I Needed to Stop & Recalibrate

eyesOn January 18th in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I had one of those somatic moments where my body vibrates and catches my attention. Often when I look back, it’s moments like that one that indicate my life is about to change. A friend and colleague was talking about the sabbatical she is on, her daily routine, the things she’s saying NO to, and the self-care she is prioritizing. My whole body shivered and bellowing within me I heard, “Is this what you need to do? Can you take 3-6 months to pause?

While the doubting parts of me quickly began discouraging such a dramatic and risky move, the questions didn’t surprise me. A couple days prior I had given a talk about “Living on Purpose” where I admitted to the group of 200 university students that my professional success these last four years has been at the expense of my own self-care and work-life balance. Could I really take 3-6 months to intentionally assess and re-balance my priorities? Could I afford such a shift? What about all of my responsibilities and people that were depending on me? Could I really make caring for me a priority?

Success Checklist

Slide from lecture at Dalhousie University

 

I talked it over with friends and family, prayed on it, and by March 15th I had officially begun my process of Stopping & Recalibrating my priorities. I committed to living with greater health, more creativity and a clarified direction. I was fortunate to be supported by Mycelium in this decision, both financially and energetically.

It is a profound privilege to be able to take this time. I am deeply grateful. I feel that I deserve it. And I have faith that this gift to me will in turn serve others. Here’s more of the story about my process.

There were signs that this change was necessary:

  • I had lost touch with the vibrancy of my life force, life’s colorfulness had dimmed. I felt passionate about my work, but was going through the motions to accomplish what needed to get done. I felt drained even when the content inspired me.
  • I was exhausted and often wanting to sleep.
  • I noticed myself worrying about to-do’s I wasn’t getting to, tasks I hadn’t completed… but I wasn’t worrying about the fact that I hadn’t eaten a healthy meal or gotten up to go for a walk.
  • I hadn’t fully burnt out, but I was on the edge. I would take days to recover, get enough energy to be “back in the game,” but it wasn’t integrated. The renewal was temporary.
  • I was feeling called to a future that I didn’t yet have the spiritual, emotional and physical skills nor the community support to show up for. I needed to spend time focusing on personal practices, creative expression and growing relationships with myself, my spiritual family, and my community in order to show up for the chaos and complexity that I sense will be asked of me.

While I wasn’t certain that I needed to stop working, it was clear I had to stop being a producer for a few months. For me, a producer is someone who can see a big picture vision, articulate a strategy to bring it to life, and oversee the process of it coming to life with integrity. While I am good at this, for big projects it requires a huge amount of energy. Tracking all of the small and deep details of bringing Mycelium the organization to life with integrity while also launching transformative learning programs and tending to the relationships being cultivated required tremendous output. My self-care was frequently falling to the back seat with the wellbeing of the organization and the people we served in the front seat. I was not practicing what I preached. I was not modeling the type of leadership I believe in.

Spending Resources

Slide from lecture at Dalhousie University

 

I recognized that my goal-oriented, product-focused, analytical and logistical brain space was dominating. It was overshadowing my nurturing, creative, emergent tendencies that are also very important to my authentic expression and well-being. I had to stop being at the center of initiatives, leading them forward. I needed time for an out breath from the 4 years I invested in co-founding Mycelium. I needed to focus on the personal, daily practices that keep ME centered in the work I do and life I live. I needed to strengthen my spiritual and emotional practices that deepen my faith and ability to navigate uncertainty and chaos. I needed to strengthen my physical body for more endurance and healthy living. I needed to rest. I needed to trust that even if this move felt irrational and incredibly privileged, it was essential for the long haul.

slow-down-300x200It’s been 7 weeks now. I am seeing and re-writing patterns in myself, forming new neural pathways, letting go of unserving habits and beliefs, grieving and celebrating. I am slowing down, tuning into my heart, and listening to what is really calling to me at this time. I am taking the time to heal and nourish myself. I am reconnecting with my family and community. I am reflecting on my life experiences. I am weaving new possibilities. I am learning how to be me… unapologetically.

While I still have a lot to learn, I am beyond grateful for this time and what has revealed itself so far. So many lessons about myself, my beliefs, my work in the world, the conditions that help or hinder me thriving, and the challenges and learning experiences from starting a social enterprise. I have slowed down, but I don’t believe I’ve fully stopped. I imagine this will be a lifelong lesson for me.

Future possibilities are just beginning to whisper. A warrior in me is being beckoned. Conditions for how I will operate in this next stage of my life are revealing themselves. The focus of my attention is getting clearer. A daily personal practice that can nourish and sustain me is taking shape. I am recalibrating my presence, my frequency, my focus, my expression, who I am in relation to the many parts of myself, who I am in relation to how I work in the world and the type of work I do, who I am in relation to how I engage relationships and cultivate family. I am healing and recalibrating.

I am reflecting on this process as best I can, and I know there is much more to harvest from this time. Thank you for reading about my journey. Please feel free to ask me questions if they arise for you, as they might help me better integrate what this time has been, what I’m learning and where I am right now.

And stay tuned as I share the seeds that are emerging!

sprouting-seed-micro-photography-hd-wallpaper-spring-nature-stock-photo

Image Sources: Eyes, Slow Down, Seed Sprouting

12 Responses to “I Needed to Stop & Recalibrate”

  1. Ria Baeck May 6, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

    I have your back Ashley! Courageous decision – but sooo needed (for so many)!
    If you ever have a need to talk this through, you know where to find me!

    with love,
    Ria

    • ashley May 6, 2016 at 1:15 pm #

      Thanks so much, Ria. I feel your virtual support every time I share what’s going on. THANK YOU!! Are you still at the integral conference. I saw your name on the workshops line up as my friend Nick Joyce is there. Much love and gratitude to you, dear Ria.

  2. Mary MacLean May 6, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

    Ashley – love you and love your deep commitment to yourself! Inspirational!

    • ashley May 7, 2016 at 11:30 am #

      Awe… thank you Mary. Sending you a long overdue warm hug. <3

  3. Jen Haines May 6, 2016 at 2:43 pm #

    I look forward to being a vicarious fellow traveler. When I visualize “Ashley” – I tend to see you in constant motion, but the question is whether that motion, which seems it should be naturally fluid and graceful (as your both your brain and being are, in my view) but can become static and blocked without self-care and time to breathe, have ideas incubate, etc. I don’t know if this makes any sense, but is the current reflection upon reading your reflection. Just keep enjoying this chance to step back and step in to wherever it takes you.

    • ashley May 7, 2016 at 11:31 am #

      Thank you Jen. I do feel that my perpetual motion is shifting… and I appreciate this reflection. Much love and gratitude to have you along on the journey.

  4. Cortina May 8, 2016 at 11:55 am #

    WOW. Thank you for tuning into the inner voice and calling attention to your journey – which holds such similarities to the journey that many of us take. How many of us sacrifice our personal wellbeing in order to see a vision through only to circumvent the conditions in which do not allow us to be there to celebrate the fulfillment of the vision we sacrificed for – to begin with? I hope you continue to be a beacon for the importance of self-care, balance and play in the work that you (and we) do in the world. There is only one of you and we need what you hold inside of you for the health of the planet. Aho!

    • ashley May 24, 2016 at 2:46 pm #

      Thank you Cortina for your comments and support and encouragement of me and my path. I’m grateful to have you on the journey. I really resonate with the reality of how many of us sacrifice our personal well-being in order to see a vision through, only to not be able to celebrate the fulfillment of the vision we sacrificed for. Thanks for shining a lot on that process. Here’s to doing things differently!! More wisely!!

  5. Christy May 8, 2016 at 1:07 pm #

    Hey sweet Ashley! I read this post when you first mentioned it a couple of days ago…and then took some time of my own to let it sink and settle in me.

    I so admire your ability to dive and dig deep, and then to bring back from the deeps the treasured seeds of insight and reflection you have found there. Your generosity in sharing what you find, and how you can articulate in words the pieces and parts and details of your experience.

    I’m in a parallel process, sort of an unexpected sabbatical, since quitting Bastyr. It turns out to have been fortuitous timing, since I’m needing the flexibility I gained to devote some time to my mom’s health needs. And also this feels like powerful and mysterious preparation time for something next. (I’ve been finding some lovely ideas and warm guidance from Jeff A’s good astrology and tarot interpretations, and highly recommend his readings, in case that sounds useful for you :) )

    I’m looking forward to a catch-up chat sometime soon. Much love & appreciation & big hugs xoxc

    • ashley May 24, 2016 at 2:48 pm #

      Hi dear Christy,

      I wonder how your process is continuing to unfurl. We need that catch-up!!! Thank you for continuing to see and experience my offerings of words and reflection. We’ve seen a lot of changes with each other over these many years. Such a gift to continue orbiting with you. I miss you, dear one. Much love, Ashley

  6. Tom May 26, 2016 at 11:05 am #

    Glad to read that you’ve found a way to rebalance without having to completely burn out first, Ashley. For me, looking at this through a four-shields perspective from wilderness rites of passage work, there’s something I see that trips me up again and again and a thing I see in some of my favourite people – the community-oriented, mature adult north shield, something so necessary and so consuming, gets over-developed at the cost of the ‘wild indigenous child’ of the south shield. And the visionary east shield basks in a lot of daylight, while the cave-dwelling, introspective west shield gets not enough down-time, not enough hibernation, not enough dreaming-just-for-dreaming. So, credit to you, Ashley, for stopping and recalibrating! Finding that balance of ‘I’ and ‘we’ is so tricky and ever-changing! All the best from the side of the road, Tom

    • ashley May 26, 2016 at 11:10 am #

      What a beautiful, powerful and right on reflection, Tom. Thank you. I’m dedicated to continuing to support leaders in a more balanced path… obviously starting by living it myself. Deep, deep gratitude.

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