“[There are] moments when it is clear-if I have the eyes to see-that the life I am living is not the same as the life that wants to live in me. In those moments I sometimes catch a glimpse of my true life, a life hidden like the river beneath the ice. And . . . I wonder: What am I meant to do? Who am I meant to be?” ~ Parker Palmer
“The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego, the second half is going inward and letting go of it.” ~ Carl Jung
OM triyambakam yajāmahe
When I was with Ram Dass last month, I was working over a piece I was writing – in fact the piece I published in my last newsletter on healing community – and talking through some of my thoughts and ideas. After much discussion, he finally said, “Ok, now go write it.” He paused for a moment, then added,
“Don’t make it an achievement. Just do it.”
HIs words were so freeing to me, and I was able to go back to the Ohana and just write – unselfconscious, unrehearsed, unedited. Not trying to “achieve” anything, just simply expressing my thoughts as they came. When the piece was finished, I brought it back to him and read it. “Good,” he said, “Now you can think of something else.”
I was reminded of this simple advice recently in reading a post a friend wrote on social media. It said,
“Live your eulogy, not your resume.”
I thought about the ways in which I have done both – the ways in which I have lived, the things that I have done, or leveraged, based on my credentials and achievements. I also thought about the ways that I have moved through the world based on my own inner compass, my own desire to simply be present, kind hearted and generous – not to prove anything, not to “be” anything, not to allow my identity to be created through accomplishments, but through qualities. And now I find myself seeking a balance between the two, or more aptly put, seeking a way to make a living while actually living out what calls most to me in this life.
It’s an interesting thing so far, this second half of life business. When I look back on my last two years of newsletters, especially around my birthday, I can see how the process of entering into this new period has been unfolding slowly, offering new perspectives, new opportunities and dimensions, over a period of time. I can see my own slow transformation as I fully accept the end of the Samarya Center and my transition out of Seattle, but also the loss of identity that accompanied the closing of that chapter in my life. I can see myself growing into this new identity, one that is not based on accomplishments – even as I honor the accomplishments themselves, and how they have planted seeds for something new, unknown.
I am reminded that we never know how things will grow, that everything around us is an unending process of potential, growth, maturity, loss and then, new potential.
I see that in my kittens, watching them grow into their own distinct personalities, and seeing even those personalities mature and refine over time. Both of them have changed so much already, growing both in size and stature, but also in their preferences, habits and ways of moving through the world, and I know they will continue to change. They are not done “becoming” yet.
I see it in the tiny avocados that are just beginning to emerge on their branches and in the mangos that are big enough to eat, but still hard and green. I see it in the bananas that grew so heavy before they were ripe that they took their entire tree down under their own weight. Who knows which of these fruits will make it to maturity before falling from the tree? Who knows which of them will be eaten, and which of them will rot in the ground where they fell? Who knows which mangoes will be chutney, and which will be jam, which avocados will be guacamole and which will be filling for enchiladas? Who knows, even, if those bananas that felled the tree will ripen hanging now on a hook outside the house, or if they will all ripen at the same time – one moment bright yellow and ready to eat, and the very next, brown and covered with flies?
And, does it matter if we know? Would we not tend to them all in the same way, no matter what they eventually turn out to be? Would I value my kittens any differently based on how they grow up to embody full “cat” potential? Is the mango that made it to the marmalade more accomplished than the one that rotted in the ground? They are each simply coming into their fullness, they are manifesting the essential qualities of “mango” irrespective of where they end up. Their identity is in their “mango-ness” not in the form they eventually take.
Since being with Ram Dass, I have been in a wonderful, clarifying process of discernment. I am honoring that I never wanted to “be” anything “when I grew up.” I never wanted to move to Seattle, but I did. I never wanted to be a speech pathologist, I just became one. I never wanted to be a bass player, but I became one. And I definitely never wanted to be a yoga teacher, or even less, a yoga studio owner, and yet, without ever completing a teacher training, I somehow became those things too.
I have never had one great idea about who I wanted to be or what I wanted to do, I have always just gone with however the winds of life seemed to blow me, always just followed the next opportunity in front of me, and allowed that potential to come to fruition.
I have been thinking about how when my last band broke up, I would get so irritated when people asked me if I was still playing music, if I was still a musician. “Of course,” I would say, “I’m just not playing right now.” “Musician” was an identity that I was afraid to let go of. But slowly, I sold my amp, I put my tuner and pedals in storage, the callouses on my fingers softened. After a period of time I was able to see that playing music was just one part of my life, a chapter that informed – and still informs – so much of what came during and after that time. In the same way, I realize I have been hanging on to Samarya, to yoga, to teaching, because for a moment there, I didn’t know what I would be if I wasn’t “that.” And, just as I slowly let go of the things that created and confirmed my identity as a musician, I could also let go of the things that created and confirmed my identity as a yoga teacher, a studio owner, a teacher trainer. That too, was a chapter in my life, that will inform everything I do next. I can let it go.
I have to believe in this process of allowing my own potential to unfold as it will. I have to believe that now, in my second half of life, that there is something new for me, to be born out of my “eulogy” not my “resume.” In a very practical sense, holding on to an identity of “yoga teacher” keeps me stuck in my resume, in my achievements, keeps me stuck in the machine, beholden to my part, my role in it. But those roles are sticky, tenacious. Even after making the decision to give up yoga teacher trainings, I suddenly felt pulled back in while at the recent Yoga Service Conference. Again and again when listening to teachers talk about yoga, yoga therapy, yoga service, I thought, “I do that! That’s what the Samarya Center is all about!, I already teach that way! We’re already doing that and have been for ages…..” But then I had to ask – is that my deepest heart’s desire? Or is it just another achievement? Just another gold star on my resume, just another way to hold on to an identity, to “be” someone or something?
I don’t know what I want to “be” next, I suppose I don’t really want to “be” anything, but I know I will become something – it is simply the way life works. I have no idea of the fullness that I might grow into now, in this second half of life, where I am just a baby, just taking my first steps into this new potential, this new unfolding. I don’t know exactly what will I do – what will speak more to my eulogy than my resume, not an achievement, just simply a pouring forth from my own heart, following its own growth pattern. Whatever it is, I am open to it, and I trust in it fully.
Potential is always there and it is always unknown. I know some things about what lift me up. I know some things about the essential qualities of “Molly -ness” that will express themselves fully no matter what I become. These will help to guide me in defining a new way of making a living.
I know I want to teach about faith and social action. I know I want to teach about mysticism and contemplative practices as a pathway to freedom. I definitely want to return to the roots of Samarya, which was always Integrated Movement Therapy and a desire to connect deeply with people at a soul level, always a desire to offer others a respite from suffering by seeing them fully for who they are – perfect and whole. I want to draw more of you to personal retreat with me in Mexico. I may do some advanced yoga teacher training in the future – offering 300 hour trainings for yoga teachers who sincerely want to use the practice as a means to true liberation. And I would be thrilled to do one on one mentorships for serious students who want to learn to teach yoga out of the mystic tradition. What I don’t want is to be a part of the machine, to see everything that I do as part of a greater achievement. I don’t want to live a resume, I want to live a eulogy. I want to simply be, and through that, in this second half of life, open up to becoming.