Learning to Fly

Live life to its fullest

Step 7: Follow Your Bliss March 2, 2008

From the Steps to Learning How to Fly series.

BILL MOYERS: Do you ever have the sense of . . . being helped by hidden hands?

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: All the time. It is miraculous. I even have a superstition that has grown on me as a result of invisible hands coming all the time—namely, that if you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.

Have you ever had a feeling of complete self-awareness where you recognize that what is happening right now could only be happening to you, and the events of the past hours, days, months, even years have all come together to produce this very moment? August Gold talks about the work that we alone can do, that we were born to do, and the feeling of resonance that happens when we stand in that place that only we can stand in. In The Alchemist, Paolo Coehlo explores the idea of the universe conspiring to help bring your dreams to fruition. Joseph Campbell discusses how when you follow your bliss, invisible hands come out to help you along your path.

This concept of “following your bliss” is the culmination of the ideas we have been discussing over the course of this series. It is about what happens when we begin to shift, to get clear, to take time to be still and listen, to follow our intuitive guidance, to allow our real selves to come out into the world, and to take steps, however small, in the direction of our dreams. It is about how doors begin to open for us, how people begin to show up seemingly accidentally with access to different pieces of the puzzle, how things we were led to do years ago suddenly begin to make sense within this new framework, and how our dreams begin to take shape.

There is a lot of misconception surrounding this topic. Critics talk about how if we all followed our bliss, there would be tons of starving artists in the world and no janitors. Or people will say, what I’d really like to do is not to work, so I’m going to pursue that goal and the money will still follow, right? This isn’t about imagining a life that sounds glamorous or exciting and doing that. And it definitely isn’t some spiritually couched permission to be lazy. It is about finding your place in the world, your passion, your divine birthright, and throwing yourself into it, taking the leap of faith with full knowledge that the universe will provide you solid ground to step on, or at the very least a soft place to fall.

Finding your place in the world is neither as difficult nor as easy as it sounds. As we’ve touched on previously, life is always giving us messages, showing us the next step we need to take. We don’t go out for our first run today and finish a marathon tomorrow–we take steps that enable us to reach that ultimate goal. It isn’t a matter of instant gratification, it’s about laying a solid foundation and creating the building blocks you need in order to get there. And the best part? You aren’t doing this alone, you do not need to have the full blueprint in your head in order to have it all come together beautifully. Your job is to be aware, to notice what resonates and what doesn’t, to trust in yourself and the universe, to listen to the messages you receive and follow their guidance.

One of the reasons I love Wonderfalls, the short-lived TV series starring Caroline Dhavernas, is that it explores this concept in a more obvious and direct way. The main character, Jaye, literally receives messages from the universe–normally inanimate objects begin to speak to her. Their somewhat enigmatic messages lead her to do things that set whole courses of events in motion with often humorous and always miraculous results. The show explores how seemingly small circumstances become snowballs that nudge (or knock) us into living our destiny. One of my favorite episodes (spoiler alert) includes the phrase “Bring Her Back To Him.” Jaye interprets this to mean that she should try to reconcile the nun hiding out at the local bar with the priest who has come to town looking for her. At one point she and the nun have an argument in a parking lot–Jaye gets upset and drives away, backing into a car and breaking its taillight in the process. It turns out to be the priest’s car; when the police pull him over for the broken taillight, they discover a warrant out for his arrest. His last girlfriend before he had entered the priesthood had been looking for him for almost ten years, and he gets to meet the daughter he never knew he had for the first time. By the end of the episode many “hers” have been brought back to many “hims,” including, and resulting in, the nun’s faith in God being restored.

While our messages are not usually so literal, nor the steps to get from taillight to reunion so clearly painted, they are always happening for us too. Once you really get this, you come to understand that coincidences are really incidences of synchronicity, showing us the way. Start saying “Yes!” to the universe, stepping through the doors that open up for you along the way. Pay attention to the messages you receive each day and follow where they lead. Uncover your passion and immerse yourself in it. My guess is that you will be following your bliss before you know, benefiting from the invisible hands helping you along the way, spreading your wings and soaring to new heights, loving the feeling of resonance that comes with standing in your right place in the world. Namaste.

Recommended Reading:
The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron
The Celestine Prophecy, by James Redfield
Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow, by Marsha Sinetar
Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell
The Witch of Portobello, by Paolo Coehlo

Photo: “follow your bliss,” by irene suchocki

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Step 1: Start Where You Are February 24, 2008

Filed under: learning to fly,practice — jennsheridan @ 6:22 pm
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From the Steps to Learning How to Fly series.

I like to live my life by what I call wisdom according to Aerosmith: Life is a journey, not a destination. It isn’t about where you’re headed, it’s about the places you go to along the way. I personally want that journey to be full and rich, about learning new things and appreciating the beauty around me, about living mindfully and discovering my passions and expressing who I really am.

I haven’t always lived that way–even as I was learning the tools necessary to spread my wings, I spent a substantial amount of time living my life the way other people expected me to. I was a good girl, usually doing the “right” things, even as I was exploring realms that I didn’t think most of my friends and family would understand. My life took on a splintered quality as different pieces of me showed up depending on who I was with. I often felt like I was a shadow of myself, flimsy and insubstantial, and I yearned for the day when I could be one coherent me. But that was where I was, and the first thing I needed to learn was to let go of those expectations, to give myself a break, to stop being so hard on myself before I could begin the shift from living my life externally towards exploring the me on the inside and letting her light shine.

Starting where you are is about being loving and compassionate towards yourself. You may dream of what you want your life to look like, who you want to be, and often that leads to beating yourself up, judging yourself and finding yourself lacking. This is counterproductive, placing the emphasis on what you don’t want instead of on what you do want. The first thing to do is to recognize that you are where you are, and while you are capable of realizing your dreams, you have to be gentle with yourself as you take the steps necessary to get there. I like to think of it as building your muscles. If you had a dream of running a marathon, you wouldn’t try to run 26.2 miles tomorrow. You would put a training program in motion and build your muscles and your endurance to enable success. Each step in the training program is a stretch and while you get close to your objective during training, the day of the event is the day you actually achieve your goal.

This is how realizing life goals works, too. While we don’t always have a full training program laid out in front of us so we know in advance the steps we’ll take to reach our goals, life is always feeding us opportunities to stretch ourselves, to grow in the direction we want to be moving in. When a challenge comes up for you today, instead of handling it the way you might have in the past, ask yourself how you can react differently this time. The answer might feel a little outside of your comfort zone, but do it anyway. You know where the old road leads–explore a new road and see if it lands you in a place you haven’t been before. Play with it, experiment a bit. You might not land exactly where you want to be, but keep experimenting with it as situations come up until you find a new way of handling it that feels more authentic to who you are and where you want to go in life. If you’re shy, a public speaking engagement might be too big of a stretch, but talking to a stranger in a bar might be just the right size. Strengthen that extroverted muscle, that faith muscle, that love muscle–whatever it is that you’ve been seeking, that’s been missing in your life.

There is always something right in front of us, right where we are today that is a gift for the growth we have been asking for. It might feel small, it might be a just baby step, but each step is a movement, and each step opens up new opportunities for expansion. As T. Harv Ecker reminds us:

Success is a learnable skill. You can learn to succeed at anything . . . If you want to be a great piano player, you can learn how to do it. If you want to be truly happy, you can learn how to do it. If you want to be rich, you can learn how to do it. It doesn’t matter where you are right now. It doesn’t matter where you’re starting from. What matters is that you are willing to learn.

Start where you are right now, in this moment, and take a step, begin the process of learning how to spread those wings, to move in the direction that you’ve always dreamed of.

Recommended Reading:
The Alchemist, by Paolo Coelho
Conversations with God, by Neale Donald Walsch
The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle
Spiritual Fitness, by Caroline Reynolds
Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Photo: Views of Bratislava, by Lukas Ondrousek

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Baby steps February 11, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 6:20 pm
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Life is such an interesting journey, isn’t it? What I’m especially in awe of these days is how even though the light often only shines on the very next step, it is always leading you somewhere that enables your growth. I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I needed this time off to help slow me down, enabling me to change direction without skidding out of control. But that is not what I thought 4 or 5 months ago, which is why I ended up with a knee injury that forced me to literally SIT for weeks until the way I was thinking about things had shifted enough to start the real change. I can still feel healing taking place in my soul, and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to take some time off, to retreat from the world for a spell.

A month ago the pendulum had swung so far the other way that I was feeling panicky about the idea of a full-time job, feeling like this retreat was necessary for me indefinitely. But somewhat out of the blue, I’m feeling pulled in a different direction. My soul recognizes that while this time off has given me what I needed to connect more deeply with Source, it is now time for me to connect with people, and to do that, I need to be out in the world, a tangible being for folks to interact with, so that I can continue along my growth path and share my gifts with the world.

I had an interview last night, and it was kind of funny, because my brain went through the full range of patterns that it usually does in these circumstances. I slept really poorly as the mini-computer in my head did all of its calculations and ran through its infinite scenarios and told me all of the reasons why this job is a bad fit for me, focusing especially on that belief that a full-time job would distract me from my purpose. The interesting thing was that when I woke up this morning, my head was still. All that was left was the idea that I needed to speak to my guides, speak to that Intelligence deep within me to see what it thought–in other words, what the REAL me thought about all of this. And the answer wasn’t entirely surprising considering the messages I’ve received over the past few months. I was reminded that the voice that keeps me from sleeping is the voice of fear, that what really makes me anxious about this job is that it would force me to show up in the work world in a deeply different way than I ever have before. But it also reminded me that this job is an opportunity for me to take the way I’ve been showing up in my spiritual world, i.e. as a Practitioner, and apply it to a work environment, to use the skills that I have honed on that path out in the world in a new way.

I honestly don’t know what will happen with this job, and that is really okay with me. But what I do know now is that whatever happens, I will continue to grow and to be given steps that take me on the path that ultimately lead to my goal. The light may not show me very much, but it always shows me what I need to see, and when I take the steps I’m guided to take, I always get to experience even more of the divine way that things flow together. Namaste.


yes is a world January 24, 2008

I was all set to write about the power of action today, but as I was swapping out my “Quote of the Week” this morning, it occurred to me that as much as I love e.e. cummings poem that was there, I haven’t necessarily been LIVING it.

love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skilfully curled)
all worlds

Reading this poem, even if it’s my hundredth time reading it, gives me chills. It speaks to that part of me that has spent most of my life asleep, that part of me that yearns for me to stand up and truly say YES that all of life has to offer. It speaks to me in the language of my soul, answering a call that my spirit has been crying for a long, long time.

I’m still at a point where I’m not sure I know what living a life of YES would truly look like, but I think I can work backwards from what it would not look like. It would not look like settling–it would be making choices that serve me and my goals. It would not look like accepting table scraps and saying thank you, can I have some more please–it would be recognizing my power and strength and the gifts that I bring to the world, knowing my value and expecting it to be seen. It would not be gray and flat and lifeless–it would be full of color, fully fleshed out, vibrant, animate, alive.

Sometimes I’m blown away by how difficult it is for me to speak my truth, to stand in my power and tell the world that I’m here, that I’m a force for good in this universe, that I am a voice of wisdom and understanding, that I am a conduit for God or Infinite Intelligence or Source or whatever you want to call that all-powerful, all-encompassing ONENESS that is the creative source of our universe. The DailyOM this morning struck such a chord with me, talking about that feeling of spinning our wheels, possibly even feeling like we’re going backwards, but needing to remember that each step is a step forward. Forward progress, it’s all forward progress. That can be so difficult for me to recognize some days, when I find myself stuck in a pattern that I thought I’d caught and eliminated 10, 15, 20 years ago. How long am I going to allow myself to be stuck under the mantle of “I’m not good enough”?

But this is when I have to take a deep breath, let all that tension in my shoulders and my stomach dissipate and remember that the “I’m not good enough” of 2008 is a mere shadow of its former self. The truth of my forward progress really is self-evident–when I let go my perfectionism and judgment, I can see it clear as day. And this past year has been about moving what I know from my head to my heart, into my body, so that I can FEEL it. I suppose this next year is going to be about moving it out of my head and body into the world, really putting my money where my mouth is and living the life that I truly want, that I know I deserve, and that I truly was born to live. This year is going to be about shifting my self-definition, how I perceive myself internally and how I describe myself to the world.

I am a writer. I am a coach. I am a spiritual intuitive. I have unique gifts to share with the world. This is who I am. Do you know who you are? How do you want to define yourself moving forward? Are you ready to share that definition of yourself? I cannot promise you that this kind of shift will be easy, but I know that, for me at least, it is necessary. And I hope to even have some fun with it along the way. Namaste.


My dark side January 19, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 4:48 pm
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My dark side is rearing its ugly head this morning. It’s like a cacophony of voices ringing in my head, the voices of fear saying, You’ll never be good enough… you’re not special… there are thousands of writers and coaches and intuitives and teachers and healers out there. What makes you think you’re special? What makes you think you’ve got something unique or different to say? And the best one of all — Who do you think you are?

Ah yes, the dark side. My negative self-talk that often masquerades as rational, critical thinking. It can sound so self-protective sometimes, like when a parent is trying to let their child down easy, or give advice the child doesn’t really want to hear. Other times it sounds harsh, cruel, angry, throwing past failures (or even current) in my face as if to say, See? If you’d just listened to me in the first place, this never would have happened. And when I’m feeling a little down, what those voices are saying make so much sense. I start thinking you’re right, I’m being totally silly here, I should try something more practical, something safe. But something inside of me knows there’s only one thing that voice of fear has said that’s entirely true — if I had listened to it in the first place, this never would have happened. The voice means it to be reprimanding, to suggest that next time I should follow its advice. But the real truth is that making those mistakes, putting myself out there in such a way that there’s even a possibility of failure is the only way I’m going to grow, the only way I’m going to learn.

You’ll hear people talk about not being able to follow their dreams because look how old they are. I can’t go to film school, medical school, etc. — I’m already 30, or 40, or 50! But what they aren’t considering is that if they don’t go follow that dream, they’ll still be however old they are and stuck in the same unfulfilled place they are now. I do not want to be one of those people. What I want more than anything else in this life is to shake off all these feelings of “should have” and “supposed to,” all this practical, intellect-based thinking, and really FEEL, really and truly LIVE. And the only way I’m going to be able to do that is to take leaps of faith, to continue to push the envelope, to come out of hiding, to integrate all of the facets of my personality into one ME and show her off to the whole world. And sometimes I’m going to fall flat on my face and bang up my knees (literally and figuratively), but I will always have the support I need to pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again tomorrow.

What is your dream? What would living your life fully look like? What aren’t you doing today that feels like a gaping hole in your life, even if it’s a hole that has never been filled? You show me yours and I’ll show you mine. And then maybe, we can give each other a boost, help each other unfurl those wings, and give flying a try together. Namaste.


Strength January 11, 2008

One of the joys of being between jobs is the flexibility inherent in the situation. If I wake up in the morning and need to spend some time on forgiveness work, I can. If a book falls off a shelf asking to be read, I can follow that urge. If nature is calling me out into its luscious depths, I can pack up and go for a walk. I am spending a lot of time listening and following the guidance I receive. Ultimately, my hope is that it will lead me to an income source, so a lot of my focus is on my life’s purpose and seeing what the next step on that path looks like.

Earlier this week, the daily “big idea” email I get from thinkArete.com was about Dr. Mark Seligman’s Authentic Happiness. The short idea is that if you figure out what your strengths are and use them, you will find happiness. I was, of course, intrigued and checked out the Authentic Happiness website and discovered a whole slew of interesting looking questionnaires, including the one calling to me — Signature Strengths. My results were both unsurprising and edifying, and I feel compelled to share the top five (of 24) with you today.

My top strength is Spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith. Not surprising considering how much time I am currently dedicating to my connection to my Source. I would guess that if I had taken this questionnaire a year ago, this would not have turned up number one, but today it truly is the best thing I have going for me and the source of the contentment I find in each day.

My second strength is Appreciation of beauty and excellence. This is definitely one that I try to cultivate. I happen to believe I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, so most days this is easy, but I can find beauty in anything, anyone, anywhere.

My third strength is Love of learning. Oh, if Ms. Tinsley could just see me now. I was the bane of many a schoolteacher’s existence — that kid who didn’t pay attention in class, never did her homework, but still did well on tests. I always had an affinity for learning, but was so often bored it didn’t come out in school until I was about halfway through college. As an adult, learning is a source of great pleasure for me, and I find myself taking classes whenever I can.

My fourth strength is Perspective (wisdom). Who knew I was so wise? I definitely do believe that we each hold a unique perspective, and mine is valuable precisely because it is uniquely mine. The unique perspectives of other individuals help me to hone my own, and I hope vice versa. The world is such an interesting place full of such interesting people. And hey, I’m one of them!

My fifth strength is Capacity to love and be loved. I love just about everyone I come in contact with. Now, that doesn’t mean I always like them, but I can always find something in them to love. I am also blessed with parents whose love for me I have never had reason to doubt, affectionate and loving family members, a burgeoning family of choice (aka my friends), and the love of a supportive husband and adoring cats. It’s a good place to be.

I love having the opportunity to explore and celebrate my strengths. I have spent too much of my life being my own biggest critic, focusing on all of my weaknesses and flaws. Just thinking about my strengths brings a smile to my face and warmth to my heart. Isn’t that a much better place to live? I already feel that authentic happiness flooding into my life, and I’ve only just begun. Namaste.