Learning To Live In Gratitude

 The phone rang at exactly 11:11am.

11:11 again. Why did that sequence of numbers always seem to be popping up in front of me?

I almost didn’t pick up the phone. I was deep into budget planning for my high-powered  job in television advertising and didn’t want to interrupt the painstaking process. On the third or fourth ring, however, I answered the call that would forever change the course of my life.

On the line was John, a charismatic former colleague and master negotiator. Without preamble, he offered me a mind-blowing position with a media company in Austin, Texas. The promotion would mean a brag-worthy management position, a virtually unlimited expense account, and a truly insane salary several times greater than the six figures I was already bringing in. Talk about an ego boost and a fork in my road!

Part of me was jumping up and down screaming, “Hell, yes! This is it!” This was my chance to manifest a lifestyle that most people can only dream about. I would be an instant millionaire! But the other part of me was overwhelmed with all of the changes that would come with my new role and lifestyle transformation.

John was certain that I should step up my game, join his company, and get rich quick. But my intuition was telling me to consider his offer with great care.

While I was weighing my options, a friend gave me a photocopy of one of the chapters of the Tao Te Ching. This is the passage that got my attention:

“Fame or integrity: which is more important? Money or happiness: which is more valuable? Success or failure: which is more destructive? If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never truly be fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

Lao Tzu’s words struck a deep chord in me. What would it really mean for me to choose fame and fortune, I wondered?

One of the biggest drawbacks to the new position was the need to uproot my family. My husband and I adored living in northern Michigan. In a world where kids grow up far too fast, our little community would give our baby daughter, Marin (who was not quite two at the time) a chance to truly experience her childhood. We felt schools with small classrooms and an area with small-town values to be in her best interest. My husband moved a lot growing up and felt that he missed out on having a home base with long-time friends. I was quite precocious, and grew up way too fast; I wanted our daughter to be able to be a child for as long as possible in a safe place surrounded by water, woods, and wildlife. Together, we were hell-bent on giving her what we missed out on.

Ultimately, after several conversations and with the understanding that there was nothing lacking in our lives, we chose to stay put. We were happy and comfortable. The financial rewards of a new, high-powered position were not enough to move us away from our family and the pristine landscape we loved.

I chose my family first. I chose happiness over stacks of cash. I chose to rejoice in the way things were. No regrets.

But life didn’t go on as usual. That dream job offer and the passage of the Tao had changed everything for me. It was as if the shades had been lifted to brighten up my world. I became inspired to celebrate my life—to rejoice in the way things were. It was time to let go of choices, roles, and behaviors that were no longer serving me, and make more room for more peace, gratitude and joy. I began the journey of spiraling back to the center of who I really am (and have been, all along).

Shortly after making the decision to stay, I realized that I’d kicked my body to the curb for far too long. I was ready to get moving again—but what to do? Friends invited me to a check out a martial arts class, thinking I’d enjoy it, and they were right! I started practicing Kuntaw (Filipino hand and foot fighting), which, after a couple of years, led me to my first Yoga class.

Everything, and I mean everything, began to shift at this time in my life. I felt a higher level of consciousness than I’d ever felt before. I was being reborn—birthing myself, in the way I had birthed Marin just two years before. Kuntaw and Yoga became the catalysts for a cataclysmic mind shift. I realized that I was no longer content with my corporate career, and, after a period of deliberate transition, I unlocked my golden handcuffs, embraced my spirituality, and set off down a path of entrepreneurial freedom. I have never looked back.

When I connect the dots today, I can clearly see the chain of events that opened my heart to a new way of being. By choosing my family, I took the first step toward choosing happiness—for them, and for myself. Along the way, I’ve also learned to embrace my feminine sovereignty and creative expression, both of which have led me to dozens of life-altering experiences. I’ve taken a liking to photography, written my first book and co-authored four more, sat in silent retreat, become a certified Yoga teacher, journaled my heart out, smudged my face off, embraced my shadow, and participated in several healing sweat lodge ceremonies. About five years ago, I co-founded the wildly popular Anxiety Slayer podcast to help myself and others wipe out the fear and discomfort of anxiety. In late 2012, I created the Transformation Goddess Experience, where women can come for a soulful, sensual, and sacred experience. My Sacred Heart teachings program was born after doing some deep healing work around my once-broken relationship with my father.

So many gifts have been birthed since stepping into my power. The sacred life I’ve crafted flows with beauty, compassionate self-care, and feminine ritual. My favorite sacred feminine rituals include a daily gratitude practice, joy-spotting, painting, tending my garden, and creating a warm and beautiful home environment. I light candles and burn my favorite incense every day. I honor my natural feminine rhythms and do my best to ebb and flow with the cycles of the moon. I regularly smudge my energetic field and clear the energy in our home. I massage my body with coconut or sesame oil to ground myself and often soak my bones in a hot bath. Before I chose to follow my heart, I had no time or energy for any of these things. In letting go the pursuit of fame and fortune, I’ve found something infinitely more important: the ability to love and nurture myself.

I have re-read the Tao Te Ching several times over the years since I turned down John’s offer. Lao Tzu’s ancient prose was my gateway to discovering my spirituality and my happiness. The quote that changed my mind, and my life, is prominently displayed over my sacred altar to this day.

Choosing to live in a state of gratitude and to be content with the way things are while remaining vigilant about letting go of the things that no longer serve me, is a healthy (and sometimes challenging) daily practice. By continually stepping up to the challenge, I have become a fierce warrior who is also divinely feminine. A great deal of my strength comes from the courage to be transparent, flexible and vulnerable. With me, what you see is what you get. I’m okay with that because everything I need is already inside of me. As Lao Tzu wrote: “When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

Where in your life are you relying on external things, like money and success, to bring you happiness?
What would your life be like if you learned to be content with the way things are in the present moment?
How do you define your “sacred life?”

Happy Weekend!!

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