The journey isn’t always where you go physically; Sometimes its where you go spiritually. We often leave a place and go full circle, only to come back to it wiser and freer. I left teaching three years ago. I Walked into the school district office and signed my resignation papers. I can’t say I never looked back. In fact, I looked back quite often that first year, wondering if I had made one of the biggest mistakes of my life. In retrospect, I could have made a graceful exit. I left teaching as an act of liberation and instead, I became burdened with great financial instability. And while leaving teaching allotted me more time to be in nature, meditate, write, and do all the things that have brought great healing into my life, there was always the restriction and physical constriction I felt when the bills were mounting or I couldn’t buy a plane ticket to visit my daughter.
This journey of three years has brought me back full circle. I have accepted a teaching position in a different district, and feel just as excited to teach as when I first began my teaching journey.
I have been on a beautiful journey of healing, growth and transformation for a while, now. These past three years have left me in awe and wonder of the magic that happens when we release ourselves to spirit and the flow of life. I have been growing and strengthening my roots and connecting deeply to ancestral knowledge. I’ve had the beautiful opportunity to facilitate workshops on forgiveness, non-violence, and restorative practices to youth at various schools. I also developed personal growth workshops for youth, which I have facilitated across San Diego. I’ve worked with youth from around the world in Peru and Costa Rica through experiential learning and leadership development. I am learning about indigenous rituals and ceremonies to heal grief and trauma. I spent this past weekend doing healing and restorative work with prison inmates. I’ve also had powerful experiences as an ally participating in boycott actions that support the work of farmworkers like Familias Unidas por La Justicia, San Quintin Farmworkers, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers fighting for social justice and and fair food programs. I am participating in various projects with Border Angels, a human rights organization bringing awareness to the plight of immigrants and undocumented immigrants. I have participated in several marches against police brutality and state sanctioned violence. I am reflecting on all these experiences, because I understand there was a journey I needed to take, and only by leaving teaching, did I find the impulse to embark on it.
Recently, I discovered that the mortgage company, which held our second mortgage to the house we lost four years ago was reporting us delinquent on our payments. When we foreclosed, both the primary and secondary mortgages were handled under the terms of the foreclosure. As you might imagine, this situation brought up a lot of fear around money, much of it connected to childhood financial wounds that existed from living in poverty, but also decisions I had made in my adult life that perpetuated those financial wounds – such as the manner in which I left teaching, without a plan or vision. What had been arising to the surface during these three years were fears of not having enough, not being worthy, instability and insecurity. I came to the awareness that as part of my healing journey, I had to also heal my relationship with money. This mortgage situation catapulted me to begin attending Debtors Anonymous meetings.
As a result, I have begun to recognize that many of the decisions I’ve made around money are rooted in a manufactured sense of impoverishment. Poverty and scarcity have been so familiar to me, subconsciously, I continued to create experiences that put me right back in that place. Surviving in poverty requires one to live day-to-day, even moment to moment; always in constant worry of the future without being able to plan for it. Because in poverty nothing is ever guaranteed, one lives for today. However, living for today without planning for the future induces a perpetual cycle of worry, anxiety, and shame.
SHAME CANNOT EXIST IN THE PRESENCE OF DIGNITY.
Sometimes we feel shame because we have dishonored our soul. This means we have to restore the damage/pain we have caused, integrate our mind and body with our soul so we can move forward with integrity, and begin the forgiveness process by holding compassion for ourselves.
Sometimes, however, we feel shame because we have bought into the narrative that the world has created for us: “I’m inadequate, I’m not worthy, I’m not smart enough, capable enough, good enough, strong enough, I’m not enough. My financial wounds were carving a path of humiliation for me, and the only way to dignify my experience is to face my circumstances and confront my troubles. It is, I have come to realize, part of the lesson of taking care of myself with self-respect and forgiveness – belief in the best parts of myself.
You want to perform a miracle? Forgive yourself. – Rune Lazuli
Forgiving oneself starts with acknowledging the way we have wronged/hurt others, and often, ourselves. I’ve been carrying the burden of financial wounds as guilt and shame. And I have come to realize that the longer I carry that burden, the more oppressive it becomes. As I am learning to recognize the psychological and emotional factors that lead me to inflict those financial wounds on myself, I am also observing how attached I am to self criticism and judgment; still stuck in regret and disappointment. “I shouldn’t have… Why did I…? If only I would have…” Rationally I understand that my experiences were necessary for me to learn, grow and transform. Emotionally, I have had a more difficult time releasing myself from punishment and punitive self-talk.
What I’ve come to understand, is that in order to completely forgive myself, I must take action to restore the harm that I have caused myself. Learning the lesson is part of the equation. Often times we stop at the lesson and the apology to self, but never take action in repairing the actual harm, the way we would for someone else. It is in the very act of self-restoration that I am able to heal, pay respect to myself, know I am worthy of my time, discover my power to overcome, and change my relationship with how I feel, handle, and view money. When I stand up for myself, I dignify my experiences and determination to overcome my circumstances. It is also in this act that I am able to assert my commitment to live in truth, to hold accountable the aspects of myself that might still be in denial, and to attain liberation from the limitations I have set for myself.
Pause. Research. Pray.
Life presents opportunities to test us on the lessons we have been learning. Many times when a difficult situation presents itself, we rush to action, sometimes even forcing a solution that ultimately hurts us more. When I quit my teaching job, I was feeling lost, uninspired, and empty. But I didn’t allow myself to pause and sit in those emotions long enough to understand why I was feeling them. I forced a solution, and in doing so, moved from one burden to another, instead of finding liberation. The last DA meeting I attended, the facilitator opened with a story that relayed the power she had found in the ability to research and pray before taking any life-impacting decisions. This was a lesson that had been lingering, waiting for me to bring it to my consciousness, and as so often happens, we hear the words we need to hear when it is the right time, when we are ready. Pausing when my emotions are on overload, whether it’s because of excitement or trauma, has taught me to recognize what it is I need to do next. Is it something I need to find a solution for or is it something I need to work through? I am still putting this lesson into practice, and I don’t always get it right, but I am acting more and more from a place of mindfulness and intention.
I have a clearer vision of what I want to do with my life, and how I want to continue to cultivate my abilities and gifts to serve. Life is not just about the actions, but also about how we use who we are and what we are learning in the process. There are many opportunities for me to continue my learning and many require that I make a financial commitment to invest in those areas. I kept thinking, “I can’t afford that. How am I going to get money to pay for this?” Rather than become worried, anxious and inpatient, I took a step back and took a hard look at my options and my resources. I’ve been substituting as a way to subsidize my income when I’m not teaching workshops, but it has become mundane and aimless. I often found myself feeling nostalgic about my experiences in the classroom, but wasn’t sure if those emotions were because I truly missed that work, or because I was uninspired with substituting. Simultaneously, I was exploring job options that would allow me to use my gifts and talents while continuing to do all the projects that I am passionate about. After working through these emotions, exploring my options, and doing a lot of praying and meditation, I had an Aha! moment. Teaching is one of the aspects I’ve always been passionate about, but it isn’t the only. I had gotten myself in a rut, and the classroom had become a confining space for me. It took me three years of exploring to come back and realize that I really do miss teaching and serving students, but I also love all the work I am doing in the community. I can do both!
I don’t know what the future holds. I’ve had dreams of opening a youth center where I can merge all my passions – serving youth and working to bring change to our communities. This is where I am now. I will continue to listen to my heart, take pause during periods of confusion, and listen to the gentle guidance of the universe and my ancestors.
Sometimes, for those looking in, it may seem that I don’t know what I want, that I am confused and adrift. I have felt that way at times, in part because I am still learning to listen to my heart with clarity. The process isn’t perfect; I’ve made mistakes. I’ve hit dead ends, stepped back to assess why something wasn’t working, taken wrong turns, and yes, have gotten lost. But even in all of that, I have been able to continue to define and refine my vision and purpose. Along the way, I have discovered and uncovered layers and layers of truth, digging deeper and having greater introspection of who I am without the programming of the world. It turns out sometimes you have to do the wrong thing. Sometimes you have to make a big mistake to figure out how to make things right. Mistakes are painful, but they’re the only way to find out who we really are, our truth.
I have discovered the courage to speak my truth. Learning to do so requires that I speak it with integrity, compassion, and humility. For too long, I didn’t speak up because I was afraid of offending, making folks uncomfortable, not being a team player, being shunned from the group. But I have learned that in the process I have betrayed myself, and the shame of self betrayal is too heavy to bear.
In exploring my truth, I am learning to be more mindful and intentional with my decisions; to transition gracefully through my seasons, to have the courage to ask for what I want; to be truly open to receive the messages of my heart and what I am asking for; to see my relations as sacred and know they are there to teach, support and uplift me.
Living my truth and balancing my consideration for the relations in my life has been, and is, a great challenge. Compromising without betraying myself. Giving without depleting. Focusing without ignoring. Moving forward without excluding. Loving myself without hurting others. These are the aspects I am learning to balance in my life.
What I know to be truest of all is that I can’t hide from who I am and who I am meant to be. When I do, I feel life begins to drain from me, like I imagine a hummingbird would feel without his wings and nectar.
I am committed to the continuous healing of myself and all aspects of my relations. Healthy relationships go beyond my interactions with people, and also include my perceptions, behaviors, and interaction with my body, food, money, mother earth, water, Spirit, my ancestors, and all that is part of living life as a sacred experience. Each relation and encounter is a sacred exchange, and by recognizing it as such, I am able to deepen the connection I have within the web of life and experiences that connects us all. And so by forgiving myself and healing my financial wounds and relationship to/with money, I am giving myself permission to live a fuller life in which I don’t have to live in fear of not having enough. Removing the stress, removing the anxiety, removing the depression connected to money can only happen when I release the unhealthy attachments I have to it.
I am creating the intention of having a purposeful relation will all things, including myself. Forgiveness releases the karmic bonds that bind us to our relations in a destructive way, and it can only happen when we take on the work of restoring, rehabilitating, and rebuilding in a way that is whole and sacred for all relations and connections.
In every step of my journey, I am feeling more connected with the vastness and abundance of the universe. Sometimes it feels as if I can no longer contain my heart inside of me. In every being I encounter, I see myself, and I understand the oneness in which I am contained more profoundly than I’ve ever had. There is so much love in my heart, there is less and less room for fear. I don’t feel my age or any age. I am ancient and eternal.
One day I became conscious enough to ask,
“Who Am I?”
To which a powerful, but at the time,
inside of me responded: