Q: Why do you need to keep reinventing yourself?
A: Because you do.
I know, you hate that answer. So did I. But by now, you’ve probably figured out that there’s no such thing as a straight shot when finding your way in life. Four steps forward, eight steps back; three steps forward, and the ground gives way.
Progress is an idyll created by those in a hurry to escape the present moment. Click to Tweet.
(This post originally appeared as a guest post at IgotKat’s The Epic Brand blog)
Five years ago, I was on top of the world.
Literally: on the roof of the world, in the Himalayas, working in Bhutan. I had my absolute dream job, teaching yoga at a small luxury resort. I was known as an expert in my field, enjoying a reputation that I had worked fifteen years to achieve. I was being paid to live in a $1000 (USD) per night resort suite, hobnobbing with Cher and Carlos Slim and some of the world’s most successful artists. I was living legally and free in the most elusive, exclusive country in the world, where most visitors must pay a $200 visa fee for the privilege of spending one night.
I had developed personal relationships with some of the highest masters of Vajrayana Buddhism, and the time and space to go visit with them and get guidance on my practice.
I had time to practice.
My work regularly entailed hiking all day in pristine forest to little known shrines inhabited by magical spirits. A thriving business developed around leading retreats and establishing myself finally after a long journey of false starts and dead ends. People raved about my teaching, and doors opened up one after another. I forged bonds with people and established deep friendships—some of the closest friends I’ve known since embarking on this journey of expat life.
Then, as if the cake needed icing, about a year after I landed in Bhutan, I met a man. Not just any man, but The Man. The whole works.
Someone I’d already known for 12 years, the perfect kind of man for my perfect life, so I fell hard and fast. He asked me to be with him.
It was as if a pure golden bolt of light just showed up on my doorstep. I was swimming in bliss.
Finally, I got it – the magic key – life came together once you paid your dues. My dues were finally paid and I could now cruise on the open sea.
Then of course, one day, just like that, it fell apart.
The man balked, and left me on the doorstep. Someone started spreading rumors about me in the expat community. The hotel didn’t offer to renew my contract. Bhutanese administration would not renew my visa. I returned to the US to wander around homeless, jobless, in a state of shock with a shattered heart.
Boy was that fun.
But this is how it goes: shit happens.
As Shakyamuni Buddha said, all composite things will eventually fall apart. And everything is composite.
You may dream of the situation where you will be peaceful and happy and things will go smoothly. And these days there are so many people willing to help you do that: coaches, advisors, teachers, gurus, counselors, consultants.
But the problem with projecting into the future this way, is that you then ignore one fundamental law of the universe: what is happening right here and right now is the only thing that exists.
Even when you finally get what you want, you will worry about it being taken away, (and it eventually will be) so why waste the precious present moment in future think, when this moment is already passing away?
The result of my mini-drama was that I ended up buying a house and becoming a shut-in for a year: I wrote a memoir.
A week before I was to submit the manuscript for peer review, an agent contacted me to ask if I’d like to write a book about Bhutan. Clearly there had been forces at work steering me onto the right path. I’ve now refocused my business to make room for my secret passion—writing.
Oh, and I discovered The Man had a history of bad behavior, making our downfall the biggest blessing I could have received.
So when things are not working out, listen up and see if it’s a sign for you to shift your focus slightly.
Here’s a little map to reinvent yourself when things fall apart:
1. Take stock and identify support: Let go immediately of what wants to dissolve. The sooner you are able to let go of something weighing you down, the better. Create space for something new to arrive.
2. Preserve resources: Stop spinning your wheels and reflect on the new landscape. This is when I usually schedule a meditation retreat. Make friends with space and try not to fill it up.
3. Dream up a vision for yourself, whether or not you think it is realistic. Solitude and silence are needed for creation. What do you really want? Where does your heart tell you to go? Sometimes the big breaks can give you permission to do what you’ve always wanted to do.
4. Take one small step in any direction: Just one step, for now. A life-changing journey begins with one small step.
Though Diary of a Pilgrim has not yet found a publisher, I did just publish my first Ebook, Ashtanga Yoga for Beginner’s Mind, and am revising my memoir to include how-to advice for aspiring yoginis, who are more often than not strong, fiercely dedicated, single women trying to find their way in a confusing new paradigm.
I’ve also created a thriving business out of Northern Thailand where I teach people how to use yoga and meditation practice to move through troubling life situations.
A version of this post was originally published at The Epic Brand, thanks to Kat Tepelyan.