august 21, 2019
finding compassion and peace in deep unknowns
As week three of Place Corps gently closes, I’m realizing that there’s still so much I do not know about my life, about how to live on Earth, about how to communicate with others, about how to nurture myself and find love in everything…and I’m working to hold myself with real compassion as I remind myself that all of this not-knowing is very much okay.
After graduating school in May and committing to this year of radical living, I released a deep, deep exhale; I knew, at least for a year, where I was going to be living and (for the most part) what I was going to be doing. The nature of the university program I graduated from demanded that I continually plan ahead for subsequent semesters with end goals in mind. Coupled with the ever evolving and rolling pace of New York City, I was married to cycles of planning, goal setting, achieving, and starting again. I lived this way for four years. By the time I finished school, my basket was full of internships, grants, scholarly awards, and a self-care practice that often fit into sparse slots on a Google Calendar.
I loved the work I was doing, and I grew so much because of how hard I pushed myself. Now, though, I’m experimenting withdifferent markers of success. What if having one real, present, open, and transformative conversation is what I strive towards on a given day? Or making a dinner for 8 people? Or waking up to see the sunrise? Or introducing myself to a new plant? Or bathing under a waterfall?
I’ve been conditioned to value my successes in relation to the succcess of the “overculture” (thanks Abrah Dresdale and Connor Stedman for this term)—i.e. successes that can be quantified, commodified, or publicized. Since my toes have squished the Hawthorne Valley soil, I’ve challenged myself to view successes in a really different light. What if I oriented my goals towards compassion, interconnectedness, reciprocity, and collective healing? What if I oriented my goals towards being the truest person I can be, even if that means I fail to meet the goals of other people or institutions?
I’m also beginning to see the stresses of my past experiences not as necessary ills of a good and successful life, but rather as potential symptoms of a deep imbalance within myself and the communities to which I belonged. Now when I notice a stress bubbling up, I’m trying to say, “hello stress. what are you here to teach me today? where do you come from?” Rather than letting these feelings overcome my being, I’m trying to make friends with them, learn from them, and be with them without losing the peace and balance that I know exists within me.
All of this is to say that I’m deep in a process of unlearning previous ways of being—moving quickly, working until anguish, striving for external validation—and learning new ways of being that align my highest self with the world I’m striving to co-create.
I feel a bit wobbly, as my legs are being reprogrammed from city-time to soil-time. It’s a feeling that’s “equally as exhilarating as it can be disorienting” (aptly described by Jenny Odell in How to do Nothing). This space of reprogramming and unlearning is a bit like the edge zone where two ecosystems collide; I see all of my past experiences merging with the life I (we) now live at Place Corps. Like in an edge zone, the space I’m now in is rich of biodiversity (beings, ideas, practices, experiences), messy (I’m making lots of mistakes), and overflowing with life (I do feel very alive).
So, here’s my task: sit with allllll of this, love all of this, grow with all of this, and dive directly into the areas where I experience tension or confusion. I’m beginning to understand that ‘the way’ is really just to find peace in finding the way.