It's been just over a year now since I stepped with clarity into the next phase of my life by leaving a business I came to California to create, back in 2004. I've told the story so many times that it may seem like "old news" to some of you, but for me, that one decision was a *huge* step. It cleared the way for so much magic that has emerged - through effort and spontaneous creativity, guided by intention and enabled by practice - over the past year. Last week I went through the embodied steps of letting go - moving all the physical items out of the Cradle of Manifestation after acknowledging that a 1,800-square-foot facility no longer matched the life I am creating. In the process, I've come face-to-face with so many of my deeply held beliefs and default patterns.
I believed that being a "responsible" person - a piece of my identity I held tightly as a symbol of my worthiness to occupy space on this planet - meant putting other people's needs ahead of my own, no matter what the cost.
In my work, this was expressed as taking full responsibility for all outcomes associated with the people I was involved with - which translated into poor delegation, inability to trust other people's skills and ways of doing things, and the result of preferring to do everything on my own, so it would be perfect. Ultimately, I experienced exhaustion and burnout as the destination on this path.
After I crossed the hurdle of actually setting a boundary, saying "no more" to my own business (which, at the time, was the only path I felt drawn to), and risking the disappointment of other people (which, at the time, was my greatest and most paralyzing fear), the same belief expressed itself as a firm resolve in my mind to continue paying rent on my office space simply because I had signed a lease, and that was that. An agreement was an agreement, with no room for discussion. I was a person who kept my word. But living by those old rules under the new circumstance of starting a business from scratch in a new industry translated to prioritizing my landlords' needs over my own, which I did for an entire year. I dutifully and silently wrote each check and made sure it arrived before the first of every month. For an entire year.
I was silently proving to myself my own worth as a "responsible" person (daughter, girl), but in fact I was not honoring myself or my fledgling business fully.
It took me all those months to finally realize it. In the meantime, I learned and practiced other valuable skills - like making up a new offering each month, playing and experimenting without needing to be perfect, and learning to teach from a place of total peace. My default pattern gave me the gift of valuable practice in honing my craft, and discovering more of what I have to offer.
And now I realize that I do not need those particular four walls in order to be who I am or share what I have to give. In fact, I'm excited about the possibilities of teaching in retreat settings and other community spaces.
I'm writing this as I am going through one of those very courageous times - a time when I am sometimes confused, sometimes at peace, sometimes wanting to jump out of my skin, and sometimes wanting to just walk away from it all. And by being in it, staying with it more deeply than perhaps ever before in my life, I see that I never learned how to take things apart. I learned a lot and focused a lot of my attention on how to build things. How to start things. How to keep them going consistently and steadily.
But I never saw a graceful possibility for finishing things. It was always with regret or disappointment or reluctance that I saw the adults in my life let go, move on, or stop doing things. In my mind, I made it mean that these things - letting go, moving on, or stopping - were bad, or at least to be avoided at all costs.
What I'm choosing to teach myself through this experience is that loss doesn't have to be tragic. Loss can be embraced and walked through with the same energy of acceptance and welcoming as that with which we greet our gains. I'm asking and living the question, "What would it be like to walk through loss with the same welcoming smile, to approach it with the same intention of gaining familiarity, to extend it the hospitality we offer so willingly to what we consider the "good" things?" And by "good", I usually mean the things I wanted or believed were supposed to happen, of course.
I am walking through that loss right now, opening up space and freeing myself to serve and share more. But I notice that the opening only happens by being willing to learn. In other words, to do that whole "celebrate your failures", "be prepared to be surprised", "be curious about everything", improvisation thing. And you thought I had already learned this stuff so it should be easy now? Ha! My rational mind would like to avoid discomfort just as much as it always has. Parts of my brain will always be wired to avoid the unknown. The difference now is that I have a deeper awareness to guide me toward those things I once avoided, in spite of what my mind has to say. And I recognize the tiny moments where I get to practice letting go, taking things apart, moving on. I embrace them as gifts to get better at the things I never knew how to do before, and to grow into more of the person I can become.
These videos capture snapshots of the journey I took during the physical part of the process. I could think of these as the final gestures in a year of events I could not have planned, predicted, or even known to ask for. I simply held a vision of what my inner life would feel like, and practiced emptying space in my mind to allow that life to enter, moment by moment.
Or I could think of these as the first tiny expressions of a whole new way of relating to my stuff - the furniture, the obligations, the way my business needs to operate. After a year of practice, I am developing a whole new way of using my precious attention.
And so what once seemed unimaginable, or impossibly hard, I finally completed last week. I did the thing I thought I could not do.
And now I am resting. I am allowing myself to just sit with myself. To remember to breathe for myself and be thankful for every single sweet drink of fresh air I inhale.
Part 1 was shot just after the furniture consignment center came to pick up my piano, desk, credenza, chairs, and file cabinets - the pieces I once picked out by hand and then dreaded having to figure out how to move.
Part 2 was shot after clearing out my two-drawer lateral file cabinet, filled with all the pieces of paper I created during the five and half years of my school. After more than a year of not looking at these, it was amazing (and shocking) to see how much mental energy went into my planning and controlling and accounting for every single detail of every concert my students presented. What looked like a "tightly run ship" or "extremely organized" or "perfection" on the outside, I now recognize as the anatomy of a burnout for me.
Part 3 shows my progress of sorting things into "piles" on the end of day 1:
Part 4 was shot on the morning of day 2:
Part 5 shows the final empty space I left behind:
And finally, a shot of the pile I brought into my home...and am tackling a little bit each day: