Have you ever been afraid to tell someone what you really think? Have you ever felt too self-conscious to freely express yourself?
I remember when I first returned to teaching in the elementary classroom after I had taken a week off to attend Burning Man. Suddenly, I was part of a counter-culture and my nine to five seemed a place too small for my creative self to fit, let alone express herself authentically. I plead the fifth when people inquired about where I had been and was overwhelmed with paranoia that I must hide a part of myself. What would happen to my persona, public school teacher, if people knew that I participated in such a wild time in the desert?
It was then that the idea of leaving teaching began to grow in my mind and heart. The desire to live with freedom to fully express myself, nothing hidden, was enticing, and the creative muse inside began her seduction dance.
That was 2009, and here, three years later, it is a full-grown desire, ready to be birthed. It is not a passing fad, born from a wild week of dusty freedom, but rather, it is a spiritual journey.
When I began to awaken spiritually, I realized I was caged. That edge I was bumping up against, the edge of telling people the truth and being authentically revealed, that was the boundary of my cage.
In his book, The Untethered Soul, the Journey Beyond Yourself, Michael Singer says we must handle the discomfort. He likens it to an electric fence boundary put in place for a dog. When the dog reaches that edge, it jumps back in fear. If the dog, one day, did not habitually react, and pushed through the discomfort, it would eventually reach the end of the fence, and the end of the pain. It would be free.
We are like this dog, seeking always to find comfort, forgetting that our spiritual work, our path, is to walk the razors edge, always pushing ourselves to go beyond our comfort zones, or else we are not really growing, we are not living fully. We are resisting and avoiding fear. Singer says, “The infinite and eternal are just outside the limits of your cage.”
It’s the Buddhist teaching of attachment, or, clinging, as Singer says, that the psyche is all about.
“Clinging creates the bricks and mortar with which we build a conceptual self. In the midst of vast inner space, using nothing but the vapor of thoughts, you created a structure of apparent solidity to rest upon.”
This is precisely what my career has become. It defines me to a large degree. It is a structure that seems quite solid to me. I have a contract, a salary, health care, and mandates dictating what I must do, how I must be, present myself, teach. I have something credible to state as my career when people inquire, and it seems quite a noble profession, so therefore, I can rest upon the solidity of what I have made for myself. I am a successful career woman.
Singer then goes on to ask a profound question, “Who are you that is lost and trying to build a concept of yourself in order to be found?” This question, he says, represents the essence of spirituality.
And then, he gets me. Finally, I read the words on a page that sum up why I am leaving my career…
“You will never find yourself in what you built to define yourself.”
And so it is, that after a life-time of dreaming and building to define myself, now that I have degrees, and letters after my name, and a career and a persona, I have to walk away from it all. For I am on a spiritual journey, and it is not in the title of “Ms. Haynes” that I will find myself. It is not in being a licensed educator, with a Masters Degree, that I shall find myself, but it is in the letting go of what seems solid, that I can learn the truth about what is real.
In my choice to leave, I feel fear. This tells me I am on my edge, and this is where I want to live.
Perhaps Burning Man was a big catalyst in my journey, but Vipassana was the kicker. With ten straight days of ten plus hours of meditation per day, I was able to be with my deeper self and get very clear about what I want without any outside input from anyone. In those hours, one thing came to me with a deep and stark clarity: I want complete liberation. Freedom from any chains, that in my perception, bind.
Walking out of my noble and silent meditation retreat, I knew there would be no going back to playing my old role. I knew that my spiritual path must be the most important part of my life and that anything I was doing out of fear or a false sense of security must be let go.
I knew I had to walk the path of the mystic and let go of all constructs I had built to define me. I could no longer pretend. I am no longer willing to placate. I am no longer willing to sacrifice my truths, to fit the mold for others, so that they can feel safe inside their constructs and so that I can show up the way they expect, so they can predict my behavior and have some false sense of control.
The truth is that we don’t have control. We never do. At some point, we have to let go of our clinging. We have to ask ourselves, what is it that makes us think we have to hold it all together?
As I began to gently speak my truth and let people know my idea to leave my career, I was met with fierce resistance. Over and over, well meaning people told me the same things, “What about health insurance?” “What about retirement?” “What about a regular paycheck?” “What about your secure position, your tenure?”
The more I was met with that energy of clinging from others, the more I felt sure I must let go. Anything that people felt I needed that much had to be dissolved for me to know the truth. If they thought it was risky, then I had to do it, for my own heart, for my own knowing.
I began to be determined in my letting go. I began to want to break the model of what we have learned that gives us false security. None of it is real. We are here in our earth bodies for a while, to live and learn and evolve and grow. Then, we depart, on to another side, or space, or dimension, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, or…who knows what?
As Singer says, “The purpose of spiritual evolution is to remove the blockages that cause you to fear.” If losing my job, my retirement, my tenure, my security, if all that causes me fear, which it does, then I must let it go. It is walking through that false electronic fence, that keeps me tied to an illusion that I am caged, that will lead me to my liberation.
So, I leap off the proverbial cliff, and dare to follow my heart. My heart yearns to create a container for me to express myself creatively for the first time ever in my life.
You have to understand, I have spent my adult life catering to the needs of other people’s children. Yes, it has been fulfilling and rewarding at times, but to withdraw from that endeavor and give up the archetype of martyr feels a splendidly selfish event. It is a radical, deeply spiritual move, and it is the making of a profound journey. Or an experiment, at least.
So, I am off to follow my heart and pursue my dreams. I will blog regularly about how it is all unfolding. I imagine there will be quite an unplugging from my day job as I shift and I plan to channel all that angst and emotion into my writing. Stay tuned!
The worst that can happen is I fail. At least I will be amongst good company.
Whenever I think of following my bliss I think of Joseph Campbell quotes, so I leave you today with a few of them to ponder. May you find the courage in your heart to follow your bliss and let go of whatever it is that you cling.
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.”
“I comfortably and easily release the old and and welcome the new in my life. I am safe.” ~ Louise Hay
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