Do you navigate many worlds/cultures/ways of being? Do you tread the divides like a tightrope walker, precariously balanced over the abyss? It’s a beautiful and thrilling existence, to be at the biting edge of the known and the unknown, always pushing past your comfort zone. It also takes some unique skills.
Here are a few ideas for taking care of yourself as you pioneer a new way of life.
1. Rest & be gentle: Why are there epidemic rates of cancer, addiction, and mental illness in America? We need to learn to listen to our bodies. It can take years to heal from past trauma and ever-present stress. Sleep is medicine. Cultivate a “kind mind.” Are your thoughts judgmental? Is your inner voice critical? You may be sabotaging your good efforts. If you’re having trouble, reach out to others. You’re not alone. You can feel better – strong and energized.
2. Reestablish your natural rhythms: Schools and workplaces create schedules that are artificial and often harmful to us. Our bodies march to a different beat. What are your natural rhythms for sleep, eating, and recharging? If you don’t know, experiment. To be more efficient, take walks and give yourself time to reflect, rather than dashing off to the next thing. Discover the foods and friendships that refuel you.
3. Strengthen your core: Spiritual muscles need strengthening too. Ask yourself:
- What nourishes my soul?
- What can I let go of today? What can I welcome?
- What is my real work?
- What is my true name?
- How do I want to live and be?
4. Whose voice is speaking? Do you want to work for the organization? Do you want to work for yourself? Sketch out a 2-5 year plan, to provide a framework and orientation for your actions. Speak your goals out loud to family and friends. With a strong, clear vision, the how-to will be more straightforward. At the same time, quiet the chorus. Go deeper. Who is speaking? Is it your truth, or your saboteurs? Is it the voice of “I should”? Or the voice of “I must”? In the stillness, in the fear, there is wisdom. Trust that.
5. Simplify: How important is maintaining your current lifestyle? Can you afford it? Know how much you need per month to get by. Explore your options. Consider cutting down on significant expenses like rent and car payments. Moving is a huge hassle, but if you’re committed to your vocation, living simply can free up resources for travel, relationships, and gathering new experiences.
6. Dance: Dance is more than physical movement. It’s a way of integrating our busy lives – without multitasking. Dancers learn how to hone and control many different muscles, achieving a grace and fluidity that looks effortless – but is arduous work! Similarly, we can focus on many different priorities if we slow down, follow our intuition, and maintain daily practices (writing, exercise, prayer, cooking, connecting with our community) that unlock our natural, creative grace.
7. Reconnect & spread your net: I mentioned earlier that “you’re not alone.” Who are your allies? Who believes in your mission? If you can’t think of anyone, go to Step 8 for some ideas. Most likely, though, you have personal and professional contacts who will cheer your efforts and bolster your courage. Tell your story. Ask for what you need. I guarantee: Someone will open a door you didn’t even know existed.
8. Seek out “way-showers”: Find women and men who, in their way, have walked a path parallel to yours. Discover inspiring people through the internet, by reading blogs and magazines, and through your social network. Reach out and invite a conversation. They may not respond. Then again, you may discover a lifelong friend and mentor.
9. Make bread & music: As an artist/activist, the question is always how to make a living while chasing your muse. I think of it as the bread-and-music balance. We need to eat, but we also need to obey our souls. Rumi says, “Let the beauty we love be what we do.” If you can’t earn a living (yet) from your vocation, find ways of giving your poetry, music, mentorship to friends and strangers. The money will come, but the power lies in the sincerity of the gift – and being open to others’ generosity.
10. Redefine freedom: Dive into your heart of hearts. Start small, or take a flying leap. Meditate. Freedom is so much more than we can conceive. Emily Dickinson never left home, yet her poetry has electrified countless souls. Honor your boundaries, but don’t be deceived by your limits. Your fears and flaws are new horizons in disguise. Think of our ancestors and unborn great-grandchildren. Do they want us to suffer? No. They want us to sing.