Tomorrow I embark on one of my life’s greatest challenges and adventures. I will be taking a six-week sabbatical.
The word sabbatical is defined by the dictionary as a period of rest. Honoring that, I will not be checking email, social media or doing any professional work until November. I will be reading, creating, playing with my kids and traveling the world.
I’m a total amateur at taking time off, or self-care in general. I have never taken a break like this before, not even during maternity leave. (which for entrepreneurs can be kind of a joke) In fact, I don’t think I’ve EVER taken more than a week off to this degree. There will be a Part 2 to this blog post upon my return, where I will share the lessons I learned during this experience as well as pragmatic advice for anyone feeling called to do something similar.
I will begin today with WHY I’m doing this. I believe understanding the reasons for taking a sabbatical are more important than the nuts of bolts of pulling it off. Clarity rules.
Recently I was on vacation in Rocky Mountain National Park. I was feeling a bit frazzled in wrestling with a challenge in my business, and needed some fresh air. I went for a walk, and ended up on a trail through the national park. I was alone, and didn’t tell anyone where I was going. None of this was on purpose, I was just following my instincts.
It was dusk, and about 15 minutes into the hike I found myself in a forest of dead trees. While death is something we as human beings do our best to avoid, I felt a strange peace. I also felt as if I wasn’t alone – like the forest was quite alive, despite its appearance. Like it was whispering to me.
Having nothing to lose and feeling a bit at the end of my rope in some of my internal struggles, I tossed my ego aside and started talking back to the forest. I asked what messages it had for me, and told it that I was listening. I closed my eyes and just stood there with my arms outstretched, in silence. While I didn’t audibly hear anything during that time, I felt myself opening to something bigger than my brain to help me figure out what’s next.
After a few minutes, I continued walking the trail, with a new sense of peace and assurance that I was not alone – far from it. I looked ahead about 100 yards to where the trail made a bend around a curve, and decided I’d walk to that point and then turn back and hike home to my cabin. It was starting to get dark. About halfway to that exact spot, was the moment my heart simultaneously stopped and raced…
Coming directly towards me on the trail was a huge black bear.
She was on all fours, just meandering in my direction. She was not on the attack, yet my only context of bears at this point was certain death. I was going to get eaten.
Thankfully I didn’t do anything too stupid or offensive to warrant that fate. I ended up sneaking out of the forest, and staying far enough away that I didn’t provoke her. My ego kept telling me I was in danger, but my spirit knew better. I was totally safe. She meant me no harm. She was just the messenger.
Hiking back for 15 minutes with a bear behind me was unnerving, but I finally arrived home to my cabin community. Naturally, I went straight to the bar in the lodge and ordered a beer. Then I Googled what it could possibly mean to cross paths with a bear.
I learned from the mystical internet a possible explanation:
“The bear is an animal that lives a solitary life. Having a bear as a spirit animal can mean that you find balance and comfort in solitude. The presence of this power animal could point to the need to “regroup” and set up boundaries, so you feel comfortable in your own space. It may be a call to find time away from the crowd or busyness and favor quiet time and rest. The bear spirit can also be a great helper to dedicate time and energy to more introspective practices, such as self-inquiry or meditation. Call on the spirit of the bear to help you find your center and ground yourself in a strong foundation that will support you in more busy and noisy times.”
This resonated with me. Thankfully, I had some mentors who served as cheerleaders and guides as I made this choice to step away for awhile. (Thank you Gayle, Andy, Kelly and Jules.)
After I returned home to Boulder after the bear incident, I was walking down Pearl Street and passed my favorite art gallery. In the front window? A painting of a huge, beautiful bear (pictured above). It was created by an artist named Linda Israel who coincidentally resides in the same town I saw the bear. Seeing it reminded me of my long-abandoned desire to learn to paint, which is an activity I will be spending time on during my hibernation.
Here’s my reality right now: I’ve had an epic 3 years. Since 2012, many things have happened. I had a baby. I woke up spiritually. I sold my company. I got divorced. I moved to Boulder. I started a company. I fell in love. I lost some friends. I found myself.
Today I find myself on the other side of an impressive amount of drama and anxiety. In my line of work, I help people discover and step into their truth, then share it with the world. I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t do this myself. And the reality about truth is sometimes the road to find it is painful, because you have to un-do all the inauthentic aspects of your life. It can really, really suck – especially when parts of your life were once authentic, and the contract has simply expired.
It can be painful to evolve.
Now I’m a bit exhausted, but I have a lot to show for the hard work. My kids are doing awesome. My ex-husband and I are super friendly and collaborative co-parents. He is happily partnered with a lovely woman who is kind to my kids. I am in love with a man who has taught me so much about conscious relationship. I have a dream job. The 150 clients I’ve worked with in the past 3 years bring tears to my eyes when I think about all the awesomeness they are bravely birthing into the world. I love my cozy mid-century-mod home, I am inspired in my office and have started getting serious about self-care and health.
On the other side of a truth journey, it’s joyful and freeing. But while you’re in it, it’s exhausting. I’m learning that afterwards, one must reflect, re-group and re-charge.
So here I am, on the cusp of signing off for awhile. The fact is, I’m terrified that I can’t jump on Facebook to connect with you all. I’m scared of not emailing new clients to set up work for the future, which for an entrepreneur like me translates into financial security. I’m wary to surrender to my first hibernation project of KonMari-ing my entire existence. (If you’ve ever read the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you know what I’m talking about.) I’m curious how I will deal with the inevitable worries around worth, value and contribution as I essentially do nothing but rest.
Maybe the world needs more being and less doing. More introspecting and less judging. More play, less work. More balance, less addiction.
I wonder if doing nothing is exactly what I need to accomplish everything?
Signing off now for my Bearcation. See you on the flip side.