Soul Growth // Next Level Life

I’ve made it my business—my mission and sole purpose, really—to become the best me I can possibly be in this lifetime.

This is serious life work. It is bucking the trend toward mediocrity and refusing to be a slave to the status quo. It’s a rejection of merely going through the motions of a cold and robotic existence—one in which all responses are set to autopilot. And it’s a definite vote in favour of living with awareness and staying open to the full spectrum of what life has to offer, all the way from unspeakable bliss to excruciating, heart-wrenching pain and everything in between.

This commitment means being present with my feelings during the best of times, and even more so, the worst of times. By allowing my heart to remain wide open throughout times of my own pain and discomfort, I’ve learned that magic does, in fact, exist in this world, and that beauty can be found in the least likely places for anyone who is determined to find it.

Take it from me: there are many valuable life-affirming, soul expanding lessons to be excavated from the bottom of even the largest rubble heap, although it may require some serious digging, and perhaps also a very large shovel.

Living consciously and with awareness is no joke—and it’s definitely not something I get right 100 per cent of the time. Not even close! Being a student of yoga and meditation has given me some valuable tools for making the most out of my human experience. And these tools never fail to remind me that life itself is a practice, and the universe always delivers the circumstances that are in the best interest of my soul’s continuous growth. In other words, in spite of what things may look like on the surface, I know life is always giving me what I need to become the next best version of myself.

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But how do you explain this concept, or even propose to justify it, in light of why bad things happen to good people?
Well, I’m certainly glad you asked, because I recently had a conversation with a friend around that very subject…

And it went a little something like this:
Friend: “Have you ever noticed how good, honest, self-aware people seem to experience challenge after challenge and hardship after hardship, and yet there are others who do the most immoral, inhumane (and even illegal) things and somehow always seem to escape without having any consequences imposed against them for their actions?”

I was very intrigued by this subject, and got pulled into the conversation even deeper by the demands of my heavily bruised ego, having recently been a player in a number of different situations in which I felt like other people, who don’t seem to have any reservations or remorse about their own unscrupulous actions, had grossly abused their power and left a plethora of pain and suffering in their wake.

This is where I entered my default of the victim mode mentality. Over time, it has become increasingly easy for me to recognize this, as I’ve gone there many times before and I went there again in this particular moment. As someone who makes an honest effort to be a good person, to make good choices, and to always be kind to my fellow humans, I find it perplexing and hard to digest when I think about the injustices I’ve seen, both up close and from more of a wide-angle lens in the last while.

BUT when I take a step back and allow a moment (or two, or five) to process my feelings, rather than operating from my default or reactive mode, I am able to see another side to this story:

The challenges that get placed along our path—and the associated discomfort we  experience—are good for us. Although often painful, these experiences are gifts that help to move us from who we once were to who we are becoming. When we remain open, willing to feel, and ready to receive the lessons that are meant for us, our pain can be transformed into something greater, and our challenges become a powerful catalyst for helping us advance to the next level of our lives.

Consider your own answers to the following questions:
Is your pain and suffering ruling or serving you?
What if you were able to stop judging and labeling an experience as either a good or bad?
What if, instead, you deeply knew and truly believed that, no matter what experiences life gives you, it is exactly what you need? (Yes, and I do mean ALL types of experiences, including adversity, illness, job loss, accidents, financial stress, and even death.)

If we are to agree that soul growth is always the highest goal and the ultimate purpose on this journey, we must be willing to take full responsibility for ourselves, knowing that blaming others for our plight is nothing but a cop-out. We must also come to terms, solidly and squarely, with the understanding that life isn’t always going to be easy, nor should we expect it to be. Rather, in doing so we only set ourselves up, time and time again, for major disappointment and failure. And if we insist on living comfortably and in a constant state of complacency, never faced with or willing to face our problems and difficulties, we are also never in a position of adapting or expanding into our next level self to meet the demands of any new situation we might be given.

However, when we learn to see our obstacles not as barriers or deterrents to our own progress, but instead as challenges to positively overcome, (and that the process of doing so will undoubtedly make us stronger and more resilient beings), that is growth in and of itself.

I am a student of life, and perhaps one of my biggest lessons has been in learning to be grateful for every experience, even the stuff that doesn’t feel so good. Even when it’s not obvious and I can’t see it, I am learning to operate from the belief that life is not happening to me, it is happening for me.

So, if you need me, I guess I’ll just be over here, focusing on being a good human, being vulnerable, feeling my feelings, and expanding in response to change as I continue to ‘level up’ in my own life.

But first I’m just gonna run out real quick and grab myself a great big shovel. 😉

MyPhareLady

Do you share this perspective on allowing your challenges to help you grow? I’d love to hear how you apply this concept in your life. Drop me a line in the comments below!

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The Long Way

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For as many times as I’ve heard the song, Take the Long Way Home by Supertramp over the years, which coincidentally was released in 1979 when I was a mere babe of three, I never actually paid much attention to the lyrics. And while I may never know why this particular song made a very peculiar, out-of-the-blue appearance in my consciousness yesterday, now that I’ve taken a closer look at the lyrics, I’m pretty sure it’s about a heck of a lot more than a guy who’s not so eager to get home to his less-than-loving wife.

Taking the long way is often perceived by the lazy as an inefficient waste of time. To those who suffer from chronic impatience, doing so seems plain silly. And to the faint of heart, taking the long way in anything can be daunting; every single step an unbelievably grueling grind.

But when we come to think of home as less of an actual physical dwelling and more an idealistic place of peace and comfort within ourselves—a way of living and loving from the heart, if you will—perhaps taking the long way actually does have its advantages.

It certainly calls to mind some important questions. For example: What would you do if you had more time? And, moreover, if all those things you want to do are really so important to you, why aren’t you doing them in the time you have right now?

The funny thing about time, though, is the realization that it has less control over our lives than most of us would care to admit. The truth of the matter is time becomes an easy target, a willing scapegoat of sorts, when it gets away from us, or when things don’t work out the way we plan. I am certainly not immune to this flimsy belief system, having fallen prey to its clutches on more than one occasion.

After only recently making the switch to seeing my life as a long game, I’m still trying to shake this belief system all the way loose and out of my consciousness. Because I’m no longer buying into the need to beat the clock or believing the perception that I’m running out of time.

And that’s why this year I am celebrating a different type of birthday than I have in the past; one that more accurately reflects the person I’m becoming with each twist and turn on this long and winding road. This year, my birthday is not about hoopla. There will be no confetti or balloons, and most likely there will be no cake. I am not looking for fanfare, because I’ve come to the point where this day is about much more than being showered with attention and gifts. And I’m perfectly fine with that. In fact, it is exactly the way I want it.

Instead, this year I am choosing to celebrate the depth of the person I continue to become, the complexity of my journey, and the bittersweet richness of doing this life my way.

Today, I will refrain from spending time on Facebook or Instagram, instead setting my phone to airplane mode. I will use my time intentionally and wisely. I may choose to do some writing or complete an art journal spread. I will almost certainly spend time outside, walking, enjoying the opportunity to breathe in the fresh air, and simply being in the calming presence of the trees. I may indulge myself in a handcrafted latte, some luxurious chocolate, and a gourmet lunch prepared just for me. I will, no doubt, sit in silence, listening to the wisdom of my heart. And I may just go ahead and dream up a list of 42 random acts of kindness to be completed over the course of my 42nd year on planet earth.

Continuing in this spirit of giving generously, I also commit to doing something meaningful for me: making myself a priority and giving myself the gift of time, not just today, but for the next 42 consecutive days:

  • 10 minutes of meditation
  • 20 minutes of writing
  • 30 minutes of movement/yoga/exercise

The idea and meaning behind this gift to myself is two-fold:

  • Writing down these intentions (and declaring them out loud for all the world to hear) is a major maneuver in holding myself accountable; and
  • Doing these things for 40 days in a row will set me well on the path to establishing these priorities as part of a nourishing daily ritual for myself. (I’m basically just sweetening the pot by adding on a bonus two days!)

In the place where I stand now, I’d like to think I’ve become at least a little wiser over the past 42 years. (If my grey hair is any indication, I should be very smart. You can ask my stylist. lol) But I’ve said it before and I’m not afraid to say it again, right here and now: I can be a slow learner. And so I continue to learn my lessons as I take the long way on my journey through life, all with the intention of finding my own unique way of living and loving from the heart.

One such lesson I’ve needed to receive on more than one occasion is about allowing what comes, to come; what stays, to stay; and to simply let go of the rest. And although I suspect I’ll always crave meaningful connections with my fellow humans, I’ve come to see the futility in grasping and clinging to people and circumstances that were perhaps never meant for me in the first place. And of course I continue to see the tremendous benefit of practicing gratitude on the daily. I am endlessly grateful for every single person and situation that has come my way, realizing they each held an important place in my world, whether in my life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

So, as I round the corner to 42 Street, it feels like I’m inching ever closer to finding my ‘heart home’ and tapping into a more permanent place of peace within myself. And as I do, it occurs to me that maybe birthdays are merely time and route markers on our journey. And then I wonder if maybe we’re all just taking the long way home?

After all, maybe it’s the long way—with all of its peaks and valleys, detours and dead ends, speed bumps and plot twists—that makes this life worthwhile.

xo

Take the Long Way Home
Supertramp

So you think you’re a Romeo
Playing a part in a picture-show
Take the long way home
Take the long way home
‘Cause you’re the joke of the neighborhood
Why should you care if you’re feeling good
Take the long way home
Take the long way home
But there are times that you feel you’re part of the scenery
All the greenery is comin’ down, boy
And then your wife seems to think you’re part of the furniture
Oh, it’s peculiar, she used to be so nice
When lonely days turn to lonely nights
You take a trip to the city lights
And take the long way home
Take the long way home
You never see what you want to see
Forever playing to the gallery
You take the long way home
Take the long way home
And when you’re up on the stage, it’s so unbelievable,
Oh unforgettable, how they adore you,
But then your wife seems to think you’re losing your sanity,
Oh, calamity, is there no way out, oh yeah
Ooh, take it, take it out
Take it, take it out
Oh yeah
Does it feel that your life’s become a catastrophe?
Oh, it has to be for you to grow, boy
When you look through the years and see what you could have been
Oh, what you might have been,
If you’d had more time
So, when the day comes to settle down,
Who’s to blame if you’re not around?
You took the long way home
You took the long way home
Took the long way home
You took the long way home
You took the long way home, so long
You took the long way home
You took the long way home, uh yeah
You took the long way home
Long way home
Long way home
Long way home
Long way home
Long way home
Long way home
Songwriters: Richard Davies / Roger Hodgson
Take the Long Way Home lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

unbecoming

There’s something special about the approach of autumn. For me, the feeling is unique to this time of year, and is entirely different than the change over of any of the other seasons.

Maybe it’s the promise of relief from the heat of summer with the cooler weather we know is surely on its way. Maybe it’s the return of some much-needed structure as the kids go back to school and resume the routine of their organized activities.

Or maybe it’s something far less tangible…the mere glimpse of hope, possibility, and new beginnings I feel waiting in the wings.

There’s a special type of magic in the air in September, and the feeling is even more pronounced for me this year than any other. While I may not be able to put my finger on what it is exactly, I know with great certainty change is coming. I can feel it in my bones.

It began several weeks ago with a restless ache in my body. What started as little more than a twinge in the pit of my stomach has grown much larger and is taking shape from deep inside. The structure of my cells is being altered as this ‘thing’ takes root in my core.

Having wiped away the dust and residue from the stories of the past that previously clouded my vision, I’ve started to see with fresh eyes. I no longer need to be shielded from the truth; no more distortion or protective filters required to paint a more palatable picture of the prevailing reality for my ego self.

I think it’s human nature to seek out evidence—a sign, or better yet, some type of actual physical proof—that supports our hypotheses and assertions. It’s normal to want to be able to see, hear, smell, taste, or touch something before we can truly believe in it. But sometimes, before a thing comes to life, before it’s actually manifested in the physical form, you just need to put all of your trust into its becoming.

And yet, evidence of change is all around for those who are willing to see it. Watch the leaves show us the wisdom of the natural world, as they change from their deep, glossy greens, to the glorious shades of golds, rusts, and purples. This is the leaves way of demonstrating their trust in the knowledge that their season of life is over and the time has come for them to surrender. Although temporary, the results are remarkably beautiful, even breathtaking to behold.

Not long after the beautiful display of fall colours, we also know the trees will shed their leaves to help conserve energy for the winter. The leaves that hang on will, no doubt, be torn from their branches by a swift autumn wind eventually.

As evidence of my humanity, on a purely physical level I can see my skin is changing and I’m shedding my hair like mad. I am releasing physical and mental clutter in every corner of my life. I am more committed than ever before to my own evolution and metamorphosis, and at the very least, I continue to become increasingly aware of my actions and reactions.

And I suppose that’s how I know with all I am that the time for harvest must surely be nearing. The seeds that were planted within me long, long ago are sprouting with the beginnings of new life. It’s a life that’s bursting with the hope that anything is possible—even really difficult things and maybe even miracles—when I believe and put my faith in the power of love over fear.

Through the infinite wisdom of a universe in which everyone and everything is connected to everyone and everything else, I am aware of the change that is occurring, both all around and deep within me. I trust not only in what I can see, but also in the less quantifiable feeling of what has not yet materialized.

Like the leaves, I am immersed in the surrender of my own unraveling. As I continue to challenge old beliefs and peel away the protective layers, I’m removing the costumes and masks I’ve worn. This is the real me; exposed and vulnerable. Just being.

It’s messy and complicated, and may not look like much on the outside, but when I get very still and quiet I know that a space is being created for something significant to enter.

I don’t know what it is yet, but I trust in whatever it will be.

This is the season of my unbecoming.