Authenticity, Awakening, courage, Joy, Mindfulness and Meditation, Mystery and Magic, Women's Work

Standing up to who you are not

I recently made a trip to Germany, a place I had long yearned to visit.  Shortly after I returned, a client asked me if I’d had a significant spiritual experience there, since I’d had such a strong calling to visit that country.

And so I thought about what my answer to her question might be, and I realized that while there were moments in Germany that were truly amazing and awe-inspiring and fun, what was most profound and provided me with the greatest context for growth were the experiences I had relating to the friend I was travelling with.

Over the years I have noticed that my ability to be true to myself is forged through the pressure from other people to be the opposite of who I really am.

In ways both subtle and blatant, friends and family have tried to mold my behaviour and choices, and even outlined what work or career path I am best suited for, usually out of a sense of love or knowing what will be “best for me.”

They have often encouraged me to abandon my innate gifts and adopt highly rational, sensible, and systematic ways of doing things.  While I certainly can be rational and analytical and systematic, it brings me little joy.

The contemplation and eventual pursuit of some of their options always eventually created a feeling of deep sadness and restlessness in my heart.

I have several close friends who are accountants, including the friend I traveled with through Germany.  To be clear, I have nothing but respect for the work that accountants do, theirs is a skill set I lack but I absolutely appreciate how their talents help the world to run. So it will come as no surprise when I tell you that our styles of travelling were different.

Weeks before we left, she made a spreadsheet with dates, times, hotels, bus and train options, and all the costs.  The arrival of this spreadsheet in my inbox nearly paralyzed me.   Over-planning (and I can sometimes be guilty of thinking that ANY planning is over-planning) is something that can bleed the joy and spontaneity out of life, and certainly out of a trip.

We were (for the most part) able to talk and laugh our way through her spreadsheet, ensuring that she had enough planning done for her to feel confident, and that there was enough unplanned time for me to feel that we could live in the moment while visiting Germany.

This was one of the first hurdles conquered, as I am often guilty of staying silent and slowly allowing myself to get frustrated in situations like this.  We were able to see right away how we were different, and as it turns out, we traveled really well together, and we were eventually able to appreciate what the other brought to the table.

And so part of my insight was in seeing first hand and appreciating the times when planning really did make our trip better.  My friend was an expert at using her phone to find excellent restaurants (every time!) and to navigate the rail system.  We hit all the places we wanted to see, and I know we may have got no further than the airport in Frankfurt if it hadn’t been for her.

At the same time, when things didn’t go to plan, I was able to problem solve on the fly, without my phone, using a sense of direction to help us find our hotel, connecting with people who “I just had a feeling” wanted to help us when our train was cancelled.

But at times I struggled yet again with where I fit into a world that values and applauds the plan, the rational, the system, the map, the strategy, the schedule, the app, the efficiency.

Often in my life I have felt that what I bring to the table is lost, or not valued:  the improvisation, the spontaneity, the sitting quietly in trust knowing that the answer will reveal itself.  The joy of the big, wide, open unplanned path and feeling your way along it.  Knowing the journey through Germany and through life is going to take on a life of it’s own, if we let it.

That there has to be room for uncertainty in order for there to be room for joy. 

I have to appreciate who I am first, before anyone else can.

And then, right there in Germany, I realized, re-learned, remembered again, in the face of a force asking me to be something I’m not — that these are qualities that I have to appreciate and value in myself first.

And that the appreciation has to go both ways.  I can and do adopt some of the strategies that planners use in order to reach my goals and achieve my dreams, but I am learning to adopt these qualities as needed to support me in the pursuit of the work I love.  Like the subtle dance between my travelling companion and I to achieve a wonderful journey together, I know that the balance and appreciation for both the heart and the mind, for the intuitive insight and the spreadsheet, is key.

And my friend, who knows herself well, told me this: she could plan it all out and still hesitate, still not jump into action, out of fear of missing a detail or that something could go wrong.  I was the one who helped her jump, she said, who helped her trust in the moment and know that things would work out if we just took the first step.

And that little insight lit me up.

How I learn to define and remain true to myself has been through relationships with others who urge me to be the opposite.

This has certainly been an ongoing pattern in my life. And while I could feel frustrated and angry with the people I thought were trying to thwart my true expression, they were actually gifts.

They helped me to hone and define exactly what is important and exactly who I am by identifying who I am not, and for them I am eternally grateful.

XO Shona

Animals and Nature, Authenticity, Awakening, Mindfulness and Meditation, Mystery and Magic

Why your own unique way of being in the world is so important now

When I walk outside, whether it’s in the woods or just down the street, I make a point of noticing what animals show themselves to me.  I thank the many squirrels and sparrows and dogs I meet on the path daily, and although they might seem like mundane, run-of-the-mill creatures, I still acknowledge and am grateful for their presence and their message.

In the frame of mind of listening and watching then, of being receptive to who or what may cross my path, it is always such a delight when I see an animal that is unusual to my regular sightings.

Twice now when I have walked to the top of a ridge covered in trees, I have seen woodpeckers.  Two of them pileated woodpeckers, as big as crows, hammering their beaks like thunder on a hollow branch, making a noise like a tree coming down.  That got my attention!

They flew off then, and I was struck by the distinct way that they fly: they “fly and coast down, fly and coast down…(the woodpecker) flies in a manner and rhythm unique to itself” (Ted Andrews).

The second sighting was yesterday; on the same ridge I was greeted by a smaller woodpecker, not tapping but calling out to me, a piping call.  The woodpecker’s red head is easy to spot but I would have missed this one as she was so high up.

I try to pay attention to what exactly I am thinking about or what issues are consuming me in the moment I see an animal, because that’s part of their message. 

And I consider the unique energy and behaviours of the animal I am with, both in general and in its interaction with me in the moment.  This is how their energy can help us and guide us when we are out in nature, seeking stillness and looking for answers.

So both times when I spotted the woodpeckers (or they spotted me) I was debating about this very thing that I am doing now.  Writing and talking about my connection to nature.  About how it might attract but also repel some people, this kinship I have with animals.  About ways in recent weeks that I had unconsciously tried to dilute it, to push it to the background, to deny it or at least deny it’s expression.

I was avoiding talking or writing about it. I was trying not to announce it. I chose not to be authentic so that I would be more accessible to people.  So that I would be liked.

So that I would fit in and be accepted.

I know this is such a trap.  It creates an energy that has no authenticity.  It creates in me a sense of inner-crying as I deny a gift that on the surface seems to have no obvious place in the civilized world.

But the woodpecker was asking me to go beyond the surface, to tap into the deeper meaning that lies beneath.

Woodpecker knows the power of her own natural rhythms, she made a lot of noise on that ridge, she thundered as she beat out her own rhythm on that hollow tree. She was showing me herself in flight, flying in her own unique way, showing me how to go forth in the world as my own true self with no apologies.

I know that if I do not accept the reality of this gift and own it and celebrate it, then no one else can.

And I know that this gift is supposed to come forth into the modern world because that’s where it is needed.

The internal response to even a small refusal on my part to let this energy flow is immediate: I start to feel sorry for myself, I feel lost and empty.  And that’s when I know I’m on the wrong track.

And I return to my path with deep gratitude for the woodpecker, who literally reminded me to fly my own way – to be authentic – how to tap out the rhythm of the song in my heart, and beat the drum loudly.

If you would like to learn more about how to discern the messages that animals and nature long to share with you when you are outside, or in moments of stillness, or in your everyday life, I can help.

I would love to hear your stories and confirm with you that all of nature conspires to love and guide us, and that every animal carries a medicine and a message for us, if we are willing to listen.  

And, it would be my privilege to help you discover how the natural world may be nudging (or insisting!) that you answer the call to be yourself, and to share yourself and your gifts with the world.

xo Shona

 

Woodpecker

She has her own rhythm
She has her own rhythm
She knows the beating of her heart
She flies in swoops
She has her own rhythm
A drumming cadence
A song in the beat
In the beating heart
In the tap tap call
The insistent crack of
Bark the breaking
Into what was hollow
What lies beneath
The real rhythm
The real me
The real life
The real love
The force of
One who is awakened
By the drum
And she knows
And she stands
To be to be the beat
My own rhythm on the drum
To follow it to the end
She drums out the beat of a
Dark red dancer
Flashing between the trees
A thunder drummer
Daring me
To be
Stand this is me
Stand this is me