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For awhile, after I’ve traveled abroad and through multiple time zones, my sleep patterns are way out of whack. I wake in the middle of the night, feeling like it must be morning (“It is,” says my body, “somewhere…”) More than this, when I wake it takes me a minute to clock my surroundings:  Where am I? I listen for sounds to orient myself. I become oh-so-present, feeling the need to get my bearings in the moment. Darkness sharpens my senses, but my brain doesn’t quite grasp the input it’s getting.

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My emotions also shift during and after a trip. I tend to immerse myself so totally in new travel experiences that, when I come back home, everything inside of me feels as though it’s been re-set to different coordinates. I feel a little ‘out of body’ at first; sleep deprived for sure. But also deprived of things I’ve become used to in my new country:  a different slant of sun; a bluer sky; a haze of burnt-orange, or blinding-white buildings perched on a hillside. Aromas that’ve awakened my senses: the bitter-orange blossoms that are totally distinct from the orange trees in my home state. (How is it that the air in the entire city of Marrakech, no matter where you go, smells like cedarwood?)

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Coming home, I can fall prey to what I call the Traveler’s Blues. Thankfully, the symptoms don’t last long and are eased somewhat by cat-naps. But I’ve also learned to be gentle with myself when a trip ends. It’s ‘ok’ to suddenly long for every aspect of my new country(ies), while at the same time feeling ecstatic about being back home in my own space. The push-pull of relief, and longing – a sweet melancholy. Right then is when I try to bring my mind and heart together by entering a different kind of ‘time zone’.

In his book “The Power of Now” (1997), Eckhart Tolle calls it The Gap:  the space of no mind, no thinking; just being and feeling wholly present where you are, in every way. Of course, Ram Dass’s book “Be Here Now”, written in 1971, should be credited with introducing the mental oasis known as Being Present. Regardless of who nudged us into this practice first, I feel deep gratitude for this resource.

As I return to my own country, back to my own complex life, I feel that I’m returning from a deep-dive: not only into another culture, but into my Self. Imagining myself a scuba diver, ready to make for the glittering sunlight on the surface of the ocean, I swim slowly and calmly. I focus on my breathing. My heartbeat is a meditation. The dark mystery is below, the sunlight shimmers on my eyelids. This perfect moment is a balance of Who I Was, joined by Who I Am Now; of remembering, and anticipating my next travel adventure.

Talking with a friend this morning, I asked her how her job was going. She’s a psychiatric nurse at a residential facility for troubled kids. You might assume that she has both good, and bad days in this role; you’d be correct – as she freely admits. As with other people-serving professions, there’s huge potential for burnout in her job. Nevertheless, each time we chat, she says “I’m so lucky !” My friend explains:  she never dreads going to work; and, unlike some of her colleagues, ‘Fridays’ aren’t the Finish lines of end of the week exhaustion. My friend’s ‘luck’, according to her, was entering a career that’s consistently satisfying and motivating – even on bad days.

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For many people I know, work’s just a part of Adulting. My own peer group didn’t give it much thought after high school. They went to college, or, they went to work. They took jobs that were offered. More than a few of them ‘ended up’ in careers not remotely connected to their college majors. Others entered a family business, while still others took minimum wage jobs right out of high school and relied on promotions over the years. They married, had families, got divorced, sent kids off to college, planned for retirement. In the midst of all that, I can’t recall ever discussing, or being taught about the need for Passion and Purpose.

Growing up when I did, I’m sure that my parents and grandparents probably would have laughed me right out of the room if I’d suggested I needed time to contemplate my Life Purpose. Moving out of my family home after high school, while I was still only 17, I took a part time job while I went to community college. I lived on a meager salary, and on my deceased mother’s Social Security (until I turned 18 and was cut-off). So busy trying to survive and make something of myself, I still didn’t have the luxury of thinking about Passion and Purpose. And yet, I got the schooling and the career that I, too, feel “lucky” to have had. How did this happen?

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As I’ve grown older, clarity around Passion and Purpose has made me realize that anyone can discover both, and everyone deserves to discover both. How often do we ask ourselves, especially as Life grows more complicated and demanding, What do I feel most passionately about? How often do we then give ourselves permission to do, and be whatever that is ? Alana Fairchild (one of many practitioners who’ve interpreted the teachings of the poet Rumi) believes that each person on our planet has her, his, or their unique “soul-light”. She writes, “Every light holds its own beauty, and every light has a particular task to fulfill. We’re given a built-in reminder of this. That reminder is our Passion.”

Honoring ourselves, honoring and trusting what our instincts tell us about our true natures is the path to discovering our Passion. Our Passion, in turn, leads us to the Purpose (or task) we’re meant to fulfill here on planet Earth. One doesn’t need to believe in or rely upon a deity or higher power to discover Passion while writing poetry, playing music, sculpting, dancing, photography, painting, teaching, building, helping a child, animal or an elderly person. The list of passionate pursuits is as endless as there are humans on the earth. Fairchild continues, “We may be fearful that with  (following our) Passion there are no guarantees of success, or that we may even be throwing away a stable life to pursue our Passion.” 

It might be true that pursuing one’s Passion, one’s dream of How Life Can Be, can feel risky at first. Some might seek Passion through a hobby that becomes a livelihood; others might keep that “day job” and allow passion a part-time existence another way. But Passion and Purpose are what’s really behind the “luck” so many of us feel in our daily work lives. What better way to greet each and every morning? It all starts with finding meaning in your own beating heart; loving your heart for its life-giving energy. Accepting that your life has incalculable meaning in, to, and for the World. What stirs you? Do that. Be that. Start right now…

(more…)

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More than a few people who study the subconscious mind have concluded that our dreams represent either fears or desires. Lately, my own dreams have felt like the massive, corner-to-corner ‘housecleaning’ I always say I’m going to do twice a year. My subconscious has returned to The Past. Specifically, how I used to feel, think and act ‘in love’, before I actually knew who I was. Why am I now dreaming about how I used to behave in relationship? I suppose, as I think about adventures that lie ahead of me, I fear  that I’ll forget crucial lessons I’ve learned over the years, and am therefore doomed to make the same mistakes.

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How hard is it – when we want and need Love in our lives – when we’d so much rather be part of a couple than alone – to not “settle” for less than we deserve? We hear and read that word (settle) a lot; we know what it means. It’s never a good ‘look’, from others’ perspectives. When it comes to romance and Love, we’d rather gossip (I’ve seen and heard this, even at weddings) about the person who’s “definitely settling!” than think we could ever ‘betray’ our own hearts.

What does “settling” mean? Not too long ago a friend told me he was getting (re) married. I surprised myself, still optimistic and romantic, after all these years: “You’re in love – how wonderful!” Not, as it turns out. He was feeling his age, tired of living alone, wanting a companion in his big house, and – of course – hoping for “regular sex”. As it turned out, his fiancé was in the same ‘boat’. So they married. And are already struggling to adapt to one another’s personalities.

I totally understand why people enter into and stay in relationships (even complicating things further, with marriage). Whether it’s romantic love, erotic love, platonic love, companion love, or any other variation of Love. I don’t judge them. But the dream I had last night (yes, back to the whole point of this Post) showed me that my own heart demands something more. In the dream (totally reflecting real life, some years back), I was in a Love Relationship; sort of a long-distance thing. We’d been together for some five years and I was wearing a beautiful diamond engagement ring, but in my heart I knew that I would never marry this man.

In last night’s dream, we stood holding each other in a loving embrace. He was whispering sweet words and talking about the future. I was ‘in my head’, not feeling it at all. (There had been, over the trips and visits to one another’s cities, strong indications of his substance abuse and mental health issues, and many deep dive conversations.) His words were all about our ‘road ahead’. I kept quiet, a total coward, not wanting to leave his arms just yet.

The thing about dreams:  I always seem to wake up from this ‘movie’ in my head when it’s either just getting really good, or, when my heart tells my subconscious, “That’s enough of that!” Last night I woke up before I had to say anything negative to my lover. The dream was a total flashback, a psychic “do-over” scenario with a question waiting at the end for me, when I woke up:  “Here’s this guy, so perfect for you in so many ways; except for the substance abuse and really concerning mental health issues. Are you going to “settle” when your heart is screaming ‘Run for the door!?’ ”

In Love, how do we know, for certain and for sure, what our non-negotiables and deal-breakers are? How can we be sure that we know, understand and accept what we’re ‘in for’ in a committed relationship, and not feel like we’re making excuses for not receiving what we really want and need? Rhetorical question, right? Because we  know that each one of us asking these questions has to look deeply into our own hearts, eyes wide open, stripping away any romantic fantasy or feelings of desperation before the decision’s made. Real Happiness and joyfulness  is always a better option than bargaining-away our deepest needs and even values. Whatever that ‘Happiness’ means…it’s worth holding on to, waking or dreaming.

Without thinking about it, consider the word ‘Surrender’ and notice how it feels:  the associations and connotations of the word. Does ‘surrender’ feel calm, even blissful? Or, does it bring feelings and visions of being overcome:  powerless and defeated? Surrender definitely implies giving-in to something; the end of a struggle of some kind; relenting; relaxing resistance; allowing something else to transpire.

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Depending upon the opposing ‘forces’ that cause us to re-think our resistance, Surrender can in fact be heavenly. “Surrendering to Love,” for example. For many people, though, the idea of surrendering feels like giving-up; doing something that feels unnatural and maybe even scary. So it was when I began to release lifelong habits that no longer suit or serve me.

For most of my adult life I’ve been goal, and action-oriented. I was clear about my professional path early on, and driven to achieve in my accumulation of degrees, credentials, certificates and opportunities for advancement. A friend of mine recently remarked (we were discussing my doctoral program) “How ambitious you are! At your age!” My response – ignoring the urge to call-out ‘ageism’ by someone actually older than me – was casual:  “Oh, all I’m doing is just living life.” Right?  But then I began thinking about his words. It’s common for those closest to me to complain that I rarely “sit still” (not true); that I “over-do it” in the achievement realm (define, ‘over-doing it’, please). A teammate recently told me, “You do too much” (translation he confided: you make the rest of us look bad!).

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I began considering my action-oriented life and allowed alternatives to seep into my current ways of thinking. Is ‘taking action’ always necessary? Clearly not. Non-stop action, as I’m sure many Readers know, is, among other things, a recipe for exhaustion. With day-to-day interactions — if someone close to us does something really offensive and obviously meant to cause hurt, is immediate action required? Not always. But how does one, whose entire life has been about Doing, slow down and surrender to Not Doing? It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve discovered how amazing and wonderful it can be. I started by realizing that the word Surrender has super-powers, if we allow it to expand past negative moments in our memories (“Surrender your passport!” being one of the worst in mine:  our PanAm flight was forced down, into Iran, many years ago, passports seized).

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Surrendering to all that is beautiful, restful, nurturing and peaceful in Life means letting-go of control (an ongoing theme in my world). Surrendering to Whatever Is, and Will Be means that Trust becomes a guiding influence in Life. Trust: that one’s best efforts will be enough. Trust: that in the midst of chaos, there is Harmony (time spent in Nature and with animals is my proof). Action’s still a governing principle in my life and always will be; but I’ve reached a truce with Surrender by accepting that, at the end of the day, it’s On My Side.