Be in the season you're in

I am a strong believer in setting intentions and goals — for the week, month, and year. While it is an effective way to focus my energy, something to return to when I feel like I’m flailing, it often does not account for the life that happens outside my planning. Like, say, unexpectedly falling in love with a rescue puppy and bringing him home:

Let me tell you, an eight-month-old puppy named Hero does not care that your intention for the year is to write more. He wants you to play tug-of-war with his rope toy and will not take no for an answer. Nor will explaining that you were supposed to launch this newsletter in July stop him from peeing in the hallway.

And while I’m a fan of structure, a to do list, and using goals to guide my time — there is something oddly freeing about the chaos of a puppy. Being forced to temporarily let go of my goals is an opportunity to face the part of myself that fears failure. That Inner Critic voice that says if I don’t do the task on time, life itself will fall apart along with all sense of self worth.

The ever encouraging and wise Melissa Graeber reminded me that life has seasons, and invited me to be in the season I’m in. That fighting the ebb and flow of life’s seasons isn’t the work at hand — the actual work is being present to this unexpected season of puppy. To large tawny paws, a perfect spiral tail, and a never-ending desire to play.

Recently at an interview for a graduate program, I was asked what I do for self-care. I surprised myself by answering time with Hero. That he keeps me from reliving the past and worrying about the future — I’m now present to what’s happening in the moment (otherwise he’ll chew up the rug).

When I start to dread that I’ll never return to writing, it helps to remember a season is not an eternity. That when I moved in with G earlier this year, I stopped and then returned to writing after a couple weeks. Maybe in a different time and structure, but I got back to it. In the meantime, I gently remind myself that perhaps being in the season I’m in has its own kind of magic and gift to offer.

Between writing this draft in July and redrafting it in August, I got accepted into the Counseling Psychology Master’s Program at the Wright Institute, beginning September 4! While I’m thrilled about this opportunity, it means my vision for being in a “puppy season” has expanded to “puppy season and grad school.” And what had been a few months of change extend now to two years! More unexpected freeing chaos!

So what does the season ahead hold for you? Are you finding yourself navigating something unexpected? How would you like to be present to it? ….are you an Enneagram nerd? If so, read below for Enneagram type specific prompts for reflection!

Enneagram Prompts: Be in the Season You’re In

Don’t know your Enneagram type? Then head over to the Enneagram Institute and read through the 9 type descriptions to see which resonates for you (for some, it may be the one that makes you flinch).

1: Sometimes the right thing to do is to be in the season you’re in. Set aside the original plan and look with curiosity on what this season is inviting you into: to be with your feelings, to embrace some frivolous and imperfect play, or even to develop a new plan for what’s next.

2It’s not selfish to be in the season you’re in. By being present to it and taking care of yourself, you are investing in others and the world. And the people who love you will understand. Take what you need in this season and advocate for yourself: by setting boundaries, asking for help, or simply resting.

3: An unexpected season is not a failure — it’s an opportunity for the plan to change: a project might not be completed, an event has to be missed, or progress in general is paused. Trust that the work, growth, and new challenges are here in this unexpected season too. And one of those challenges might be to rest.

4Some seasons will feel like a departure from what makes you feel specifically you. But your significance lies beyond your individual response. Your particular strength is being unabashedly honest with yourself. Tap into this gift and ask: What do I truly need in this season and what do I need to release?

5: Some seasons, particularly those with unexpected events, will be more draining than you would like them to be. Just because things are stretching you beyond your limits does not mean you are lacking in ability. One of your great gifts is being able to think outside the box. How could that visioning be applied here?

6: You’ve got a plan. You’ve got a plan B (and C through G). But this season might not work with any of the plans you’ve prepared. But here’s the thing: all that plan-making, researching, and asking for feedback has equipped you for this moment. What can you do to trust your inner wisdom during this time?

7: The unexpected is usually in your wheelhouse — you are the master of adjusting and problem-solving in the moment. In fact, it often gives you life. Except when the unexpected is painful or means you have to miss out on something you were looking forward to. What is the opportunity for you here?

8: You can handle anything, including the unexpected. But perhaps the unexpected is inviting you to slow down, instead of barreling ahead. Instead, focus on what the possible invitation is here: to sit a while and reflect, ask others for help (I know, it’s the WORST), or to patiently go about your day at a gentler pace.

9: It can be challenging for you to know what you want or need and harder still to ask for it. Take time to reflect on what this unexpected season requires. What do you need to not only survive but to live it comfortably? Ask for it, the people who deserve your love won’t be scared off, in fact they will probably jump at the chance to support you.

Recommended Resources

  • Read: This beautiful story of a woman who, after calling off her wedding, went on scientific expedition to study the whooping crane. Being present to your season can bring much needed space for reflection and wisdom.

  • Watch: Be present, and make sure there’s time for joy — such as Lizzo’s Tiny Desk Concert — which I watched while G took the puppy for a walk. The perfect treat for when you only have 17 minutes.

  • Come hang out with me: I’ll be facilitating another Enneagram at the Ruby SF on Tuesday, October 8, 6:30-8:30 p.m. — this one on Using The Enneagram to Navigate Relationships! Women and Non-binary attendees are welcome to sign up here.

Like this newsletter? If you think of someone who would enjoy this monthly email, please forward it their way. You can subscribe to Steady Magic here. Have feedback? Simply reply to this email.

Happy whatever season you’re in,

Dani

Summer Growth

I am new to the whole plant family thing. Particularly plants that aren’t succulents. So it wasn’t until the warmth came to San Francisco this month that I realized something most humans have always known throughout Earth’s history: summer is the time for new growth. My rubber plant is bursting with neon red new leaves, the fiddle leaf has a host of lime green baby leaves, and the “Swiss cheese” plant’s leaves are finally splitting to show the signature gaps.

So what about us? Do we have new summer growth — change that is bursting forth after gestating just beneath the surface during the cold months? The sun is out, there is more opportunity to be outdoors and explore. And what kind of internal exploration of new terrains can the summer also invite us into?

I already know what terrain the summer is inviting me to spelunk: my masterful avoidance skills.

I wouldn’t have noticed it so clearly if not for two things: 1.) I recently experienced an extreme example of my tendency to avoid by focusing on others and 2.) I am currently reading Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should Talk to Someone — a story of a therapist, her clients, and her work with her own therapist. She states “Avoidance is a simple way of coping by not having to cope.” In her case, focusing her sessions with her therapist on figuring out what was wrong with her ex-boyfriend was her way of avoiding the real healing work she wanted to do. Like a great narrator, she teases the reader with the real problem slowly being revealed, as she peels away each layer of avoidance.

Reading her story of misdirection and avoidance touched on a nerve for me. That inner voice saying “this is you too.”

I did the same thing years ago when I was in an unhealthy relationship. Each week I would walk into my therapist’s office and have a new story about this guy that I’d want to explore with her. When we finally broke up she looked at me with a smile and said, “Now the real work begins.”

It was so much easier to obsess about him than deal with the childhood wounds and coping mechanisms I was applying to my adult life. I remember going to a therapy session after the grief of the break up wore off, having no idea what to discuss. An emotionally unavailable dude, the lonely sting of being single, obsessing about my friendships — this was the material I knew. But slowly, we worked on the things beneath the surface, the things beyond the others in my life — the things I was being invited to let go of and the discoveries about the things that were deeply me.

Knowing this, I’m trying to take a gentle curiosity to my avoidance this summer. That my Enneagram 2 avoidance tactic of overly focusing on my relationships isn’t the matter at hand. And I plan to spend some time exploring those matters this summer — with my support system and with myself.

Does this resonate for you? Are you curious about avoidance and what could be beneath it? Before you read on, take a moment to check in with yourself. This could be a season of exploration, and also, the timing might not quite be right. Don’t push yourself beyond what you can handle right now. Or maybe you’ve already worked very hard this year on your growth and you really need some summer fun and celebration! That’s great! Don’t read further. But for those who want to explore avoidance tactics and invitations for reflection based on their enneagram type, read on.

Enneagram Avoidance Tactics and Reflection Questions

Don’t know your Enneagram type? Then head over to the Enneagram Institute and read through the 9 type descriptions to see which resonates for you (for some, it may be the one that makes you flinch).

Before you dive into the type messages below, as you practice self-observation and reflection, remember to be gentle. Awareness is the first step towards doing it differently, not an excuse to beat yourself up. If the below doesn’t resonate, don’t worry. Not all avoidance tactics are Enneagram related. Think of these as prompts for reflection, rather than hard fact.

1: Do you tend to avoid by focusing on the mission or justice work at hand or getting enraged by a wrongdoing? Can you get in touch with your true feelings in this moment and feel them without judgment?

2Are you focusing on your relationships (either by helping or feeling your help is unappreciated) more than your own needs? Can you take some time alone to become aware of your needs and address them directly without feeling selfish?

3: Are you spending your summer drowning in work or trying to blend into a new environment? Can you get in touch with your authentic self by taking a break and resting in solitude without worrying about how you are perceived?

4Is it easier for you to substitute a pain that is closer to the surface for one that you would rather avoid? Sometimes directly focusing on the pain won’t reveal the unknown pain, would you be willing to engage with a productive and meaningful creative project as a different vantage point to access yourself?

5: Your mind is a magical landscape you like to retreat to — sometimes that is necessary for you to process and create, other times it’s an escape hatch from the present moment. Perhaps you will discover the thing you’re avoiding there, or it may be something the external world can help you discover. Would you be willing to tune into your body and your trusted relationships to see what bubbles up?

6: Going along with the status quo or doubting your abilities to make a right call can be a way you avoid making necessary changes and decisions. Can you get in touch with what you desire and your capacity for making sound decisions without worry that the worst will happen?

7: Engaging solely in the realm of positivity and possibility means that you are avoiding some of the less enjoyable, yet necessary, realities of life. What are some of the harsh truths you may need to face in order to feel freedom and bring you into an even more enjoyable next chapter of life?

8: Avoiding harm through maintaining sovereignty over your domain can be an exhausting and lonely experience. How can you carry a little less weight of the world on your shoulders and connect with the reality that many people are on your team and would love to help?

9: It can be easier to go with the flow or check out of a situation than to do the scary work of engaging with what you really want. It can sometimes be hard to attune to yourself with others around, can you make some space in your calendar and home this week to see what you discover when no one is around?

Recommended Resources

May this summer uncover whatever next step each of us could take — whether that be active personal growth work or a time of rest and celebration!

Want to work with me one on one? I am taking more spiritual direction clients! Learn more about my practice by visiting my website.

Like this newsletter? If you think of someone who would enjoy this monthly email, please forward it their way. You can subscribe to Steady Magic here. Have feedback? Simply reply to this email.

Happy Sunday,

Dani

Battling the Inner Critic

I’m sitting in my favorite morning spot: facing the office desk with the window to the park on my right. It’s early, and I’m the only one awake. Steam is slowly drifting off my coffee mug. I’m about to write.

I hear a loud pop of gum and turn my head. Cassandra is sitting in a chair to my left, tan legs crossed, twirly a piece of glossy blonde hair around her manicured finger, looking at me with distain. “Why do you even bother writing? You have nothing new to say. Might as well give up and read the talented writers who are already published” she says venomously. My shoulders curl in and down. “Also, you’ve gained a lot of weight” she adds.

Do you have one of these? That voice in your head that vocalizes your deepest fears and insecurities. That asshole who always appears at a vulnerable moment — for me, when I’m beginning to write, looking in the mirror, or sharing deeply in a close relationship.

(Why the inner critic exists is a whole other newsletter topic and a great thing to explore in therapy/spiritual direction/etc. But it seems like most people have a critic, and many of us have a real mean one.)

Mine is named Cassandra. Also known as my inner critic (aka the inner judge, the superego, or Big Mouth’s Shame Wizard). In this recent season of writing more and growing my spiritual direction practice, I began to realize how loud my inner critic truly was in my day-to-day life. I felt paralyzed, followed by self-hatred assuming that I was my inner critic.

I knew I needed help, so I took a two-day intensive class on thwarting the inner critic. The biggest discovery from that workshop was how helpful it was to separate who I was from my critic. We each named and described what our inner critic looked and sounded like. For me, it came so easily, her name was Cassandra and she looked like many of the women I had grown up around in my Southern California hometown:

In the class I had to speak out loud the horrible things she would say to me, in what situations she would appear, and exactly where she would be in the room in relation to me. In front of a mirror, she was always over my right shoulder, looking at my frazzled hair, dark eye circles, and imperfect waist line.

After getting specific about who, what, where, how she spoke and sounded, the class then practiced yelling or responding with force to each of our critics. Our teacher taught us the inner critic doesn’t respond to meek — we had to match the critic’s strong energy with our own strength — this was not a moment to be polite. We were encouraged to be dismissive, to make fun of the critic (think that scene in Harry Potter with the boggart), to do whatever we needed to do to not take that asshole seriously. I found saying firmly “Fuck off, Cassandra” or comically booping her on the nose with my pointer finger were the responses that worked for me to feel free from her.

So on this quiet morning of sitting and writing, I glance over at Cassandra one last time and firmly say “FUCK OFF, CASSANDRA.” I say it a few more times, and I’m alone once again, free to start writing.

Do you have a Cassandra/Inner Critic that is holding you back? If so, consider reflecting on what your Inner Critic looks like, is named, what the critic says and how they speak it, etc. Perhaps share this discovery with a trusted confidant or counselor — someone who can listen without trying to fix it. Then practice responding to your critic — with force, humor, or whatever works for you.

Enneagram Inner Critic Messages and Realities

Don’t know your Enneagram type? Then head over to the Enneagram Institute and read through the 9 type descriptions to see which resonates for you (for some, it may be the one that makes you flinch).

Before you dive into the Enneagram-specific messages below: first use the reflection at the start of this newsletter to figure out how YOU best dismiss your inner critic, and then follow up with the enneagram-specific realities of your personality type below.

1: Your inner critic tends to show up when you feel like you need to justify your actions: when perhaps you make a decision not completely inline with your ideal values. It will say something like, “You’re a fraud.” After you say your version of the inner critic response, you can remind yourself, “I exist within a broken system, and I am doing the best I can. The fate of the world does not rest on me.”

2: Your inner critic tends to show up when you are caring for yourself: by taking time away, drawing a boundary with someone, or simply saying “no”. It will say something like, “You’re being selfish.” After you say your version of the inner critic response, you can remind yourself, “I take care of myself because I am worthy of care, just like everyone else.”

3: Your inner critic tends to show up when you do not succeed at a project and others see (the f-word that 3s fear: failure). It will say something like, “You’re worthless.” After you say your version of the inner critic response, you can remind yourself, “I am learning and growing, and failure is apart of that process. My value is not determined by this moment, I am worthwhile just as I am.”

4: Your inner critic tends to show up when you feel misunderstood or not seen by others. It will say something like, “You’re insignificant.” After you say your version of the inner critic response, you can remind yourself, “The gift of my personality is that I feel things deeply, not everyone will understand that, and it’s ok that I feel hurt right now. But my honesty with my feelings is a strength.”

5: Your inner critic tends to show up when you put an idea or product out into the world that you’re not sure is complete or correct. It will say something like, “You’re incompetent.” After you say your version of the inner critic response, you can remind yourself, “Taking this from my head and out into the world means I will learn and grow in my abilities. I am not starting from zero, I am bringing what I already know to the table, and this will bring me further.”

6: Your inner critic tends to show up when you lose a structure of security (a relationship, job, belief, etc.) or have to make a big decision. It will say something like, “You’re ill-equipped on your own.” After you say your version of the inner critic response, you can remind yourself, “I weigh all aspects of everything I do, deep down I know what needs to happen and that I have what I need in order to do it.”

7: Your inner critic tends to show up when you have to experience pain: whether a confrontation or acknowledging a wound. It will say something like, “You’re trapped in this pain.” After you say your version of the inner critic response, you can remind yourself, “I cannot skip this pain and move onto the next thing. The pain won’t be forever and in order for me to be truly free of this wound or to repair this relationship, I have to face this now.”

8: Your inner critic tends to show up when you feel overextended and/or need people. It will say something like, “You’re weak.” After you say your version of the inner critic response, you can remind yourself, “My needs do not make me weak, opening myself up to others (and the possibility they’ll disappoint me) makes me human. My strength is my fierce honesty and vulnerability in sharing what it means to be human and belong to people.”

9: Your inner critic tends to show up when you are in a situation where you can assert yourself and/or make a decision. It will say something like, “Your opinion doesn’t matter or your opinion is going to upset someone.” After you say your version of the inner critic response, you can remind yourself, “My opinion matters and my trusted relationships will remain secure even if my opinion is contrary to theirs.”

Recommended Resources

Two books I’m so glad I read:

  1. How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell. This book has been the most spiritually relieving and challenging content this year. It’s not a manifesto for deleting social media accounts, it’s about a rhythm of engagement, solitude, and being with people and nature beyond our curated circles. It’s political, spiritual, and grounded in art and literature.

  2. Shameless: A Sexual Reformation by Nadia Bolz-Weber. This is for readers of this newsletter who have grown up in Christian “purity” culture. This is an author who says “screw it, I’ll go first” and leads by sharing her own story with sex, harassment, shame, and spirituality (she’s a great example of a strength-through-vulnerability Enneagram 8). This book is a healing balm.

Come hang out with me!

  1. For women and nonbinary friends in the Bay Area, I’ll be teaching an Introduction to the Enneagram workshop at the Ruby in the Mission district of San Francisco on Wednesday, June 5, 6:30-8pmSign up for the workshop here!

  2. I am taking more spiritual direction clients (includes via Skype/video chat)! Want to learn more about my practice? Visit my website for more details.

Like this newsletter? If you think of someone who would enjoy this monthly email, please forward it their way. You can subscribe to Steady Magic here. Have feedback? Simply reply to this email! Happy Sunday!

How to use the Enneagram (and how NOT to)

Learn from my mistakes, friends.

Am I the only one who’s introduction to the Enneagram was being dumped? About a decade ago, my then boyfriend and I were in our early twenties and having difficulty understanding each other. A couple in our community lent us their Enneagram book, to help our confusion. I read the book first, and completely flinched when reading about the Enneagram 2. That’s how I knew my type, I felt like my brain was printed on paper.

I was so relieved to have the language to explain my motivations to my boyfriend. After he read the book — finding his type and reading mine — he realized he didn’t want to be with a 2. Harsh, but we were young and had very different visions for what we wanted in life.

So at that point I had a choice: curse the lineage of spiritual teachers and authors who created, passed down over generations, and put to print the Enneagram personality system OR fully immerse myself in it and befriend my 2 self. I’m really glad I did the latter.

I share this not only because it’s entertaining, but it’s an example of why I’m cautious about the Enneagram being popular now — the capacity for it to be used in ways to cause harm — to yourself or others.

For example: a few Enneagram 4s I know have internalized a message that the vast, beautiful feelings they have is a bad thing. That the goal is to keep a rigid schedule in order to not feel their feelings at all. This denies their spiritual gift: of being a type who can often go deeper into their feels than others and show the rest of us how to explore that sometimes intimidating landscape. Where would many creative industries be without these brave hearts?

This is why I don’t follow many of the Enneagram meme accounts (except for the Enneadog, it’s my favorite) — it dilutes or pokes fun at the very gift and vulnerable story of each type. I can make a joke at my own expense, but it’s a different experience when someone else makes light of something so personal to me. It can feel shaming or limiting.

It’s because of this that I try to refrain from telling people that their actions “are such a (insert number) thing to do!” I’m certainly guilty of this in the past and have seen first-hand how much harm that has done. Learn from my mistakes, friends.

Learn to let others self-identify — not just their type, but what ASPECTS of their type they see in themselves. Not all Enneagram 8s are loud and extroverted, but a couple of close 8 friends have explained the exact kind of control they need in certain situations to feel protected.

This is why trusted Enneagram teachers emphasize the importance of focusing on your own type and journey — and not on those around you. It’s a lot easier to stay at the surface with the Enneagram by focusing on others. But this is first and foremost a system for practicing self-understanding and self-compassion. Particularly for those of us who developed this personality pattern as a way of survival when we were children.

But going deeper into your particular number will help befriend the parts of the self that are your greatest strengths, and begin to release the rest. I will never stop being a 2, but I can see how being a healthy 2 who takes care of herself first means I can be a spiritual director who is truly helpful to my clients without strings attached.

This Enneagram language also helps in communicating your motivations and needs to those around you. Different types can have similar actions and behaviors, but sometimes the motivations and needs depend on the individual’s type. Having this language can help bridge the divide that leaves us feeling misunderstood or not seen.

I appreciate the focus on growth that the Enneagram publications teach, but often the language used is focused mostly on challenging your type and highlighting each type’s shortcomings. Which is one way to motivate people to get out of those cycles of personality. But what I’ve come to see recently, is that kind of focus on the shortcomings can add to the intensity of the inner critical stories we tell ourselves. I’ve definitely been there and have physically hidden my Enneagram books under my bed. Sometimes, the spiritual invitation is to be with our natural gifts. So for this month the suggested Enneagram practices below are focused on doing just that — embracing the gifts of our personality. Can you take some time this week and rest with the strength you already embody?

Enneagram Suggested Practices for Embracing the Gift of Your Type

Don’t know your Enneagram type? Then head over to the Enneagram Institute and read through the 9 type descriptions to see which resonates for you (for some, that may be the one that makes you flinch).

1: Rather than reflecting on the ways you’re falling short of your ethics, spend time this week recording how you HAVE used your gifts of justice, organization, and process to contribute to the vision of the better world you want to bring into existence. Bookmark this page in your journal or hang the list somewhere you can see it regularly.

2: You can at times feel conflicted about your motivations with helping. Reflect this week on a recent time where you read someone, understood what support they needed, and gave that help with no strings attached. Take time to feel your abilities and strengths in that situation — where in your body do you sense it? Take that with you.

3: When a project is completed, it’s tempting to move with lightning speed onto the next project. How can you this week take some time to celebrate and savor what you have already completed, achieved, brought into existence? Enjoy looking at the analytics and results of a recent project, you earned it! Remind yourself that you, in fact, have done a lot!

4: A common internal critical story you tell yourself is your feelings are a weakness, or are “too much.” Like I mentioned in the above reflection, this denies your gift of going deep with your feels and showing the rest of us how to do the same. This week celebrate your gift by exploring the lineage of 4s who paved a new way in the field of your choosing: art, technology, etc. Reflect on your feelings when you see the brave hearts you belong to.

5: While you may think you are less capable or skilled than those around you, your gift of curiosity, deep searching, and ability to test assumptions makes your insights invaluable! This week write out a list of times when you experienced yourself as deeply competent. Add to this list the instances that respected people affirmed your abilities. Look over this list, see what arises for you.

6: While you may feel immersed in a sea of self-doubt, you are, in fact, one of the best-equipped types to make complex, informed decisions. Think back on a recent time where you were able to weigh all the factors of a particular problem and arrive at solution that produced great results. Pat yourself on the back for it (seriously, do it).

7: Sometimes, the limitless possibility of ideas and experiences can feel overwhelming. But your generosity and ability to curate meaningful experiences and connections for others is a great gift to the world. Think back on an experience or project you created that you savored alongside your loved ones. Savor it again now, notice where in your body you feel that sparkle.

8: You may feel like your strength and direct communication can come off like “a bull in a china shop,” but this week can you embrace your high capacity for making real sustained change happen? Reflect on a time you spoke truth or created something that made a mark on a community or organization for the better. Tell a friend and let them celebrate you (this may make you squirm a little).

9: Sometimes you may feel like you fade into the background. But you are, in fact, visible and have impact on your environment. This week look around your home — notice the colors, patterns, and textures of your sacred space. Look at your people, how much you see and understand them. The care you bring to your home and people are a very tangible part of who you are, and give glimpses at your gift of compassion for others and artistry. Find an object from your home or photo of a loved one and “show and tell” about that artifact to a friend.

Recommended Resources

My Enneagram Starter Kit:

  1. The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Ross Hudson (Book to have as a reference on your shelf and a solid place to begin the journey).

  2. The Road Back to You: Looking at Life Through the Lens of the Enneagram by Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile (Podcast of interviews with different folks describing how they experience their particular Enneagram type. Warning: this is a Christian podcast, so there’s religious language. If that’s not a trigger for you, there’s great content in there no matter your spiritual identity. They aren’t creating new episodes anymore, but the archived episodes are worth it.)

  3. Know Your Type (Phone app that has kind of an outdated design, but the “excel at interactions” section is worth the $3 in my opinion.)

Some resources by yours truly:

  1. For women and nonbinary friends in the Bay Area, I’ll be teaching an Introduction to the Enneagram workshop at the Ruby in the Mission district of San Francisco on Wednesday, June 5, 6:30-8pm. Sign up for the workshop here!

  2. I was on an episode of Radical Advice on BFF.fm talking about my journey in therapy, spiritual direction vs. coaching vs. therapy, and what song I’ll knock people over to get to the dance floor. Listen to the episode here!

  3. I am taking more spiritual direction clients (which includes via Skype and other video chat platforms)! Want to learn more about my practice? Visit my website for more details.

Like this newsletter? If you think of someone who would enjoy this monthly email, please forward it their way. You can subscribe to Steady Magic here. Have feedback? Simply reply to this email! Happy Sunday!

Ending in order to begin

Change never ceases to surprise me. Or rather, my reaction to change. Particularly, happy change.

This newsletter is a little later than I planned because of a happy change: I moved in with my incredible person, G. This loving relationship is going to a next chapter. And yet, this decision, one we’ve been weighing for months, once made, was met with doubt, fear, and grief. Which for me turned to guilt. Why wasn’t I blissed out or floating on air?

I don’t hear people talking enough about change being incredibly difficult. Especially the kind of change someone has been chasing for months or years. That the chase or striving changes — even stops for a while, to just be. That shifting of pace, for me, is unsettling.

And in this striving towards the happy change, I had forgotten about the ending of the old. For me, saying goodbye to my 150 square foot studio apartment by the Pacific Ocean. This little home had been the blank canvas for me to figure out who I was on my own. It was my first time living completely alone. Previously, I always had roommates who decorated. My therapist said, “Your homework in this season is figuring out who you are and having that reflected in some way in your space.” It also was the space I struggled with my loneliness and sense of self beyond any relationship. It held me on the days I felt so heavy I couldn’t get out of bed. It hosted small parties of three around my table. It was affordable enough that, on a nonprofit salary, I could live on my own in San Francisco. I was pretty proud of that space and chapter. And I wanted to honor it, before moving into a spacious flat with G.

So I said goodbye on my last night there, alone. I had a grand vision of holding a ceremonial time of appreciation, complete with writing a well-crafted letter to the studio. But when the evening came, I was overcome with grief. I didn’t realize how much this change meant until I was binging on nachos and vampire tv. So I did what the space taught me — I held myself in the heavy and was gentle with my reaction. I did take a meditative look around the room one last time before removing the art from the walls, and wrote a poorly-constructed thank you note. The next morning, I woke up lighter. Happy for the next chapter. And really happy that I said goodbye, as best I could.

Is there a change happening or coming in the future for you? I invite you to take this time to reflect on what that change is (or could be), and also what will be ending in order for this beginning. How would you like to honor (and grieve) this ending?

Enneagram Suggested Practices for Change

Don’t know your Enneagram type? Then head over to the Enneagram Institute and read through the 9 type descriptions to see which resonates for you (for some, that may be the one that makes you flinch).

1: If this change is in line with your mission or vision, you’re likely VERY excited to take action. If the change is derailing you from that vision, there’s going to be a lot of grief. Either situation, there are very real feelings that you are ignoring or putting off while you are preparing for or healing from the change. Feelings are messy and complicated, there is no right or perfect way to move through them. Which is so annoying, I know :/ What if you felt into the messy by getting messy yourself? Pull out the finger paints or get into the garden, and see what surfaces. As much as you are able, release self-assessment or judgement, and feel the dirt or paint between your fingers.

2: Looking on the sunny side of change is a gift of your personality but also a defense. Grief or negative feelings do not make you selfish or needy, they make you human. Having those negative feelings in the face of something happy does not make you ungrateful. If the change is sad, all the more reason to not diminish it by only talking about the silver lining. Take some time to journal alone on the grief of change (whether happy or sad) that is lying beneath the surface. Share what you discover with your closest confidant. I promise you, they will still love you as you are working through your complex feelings.

3: Depending on what the change is you are trying to view it through an either or lens: is this change a success or failure? How will others view it? No matter what the change is, your invitation this season is to see a little bit of success AND failure in each. Maybe this failed relationship or job has valuable lessons to be learned. Or this promotion or next step has grief or shortcomings to it. Rarely is life either or. Feel into the grey during your contemplative practice (ex: meditation/prayer, yoga, walk, etc). Think about what is the truest expression of this change to you, not what is most palatable for others.

4: In a season of change, you can rest your laurels on being a feels expert. You can roll up your sleeves and go deep. The danger zone for you though is slipping into shame and getting stuck there. Boxes won’t get packed, job applications sit in your drafts folder, or some other distracting project suddenly becomes crucial (when you know it isn’t). But here’s the thing, that’s ok. <3 Despite being a feels expert, feelings can still overwhelm you. They overwhelm every single Enneagram type. Practice self-compassion during this time by creating art from these feels, but also plan some structured time to get outside as a way to ward off soaking in it to a point that hurts you. Then get back to your space and start taking the next steps the change requires.

5: Whether the change is good or bad, it will be new. That is a thrilling and terrifying prospect for you. On the one hand, it is a new problem to solve, a new landscape for careful observation and your endless supply of curiosity. On the other hand, though it is a moment where your competency can be tested. Fear of failure or of being vulnerable is a normal reaction. And while you are not one to shy away from introspection on your feelings about this change, you may not be cluing others into the intense season you are going through. This is a great time to ask a friend to listen to your processing. We all need people at times of change, including you. It doesn’t mean you are less competent or equipped for life, just that you are human.

6: Oof, change. You are incredibly loyal, so either the change was a decision that took A LOT of strategic thinking (and likely outside support from your people), or the rug has been pulled out from under you and you are feeling vulnerable. If it’s the latter, take time to grieve. I’m so sorry your dedication was revoked. Perhaps now is a good time to process through creative expression (writing, music, photography, etc.) If you made this decision, you are pumped to strategize going through this change: packing the boxes just right, proving yourself at the new job. Enjoy it. Pat yourself on the back. You don’t make change lightly.

7: When change is on the horizon, you tend to look forward towards the exciting possibility of what is to come, rather than what you are leaving behind. Looking back can be painful, of course. But also, you cannot fast forward this transitional space to the next sparkly thing. You can try, but it means you aren’t fully integrating what this previous chapter is offering, or making those you may be leaving not feel valued. What if you host a celebration for the transition? You are the best at organizing special experiences. Push through the resistance to offer up a few words of gratitude and sadness to the chapter or people you’re leaving behind. I promise it will help you even more savor what’s next.

8: You bring your leadership everywhere you go, and change is no exception. You face this new chapter like the challenge and opportunity it is: something you will win. And you probably will win. But feeling like the superhero, even if only just to yourself, is a lonely place. You can go through this change on your own, but do you really want to? You can still be strong and want people’s help and support. Ask a trusted friend to come over and put their arm around you (or whatever supportive gesture you want), while you process through this change. It’s not weak to need community, it’s human.

9: Your way of moving through life is to keep things stable and peaceful. Change — whether happy or sad, your call or not your call — is going to feel overwhelming because it is a disruption of the current state. Your tendency may be to minimize its impact on you, or to ignore it entirely. But avoiding it isn’t going to stop it, nor your underlying reaction to it. Your reaction may feel delayed: you may cry long after you’ve moved and unpacked, feel the excitement of the new job a few weeks after starting. That’s ok! Make space for the eventual surfacing of the feels: a gift of your personality is being able to create a comfortable environment. Bring out your favorite candle, favorite lap blanket, and your journal/sketchpad, and welcome whatever arrives.

Recommended Reading & Listening

A friend recently introduced me to Still Processing, a weekly podcast put on by two culture writers from the New York Times. And it truly is about culture, but also so much more. Through the lens of culture: popular culture, history, news, and their own experiences, these hosts tap into what it is to be human. I am at a loss for proper words about their episode on Apology, but trust me, just listen. Through to the end, where they model how to actually do a proper apology (vs. what we’ve seen in the media).

If you’re into self-help books, By the Book is a podcast hosted by two women who live through a different book for two weeks each episode. It is equal parts earnest and hilarious (one of the hosts is a stand-up comedian), and unafraid to rip apart ridiculous self-help books (cough Four Hour Work Week).

Shameless self-promotion: I wrote a short story for this memoir zine and it’s officially out! You can buy it online or, if you live in San Francisco or New York, you can get it at one of these local retailers.

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