I had a very strong sense of self from a very young age. I remember around 7 years old knowing I did not want children, would have a career and would travel the world. If I only knew then the power of manifestation!
My background: driven, competitive, structured, athlete, adrenaline junkie. The result: a rewarding career that spanned over 21 years in banking and pharma. The consequence: slamming into a wall at Mach 2. You already know a million versions of me. What I want to tell you is there is life after burnout. A big, beautiful life, more fulfilling than my Type A brain on steroids ever could have imagined.
I’ve always been happy and optimistic. Though a solitary creature, I surrounded myself with a large and diverse group of friends. I had enough strength and happiness to give to everyone, until I didn’t. I prided myself on being the “go-to girl,” always multi-tasking and helping everyone in some way. Newsflash: stress is an ugly disease and busy is an addiction (that I wore like a badge of honor). Later, I realized I used “busy” to stay numb. I thought I was happy but in reality I was depleted.
With significant changes at work and after experiencing some major personal setbacks, way too much came at me all at once. My burnout was inevitable. I stopped loving my job, I stopped wanting to be “needed.” The stress showed and being tired and sad got old. Not being one to lose control, I decided that rather than reacting to change, I would embrace it and drive it into the ground.
Growing up I wrote poetry, I devoured books, painted… I deviated from all of it when I entered the workforce. There was a new game and I wanted to play and more importantly, I wanted to win. After hitting that wall I decided it was time to take the wisdom I’d accumulated over the years and bring it back to my authentic self. There was something bigger for me in my human experience beyond being a rat in the race. I no longer wanted or needed everything that I had tirelessly worked for.
Seeking to heal my body and mind naturally, I found a holistic coach whose first bit of advice was to start meditating. She also mentioned yoga. I scoffed, “Yoga isn’t a workout, no thanks.” She just smiled a knowing smile and focused on meditation.
I began meditating and kept a “gratitude journal.” This helped me to slow down, get centered, stay present and keep perspective. It all felt right and the dots started connecting. My analytical side wanted to understand the impact that meditation had on our brains, so I went down the rabbit hole. I read about neuroscience, quantum physics and energy. I couldn’t get enough. I also found a massive community of likeminded people and wanted what they were having.
My coach also talked about manifestation, the power to create the world around me. I wanted to leave my job and go to India to deepen my meditation practice. Within the year I was offered a severance package and a friend in Mumbai booked me into an ashram. The universe was coming at me fast and furious, pushing me forward. For the first time I didn’t have a plan and it was both exhilarating and terrifying. People told me I was brave and inspirational; I called it self-preservation. I wanted myself back. I knew I wouldn’t be at my best for others until I was at my best for me. It was time to go about things differently.
When I got to the ashram, guess how I learned to deepen my meditation practice? Yoga. I didn’t sign up for this! But after a few days, I started to get it. After a few months, I could bend spoons with my mind (kidding, but there were days I felt other worldly). Things started to shift a little bit at a time. Small epiphanies told me that I was on the right path. However, I was concerned I was going to lose my “edge” with all of this love and light.
What I know now is that I will never lose my edge, but softening it won’t kill me. On the other side of fear was everything I wanted. I learned I was the source of my suffering and I learned to be comfortable in the uncomfortable. I learned to meditate like a ninja, but am wise enough to know that every day it takes work. Meditation is being still, going inward and listening to the universe. Quieting the mind takes work and patience. If you have a thought, acknowledge it and let it go. If you were meant to remember it, you will. Focus on your breath, find a simple mantra, do yoga, dance. Find what works for you. If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there. There are so many ways to enlightenment but it’s the intent that’s meaningful, not the structure.
Every time you meditate, it reprograms your brain. Don’t judge your meditation. There is no good or bad. It doesn’t matter if it’s two minutes a day, twenty minutes two times a day or once every twenty days, just do it, it’s all progress. Any time you give your full focus to anything and are present, it counts. If you get lost in a painting or a book for two hours, you meditated. If you zoned out on your spin bike, you meditated. Go easy on yourself and trust the process.
I knew I was a judgmental bitch. Why? I projected my impossibly high standards on to other people though I now understand my judgment is an unresolved conflict within me. When you judge, love disappears. Yoga taught me patience and non-judgment, to be present in each breath and go within. I was right that it’s not a sport. It’s a vehicle to connect to your divine truth (if we all dwelled here, the world would be a far better place). When I first started going to yoga, I’d look around and wonder “does my butt look as big as that girl’s?” Or thought “I couldn’t do a headstand today or I kept tipping over in tree pose, I suck.” Now when I go to yoga, I see all kinds of beautiful bodies, because I’ve learned to accept my own. I’ve learned there is no good or bad day in yoga (or in anything) it’s just a day, an experience. Life ebbs and flows. Don’t label it, roll with it. All of these thoughts and emotions are just our ego and our ego is not who we truly are.
We get the same lessons until we learn them and we don’t get our “next” until we are ready. I had to work on removing my ego and being vulnerable, which I always equated to weakness. Now I understand it’s pure strength, and the people and things I have attracted into my life are magic. I’ve let things go with compassion and grace. I’ve learned to say no from a place of love. I’ve learned to forgive, say thank you, and move on. I no longer do things out of obligation. I’m out of the business of fixing people and I’m not interested in checking boxes. I surround myself with people who elevate and energize me.
Life is a series of experiences and I want as many as possible. As I surrender more, I get a lot of comments that I’ve never looked so happy, I’m glowing, what have I done differently? My friends see and feel the change in me and the response is beautiful. I see them making changes within themselves too, because when you open up and vibrate at a different frequency, you give and attract some amazing things. Light attracts light. Goodness is contagious.
It’s about awareness, it’s about being brave enough to go inside yourself, to be curious and diligently do the work required to be the best version of you. You’ll know it by the way it feels. Every interaction makes an impact, make yours a positive one. You’ll feel the shift in your life and you will want more and want to give more. The world can use more love and compassion.
After sixteen months, I honestly don’t know what my “next” is, but I’m finally ok with that and completely trust that everyday I’m getting closer. The possibilities are exciting and I’ll never stop working for it. What I wish for me is what I wish for everyone: to continually grow, enjoy the journey and share your love with everyone you meet. It will come back to you.
Originally published at medium.com