had time for…what’s stopping me?

I’d like to blame the bout of ‘pandemic malaise’ I’m experiencing but to be truthful the malaise I’ve encountered on and off these past twelve months is fleeting. Maybe it has more to do with the weather, which has been unseasonably chilly and wet for mid-March in Northern California. Or maybe what looks like malaise on the outside is really, on the inside, indecision and fear.

Indecision I understand. I’ve always seen both sides of every coin. But why fear? What’s that about?

In a recent coaching conversation I wondered if the fear my client experienced was less about feeling unprepared for the tasks she needed to complete in order to move her project forward and more a fear of wasting time. It was easy for me to share that observation because that is where most of my fear is rooted. I’ve been alive longer than I have years left to live. I don’t want my time wasted. Besides, I need to earn my keep while my jiggly human form still takes up space on this planet. I need to draw a salary. Make money. Pay bills. I don’t have time for flights of fancy.

I wonder, though, if my excuse, “I don’t have time for that”, masks a harder truth. My interests, outside of teaching yoga, require focused attention. Commitment. Awareness of both my strengths and my weaknesses. They require a willingness to learn.

Yeah. Who has time for that? Especially if the final result is an amorphous unknown.

Another friend of mine is an artist. Seven or eight years ago, when we first met, she was learning to paint. Now she wins awards, exhibits regularly and is about to have her work published in two books.

I wonder if she felt her time was wasted while she was learning to turn a flat circle into a sphere? I wonder, when she first picked up a paint brush, if she even considered time?

It’s funny, isn’t it, how we give fear permission to stop us in our tracks? It can be fear of the unknown, fear of time wasted, fear of hard work or fear of financial insecurity. Or, in my case, all four.

Rather than giving fear carte blanche to run our lives, maybe it’s faith we need? 

So. Will turning my fears of the unknown into faith in myself lift the malaise? Will it help me find the motivation and momentum I need to make the transformation from someone who watches from the sidelines into someone who’s willing to take a chance on herself?

Good question. I can’t wait to find out.

It’s True. I am Practically Twisted.

Photo 188I left home for five days at the last week of January to attend a closing seminar that celebrated the end of my first year in the master’s program at ITP/Sofia and the beginning of my second.  I left home believing in one version of me, and returned embracing another.

One of the irritations of being a student of ITP/Sofia is having friends not affiliated with the school ask you (in some cases, repeatedly) So, Mimm, what is it exactly you’ll be able to do with this when you’re done?

How should I know?  The school, after all, is decidedly left-of-center.  Physically little more than two industrial sized single-story buildings in a doublewide parking lot, in truth the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (now Sofia University) is filled with individuals who have chosen to study the spiritual heart of the psyche.  I’ve met young PhD candidates leaning toward a career in research and Pagans in the master’s program destined for academia.  I know graduates who a decade later continue to quietly counsel clients struggling to make sense of their lives and shiny new students walking a path deeply entrenched in the search for a higher consciousness.  Somehow they’ve found ITP/Sofia but even here, they stand out in their choice to initiate a journey leading them further from the mainstream.

When I enrolled, my only intention was to find a course of study that would deepen my practice.  And when I chose my second-year specialization, Transformation Life Coaching, I wanted a practical translation of my deepening practice that I could take out into the world.  I wanted to choose a reasonable course.  A safe journey. Something that might lead to a comfortable retirement plan.

I should have known better.  Right or wrong, I’ve never considered a comfortable retirement plan a high priority even though the thought of not having one can, from time to time, induce a pulse quickening panic attack.

It was Day Three of the seminar when I stood in line for a cup of green tea and felt it coming on.  There was a quivering around my heart. Change is something I like to ease into.  I prefer a slow graceful curve to a hairpin turn.  What I was beginning to feel in my heart was neither slow nor graceful. I took my mug into the assembly room and sat by John.  John has been a long distance anchor and older brother to me this past year.  John, I said, I chose the wrong specialization.  And I already bought all the textbooks.

John didn’t hesitate.

Mimm, he shrugged and said, everyone needs more books.

It was as simple as that.  Spending a little extra money (even money that I don’t have) on a few more books is better than being tied to a specialization that was chosen simply so that I could answer the question everyone but me needed an answer to:  What is it you’ll be able to do when all this is done?

We’re heard it before.  That we’re to follow our bliss and let our heart sing.  It sounds so sweet, doesn’t it?  So easy.  But of course anyone who has committed to a life melody based on the song in their heart knows that, in truth, this journey, like all journeys, has moments of difficulty.  Along the way we’re going to hit a few bum notes.

The difficulties we face, however, on a journey that begins from the heart, seem easier somehow.  They feel less like psychic tsunamis and more like rogue waves.  The difficulties we face on journeys begun from the heart are more easily navigated.

It was not my intention to be a full-time student at fifty-five.  But here I am.  And it feels good.  I know I’m not alone on this road and I know I haven’t made the most practical choice.  But I’m all right with that.  My new specialization is Spiritual Psychology.

You’re probably wondering, what will she be able to do with that when she’s done?

Watch this space.

Hair Today

Hair is over rated.

Some people mark life transitions with tattoos.  I have commitment issues – the only tattoos you’ll ever see on me are the ones that fade away.  To mark my life transitions I’m more likely to go for something long lasting but a little less permanent.  Like a haircut.  A very short haircut.  Delivered through my own hands. With a one-inch blade.

Shaving your head when you’re twenty-seven – the age when I first took a cheap beard trimmer to my curly brown locks – feels brave and reckless.  Doing the same when fifty-two is eight weeks away leans a little closer to menopausal madness.  But I craved it.  I talked about it for the past week and when friends said “No!” I still threatened to do it.

And by 5:43 this afternoon my hair was in a pile at my feet.

Things change. Hair grows. When I left my apartment on August 15th for teacher training and then followed those two incredible weeks with my journey home, I changed.  I moved closer to my authentic self.  And I needed to mark that change somehow – make it tangible.  Go figure.

Fascia, Fuzz and Fear

A few weeks ago my fellow yogis and I gathered in The Pine Room at Land of Medicine Buddha to watch a video called The Fuzz Speech. Basically, the film is a short history of fascia.  Fascia is a type of connective tissue that runs throughout our body.  As we age, or if we are immobile, it begins to contract and stiffen.  After we watched the short video, we were certain of two things: we would always, always, always stretch our bodies and we wanted to study with Gil Hedley.

Gil Hedley is the anatomist and theologian who delivers The Fuzz Speech.  It’s worth the five minutes it takes to watch.

I hope to complete a six-day workshop with him during April in San Francisco.  And yet I’ve not registered for the class.  What’s holding me back?  One simple phone call.  To enroll in his cadaver study intensive, I need to call him.  But I’m afraid I won’t know what to say.  Or maybe there’s a part of me that’s hoping if I put off ringing the number long enough, the course will be full.  In other words, I’m sabotaging my potential success. I’m my own worse enemy.  But fear is a funny thing, isn’t it.  I’m not afraid of the intensive.  I’m not afraid of confronting death.  If anything, I’m afraid of life.

Last night, when a neighborhood in San Bruno exploded in flames, we were reminded that it could all be over in a flash.  Of course, bad things happen all over the world all the time.  But this is our Peninsula, and San Bruno is just down the road.  When tragedy on a massive scale hits this close to home…

I think it’s time to stop navel gazing and time to live life.  Excuse me; I have a phone call to make.

Oh – one more thing, while you’re fiddling around watching The Fuzz Speech, take a look at these photographs of bones.  The way you think about yoga and alignment will never be the same.