Guest post by Amoret from Siren Afire and Bone and Briar

Recently, my friend Amoret asked me to write a guest post for her blog, Siren Afire – a space that offers regular exploration into personal and spiritual growth. I have a great deal of respect for Amoret and her work, and I couldn’t resist asking her to do the same for my blog. Lucky me, she agreed.

I had so much fun with this process that I would love to do it again. Drop me a note if you would like to exchange blog posts. I am particularly interested in different takes on finding your passion, risk-taking, and the practice of cultivating delight — but if you’ve got a good pitch for something you feel would fit, let’s talk!

But for now and without further ado, let me introduce you to the lovely Amoret and her take on listening to and answering the call to passion.

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I Heard, I Heard, I Heard It Clear: Soul, Passion and Purpose
By Amoret

It’s not the dazzling voice that makes a singer. Or clever stories that make a writer. And it’s not piles of money that make a tycoon. 

It’s having a dream and wanting to live it so greatly that one would rather move with it and “fail” than succeed in another realm.

~Mike Dooley, Notes from the Universe

I cannot say I did not hear
That sound so hauntin’ hollow
I heard, I heard, I heard it clear
I was afraid to follow.

~Shel Silverstein, The One Who Stayed

I have a friend who is a talented actress. She is burning out, auditioning for role after role, not getting cast, watching parts slip past her fingers. Over the few years I have known her, she has stopped talking about her passion for acting. Instead, she talks of being tired of the constant auditions and the low pay of her day job, and of finding a more mainstream career. She wonders if focusing on an acting career was a mistake.  More and more, she vacillates between commitment to her current path and giving up the work that has been her dream for many years.

Is acting, her passion? She is no longer sure.

This is a pretty common state of affairs for human beings, at least in my experience. I think we are often wandering around, asking our souls to speak, not knowing how to translate what we hear, or playing telephone with the messages we get.

For me, hearing the voice of my soul and recognizing my passion has been a long process. In 2003, doing work at Diana’s Grove, I recognized that my soul lit up when I was priestessing, creating rituals and working with others in intentional community. The desire to devote my life to spiritual pursuits was intense and joyous, and I knew that I was being called to my purpose.

But soon after, the Voice of Reason spoke up. It reminded me that I had bills to pay and that I liked having a comfortable lifestyle– would I be financially stable if I followed this longing? I also had a spouse that wouldn’t take kindly to a full life overhaul – what would happen to that relationship if I followed my bliss? And goodness, what would people think of me if I dropped everything and lived a life they didn’t understand? (Personal observation: isn’t there always a seed of “What will they think of me?” in the Voice of Reason?)

Long story short: I heard the call, but I was afraid to follow…and I continued to work in “safe” jobs, and I ended my marriage, and I did spiritual work here and there…and I was haunted by the road not taken while living my safe and stagnant life.

Over the last year, the voice of my soul has become more and more insistent, and it is speaking with a clarity and wisdom that I cannot deny. This time, I am listening. This time, I am following. Stepping out into the unknown, I do know this: the soul does not interface with reason. Passion doesn’t need to be understood; it needs to be trusted.

I ask you this: What makes your growth inevitable? What do you do without thought of reward? What do you want more than success? What excites you when you envision it manifesting? What scares you when you envision it slipping through your fingers? What are you willing to humble yourself to? What do you need to awaken in the world?

I believe that most of us have heard the voice of our soul, and doubt it, reason with it, fear it or flat out ignore it. Hearing the call isn’t necessarily the hard part – it’s the following of that call that takes some “soul stamina,” in the words of Caroline Myss…and for good reason.

Your purpose will be bigger than you or your personal desires. It will demand that you grow to birth it, to hold it, to release it into the world. Passion moves through you, and is not yours, for you exist to bring it into being. It is joyful. It is ceaseless. The work your soul requires will be invigorating, for it will align with all you already bring to the world. It will feel exhilarating and frightening at the same time, but know this secret: the delight will outweigh the fear.

Here’s to hearing the call. Here’s to knowing our purpose.

Here’s to doing it afraid.

Amoret has been working in the Reclaiming and Feri witchcraft traditions since 2000. Her passions include the search for Truth and Desire, co-creation and manifestation, ecstatic ritual, and the power of good reading material. Amoret believes in full-on surrendering to transformation.

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Risk Perspective

I’m in to week 3 of my online class on entrepreneurship over at Coursera.org. We will shift into macroeconomics soon (eek!) but right now we’re primarily focusing on the behavior, mindset and motivation of successful entrepreneurs.

Nearly every video lecture mentions something about risk behavior, which makes sense … this is a course on entrepreneurship, and starting a business in the current economic climate is certainly a gamble. The instructor argues that while a certain level of comfort with risk is necessary, there are other traits that a successful business owner has that mitigate a tendency toward recklessness. I won’t bore you with all the details – but one of the most interesting things that I learned is that an entrepreneur is not more prone to taking risks than a non-entrepreneur. I had assumed the opposite, and was actually a little nervous about whether or not I have the right kind of mindset to start my own business. But my professor cited studies on the subject, and those findings showed that one group was not any more likely to take risks than the other group.

The difference between risk-taking between entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs is not frequency … it’s perspective. A whole new world has opened up to me, even if it seems kind of obvious in hindsight.

Non-entrepreneurs, or at least folks less likely to start a business, view leaving a comfortable job with a steady paycheck and benefits as huge risk. Note I say “comfortable” and not “good.” The job may not match their personality or even their ethics – but it is providing a level of comfort that would be too difficult to leave without something else stable lined up. I am currently in a “comfortable” job, for instance. I make decent money, I know the ropes, I have benefits, and there is a certain measure of job security in my current position. But it is far from a “good job” in that the atmosphere is out of alignment with my values, and I really dislike what I do. But hey… paycheck, right?

The fact that my skin crawls when I think about staying in this job for any longer than I have to makes me think that I might actually have an entrepreneurial world-view after all. Folks that leave secure jobs and start businesses tend to see what’s at risk entirely differently. It’s a bigger risk to stay. I can’t picture myself in this job or even this field 10 years from now. I don’t see any advancement opportunities, nor do I have any desire to advance even if I could. The risk is losing my soul, my passion, and my drive all because I am giving my energy to something I don’t care very much about.

What’s more – I don’t think this would end if I found a new gig. I find it very difficult to picture myself in any position where I am beholden to anyone but my clients and customers. I struggle to imagine a fabulous job that involves a desk in an office. I don’t get excited at the prospect of selling myself to a new manager. I can’t think of anyone who enjoys job-hunting, but I’m not even excited about the end result of a job hunt.

What does excite me — generating passion and desire for a creative project. Seeing new and unique ways to approach a problem and then having the free rein to implement them. Having fun, even when the work is tedious, because the end result means something. I know there are any number of companies where that kind of environment exists – and if I find one, I will be very tempted to join them if they’ll have me. But honestly? I want to do it myself.

So do I have the skills to pull this off? Maybe. There are definitely some traits I need to hone before I start a solo venture. But do I have the mindset? Definitely… because I truly believe it’s more dangerous to stay where I am. I need to risk in order to thrive.

And good gods, that’s scary. But what’s scarier still… complacency. That remains my greatest challenge and fear. And what’s risk if not facing fear and acting anyway?

 

Summertime: Ramping It Up

I strive (and often fail) to live my life in the same ebb and flow of the energy of the seasons. Spring and summer feel like natural times of year to be busy, enjoy being outdoors, connect with friends, try out new opportunities, etc. I try to skid to a halt in the autumn, and by winter, I want to sink into a pseudo-hibernation so I can recharge. Would that I could sleep through the winter… especially in Chicago… but really, what that means for me is attempting to stay home more, be still and quiet more often, and try and cultivate a feeling of regenerative peace. Never works. But I still make a worthy effort each year. I wrote a little bit more about the hows and whys of this practice last year over at Nature Nurtured.

But this is summer! Well, almost … it’s just around the corner. Suddenly, I look at my calendar and I am overwhelmed by the places I have agreed to be and the people I have chosen to connect with. This is all a good thing — it makes my little extroverted heart sing with delight.

Recently, I got to volunteer as a member of Game Control for the D.A.S.H, an annual nation-wide puzzle hunt. (Actually, I should say international – since this year they expanded across the pond to London.) My job was not incredibly difficult: pass out puzzles and, occasionally, bagels. But I still had a great time. It was enlightening for me to peek behind the curtain of a puzzle event and get a chance to connect with folks that not only really love puzzles, but really love creating this kind of experience. Since ‘creating experiences for people’ is my new mission in life, I soaked in as much as I could and laid some groundwork for continuing conversations about how to provide these sorts of opportunities on a regular basis. Oh, and the fact that I got to hang out with incredibly cool people didn’t hurt. Nor did the end-of-the-hunt margarita. All in all, a great day.

My online class on entrepreneurship with Coursera.org has started up. I’m now in week 2, and while there hasn’t been a whole lot of hands-on instruction yet, I am learning quite a bit about the entrepreneurial mindset. I am identifying areas where I have a lot of strengths and some traits that I might need to bolster in order to be successful. For a free course, it’s not bad at all. There are thousands of participants all over the world. I haven’t taken much advantage of networking over the online forums yet, but the opportunity is certainly there for me if I choose to use it.

In other news, I mentioned before that my dear friend and former roommate, Kevin Newhall, has his first CD coming out in a couple of weeks. (You can check out samples of his stuff on Reverbnation.) He is a piano player and songwriter with such a unique and beautiful sound. He asked me to perform with him at the release party, and we test-drove the duet we’re doing at an open mic a couple nights ago. I have never done an open mic before, so I was more than a little nervous. (Tried not to show it.) But we had a blast, the crowd really loved the song… and I think the actual show in a couple of weeks is going to be great. It’s a great, truly uplifting kind of song… really hard not to get engaged with it. It’s called “Today’s the Day,” and it’s all about taking life by the horns and getting stuff done — which sums up the energetic feel of my summer quite nicely.

Delight Report: 5/12/13

The last couple of weeks have been pretty rough work-wise. Frustrating circumstances and staffing conditions led to me working lots of additional hours on projects that were fairly stressful. But things have finally leveled out, and I can relax and get back to a few of the more important things on my agenda, like planning a wedding (not mine — I’m officiating) and continuing to work on my master plan for self-employment. Part of that master plan includes a class on entrepreneurship I am taking through Coursera.org, which if you’re not familiar with it, I encourage you check it out. It allows you to take college level courses from a number of reputable institutions — all online, all free. I think it is a remarkable service, and I am looking forward to seeing how this class pans out. It covers both the psychology of entrepreneurship as well as practical skills like drafting a business plan. Online learning hasn’t always worked out well for me, since I thrive on face-to-face interaction — but I am determined to give this one my full attention. Feel free to ask me how it’s going and help keep me honest.

I did get to take a mini-break during the work madness and drive out to Minneapolis. One of my nearest and dearest friends moved out there about 5 months ago, so it was the perfect excuse to visit her, see a bunch of people I love, and get to see the spectacle that is the In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre Company‘s annual May Day Parade and Festival. “Spectacle” is truly the right word for it. Puppets on a grand scale, a ceremony that celebrates the return of the sun (Minnesota really needed that magic this year), and all sorts of wonderful moments and surprises. I was honored to help build the 7-circuit labyrinth that is a mainstay of the festival each year. I got to see so any wonderful folks I haven’t seen in a few years… it was just great to be there. Truly regenerating and truly magical.

I managed to survive the stressful work week and turn in the projects that were plaguing me – so I got to enjoy my weekend. Yesterday was spent with more gaming (referenced in the last Delight Report) and then an evening of relaxation, something that was a long time coming.

Today I got to go over to my friend Kevin’s place to rehearse a duet for his upcoming CD release party. If you’re near Chicago, the pertinent information can be found here. (A website with even more info and sample tracks is coming very soon.) Kevin is an incredible pianist, songwriter and lyricist. I have a hard time describing what his music is like… it really needs to be experienced. He lists his influences as David Byrne, Jill Sobule, Stephen Merritt, and Rufus Wainwright – but I think he truly has his own unique sound. And his lyrics are brilliant. Truly, truly brilliant. The man has a gift for wordplay and musicality that is quite impressive. I might be slightly biased… Kevin is a dear, dear friend – and a former roommate. But I can tell you, he would practice piano for hours when we lived together – and even though he played the same songs over and over, I never once got sick of hearing him … and believe me, that’s saying something. My attention span is not long. Getting to go over to his place today and hear him play made me both very happy and a little wistful. I miss having music in my life like that. But I digress. If you are in Chicago and free on June 15 — come see the show. I can guarantee a great audience, fabulous music and a wonderful time.

Kevin and I also have a long standing tradition of seeing comic book movies whenever they come out, so after rehearsing we topped off the day with lunch and a matinee of Iron Man 3. Lots of stuff blew up. In other words… it rocked.

I hope your week was full of all kinds of delights as well. Feel free to share them in the comments if you’re called.

Spurring Forward

NPR ran a really great interview with Robert Redford on All Things Considered yesterday. He’s promoting his new film about the Weather Underground, which I definitely am putting on my to-see list. He’s a great interview subject in general. I’ve heard him several times before and have always enjoyed him. But yesterday he told a story I hadn’t heard about a moment he had in third grade where his teacher caught him drawing rather than paying attention to the lesson. She made him come up to the front of the class and explain what was so important. Here’s the interview excerpt:

“So I was about to be really trashed, humiliated, and I went up and I held up this thing. And she said, ‘You wanna tell us what that’s about?’ And so I described [it]; I said, ‘Well yeah, these are cowboys and they’re chasing the Indians, and they’re shooting at the Indians and the Indians are shooting back at the cowboys, and they’re about to be driven off a cliff, and above them are some B-51 bombers bombing the cowboys.’

“So what happened was, the class was interested in it. And she saw that. Instead of putting me down, she made a deal. She said, ‘We’ll put an easel up here, and every Wednesday we’ll give you 15 minutes, and you can come draw a story for us — but then you gotta pay attention.’

“Now had that not happened, I would have been humiliated. It probably would have knocked me down to not trust that impulse that I had. Sometimes — I don’t know about you — but maybe one or two [encouragements] in your life is all you need to spur you forward, rather than have you collapse.”

love this story so much. And it got me thinking about who the people were that were there to “spur me forward” in one of those critical moments in my own life.

I remember my own 2nd grade teacher who rallied the class and community for donations after my family’s house burned down. We lost everything save for the pajamas we were wearing, and it was early February in Nebraska. Mrs. Leverette covered a huge box in paper, and my entire class decorated it, wrote messages of encouragement, and filled it with clothing, toys, and other essentials for my younger sister and me. Mrs. Leverette gave me a little pink Bible and a bathrobe. I still keep that Bible in a cherished place because to me it represents the epitome of compassion, kindness, and community. In a time of so much despair within my family, I learned what it meant to be supported and to accept help as well as a deep commitment to supporting others in their time of need — no strings attached.

Mrs. Leverette was the first example that popped into my mind when I heard the story, likely because of the elementary school connection. But there were others. I’m grateful to say that I’ve had many more than the “one or two” encouragements in my life Robert Redford talks about. My mentors who saw something in me I didn’t. A dear friend who was there to catch me in a time of deep heartbreak. My father who helped me find a way to follow my crazy dream of studying abroad when I had no money. My first roommate in Chicago who held the door open so I could move into an entirely new phase of life. I can think of critical moments in  each one of these examples that could have shifted the balance of my life in one direction or the other. Abundance vs. scarcity. Joy vs. despair. Momentum vs. stasis.

I am grateful beyond measure. I doubt half of the people who have touched my life have any clue about the impact they had on me. Perhaps that’s my next personal project … to let them know.

How about you? Who was one person that “spurred you forward, rather than have you collapse?” Feel free to share in the comments, if you’re called.

Delight Report: 4/22/13

Last week was one of those weeks that seemed to keep piling on the hurt, trauma and struggle. I don’t think I need to mention the national and global tragedies that captured our attention over the last several days. But it seemed like there were just as many local hardships that happened to people I love. Personal loss, struggles with money, fears amplified and worries realized… it just felt like no one could catch a break.

I will not rehash the heartache. There were some really bright moments over the last couple weeks despite the difficulties, and I want to highlight them here. If anything, just to remind myself of that age-old saying, “This, too, shall pass.” Emotions and events are just as beholden to cycles as anything else.

So… here is the Delight Report for the week:

  • Hello, my name is River, and I am a geek. I recently started playing a role-playing game for the first time since, oh — my early 20s? It has been at least *cough, mumble* years. I joined a group of folks playing 7th Sea, which is basically a swashbuckling, pirate-themed RPG set in an alternate 17th century Europe. We had a session on Saturday, and while some of our in-game decisions took a wee bit longer to make than they probably should have, I still had a blast. My good friend, Jo, came down for the day and got to join in as well as an NPC (non-player character for those of you who need translation). She made a great old Usurran (fake Russian) woman who wielded wooden spoons with great vigor and recited recipes for borscht in an ominous tone while standing on a cliff while the rest of us attempted to take out a 100,000-strong Montaigne (fake French) army …. Yeah, in reading that over, I guess you had to be there. But suffice it to say I had so much fun, and laughed harder than I have in weeks. That would be the point.
  • The real reason that Jo came to visit was for Kev-i-o-key, aka our friend Kevin’s annual birthday karaoke bash. We go to a fabulously kitschy Korean place called Sing Sing Karaoke. Each group gets their own room with a big screen TV. The rooms each have a personality all their own… with names like “Orchid,” “Lily,” and “Rose,” not to mention the gaudy wallpaper and mirrored walls… you can take your best guess what happened there before the karaoke business moved in. I just find it part of the charm. You pick your song out of the book, punch your number into the remote, and the song comes up on the television screen. Our room came complete with a tambourine and disco lights that threatened to cause seizures. I loved every minute. My go-to songs appear to all be by Bon Jovi. Don’t judge.
  • On Sunday morning, Jo and I headed over to our good friends’ place for breakfast. Katje & Bill are always so incredibly welcoming, and in spite of a difficult week, this visit was no exception. Great breakfast, wonderful conversation — and then a group solving of the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle. I love doing puzzles with people, but this group of folks is particularly special. It certainly set the tone for the rest of a lovely, sunny day.

These are the highlights that stand out for now, although as I am thinking back through the last few days, there were more great things that happened that I had previously forgotten about. Good. It’s working.

I am considering adding the Delight Report as a regular feature of this blog – particularly if you want to join in. I invite you to add to the Delight Report in the comments, if you’re so called. What brought you joy over the past few days? What inspired you? What did you learn? Where did you find a little sliver of light in the darkness? Share it. I think we could all use a boost.

I found it!

My heart is beating a little faster all of a sudden. I just stumbled onto a company website that does exactly the sort of work that I want to do in exactly the way I think I want to do it. They’re not local — at least a thousand miles away — but that’s perfect. I don’t know of anyone in Chicago that is doing what they’re doing, and even if there is, they could use a little creative competition, right?

No spoilers, yet. But I think I have found a perfect example of the kind of structure I’m looking to implement. I’m not looking to copy their business model, but the fact that a company is out there that is doing this work AND is successful at it? I find that incredibly motivating.

Wheels are turning, my friends.