Where I Went Wrong

I always thought I would be discovered. I thought some teacher or adult would tell me what I should be when I grew up.

I thought somebody would see my hidden talents and out me. Tell me,“You’re special.” Or at least: “You’re so good at that.”

At the time I didn’t care what they said, I just wanted them to tell me, for godsakes.

I was a kid. I felt confused. What should I be, what should I do with my life??

Then I was an adult. I felt confused. What should I be, what should I do with my life??

Then I was 50. I felt confused. What should I be, what should I do with my life??

Sound familiar?

I waited for some epiphany (that never came.) I waited for a significant conversation (that never came.) I waited for a compliment from somebody in power, some expert.

Nothing.

I had it all wrong. Totally and completely ass backwards. Nobody was going to pick me. I had to pick myself. (Go read James Altucher’s Choose Yourself, it’s brilliant.)

And you do, too.

Your vocation, or your career, or your path, or whatever you want to call it, is a total a Do-It-Yourself job.

You’re not Lana Turner. Nobody is going to discover you sitting in a drugstore.

You have to make your life from scratch, yourself. Your life is a process. You will figure yourself out gradually, one project at a time.

So create an exciting project for yourself. Doesn’t matter what it is as long as you feel amped about it. Then totally invest.

Don’t pray. Don’t meditate. Wait, no. Definitely meditate. Meditate every single day, but not with the hope that your vocation will be revealed to you during your meditation.  That’s not going to happen.

Your life mission will be revealed to you when you’re waist deep in some challenging and exhilarating project.

And, while we’re at it, there is no such thing as a life mission. But there are life missions. Plural. People now have 14 jobs over their lifetime. Not one. So you can lose that idea of working at the same place your whole life

Not happening. Old paradigm.

Careers are fluid now. We morph and grow into different kinds of jobs, different kinds of work. Everything is changing constantly.

I wish someone had told me this a long time ago. It would have saved me a lot of passive hang-wringing and worrying.

I wish someone had kicked me in the butt and said, Stop worrying about your vocation; stop asking that idiotic question: What do I want to be when I grow up. Just go out and DO SOMETHING.

Get a project, and grow up.

Name It!

Yesterday on Facebook I posted that now that it is May, it’s time for a new Challenge. Someone commented: “Just name it.”

And I was thinking about this. I think I am being asked to say something like: “Yoga 5 days a week. No excuses!”

Maybe they want me to set up a Facebook accountability tool, like I did for my “Intro to Meditation” class a few months ago. (I challenged that group to meditate for 10 minutes a day for a month and they are still at it, months later.)

Maybe I could issue a dietary challenge: NO SUGAR IN MAY. But that might be too much, not to mention cruel.

Today on my way up to Wegmans I was listening to this Robert Greene interview again.  Greene wrote a great book called Mastery, and he was talking about people who say they don’t know what they want to do with their lives. He said you need to figure out what incentivizes you What do YOU want? And it can’t be about making money.

This is totally in line with my “Amp Your Vibe” process of having people list all the things they love and hate and then picking something off that list (the love list) and creating a streak around it.

For example, maybe you would like to write a novel, or dig a perennial garden, or travel to Bali, or learn the ukelele.

Maybe you want to play a respectable game of golf, or beat someone in chess, or learn to surf.

Maybe you want to do a tremendously difficult hike, like the Appalachian Trail, or grow prize winning roses, or get to your ideal weight.

Maybe a headstand or a handstand is on your list, or understanding the stock market enough to make some wise investments.

Maybe you want to learn to code and build an app, or a website. Maybe you dream of writing a popular blog.

YOU name it. Name your thing, then break it down into a 30 day start, commit, and go.

What could you do in the next 30 days that would bring you closer to your dream?

Here’s what I am going to do in May: I want to win the NaNo Badge on 750words.com. That will entail writing 50K words in a month. I also want to do a handstand some day, ideally by the end of the summer, so to that end I am committed to doing handstand prep poses during the “open practice’ sessions during May at the studio.

I don’t want to “Name it.” I want you to. Then I want to hold you to your highest vision of yourself. I would love to support you in whatever you want to do. If you need an accountability partner, I’ll do it. You want some words of encouragement from time to time, or some information? I’ll do it.

I want you to name it and claim it.

This is your one wild and precious life.

5 Things To Do While You Figure Out What You Want to Be When You Grow Up

I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up until I was 51 years old.

When I finally found “my thing” it wasn’t the thing I thought it would be, and it certainly wasn’t anything anyone would ever pay me to do.  But by that point, I didn’t really care about money.  All I really wanted was to know.  I wanted to know finally, definitively, and without a doubt what I was put on this earth to do, before I left it.

The day it dawned on me, the day I figured it out, that was the day I discovered such a deep, rich vein of contentment, happiness and stability within myself that I’ve been feeding off of it ever since.

Now I’m growing and evolving and learning to play this game of life for some really serious points.  No more dinking around. No more hand-wringing and wondering.  And what a relief it is, let me tell you.

When you finally know what you want to be when you grow up, this rock-solid self-knowledge allows you to even “settle” and take a job “just for money,” without any qualms, because you finally know what your real work is, and you don’t have to worry about being mistaken for a checker at Wegman’s, for instance, or a barista at some coffee joint.   If people ask you what you do for a living, you can tell them your job title, but then add, “But what I really am is a (fill in the blank here) which in my case was “a writer and a teacher of yoga.”  And smile.

Ahhhh…

Soon after I became certified to teach yoga at age 51, I found a little space to rent, just to see if I could get anyone to practice with me. It was a risk, for sure, but now, miraculously, I have a sweet little studio and every week a whole bunch of people come and practice with me. I’ve been consistently making the rent doing what I was put on this earth to do for the last 7 years.

Before I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up though, I must have read every book written about how to find your “vocation” or “calling.”  But it wasn’t until I started actually doing things, these 5 practices specifically, and doing them consistently, even religiously, over the course of a few years, that everything started to fall into place.

These practices will give you that all-important “self-knowledge” I was talking about. And I guarantee, you won’t find your vocation until you gain some measure of that.

So, if you still don’t have a clue about what you’re supposed to be doing with this “one wild and precious life” of yours, start with these 5 things.  They were the keys that unlocked everything for me.

1. Make Lists

Actually, 2 lists. In the first one, list all the things you Love/like.  In the second one, all the things you Hate/dislike.

Why do this? Because the act of listing these things will bring you into sharp focus. You might not know what you want to be when you grow up yet, but at least if someone asks: “Who do you think you are?! At the very least you’ll be able to say, “Well, I am a person who prefers chocolate over vanilla, and baths over showers.”

I keep my lists on tadalists.com.  That way I can edit them and even share them with others if I want.  You can check out my “Likes” list here. And my “Dislikes” list here.  Remember too, that your lists are an ongoing project and will evolve and change over time, just like you, so keep adding to, and subtracting from them as you think of things.

2.  Play A Daily Game of Freeze Tag

Remember Freeze Tag? If someone tagged you, you had to stand like a statue until someone “unfroze” you?  Yeah. So here’s what you do: you take a timer and set it for 10 minutes.  Sit down in a chair and don’t move a muscle for 10 minutes.  When the timer goes off, you’re “unfrozen.”  If you do this every day, you will know what you want to be when you grow up very, very soon.  Some people call this “meditation” but you don’t have to.  Just sit down, shut up, and don’t move for 10 minutes (minimum) every day.

3. Make More Time For Stuff You Like To Do.

(Unless the stuff you like to do involves passively staring at screens.) Watching football on TV, or playing on Facebook doesn’t count.  Make less time for screen-staring, and spend more time building a rock garden, or an ultralight plane in your garage. Sew a quilt or write a novel. Make a complicated new recipe or train your dog for an agility competition.  It doesn’t matter if nobody will ever pay you a dime to do this stuff, if you love to do it, you need to build in some serious time in your life to do it.  Don’t neglect what you love.  Remember: What you love is who you are.

4. Find a Body Practice You Can Do Consistently, And Do It.

Run, walk, do tai chi, practice yoga, bike, hike, swim–it doesn’t matter. Just make sure it’s something you can do in all kinds of weather, and without a lot of equipment, and without a partner.  You don’t have to do it every day, just most days.

5. Streak Something.

Find something you can do every day and do it.  Build a streak.  You might even make your body practice your “streak thing,” thus taking care of # 4 and #5 in one fell swoop. I have had “yoga streaks” and “workout streaks” and “writing streaks” and “meditation streaks.” I have a 103 day writing streak going on 750words.com at this very moment.  Doing something every day, no matter how small, insignificant or silly it might seem, builds stamina and endurance and discipline. It will make you proud of yourself.  It will make you stable.  And when the streak ends (which it will, inevitably), you can start all over again, or streak something else.

It wasn’t until I started making and tending my lists, sitting still every day, carving out time for the things I loved to do, moving my body, and building up long streaks of discipline, that it all  fell into place for me.

I wish I had started doing this stuff sooner. It would have spared me a lot of “path errors” and saved me thousands of dollars in books. You should really try it, especially if you are still wondering who you are, and what you are going to do with this “one wild and precious life” of yours.

If you start today and keep at it, I’ll bet in less than a year, you’ll know what you want to be when you grow up.  And when you do, write and tell me what it is, okay? I’d love to hear.

(This is a short excerpt from a book I am working on called “How To Win The “Well-Lived Life” Badge For Your Tombstone or Urn.”))

The Story of Main Street Yoga

Six years ago today I opened Main Street Yoga.  I have been thinking all day about the wild, circuitous, error-ridden path that led me here. I really want to tell the story of how all this came to be: how I came to be a teacher of yoga, how I came to be the way I am.

But it’s a long story.  It goes back to the nuns in Catholic school who planted the concept in my head that everyone has a “vocation” or a “calling.”

(So I think I’ll make this a multi-part entry and see if I can chunk out the whole mess.)

I was always looking for it, listening for it, even hoping, as a little girl, that god knew my phone number and would call me. (“Hey god, my number is Tremont 4-7734.”)

After I gave up the idea that it would be a literal “call” I kept waiting for some grown-up, some teacher, to call me out, to tell me, “You are good at this; you should be a ____.”  I kept waiting for the revelatory dream, the message in the fortune cookie, the face in the cloud formation, anything that would confirm a “calling.”

But nothing. Nada.

I wasn’t particularly talented at anything in the way some kids are talented at music, or math, or art or sports.

And this lack of a calling or “firm direction” or whatever you want to call it, continued through high school, into college, grad school, and even motherhood.

So I did what everyone does in my position: I just made the best of it. I did the best I could with what I had.  I liked to read, so I read everything.  I liked to write, so I wrote in my journal everyday for decades. I had a crappy childhood, so I made sure my kid didn’t. I took up jogging. I built and tended gardens. I ran a Nursery School. I took piano lessons. I practiced yoga. I went on silent Zen retreats. I made a quilt. I became a vegetarian.

But I dreaded it at parties when I was asked, “What do you do?”  Because whatever I was doing, was not what I was. What I was, what my life mission was, eluded me.  And this really, really, really bugged me.

But at the same time, I came to know what I  wasn’t. I wasn’t good at being on the road all the time; I was a home-body. I wasn’t good as a school teacher, though I liked to teach. I was spoiled and liked to call the shots on my own life. I didn’t like to be “bossed.”

I was certainly not content being a piano-playing, gardener, meditator, quilter, vegetarian, runner.  My life wasn’t coming together and time was running out.

(to be continued…)

If The Shoe Fits

I am of one the happiest people I know.  It’s taken me a long time to get to this present state of happification, but I am definitely here now.  And here to stay.

This evening I walked into my studio after what seemed like weeks of being away (it was only 6 days), fell down onto my mat, hugged my knees to my chest and rocked back and forth whispering,

Ahhh…ahhh…ahhh…

Until you know what you are meant to do, what your true work is, until you find what Buddhists call your “dharma,” happiness will always elude you.

But once you figure that out, and then begin to actually do it, happiness is yours.

I love my life.  I love what I do.  What I do is not a ‘job.”  What I do is not “work.”

What I do is joy.  What I do is love.  What I do is a miracle.  What I do is perfectly aligned with all my values, with everything I believe deep, deep down.

It’s taken me a big chunk of my lifespan, lots of tears, and years of frustration to get to this place.  It’s taken more courage than I actually have, and along the way I’ve made some huge honking mistakes.

Of the many “roles” I have played in this life: mother, sister, aunt, spouse, neighbor, friend, student and teacher, to name a few, most of them I have played rather badly (much to my shame and embarrassment.)

Granted, some of these roles I had no say in—they were accidents of birth or were thrust upon me by pure spatial coincidence.

(or were they???)

But these two sticks I am currently rubbing together to create the “spark” that is responsible for my feelings of deep happiness (i.e. the writing and the yoga) don’t feel like “roles” at all.  They feel like “right.”  They feel like clothes that have been custom designed just for me.

For years I walked around in clothes that didn’t fit and shoes that were always one size too small.

Now, no more bunions, no more dragging hems.

Cinderella has found the right slipper at last, and, oddly enough, it’s…bare feet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thought Experiment

I know a lot of people who don’t like their jobs.  I know some that can’t stand their jobs.  I know a few who can’t even bear to get out of bed in the morning they hate their job so much.

You know what I wish?

I wish that every single person who is just putting in time, phoning it in, doing it for the paycheck, could take a month off.  During that month, they would not be allowed to stay home and veg., but would be transported to a deserted island where they would have shelter and food, but no TV or internet or electronics or human interaction.  They would have access to a good library.

During this month off their only goal would be to discover what they were put on this earth to do. They would have to decide what they wanted to do with their “one wild and precious life.”  Then, once back in the real world, they would be mandated to do it.

During that month away they would learn to be courageous and insistent. They would learn to speak their truth, to value their life.

Really, now.  Wouldn’t that change everything?  Everyone off on retreat for a month? Everyone who hates their job getting “re-set,” as it were?  Put back on the proper trajectory?

Unhappy businessmen could then be farmers or painters or auto detailers.  Unhappy teachers could be river guides or B&B owners or dog trainers.  Unhappy waiters could be camp counselors or actors or dentists.

The highest priority in the culture would not be how much money you made, but how aligned you were with your dharma, your inner calling, your soul.

Everything would change.

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