I was out hiking recently with a friend in northern California. Though we're thousands of miles apart. our lives have very much run in parallel these past few years. Both having run our own businesses for a decade – hers a dental practice, mine a yoga studio – and then both of us letting go of the business during the pandemic, and finding our way into this new chapter of discovering, discarding and rebuilding.
We shared how difficult it was to make the decision, heartbroken in saying goodbye to the passion project that meant so much to us, realising we would be disappointing so many people - people we cared about deeply. AND YET knowing in our bones, if we didn’t get honest about wanting to step down, it would be the worse betrayal of all; a deep betrayal of self (thank you Brene Brown for that powerful and hard to live by teaching, damn you!)
We reflected on our mistakes – for me, how unskilful I’d been in communicating, so overwhelmed with the weight of it all and not able to show up any better. My oh so familiar protective habit of putting on a brave face, meant I couldn’t truly be there in the raw humanness and messiness of it all with everyone.
As we hashed out our sorrows and regrets, it was clear a part of us still held our feet to the fire about where we'd fallen short. And yet, we’d already changed and grown so much. How painful it is when we freeze ourselves and each other in time. As if the thing we did or didn’t do, the thing we said or didn’t say, defines who we are today. I often get mighty confused in thinking I’m a thing, a noun, a ‘Deborah’ - something that is fixed and unchanging. When in truth, I am a process, a verb - ever changing and unfolding, responding to my internal and external environment from moment to moment. We all are!
Just like to a river, we’re a collection of ever-changing elements – the muddy banks, rocks, water, weather - constantly in flow, we call this phenomenon 'River'. And like the name ‘River’, our name is simply a place marker – a name we use to describe this ever-changing phenomenon inside and out.
Hands up, there have been MANY times I've made the mistake of crystallising others in time, holding judgements about them based on things they said/did in the past, maybe years ago! (oh my, how I love to chew on the juicy taste of self-righteousness, yum!). By not allowing others (or myself) the grace and space to learn, to grow to change and flourish, is such a denial of the truth. Like us, the truth is dynamic - ever changing - what was true for us yesterday (or 5 minutes ago) may not be true for us now. And believing things that aren't true is the commonest way we lose our integrity. Then suffering arises, not as a punishment, but as a signal that we're off beam.
So my practice more and more these days is to find some compassion, to let ourselves and each other be in process – imperfect and making mistakes, still learning life’s lessons.
If you've tripped recently (or 10 years ago) and fallen flat on the ground with your face in the dirt, please get up. You don't need to hold yourself or your worth up against your mistakes my love - or even your accomplishments for that matter! It's dishonest and incomplete. You’ve already learned what needed to be learned about yourself and others, I can PROMISE you that! Instead, try holding yourself with unconditional positive regard - go on, I dare you. And once you've nailed that, see if you can extend it out to others. The world will look like a very different place for sure.
And the next time you get to sit next to a river or any moving water, watch it’s ever-flowing process. Feel a deep sense that it's not a thing. Then close your eyes and feel inside. Sense this ever-changing process in you too, and breathe.
I wonder who you’ll be today?
Go lightly, and always, ALWAYS with love
Pic: Mount Tamalpais just north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, 2,579 feet below you can see the bay, ever-changing, ever-flowing