With and Without
We are often intrigued by the power of setting a bold intention at the beginning of a New Year. In 2015, I resolved to live a “Year of No Sugar,” and in my heart, I truly believed it would help me create a happier, healthier, and more resolute life. Biologically, there were notable impacts, but I can’t say I felt any less misguided than the year before.
In 2016, my “Year of No Alcohol,” was an endeavor to take it to the next level. Life offered up many things that year, most of which were painful and uncomfortable, and to no one’s surprise, it wasn’t the void of sugar or alcohol that enabled me to meet those challenges.
There was a different kind of lighthouse that I needed to build up in my life, rather than simply taking something away, to equip me to meet the year head on–moment by moment, breath by breath. I found this lighthouse on the Be Luminary Retreat.
We live in a world where developing the self is no longer stigmatized and there are an abundance of opportunities at our disposal to take deep dives into endless flavors of retreat and discovery.
I myself, a fierce woman who seeks out self-improvement and understanding on a daily basis, have explored a matrix of learning experiences both personally and professionally. My experience with Cara and Amber, and their roadmaps to a more luminous life, was not only a retreat that outshined the rest, but an enhancement to all other experiences.
There are so many golden nuggets to share about what I walked away with from those 7 magical days, but it is impossible for me not to share the one thing that has now become an integral part of my existence, and that is the gift of discovering my core values.
Lighting the Way
Core values first. Always. I engage with values on a daily cadence within my work and scholarship. When we were told we were going to talk about values on the retreat, I thought to myself, “Sure thing. I got this.” I have a deep understanding of how human beings, when it comes to group process, dialogue and deliberation, need to re-conceptualize their attachment to value-laden statements that ultimately vilify someone that doesn’t agree with them.
That said, I had never sat down and asked myself what my personal core values were. I had firmly categorized myself as a good-natured, well-intended, self-reflective woman who was doing the best that she could (although, the voice inside told me I could always be better). My boundaries were clear. I prioritized myself over others most of the time (as a means for protection), and I had determined that the small size of my social network was reflective of a firm grasp of who I was and how many people could reasonably engage with that sort of person.
My internal life was vibrant – in a dark sort of way, and yet, I was constantly starving for more. Something was missing. Well, five things were missing. My core values were missing. Sure, they were in me. You could see them on my face or in the work that I produced, but they weren’t in me. They weren’t intentionally woven into the choices I made. They weren’t held softly throughout my days. They weren’t there for me to lean on when I was pissed off or sad. They had a color, an air about them, but they weren’t nearly as vibrant as they could have been, and therefore I wasn’t nearly as vibrant as I wanted to be. They were simply floating around my mind like everything else I had to think about.
I have been getting to know my values for over a year now, and I have never felt more held.
I know what it feels like in my body to choose CREATIVITY when life’s colors have gone dull. When my writing fades away, so does my understanding of the world and my place in it. Anxiety sets in and a restlessness takes over. Knowing when to carve out time for my writing, and myself, or engage others in a project, have become go-to’s to satiate this feeling.
As someone that can bunker down in the shelter of my inner world, I now understand the importance of being open and available to CONNECTION. I am also learning more and more how to choose the best moments for connection; where I will show up the self I want to be in the world. This connection is something I neglect, or blatantly disregard, and yet it takes a great toll on my life when I ignore it. I am particularly careful to heed its warning signs, because I know the strain it puts on myself, and the people I love.
Through a morning ritual that I have maintained since the retreat, I have been able to identify the ebb and flow of CURIOSITY and exploration. I know how they manifest and when they aren’t being exercised to the extent they need to be fully expressed. An expression that drastically impacts my sense of “wholeness”.
I often reflect on where my kindness and COMPASSION are being directed, and if I am showing up for others and myself in a meaningful way. It is one thing to “do no harm”, and it is an entirely different thing to intentionally do good. I do my best to make an active choice towards both, especially in times where I need to choose myself, and not cause damage in the process.
My Year of Joy
Finally, and at the forefront of my mind this year, there is JOY. She is one of my most prized values, because I often have to work the hardest to find her. I would like to say that I am all peach fuzz and rainbows, but the truth of the matter is that I have lived life with a quizzical brow and biting seriousness. This part of me – the ruthless intellect, the kick-ass, burn-a-hole-through-the-world, fearless woman, is not inauthentic, but it quickly overshadows another very important part – the woman in me that wants to laugh all day and see magic in everything and everyone.
The moment I started to take care of my values, to nurture them, and understand them, was the moment I realized I wanted to stop taking things away from my life, and instead start to inject my life with more joy. And that’s how this year became My Year of Joy.