I created space and fear walked in. And then we battled. All year. I walked through fire, and I’m emerging. This is a story of how, and what I’ve learned.
Living Attuned With Nature’s Rhythms
Shortly after I sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI, aka “concussion”) in early 2015, my Grandpa told me that I should slow down my pace. He advised me to take my cues from nature.
Last December, I decided to enroll in Christine Arylo’s Feminine Super Power Year, a year-long program for women who choose to lead in the feminine way. When I heard Christine describe the FSPY program, it felt aligned with my grandpa’s advice, and with my intention to pause for weekly, monthly, and quarterly reviews.
FSPY is structured around the moon cycles and the turns of the earth — the natural times to pause. In FSPY we gather “in circle” each month on the new moon and full moon. We also take longer “Power Pauses” on the 4 major shifts of the earth — the solstices and equinoxes — and on several smaller “super power” days.
The concept of gathering “in circle” was new language for me. I had heard other women describe this, and although it didn’t quite resonate with me, I knew that I had experienced it before, under the labeling of “masterminding” or “workshops.”
There were two aspects of the program that gave me pause; both stretched me in uncomfortable ways.
The focus on “sisterhood” stretched me; I have some deep “sister wounds” stemming from years of being teased and bullied in summer camp and school, experiences of feeling betrayed by women who I allowed close to me, and of being unsupported by women bosses.
My closest friends and best mentors have always been men. I have attend conferences and events with 95% women in attendance; the people I stay in touch with are always the men.
I knew that I needed to heal this wound, and that putting myself in this type of structure could give me that opportunity.
The investment in the program was a stretch for me at the time. The total investment for the year was not the most I’ve ever invested in a program, but it was more than I had invested in any virtual program. And the outcomes felt a little intangible. What would I walk away with at the end of the year?
But knew my outcome; I had made a conscious decision to live my life in a different way — a way that would be more sustainable, and that honored my intention to pause for regular reviews. I knew that I needed the structure of this program to hold myself accountable to this intention.
The Deciding Factor
The determining factor for my commitment to enroll in FSPY was the live calls. Christine hosts two live gatherings each month — the new moon and full moon circles (via Zoom conferencing). In many months, when a super power day fell in the month, we had three gatherings.
The Power of Showing Up Live
I believe there is great power in showing up live, whether at an in-person conference or event or on a group call or video meeting, when the mentor or coach is a person who holds space and interacts with those on the call. The virtual programs from which I’ve gotten the most benefit are those where I’ve been able to ask questions and hear others’ questions.
This is what creates a space for real learning and shifts. No mentor has all the answers; the catalyst for learning is in the questions and interaction.
My Commitment to Myself
I knew FSPY would be a big commitment of my time, and I didn’t really know what to expect. But I also knew that I wanted to create a different way of life for myself, and that even with my commitment to my daily rituals and practices, I was lacking the supportive structure I needed to embrace a bigger change. It’s not easy to buck conventional wisdom and operate on your own timeline.
I followed my intuition and enrolled.
I committed to myself that I would make every effort to show up live on each call. And that I would embrace the teachings and at least try things out — even if it seemed to contradict something I already did.
I would surrender to the flow. I would trust. I would show up in circle.
And if that’s all I did, that would be a win.
Now that the year is ending, it’s a good time to ask: did I meet my outcome? Did I win? Was it worth it?
Change Opens the Door to Fear
If you want to have a different year, you have to be willing to do something differently. Often, you have to be willing to make drastic changes.
All change is difficult and triggers fears. But creating space by pausing seems to ignite a special form of fear. When we choose to give up “busy” and create more spaciousness in our lives, we open the door for fears to walk into that space.
A Slow Start to January
For years, I had a practice of announcing my 3 words on January 1 and launching into my new year. This year, I took the entire first week of January to complete my year-end review from 2016.
This was not easy. A voice in my head said
You should have been doing this in December.
In my journal, next to the dates where I indicated that my review took an entire week, I acknowledged that voice by writing a note: “and that’s ok.”
Meaning: it’s ok that I took the entire first week of January to complete my review of 2016.
The ending weaves into the beginning.
I surrendered to the flow. I trusted. I showed up in circle.
Creating a Vision
I spent 3 weeks doing a visioning process for this year, as my inner driver/striver kept telling me I was “behind.”
Christine assured me that January was the seasonal time to do this work. This is the way of nature.
Echoes of my Grandpa: Take your cues from nature.
My inner wisdom knew they were right. January is peak hibernation time. It is the worst time to start new things, as it’s not aligned with any season of change in the natural world. I had been telling people this for years; I almost never start a new practice on January 1.
I surrendered to the flow. I trusted. I showed up in circle.
The Tensions of 2017
Most of 2017 for me has been a constant tension between wanting to implement my vision while feeling stuck in my ability to do so. At every turn this year, stuff surfaced to get in my way.
I hit burnout. I was hacked. I had turmoil in every area of my personal and business life. I had a breakdown in March. I struggled to find technical support to move me forward. Clients drained me. Projects sent me into overwhelm. People who said they would support me failed to show up. I spent two months clearing out my apartment to put it on the market — something I decided I wanted to do in 2016. My grandpa got sick and died, within 6 weeks.
In the space I created for deeper reflection and contemplation, my biggest fears showed up, and we did battle.
Every time I thought this year couldn’t get worse, it got worse. And that’s without considering what was happening in the world around me.
With each thing that arose, I surrendered to the flow. I trusted. I showed up in circle.
This was not always easy for me. It was almost never easy for me.
Yesterday we gathered for our last New Moon Circle of this cycle, where we activated the super power of Trust.
As Christine walked us through some inquiries to explore around trust, my body went into shock.
My heart was wounded. My soul was punctured. My nervous system was in overwhelm. The tears were flowing. I couldn’t stop crying.
So many feelings were coming up. Sadness. Anger. Loneliness. Betrayal. Confusion.
My body couldn’t take it any more. It was in pain, trying to close around my wounded heart and soul, at the very moment I need to be open to serve in the manner in which I’ve been called.
Bringing it to the circle
Earlier this year, when we paused for the Spring Equinox, I had a breakdown. At that time, I didn’t want anyone to see me, so I shut off my video feed and then left the meeting. This time, I did not shut off the video. I let the tears flow. I allowed myself to be seen.
From 3,000 miles away, Christine saw me.
She paused in her teaching to ask me what was coming up. I could hardly speak. I could hardly breathe. And then it all poured out of me.
Just a few days earlier, I had spoken my truth to someone with whom I had agreed to speak truth. I opened. I trusted. I offered my heart. And it wasn’t received.
I’ve been working for years to open more fully. To access my heart and keep it open. To trust and to love. To let people in.
I’ve really stepped into it in full this whole year. With everything that has gone wrong, I have consistently shown up. Each time, fully present. Open. Vulnerable. Receptive.
I felt crushed. I wanted to put my heart back in it’s safe box and close it up. I wanted to go back inside the suit of armor, to reattach the masks that I’ve been slowly removing over the last 7 years.
I know that’s not the way. I know that pain is worse. But in that moment, I just felt like I couldn’t deal with any of this anymore. It was all too much.
What it feels like to be heard and felt
Christine listened. She heard me. With the compassion of someone who has felt the pain, with the strength of someone who has walked — is walking — through the same fire, and with eyes glistening to match mine, she reflected back to me what she was hearing.
From 3,000 miles away, she heard and felt that I was at my breaking point.
She heard me crying out in surrender.
She told me to look at my screen, and as I looked at the little boxes, I saw the sisters who have been traveling with me all year. Their hands were raised to their screens in a show of support, virtually hugging me while I sat alone in my apartment, needing the touch of a human being to calm my nervous system. I saw their eyes glistening in compassion with my pain. I felt their hearts beating with mine.
From around the world, these women gathered together to hold me. They saw me in my truth and didn’t turn away.
Instead of cattiness, competition, comparison or collusion, I experienced compassion and connection.
This is the power of Circle and sisterhood when done right.
What Activates the Power of Circle
I found this compassion and connection only because I showed up.
I didn’t hide. I did not escape. I was present to my emotions and brought them with me. I allowed myself to be seen in my truth.
I trusted myself to surrender, to let the tears flow. I trusted the circle to hold me. And it did.
The shift I experienced came not only because I trusted the other women or the structure, but because I trusted myself to surrender to it. I trusted myself to be in my emotion without trying to escape.
Seeds Sprout into Trees
What I received yesterday was possible only because a year ago I trusted my intuition that I needed to put myself into a structure that would force me to approach my life differently. I trusted my instinct to follow a mentor who would force me to change in a way that would be at odds with what the cultural wisdom promotes.
I trusted the wisdom of nature and the natural rhythms of the earth to guide me, instead of the artificial timelines of clocks and calendars.
I opened the door to change, and fear walked in. And I spent the year battling with fear. But today I stand here. Breathing. Alive.
And ready to emerge from the fire of 2017 into the light of 2018. Ready to lead and serve from a different place. A place of fullness. A place of spaciousness.
Owning My Piece
As much as I am grateful to Christine and the women in the Feminine Super Power Year Program, I am also grateful to myself.
I did the work. I showed up.
Not just this year, but over the past several years of slowly creating space for myself and developing the rituals that supported me In my darkest times this year. Without creating that space on my own, I would not have been ready for Feminine Super Power Year.
Every time someone asks me why I exercise daily, or meditate, or do any of my practices — each time they ask “what are you training for” — I answer:
I am training for life.
This year, life showed up in the biggest way, and I was ready.
Christine reflected that this year I’ve had would have broken most people. And yet I’m alive, and clear and breathing. Yes, I have the circle to thank. But I also have myself to thank. I showed up.
The Measure of Progress
When we evaluate our year, we often start with the numbers: income, ROI, KPI, hours tracking, goals met. Clients won. Deals done. But the most meaningful progress in life — the progress that shows true growth — cannot be measured with numbers on a spreadsheet.
Earlier this year, I shut off the camera to hide my pain from the women in the community. Yesterday, I knew I was in a vulnerable place walking into our “sanctuary,” but I still showed up. And when I felt the tears coming and the convulsions in my body, I did not cut the video feed. I allowed myself to be seen, in the rawness of my pain and vulnerability.
This type of progress doesn’t have a metric. It’s not a component of KPI or ROI. You can’t put a dollar value on it.
This is personal progress. This is spiritual progress. This is life progress.
What’s that worth? To me, it’s everything. It’s why I’m here.
Because of this progress, I’m ready to rise in a way I’ve never felt before. I’m ready to emerge from the fire.
This year of doing things differently proved to me that there is another way. And I’m all in.
This is day 50 of a daily publishing experiment. Thanks so much for being here and reading. I really appreciate you.