i am confronting a huge, very painful, fear of failure right now. it’s something i’ve never looked at head on before, and i’m amazed how deep and pervasive it is. fear of failure, by extension, is a fear of trying.
i am afraid to try new things, because i might fail at them.
when i sat down with these feelings and thoughts, with the intention of finding clarity, several things became clear right off the bat. first of all, past evidence clearly shows that i have the potential to succeed at things. second, there is zero potential to succeed at things which i do not attempt. forgive the blinding obviousness of this logic train; i promise i am going somewhere helpful.
third is that master yoda says, “do or not do, there is no try.” jedi masters are mysterious, but my conclusion is that trying is merely a step on the way to doing.
right now, my life is in transition. i left the safety net of monastic community; and now i’m actively searching for a new community, and for meaningful work. finding these two things is my current goal. this week i interviewed for a job that i would love to have, working at a meditation society on the communications team. the organization aligns deeply with my own purpose, and i love the idea of working with writing, one of my lifelong passions.
However, at this point, it is completely out of my hands whether i am the successful hire or if it goes to another, surely very deserving, person. part of me is clinging hard to the notion that if i don’t get picked, that i will have “failed”. yet, i don’t know the bigger picture, and i have to trust that whatever happens will be for the best.
whether or not i get this particular job, i won’t have “failed”. i’ll simply be either closer or farther from accomplishing my goal of finding meaningful work in a supportive, mindful community. renegotiating the way i think about this is incredibly transformative.
Buddha said in the Dhammadda,
“We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.”
our minds are our most powerful tools. the way that we shape our thoughts can be a choice, either moving away from, or towards, happiness. calling myself a failure, judging others as failures, is out of alignment. the deeper truth is, that there is no failure; that we are already perfect, just as we are; that life is a journey, and this is not the final destination.
so we don’t give up; we choose to be brave, and keep trying.
we can’t fail; we are already all that we need to be, so we just keep going, keep growing. it’s all within our reach, if we just believe it to be so. with effort, the mind can be trained to frame things in more helpful ways. meditation can help; affirmations can help. i discuss this in an earlier post here if you are drawn to explore it.
when i first heard about this job that i interviewed for, my reaction was immediate. “oh, i can’t do that.” i didn’t even bother to read the description carefully. that self-limiting thought just popped right up, telling me to stop, not go outside my comfort zone, not bother to try because...I MIGHT FAIL. gasp.
obviously i did apply, or i wouldn’t be telling you that i got the interview. but i didn’t apply that day, or the next, or the next. some small deep voice in me called me back, whispering, very quietly...”try”...and i resisted. i was afraid to even try, literally so afraid to fail that i was afraid to apply for a job that, once i read the description, was well within my level of qualification and strengths. a job that i really want, that could help me to meet my goal of finding soul-nourishing work.
as i say, i don’t and can’t know what the outcome of this attempt to find meaningful work will be. but i can and do know that if i had listened to the voice of fear, i would not even have the chance of landing this position. i would have failed more surely than i could possibly fail at this point. because i’ve put myself out there.
i’ve tried, and i’ve learned things in the process, and whatever happens, i can be satisfied with that. and i can and do know that, while i may or may not get this specific position, i WILL find meaningful work, i WILL reach my goal, because i’m going to keep trying until i do.
and when i think about it like this, i already HAVE meaningful work, in the form of this blog, and of the energy healing services that i offer to the world. i’m simply in the process of expanding my life to include more meaningful work, moving from success towards even wilder success. when i shift it to these terms, i feel gratitude and amazement. i am lucky and blessed already!
i am beginning to understand the old wisdom, which tells us that the only true failure would be never to try. moving towards our heart’s aspirations is a journey, not a pass/fail test. as long as we are learning and growing, then we are truly on a noble and worthy path.
conversely, when we hold back from making our best effort, we short the world of the great things we know deep inside that we are capable of achieving. we tell ourselves, we might fail, it’s dangerous, it’s vulnerable. and sometimes, we give up before we even start.
yet, if failing is simply a matter of having not yet attained our goals, then the only way we can fail is if we chose not to take action towards those goals. as long as we are moving towards what we believe is meaningful, then we never fail; we simply haven’t yet succeeded as fully as we are capable of doing.
i’ll close with a quote from Marianne Williamson:
“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and ablities were used in a way that served others.”
I like that very much. i know it’s time that i redefine my relationship with the meaning of failure and success. how about you--do you hold yourself accountable to strict concepts of failing and succeeding? if so, do you feel it holds you back from trying sometimes? do you agree with Marianne’s definition of success? let us know in the comments below!
Aligning with Wholeness is now officially Aligning Wholeness! When I was on hiatus from the digital world, living the Zen life, someone else snapped up my beautifully-named original domain. Well, who could blame them? So when I re-opened, I selected aligningwholeness.com as my new home on the interwebs. In order to keep things consistent, I am switching the name to Aligning Wholeness here and over on my Facebook. Thanks so much to my loyal readers and followers!
Also if you were a follower of the original Facebook page, I apologize but that page was deleted in the transition. Please like and follow me again for updates and inspiration!
a familiar tension in my stomach alerted me to the facts. anxiety, present again. it’s been a frequent visitor these past days, months, years...tight belly, shallow breath, tense muscles in my neck, face, shoulders, like i want to squeeze my hands close, grip reality, shape it to a safe, controllable form. but it’s like squeezing water, it always slips from my grasp. i can’t control things, and that seems like a terrifying thought, like life is this weird flying dream, and i’m suspended in midair, with no idea how to keep from falling.
so often, i will slip into distraction. pick up a book, turn on the tv, get a snack...turn on the laptop, browse social media. not now. it’s time to face this fear. i sit down to meditate, focusing in on my belly, center of the energy of fear in my body. i listen to myself, very closely. then i can hear it, a low murmur, like the sound of whispering voices in the wind, or a quiet river in the distance. i bend closer to myself, and i hear what the voices are whispering.
“you will fail.” “you will fail, and you will always be a failure.” “you will end up miserable all your life. you will not be fulfilled.” “you will have to work at walmart and never find meaningful work.” and with the voice I see images, of dismal futures, and of young girls and women, myself, at younger ages, curled up into fetal position, terrified of life, of its wild, uncontrollable nature. i hear these young ladies, so afraid of failing, and i recognize something. they are telling stories. just stories, and i’m so surprised i murmur this aloud to myself. “stories!”
i let go of the stories, because i know stories aren’t real. they are like dreams. then it is just the frightened young women and girls in my deep self, and i start to tell them a new story. “you never failed,” i whisper to them. “you are learning and growing. this is a beautiful journey. we are creating our own story, though there are many things we cannot control, we can always choose what our story is.
so, here is our story. "i can, and i will.” i repeat that phrase, and it seems to sink deep into my belly, echoing around the frightened fragmented younger parts of myself. then i sink into body sensation, and the fear is just an energy, just tension and pressure and movement, and all at once it is moving, releasing, and i am laughing and crying, both at once, as sometimes happens when a big release occurs. i can, and i will is moving deeper and deeper within me, weaving itself into my being.
since this day, i have taken "i can and I will" as the powerful tool that it is. this affirmation helps me to fight my anxiety, to push back against the inner critic, that terrible bully that is always trying to keep me small. but that's not who i am anymore. i am someone capable and powerful (thanks Nahko, for another of my inspirational phrases.)
when i have the patience and the compassion to really be there for myself, i have the ability to release the old negative programming, and to replace it with new, loving thoughts. this practice feels like it is empowering my life! i feel a surge of beautiful hope, even in the midst of anxiety, expanding my heart mind, and helping me to let go of my fear stories, when i remember to replace negative self-talk, with mindfulness of the emotion, coupled with positive, loving affirmations. i encourage you to experiment with using affirmations. I think you will be as glad as I am to have this helpful tool to work with anxiety.
What's your experience? Have you ever tried affirmations? If so, was it helpful?
So much love,
I wasn’t planning to re-open this website. Then, yesterday, I was sharing a meal and a conversation with a dear friend. She’s a fellow blogger, and we were speaking about my website. “I’m not going to open it again,” I told her. “My inner critic has a party telling me that nothing I publish is good enough.” “Why do you write?” she asked, insightfully. “What was the reason you wrote your blog in the first place.” And just like that, I remembered. I reconnected with the mission that had urged me to launch this blog, this business, in the first place. It was clear, and simple.
“To help people,” I said earnestly. “I learned so much that helped me on my healing journey, and I wanted to share that with people.” “That,” she replied, very wisely, “sounds much more important than what your inner critic has to say.” And I knew she was right; and I felt inspired to relaunch, inner critic be damned. (Right now the inner critical voice is whispering, “this is pointless. No one will read this anyway. It’s too long, not riveting enough. I tell the voice to hush, I am writing...)
Just over a year ago, I closed this website to embark upon a journey into the dharma. I began as a working guest, living and volunteering at the Insight Meditation Society, in Barre, MA, close to my hometown. After this beautiful interlude, I travelled to the West coast, and spent seven rigorous, exhausting, amazing months living at Great Vow Zen Monastery in Oregon. This time to practice meditation and mindful living in community has been an incredible gift, opening and touching my heart in ways that I can’t truly convey. All I can tell you is that when I think of the blessing this has been to my path, I’m overwhelmed with tears of something like pure joy and gratitude.
The truth is, I never intended to leave the monastery, at least, not yet. I arrived at the same time as two other amazing women, Chloe and Christy. After seven months of practicing together, the three of us all decided we were ready to make a year-long commitment to live and practice at Great Vow. At the monastery, such commitments are marked by formal ceremonies, performed in front of the whole community. On the very eve when the three of us were to take our ceremony, I received communication from my mother. She had fallen, on the ice. She had broken her hip, and was unable to walk. As she lives alone, please, could one of her daughters come home to care for her?
I have two sisters, one of whom is a long-term resident and magical unicorn fairy princess at the monastery, aspiring to one day ordain as a Zen priest. The other, a powerful, loving healer, lives in Portland, OR, and our loving mother lives in our childhood home, in Massachusetts. The three of us called a meeting, and we decided that I would be the one to return home and care for our mother. As I am the eldest, and had the least commitment to be on the west coast, this did make sense. Still, I had mixed feelings as I watched my two friends take their commitment ceremonies the next day, and then made the long journey back east.
I still thought that I would return to the monastery after mom got back on her feet. There’s an ache in my chest at the fact that I never got to properly say goodbye, say thank you to the community, to the roshis, to the grounds. I will go back, one day soon, but only to visit. Ah, it’s such a marvelous place, full of magical beings of light and love and brave warriors facing incredible personal pain and physical discomfort, chanting the bodhisatta vows day after day, offering reverance in the zendo with the act of silent meditation...
But I have a dream. I don’t want to be separate from the world. I want to be a help to the world! There’s a deep part of my soul that wishes to find meaningful work. I’ve been so focused on myself, on my practice, my healing. Now, I want to offer back. and it feels joyful! so, I’m here again, in Massachusetts...and I am looking for a job where I can be of benefit. The process is bringing up many fears and anxieties about the future...and I’m using my meditation practice to work with the fear, turn towards it, instead of away. Zen practice taught me that I do have the strength to face myself. So I am facing my inner critic, and writing anyway, and putting it out to the world, with the intention and the hope that it will be of benefit. May my words be a blessing to you, and may you be well, and peaceful, and find ease and know deep joy.
So much love,
As 2012 began, I had just finished a 3 month meditation retreat at IMS in Barre. For those months I practiced silent meditation, trying to gain insight into the nature of the mind. The experience shifted a lot of things for me...and I realized my number one priority was healing. I started to study energy healing, beginning with reiki, and it resonated so deeply within me...shortly after that I became called to work with the crystals, and a soul deep healing began for me...a cycle in my life that has lasted these four years.
I began my aligning with wholeness business two years ago this spring...hoping to share the healing I myself was receiving. And, I never feel more alive than when I am working to help a client...it truly lights me up inside. Yet I have decided to give up the online business...it is not the right thing for me anymore. Synchronistically, my website will expire the last day of this month, March 31...and aligning with wholeness will close its online doors for good. I will still offer in-person healing sessions...of course. But April 1, I am going back to IMS...coming full circle. I'll be volunteering there for one month...and I'm humbled and amazed by the way things really have spiraled back...but deeper in this time.
Thank you all so much for being a part of this amazing journey...I hope I have offered some inspiration or light in some small way by being part of this Facebook community...and the Facebook page will be closing in March. Feel free to keep in touch via my personal page...
Namaste, my friends...I bow to you, each and every one, that has liked, read, supported my page or business...<3
So much love to you,
You are enough. You, dear one, have always been enough.
Breathe that in. "I am enough."
Let all the countless times you heard, from within you or without you, No, you are not enough...let this all fall away from you now, like water moving downstream. Let yourself be washed clean of the past. As you forgive yourself and others, the beautiful natural wholeness is revealed again, as it was always there.
You have always been enough...in every moment, every situation, doing just as best as you can. And it's all arrived you here at now, this glorious moment that is always changing, always moving along into the next moment, and the next, and the next...
This is the only moment, so let yourself freely enter it, without holding back, or holding on to any more stories of "not enough." It is time, you know, time to claim your full power, without shrinking back, pretending you are not worthy...for you know, you know in your bones that you are worthy, so worthy, dear one...
Let the silent voice of your soul be heard by the world. Let your hidden beauty come out into the sun to play, life is too brief to spend in hiding. Your gifts were meant for sharing. Please share them, now.
<3 so much love,
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Hi, I'm Jessie A...
I'm an energy healer with a passion for compassion, a sparkly love affair with crystals, and a deep commitment to evolving awareness.