Chaos and Compassion

Jan 22, 2018

This year did not start out the way I wanted it to.


I wanted to show up back here on this blog all shiny and intentional

all “hey I’m a life coach and it’s the New Year so let’s figure out your life”


But in reality, I have been plunged so deeply into the liminal space of my own transition that all of my energy has been channeled into holding space for myself.

I made the decision to take a break from my usual weekly online missives back in December.  We were in the process of selling our home, moving to our new home, and getting rid of the vast majority of our possessions as we prepared to transition into a much, much smaller space.

But what I was actually hoping, I admit to myself now, was that the time away from writing here would not just allow me the space to pack boxes and say goodbye, but to do some of the deep diving I wanted to do to prepare for the coming year, both in my personal life and in my business.


I was expecting myself to manage the very “basic survival oriented” work of uprooting my physical space in the world

while simultaneously operating in a tremendously creative and possibility-oriented space in my mind and my heart.


To say I got the rug pulled out from underneath me is an understatement.


When we moved into our new home and swiftly put a gigantic Christmas tree up in the living room while sharing this tiny space with my folks, who had come to help with the move, I felt claustrophobic.  I wondered what we were thinking moving to such a small space.

Then a succession of vicious storms hit our local area, leaving us without power and water for days, and seriously wondering about the integrity of our brand-spanking-new ocean-facing windows.

Then my website got hacked and disabled, I narrowly avoided a creepy malware protection scam (thank you intuition and web-savvy friends!), and then my business email stopped working, crashing apps on my computer like it was possessed.

The email?  Still not fixed.  And I haven’t ruled out exorcism as a troubleshooting option.


I hate this feeling.


I’m in survival mode.

I’m spending more time on hold with tech support than I am walking through the woods.

I’m laying awake wondering where my creativity has gone rather than sleeping.

My office feels like a black hole where positive energy goes to die (or, ahem, listen to hold music while troubleshooting tech problems) rather than a haven for writing and holding space.


To say life feels out of alignment right now feels like a vast understatement.

And there might have been a time where a perkier, more naive version of myself would have said, “Righteo!  Well!  You just need to go for a walk outside, bake some muffins, sleep more, meditate, and get to a yoga class, and you’ll be fine.”

The somewhat wiser me sees all this perky problem-solving a little differently.

Although actively trying to incorporate the things that make me feel more aligned back into my life when everything feels out of whack seems like a wonderful idea….

(and one that I’ve both practiced and advocated for on many an occasion)

my reality is filled with frustration and hours on hold with tech support and reams of paper, including my fancy coloured-markered goals for the year, somewhere at the bottom of the pile.


And I know what’s going to happen.

My attempts at finding more alignment will quickly begin to feel like more things I have to do, adding to the chaos.  And I’ll walk through the woods or meditate while stewing on all the things that feel frustrating and upsetting right now…and then I’ll scold myself for failing to be able to do the very things that I know will make me feel more at ease, more aligned.

I’m starting to discover, both with myself and with my clients who are also seeking a sense of alignment in the midst of transition, that perhaps before diving into the activities that support our alignment

sitting with the feelings of misalignment 

and having self-compassion 

for the way that feels

for the messy reality of it

without judgment

and without trying to change anything at all

might be the most powerful First Step.


This goes against many of our personal and cultural values around doing over being,

but the edict of “start where you are,” or “only with acceptance comes change” is powerfully threaded through everything from the yoga sutras to Gestalt and Narrative coaching theory to twelve-step programs.


So, there must be something to it, yes?


So I’m going to sit here, with this.


It’s deeply uncomfortable,

but when I hold space for myself here,

what I can hear is how hard it is for me to feel disorganized.  Which is to say, out of control.

What I can hear is how hard it is for me to hear the voice of my own needs and the things I need to do to make me feel like myself when my carefully-constructed reality is in flux.  Which is to say, unmoored, lost, and without a sense of security.

I’m going to start by meeting myself there, first.  Because something tells me that this is the messy, unlikely place where alignment begins.

The Becoming Podcast has been on a short hiatus while I focus on writing my book, but oh what a comeback episode I have for you!

This month, I spoke to Toko-pa Turner, who many of you may know as the unofficial patron saint of many of my circles and gatherings because of the sheer number of times I’ve quoted from the wisdom of her book, Belonging.

Toko-pa is a Canadian author, teacher, and dreamworker. Blending the mystical teachings of Sufism in which she was raised with a Jungian approach to dreams, she founded The Dream School in 2001, from which thousands of students have graduated. She is the author of the award-winning book, Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home, which explores the themes of exile and belonging through the lens of dreams, mythology, and nature. This book has resonated for readers worldwide, and has been translated into 10 different languages so far. Her work focuses on the relationship between psyche and nature, and how to follow our inner wisdom to meet with the social, psychological, and ecological challenges of our time.

Here’s some of what Toko-pa and I talk about in this episode:

> The dream that changed Toko-pa’s life, causing her to question her career and, ultimately, her identity

> How we can court our dreams to support us during times of radical transformation – and the reasons so many of us have a hard time remembering and working with what shows up in our dreamscape

> Toko-pa’s perspective on the message of Belonging after the divisiveness our society has experienced in the years since it was published

> What happened for both Toko-pa and I when we fell out of belonging from the ideologies of the “wellness world”

> How to build community when you’re under-resourced

> “The Big Lie” when it comes to belonging, and how we can reclaim a sense of belonging to the greater family of things, as Mary Oliver so famously wrote

Listen to the episode on iTunes


Show Notes

Toko-pa’s Website

Belonging:  Remembering Ourselves Home, Toko-pa’s book

The David Abram video about animism mentioned in the interview

Toko-pa’s self-guided program, Dream Drops

Companion, the program that accompanies Belonging


Also, while you’re at it, if you enjoy The Becoming Podcast, I would be so grateful if you would rate and review, and even subscribe to it on iTunes.  That goes a long way to helping more and more people find and benefit from hearing these interviews!  Thank you so much!