I’ve got some new adventures on the horizon. I’m getting married in Belize next month; I’ve embarked on a two-year long Golden Flower Tai Chi Instructor Training; I’m taking ukulele lessons; and I’ve just created a new life path for myself as a Spiritual Documentarian/Journalist (Death Sherpa was also added to my bucket list… but that’s another story).
I write that sentence with ease, however for the past few years I’ve been hiking through a lot of uncertainty. Again and again I’ve come to divergent paths in the woods and have needed to make significant choices. Sometimes it’s been easy and I haven’t even broken stride as I take the path to the right. Sometimes I’ve been out of breath and have needed to stop and regroup. As I’ve rested, looking through the branches of the pine trees into to the valley below, I’ve gotten lost in my thoughts, or sometimes distracted by studying the rust-colored pebbles at my feet, and I’ve forgotten I was in the middle of a climb. For the past few months I’ve been on a peaceful mountain summit, resting, meditating, taking in the view and enjoying the organic fuji apple, trail mix and piece of dark chocolate with mint I brought for lunch. I knew I was in a mountain range and that other treks were beckoning. But how to pick the next mountain?
Lately I’ve been exploring what I really want in my life and what I’m passionate about. This is not the first time I’ve been at this intersection, but as I enter my fiftieth year, I have gotten better at navigating the rocky terrain. Here’s what I’ve learned that is helpful when I’m in the discernment process.
1. If It’s Not Hell Yes, It’s No
Enough with being wishy-washy. If it’s what you really want you’ll get tingles up your spine, you’ll immediately start thinking about all the fun things involved in the new adventure. If “well, maybe, but” are part of your initial process then it’s not a Hell Yes!
I’ve been working with the concept of the Present Moment for over 20 years, and I’m still learning. My favorite teacher right now is Annukka Holland, Golden Flower’s Senior Tai Chi Instructor. She has taught me how to more naturally and deeply enter into the moment by using their “Be Here Now Process.” Basically, the idea is that right here, right now (in your body, your thoughts, your emotions) everything is perfectly alright. There is nothing I can’t handle. When I’m discerning my next steps, or my new adventure, or which mountain summit I’m off to next, I look to enter into the Present Moment as much as possible. When my mind is peaceful I can leave the past and all worries of the future out of my decision-making process much more easily.
3. Pay Attention to the Small but Bright Signs
“What should I do now?” When I’m looking for the answer to that question I start paying close attention to weird, unusual or persistent small happenings. It could be a book that different friends keep telling me to read, or an object that falls onto my path, or a strong feeling I have about calling someone, or even that person calling ME right after I’ve had the idea to call them. If it feels like a sign, it’s a sign. Pay attention.
When you receive a sign or get a strong idea…. do something about it within 10 seconds. Anything will do: jot down a note, send a quick email, make the call, research “How To… ” on the Internet. Your primal brain will shut you down and return you to your comfortable, habitual ways if you don’t act fast. But any small action step will propel you onto your new path.
5. Practice Radical Self-Care
When you are gathering energy for your next adventure, and/or when you are in the midst of lots of excitement, it’s important to practice radical self-care. Get enough sleep. Take care of yourself each morning before you launch into work. Adopt a daily morning practice of meditation (even 10 minutes) and exercise (even a 15 minute walk outside). Eat a healthy breakfast (include a little protein — I like almonds. Avoid processed foods — I like organic blueberries or raspberries, sometimes a smoothie with yogurt). If you take care of yourself in the morning you won’t be as easily derailed from your positive intentions. Setting a feel-good tone for your day and boosting your energy will also help you stay healthy.
I’ll keep you posted on how I’m doing with my 5 Steps and my new adventures. Now I’d love to hear about what’s on your Discernment Plate and how you set the stage for successful and fun adventures that benefit the common good.
– Peace, Cheryl