Let me tell you two stories. One is about me. One is about a mouse.
I had a bit of an ego blow several years back. I had come off of 4 years in a competitive grad school, had 3 babies in 5 years, and was drained in my professional life. You can read all the details in my naked transition story…
One day I was pushing my son on the swing. He was 5. And I realized while I would give my all to my work (even if it meant consuming my own inner resources at a faster clip than I was replenishing them) that I couldn’t do that and have enough juice to be the person I wanted to be for my kids. They saved me from myself.
So I decided for my quality of life I needed to resign. And here is the crazy thing….
I had no idea what I was going to do next. I just knew I had to stop.
While this was wildly out of character: stop I did. I took several months to heal, listen, and learn. I did the work I couldn’t stop doing like caring for my kids and basic household tasks. But otherwise I just went receptive. Gobbled up Enneagram and other reading. Drank in several online training sessions and met with my coach. I read. I walked and took baths. But mostly I just let myself dissolve who I thought I was. Having some savings was hugely helpful here… as we drank that as well.
And I rediscovered the simple pleasures that authentically fed me. Art-making. Nature. Friends. I remembered who I was when I wasn’t doing anything for the external validation. When I had no one inviting me to speak at conferences or following my blog. I didn’t have a blog.
It was a rough time, I won’t lie. I think it was much harder than it had to be, largely because I had little idea what was happening to me. Now I know that this was just a normal part of the change cycle (square one is death/rebirth). The ego cracking open to make more room for the soul. But then it felt like I might never return from wherever I had gone.
And then, something shifted. I started to have dreams of a different future for myself. Dreams of taking my spiritual teacher/leader impulses into a new format as a coach. Ideas about traveling and working with other people going through transformations. And new resources appeared on my radar screen, like an online program for women entrepreneurs. (I had lots of awkward thinking about money to burn through on my way to soulful entrepreneurialism.)
But as I moved forward into a new coaching career some part of me held on to a misperception—that I needed to be small to protect myself from myself. I had gotten scared to name big goals in the fear that my fanged overachiever would grab them and run for the touchdown—leaving my essential self and my body far behind.
Until I had a breakthrough. Involving a mouse.
Have you heard the story of Jumping Mouse—a Native American legend? A favorite nature-based coach of mine shared it as part of the Martha Beck coach gathering last spring. It is the story of waking up.
In it a mouse hears this sound which beckons him. He starts asking his friends about it but they won’t slow down enough from their scurrying around mouse village to even listen. So he decides to go on a journey to satisfy his curiosity. He meets a fox who explains that the noise he is hearing is the river, and leads him to it.
Standing there our mouse is awed by the sound of the rushing water. He thinks maybe he has arrived at the place he was looking for.
Just then a frog pops her eyeballs out of the water and says, scaring the mouse to death:
“I know who you are. You are mouse and you are on a sacred journey.”
And here is the best part…. The frog knows how to help.
She says: “I want you to get really low… and then when I give the word, you jump for all you are worth.”
And so the mouse crouches way down. And the frog waits a few beats and shouts, “Jump!!”
And the mouse jumps as high as he can possibly jump stretching his little arms, legs and neck toward the sky. And just when he is at the tallest arc of his jump he sees it, way in the distance: the sacred mountains. And they are beautiful, hazy and purple. Shrouded in mist. He feels with a conviction in his gut he has never felt before that he is glimpsing the place he is called to go.
And then he lands kersplat in the mud (more on what that feels like in real life next week) and the mouse looks at the frog, astonishment in his eyes.
And the frog says:
“I give you a new name. You are jumping mouse and you are on a sacred journey.”
When I heard this story I recognized something in my own experience.
While I was taking concrete steps forward on my new career/life path I was reluctant to claim the really big goals. You know, the juicy ones that make your heart go pitter patter. For me these were writing a book. And traveling to teach at a beautiful retreat center.
I so loved how it felt to be free from all the pressure I was used to pouring on internally that I thought I needed to keep my goals little. But jumping mouse shows me my error. The spiritual life is about getting low… not staying small. Following your soul path will require you to strip away nonessentials but the purpose of this shedding is not to leave you naked (though for a while it can feel like you are.) But to make you leaner and lighter, better able to jump full on when the moment calls for it.
So that my beloved Birders is Myth #1 Busted. To be spiritually awake does not mean you need to stay small. In fact, reaching for goals requires that you strip away false versions of yourself, get lean and light, and in the right moment, jump like you will never come back down. It is the only way to see where you are headed.
Did you like this lesson? If so please share it with a friend and be on the lookout for myths 2, 3, + 4 to roll out soon on the blog.
And take a moment to tell me in the comments below where my story or the story of jumping mouse connects with your story. What you share may just be the thing that someone else needs to hear.
Wishing you all the best,
PS I have 2 spots remaining for the special gift offer for Ghost Ranch. If you could use some fresh MindBody tools to handle stress, soulful conversations with other changemakers, and heart-thumping views of nature I hope you will join me April 7-10. I have also tucked in a few answers to common questions below. xo Courtney
Ghost Ranch Q & A
How do I get there? Albuquerque and Santa Fe are the closest airports. You can take a shuttle from Santa Fe or rent a car to drive to the ranch. (Here is a tip: bring a friend and share the car rental!) If you are registered and are open to sharing a car ride with another participant let me know and I’ll do my best to connect you. You can also read more detailed directions regarding the shuttle and more over on the Ghost Ranch website.
Can I come on Friday? Yes. We do have one group gathering Thursday night on the change cycle, but if you know you need to miss that one I can send you the handout ahead of time. Our Friday morning session (after meditation) starts at 10AM.
Will I have time to rest? Yes! Don’t let fatigue or the fact that you “don’t have time” stop you from participating as it may mean that you need the respite even more. Every afternoon is completely free to explore heart-thumping hikes (and views) or just to nap, journal, and chat with others.
If you made it this far I have one more fun live event to invite you to for those of you in the Dallas area. I’m teaching a special series at Sync Yoga on connecting to your head, heart and body centers– leading up to an Enneagram workshop on March 3th. If you are looking to learn to meditate or deepen your practice join me Monday nights at 6:45PM in Sync Yoga’s gorgeous new studios in the Sylvan 30 complex. If you come to 4 of the meditation classes offered by Sync this month (we are keeping track by adding a heart sticker for each class to your Valentine strung up in the studio) you can bring a friend for free to the Enneagram workshop. Details here. I would love to see you there! Xo Courtney
Courtney Pinkerton, M.Div & M.PP, is a holistic life and leadership coach and the founder of Bird in Hand Coaching. She holds dual masters degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Kennedy School, is the host of the Summer of Meditation Challenge and publishes a weekly e-newsletter on real-world mindfulness practices. Courtney teaches regularly on the Enneagram, meditation, and conscious approaches to leadership and parenting. She lives in Oak Cliff, Texas with her husband Richard Amory where they try to keep up with their three children and remember to water their garden boxes. Courtney can be reached at email@example.com.
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