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Jesica Hanley Vega

Sing Your Song

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self-realization

What’s Going On? v.2016

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Owens Beach, WA. February 2, 2016

Though it seemed as if 2015 was ending on a high note, in reality, the year ended in a heaving crescendo of disappointment and upset. In a very short time I went from feeling on top of the world to feeling as if nothing made sense. In my best moments, I called it humbling; in my worst, I described myself as crushed, bitch slapped and ground to dust.

I never cried so much.

But just as deepest winter is finally giving way to that point when the first signs of spring tentatively emerge (in the Gaelic pagan traditions, it’s known as Imbolc) I may now be glimpsing a new season in my own life: a season of simplicity, gratitude and a heightened awareness of what really matters in my life.

For the moment at least, I’ve swept all grand plans to the side: an unfinished book project lies safely in its folder, all retreats are off the calendar, and all speaking engagements suspended. The mantra of “writing, teaching, speaking” which powerfully called me forward in 2015 has been replaced by “I want a job.”

I want a paycheck, I want to show up and make a difference in people’s lives, and I want to go home and enjoy my family. I want to belong, I want to be valued and, most importantly, I want to be compensated.

I still want to read cards. I still want to provide sacred space. I still want to teach and I still want to listen. But I’ve surrendered to the fact that the struggle to support my family exclusively through those pursuits put too much strain on the gifts that made them possible in the first place.

The monthly concern about paying bills, meeting unexpected expenses and simply taking good care of my children finally took its toll. And though I may seem to possess a boundless capacity to handle stress, uncertainty and a shortage of cash, those very qualities likely had me struggle far longer than I might have otherwise. Because that’s how it is with gifts sometimes; they bite us in the ass.

So I’ve circled some wagons and given thanks that I have my health and my life, two beautiful children and a husband who loves me. I’ve given thanks for my education, my resources and my ability to communicate. And I’ve given thanks that I still experience great joy reading cards, being there when people seek connection to their own spirits and providing sacred space when they need to hear their hearts. And I’ve given thanks for the new opportunities coming my way, whatever they are, and the new adventures life has in store.

Amen.

5 Life Lessons from 2015

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Handmade ornaments celebrating peace from our most recent workshop at Retreats With Heart.

Feeling good feels good. I experimented a lot this year with simply feeling good. Regardless of circumstance, I made an effort to find a good feeling whenever I could (or as Abraham Hicks calls it “a better feeling thought”).

The biggest surprise was learning how much better it felt to admit I felt crappy. In the past, I’d tried to force myself to feel better in challenging moments, but this year I discovered the grace in simply saying “I feel like crap.”

And very often, when I felt that way, I would sit down on my sofa and not get up until I felt better. Just sit. Not meditate. Not read. Not check my phone. Just sit. And it felt really good. And I was a much nicer person to my kids and my husband too.

Doing what frightens me makes me feel alive. This year was full of things that frightened me; I led my first workshops, did my first public speaking, crowd-funded and attended The Hive Global Leaders Program , admitted I wanted a divorce in couples’ counseling (we later reconciled) and quit consuming espresso, pasta, bread and sugar (mostly). Each one of these forced me to transcend the “me” I knew and become someone new. While it was terrifying to step into the unknown – socially, personally, and dietarily – each leap released an energy, a wildness and a wisdom that I couldn’t have acquired any other way. I got to know myself on a deeper level and it was exhilarating.

Life is much easier when I don’t take things personally. That guy who wanted his money back when he didn’t like my talk? The friend who decided she no longer wanted me in her life? The family member with negative opinions about how I’ve lived my life? In the past, I spent a lot of time and energy trying to prove myself to dissenters and win back those I’d offended. But this year I finally accepted that people are going to do what they’re going to do and think what they’re going to think – because they have their own lives to lead, and their own stories to tell.

Relationships will end and endeavors will fail, and to take it all personally is to try way too hard to be the center of a universe in which I am only one part. Ultimately, it’s a relief knowing I can’t control it all and it’s made me even more grateful for what I have.

Life is even easier when I stop trying to improve, help, heal and otherwise make a difference in people’s lives. Co-dependent much? Maybe just a little. As a sensitive, caring person, it’s easy to feel responsible for others’ problems. Whether I’ve felt like I caused them, or just had the solutions that would ease them, I expended a lot of energy thinking, talking and strategizing about other people’s lives. But once I stopped, wow, it was like being relieved of a fifty pound weight. It’s still tempting, when someone is struggling or feels hurt, to turn myself inside out, beat myself up and do whatever it takes to make it right. But I’ve learned the best path is to take what responsibility is mine and give others the gift of their own.

I’m human. Of course, of course, of course, we’re all human. But there’s nothing like getting knocked down a few notches to remind me (see numbers 2 and 3) how human I am. Whether my ego is dominating me with an inflated sense of my own worth, or berating me for not being good enough, my ego has a hard time accepting who I truly am.

I am gifted in some ways, flawed in others; I can be wonderful and I can be insensitive. Just like all human beings, I am not only one thing.

A large part of becoming a loving, compassionate human being is accepting my shadow without believing it dims my light, because only then can I  accept the humanity of others. And I’ve come a long way in accepting others humanity this year as well: my kids’, my family’s, my friends and most of all, my dear and very human husband.

Finding Stillness Through Movement, Part 1 of 2

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Kayaking as spiritual practice? Sure, why not.

Last week I wrote about simple stillness practices that enhance your experience of connection, communion and awe in everyday life.

This week, I’ll explore the tremendous power of movement practices to do the same. Just because you’d rather do anything than sit cross-legged and watch your breath, doesn’t mean the healing power and grace of contemplation must be lost to you. After all, whether you dance, walk or kayak, movement itself – when done with intention and focus – can be just as powerful a vehicle for fulfillment and awakening.

Through dance, as well as a variety of other physical disciplines, movement has always been a way of affirming Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s famous statement: We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. After all, is there anything more human than using our bodies?

And yet, despite longstanding traditions of celebrating the physical, humanity has also suffered from equally tenacious beliefs separating body, mind and soul. This system of beliefs regards the body as an impediment to spiritual fulfillment at best, and a sinful temptation at worst. Unfortunately, when the body is regarded as something to be disciplined, overcome or ignored, its potential as a vehicle for spiritual fulfillment can be lost. This attitude can lead to shameful feelings about sex, an over-emphasis on appearance, eating disorders, obesity and even overwork.

But being trapped in a belief system doesn’t mean you can’t be free. It simply means that you must become conscious of your relationship with your body and make active choices about what to do with it. Getting present to our physical selves and feeling at home in our bodies, without judgment or disapproval, is the focus of contemplative movement practices. For when we come home to our bodies, we feel more at home in our hearts and our minds as well.

Is Your Life Moving Way Too Fast? Part 1

IMG_9063THIS IS THE FIRST IN A 2-PART SERIES ON CULTIVATING STILLNESS IN EVERY DAY LIFE

How busy are you? If you’re a typical adult, chances are the answer is “very.”

Here’s another question: How frequently do you spend time in repose? Listening to water lapping on the shore? Birds singing in a tree? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably “rarely.”

Perhaps you’re occupied with working long hours, or tied up with work and then busy with family. Perhaps you’ve got an active social life, filled with friends, acquaintances and engagements. Or maybe you’re glued to a screen all day: browsing the web, checking social media, and watching the latest must-see television. Whatever it is, the odds are against you spending any significant portion of your time just “being.” And it’s not your fault. Chronic Busyness is a widespread phenomenon and one that’s increasingly hard to avoid. Since the explosion of digital technologies, we are expected to be available to everyone all the time and, though that means you can get in touch with anyone at a moment’s notice, it also means they can get in touch with you.

While staying busy can feed our desires to feel important, and staying connected can assuage our fears of missing out, we actually are missing out when we cease to make time for being still. But what are we missing out on? And what are the long-term consequences of losing our connection to ourselves in favor of staying connected to everything else? I’m not speaking of the the roles we play in the world and the sense we have of being “me” – which 19th century philosopher and psychologist William James called our “empirical selves” – but our inner selves: the parts that require silence to be experienced, and demand stillness in which to speak.

There are a seemingly infinite number of terms for these inner selves, as it is a universal observation that human beings experience life as two distinctly divided entities: the “empirical” self we share with the world and the private mystery within. Without access to stillness, this private mystery – which may lack discernible qualities but which shares its essence with the whole of the universe – is doomed to remain just that: closed off and unknown. But that needn’t be the case.

Merriam-Webster defines stillness as a “state of freedom from storm or disturbance” as well as “the near or complete absence of sound.” Reading this, you may already recognize how rarely stillness occurs in your own life: how occupied you are with being busy that you rarely step outside the winds of the hurricane to stand in its eye. You may also recognize that your life, while filled with the sounds and furies of everyday crises, is nonetheless empty. And yet, you can cultivate stillness. You can temporarily release the disturbances from your mind and, rather than aggravate your own personal tempest, be the unmoved center around which all else rages. And, in doing so, you can discover a power within that is unlike any your mind – or empirical self  – can muster.

IN PART 2, WE’LL LOOK AT SIMPLE PRACTICES FOR DISCOVERING THE STILLNESS AND POWER WITHIN.

Do You Want To Evolve?

IMG_0964The field of coaching, guidance and personal development is a crowded one, full of promises and potential miracles. I get it. The best way to sell anything is to make it seem like an easy path to everything that people want.

But I’ve never been a fan of easy.

Rather than offering silver bullets, my work is about discovering and surpassing your own inner limits. It’s about distinguishing what holds you back and daring to go beyond it. It’s about recognizing some of your most deeply held beliefs and questioning whether they still serve you. It’s about discovering where you’re weak and choosing to become strong.

Doing readings with my clients enables me to address what lies beyond the surface of their stories and their circumstances. Recommending practices to my clients enables them to develop new habits that will help them see beyond as well. Loving my clients enables them to embrace those valuable parts of themselves they once relegated to the shadows.

I love tough, tenacious people. I love people who are so in love with something, so committed to it, that they are willing to let me be the grim reaper cutting down the limitations to which they are attached.

Clearly, my work is not for everybody.

But if you want to evolve, if you see a great reason to do so, a great purpose that will only be fulfilled once you are willing to look at yourself straight and give up your identity in favor of your soul, it may be for you.

Let me help you be the person you know you are inside.

What Story Are You Living?

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Leave a trail of light and beauty in your wake and others will follow.

I’ve always wanted to make a difference in people’s lives but, for much of my life, assumed film-making would be the path.

For as long as I could remember, movies had been my greatest source of inspiration and joy. Nothing moved me as much as a good movie could – nothing could make me think, feel and expand as much. So it felt natural to dedicate my life to providing others with the bliss I experienced watching awesome films.

Therefore it was quite a surprise – and a crushing disappointment – to discover that sometimes when we “follow our dreams” they don’t actually come true. Despite my passion for film, I was a poor fit for the day-to-day realities of the industry and I was rarely happy there.

The realization that I was barking up the wrong tree did not happen overnight. It took many tears and a lot of  soul-searching to eventually turn what felt like a story of professional and personal failure into something more empowering, and yet…

Through a fortuitous meeting with someone who recommended I read tarot cards (of all things) I unexpectedly embarked on a new path that ended up leading me where I wanted to go.

At this point, I don’t consider myself a “tarot card reader.” Though divination and intuition remain a signification aspect of my work, ultimately I provide people with insights and tools for self-actualization. This is less because I know what my clients should do and more because – together – we create conversations in which such insights and tools naturally arise.

While the bliss of watching a movie derives from experiencing a story that touches us and provides us with a new way of seeing things, I’ve now discovered that bliss is also possible when people discover their own stories.

We are all heroes of our own story – if we choose to see our lives that way. But when we get stuck in one version of events, it can be hard to see our way out. I’ve lived my own hero’s journey – I certainly know what it’s like to be stuck in hell – but having come out the other side,  I unknowingly prepared myself to lead others out as well. 

What story are you living? Where is it going? And have you considered a rewrite?

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