I used to be a successful high flying career woman and I worked for 13 years in some of the greatest companies in the world, running after ever increasing targets and absorbing all I could learn about complex matrixes, performance and leadership. I have been immensely lucky to be continuously offered new roles and challenges and travel across the world working with a huge diversity of people from all cultures, walks of life, stories and identities. I was working for great aspirational brands with very talented people and living the high life.
Then, I became pregnant and my inner world became a roller-coaster. What I didn’t know is that these 13 years had been a preparation for the spiritual crisis I was awaiting. I traded my heels and suits for T-shirts and leggings and started to shed every skin of identity I believed in.
Crisis means opportunity. I had no choice but start, even reluctantly, a spiritual upgrade and this took the form of a long sabbatical and many trainings. My sabbatical did include -as you’d expect- long sandy beaches, adventures, explorations and moments of grace with my children (we traveled as a whole family for three months to Australia and New Zealand), but with two young kids that pushed my boundaries every day (any night) and a massive inner construction work, it was more of a forced slow-down, deconstruct, reflect and many rebirths.
I had to revisit every thing I believed about me and the world; every thing I hadn’t reflected on from parenting to what it meant to be a woman, a mother, a wife, a citizen and to work.
Here are the top five life lessons I learned in this time. I wish it could have been smoother and I wish others could learn from them so we can grow faster, wiser and kinder as a specie.
Number one: Listen to the little voices in your head instead of rejecting them (the sooner, the smoother)
Some of the small voices that had been running in the background in my head, became louder and louder. They were talking about purpose, the natural pace of the breath, wholeness and contribution to the greater good.
Of course, we do what we can and I now know that everyone is doing his/her best at any given time. But it does take honesty to listen to all of who we are – what we like and especially what we don’t like.
These little voices that desperately try to be heard are aspects of ourselves that we don’t feel we can integrate. And when we hear them, we become scared and instead of hearing their true message, we hear a threat. In my case, I was constantly hearing blame of contributing to corporations instead of healing the human heart. So as a result, I was ashamed of myself and when shame kicks in this is what happens: we loose our intelligence; our Fight or Flight or Freeze mode gets activated and we strive for survival. I was working even harder and becoming even angrier inside, where really what I needed to learn is to strive for integration of all my inner voices. We cannot be happy unless we are whole.
Number two: There are only two pillars in life – Love or Fear, everything else is a manifestation of one or the other. Choose wisely
We all want to choose love, it is our natural longing. The challenge is that when we are in fear, we do not believe we have any other option. But the reality of whatever fear triggering situation we find ourselves in is that it is just temporary and it doesn’t define us. We really do have the option to choose.
It takes healing WORK, dedication and practice (practice, practice…) to create that space between what is and how we react to it – our own thoughts or the environment so we may freely choose love over fear.
Number three: Healing is the most important human process that we need, (until we all shine like bright stars in the night sky)
I had a traumatic childhood – I was born in Iran under the terror of the Islamic revolution to visionary parents well ahead of their times who were fighting for democracy. In the first three years of my life, we had to move houses 8 times to escape prison and torture. And eventually, my parents took the little me under their arms and engaged on a leap of faith into a long journey to flee the country and survive. Before I had turned four, I had already felt the despair of a whole population, the broken dreams, the guilt and the unforgivable human madness of hatred and domination. So it did make sense for me to embark on a healing journey which took me from yoga, to meditation to shamanic training, systemic healing and many more.
In my own healing work and I also worked as a practitioner for some time, I saw a lot of trauma: from child abuse to sexual misconduct, parental manipulation through shame and guilt… It comes down to two things: either the event was traumatic per se or your perception of the event was traumatic for you.
So here is the thing: everybody had a traumatic childhood and if it was not in the childhood, it will be later in their life. Everybody. No exception. Because healing is what we really came to learn (until we all shine like bright stars in the night skies).
Number four: Until you hit home, do not take in what others think of you
We first need to learn to be selfish before we can be altruistic. It goes against everything we have learned as a child, forced into a model of so-called “goodness”. The problem is that the base of this goodness is our need to fit into the box of what is socially acceptable and if we don’t, we are shamed and the message we have recorded is that “we are not good enough”. This paradigm needs to break now. NOW.
We are good enough, we are already and have always been ENOUGH. And we are really GOOD. You don’t need to do anything to be good and if you feel you are not lovable, then you need to dive deeper inside yourself to hit home and collect this truth in your own heart. And until you really love yourself, please, please, please do not look outside.
I have done that – reading every single book I came across on the subject of leadership, creativity and spirituality. I took many workshops and trainings and all along I was looking outside for the answers to my inner suffering. Until I learned that nobody’s knowledge and teachings can become our wisdom unless we macerate and cook it inside of us.
Number five: Do not escape suffering, see it as a rip curl.
A lot of what we hear in the spiritual messages is that suffering is part of humanity (this is true) and that we strive for happiness (this is also true). However, because of our conditioning, we often link both and draw the conclusion that we should in order to be happy, get out of suffering.
And that’s not the way.
Suffering is the friction between what happens and our resistance to it. We tell ourselves: “why is this happening to me? I don’t deserve that. What have I done wrong? What is wrong with me”… These are all messages of escape. And they don’t serve us.
Do you know how to come out safe from a rip curl?
You swim under it, where the current is still.
With suffering it is the same. We become still and instead of loosing our ability to observe our mind, our feelings, our reactions, our beliefs and the events of our life, just like a critic would watch a movie, we get pulled into it. Resist the pull.
You will never win the fight against reality. So drop that game. Instead become humble, with no agenda and watch, watch and watch yourself watching.
It is really hard work because you may know that “what you resist, persists”. The old conditioning of the mind that wants you to dive into the story of suffering will do everything it can to convince you that you are going to DIE if you drop that path. This is exactly why my own process of reinventing myself has taken so far 2 years!
Suffering, for some of us with a very strong attachment to a specific sense of identity (I am, I should, I need to, I deserve…and all the opposite and declination to second, third and fourth person – you, he, she, they, we), is the only way to shed that tough skin. When we no longer identify with that identity we so badly want to defend, suffering dissolves because it has done its job. But it does take to shed that skin and forgive ourselves, forgive our parents, forgive God …
Trust in your own ability to go through the rip curl. Everything that is happening to you is always for your own realisation.
… Until we ALL shine like bright stars in the night skies.