And, here are 8 steps to start leveling up in your life.
By Cindy Yantis
"Level up!" This was the attention grabber in a recent email I received.
What is actually said was, "Level up, Libra!" It began the week's horoscope full of "time for a mid-year reboot," and "the new moon will bring a boost to your professional life." Okay, I'm in!
I love the phrase "level up." Not only is it motivating, but it got me thinking about what that might look like in all areas of life.
What does it mean to level up?
Simply put, it means to improve your current station in a way that feels like a powerful shift. And, it starts with a change in thought, a shift in mindset, followed by brave action. And, the fuel that drives all of it is Passion.
No sooner had I begun pondering this question when an another email popped into my inbox with the subject line, "Level up the passion in your life." Well, now I'm really paying attention. The email was about a yoga retreat and this Nelson Mandela quote was front and center.
“There is no passion to be found playing small–in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela
So, with passion powering us, here are some thoughts about leveling up.
Start with the questions - Take time with your journal. In these areas of your life, where do want to step, or leap, to the next level?
Career/Purpose - stretch your wildest dreams
Health/Wellbeing - get real with where you are and where you want to be
Relationships - current as well as future-desired
Spiritual - where you desire to be more mindful and conscious in connection to your Source & Self
Life Enrichment - skills you want to learn, places you want to travel or live
Define the big step - ask yourself what feels like a big step. I took 10 minutes and made a list of 25 actions that feel like big steps for me, in all areas of my life. What is for you? Is it making that phone call you know could change things for you? Or booking a venue for a new program you want to launch? Or asking someone out? Or booking the dream vacation? Or having a difficult conversation? Or going back to school? Or quitting a job that doesn't fulfill you? Or hiring a trainer? Go to the place that scares you. Start your big step from that place.
Say YES to the things that feel like a level up - and say NO to those that don't. Some aid you and some stop you. This is where you trust your gut and intuition. When you slow down to listen to the voice of your body, you'll know which is which.
Acknowledge the Yeah-Buts - we all have them. These are the fears, which feel real but mostly are imagined. The yeah-buts are simply expectations of outcome that we've made up to protect ourselves from those fears: I'm not good enough, they won't like me, I don't have enough time, I'm too old, it's too expensive, I'm too fat, I'm too young, I don't have enough experience, I don't like to fail. Leveling up is recognizing the yeah-but and then doing it anyway. That's brave. So, meet the yeah-but with -
Oh yeah? - it's the self-pep talk to squash the yeah-but. Oh yeah? Here's what I know I am good at. Oh yeah? My people, my divine right matches will love what I have to offer. Oh yeah? I have the time because I make the time. Oh yeah? I'm not old I'm seasoned! I'm not old, I'm wise. Oh yeah? I'm not too young, I'm smart and eager and ready to go. Oh yeah? Here's what experience I do have. Putting the focus on where you rock paves the way to your next level(s).
Inhale the future, exhale the past - don't stay stuck in old stories and patterns that have held you back in the past. It didn't work then and it certainly won't work in moving you up.
Visualize you - living at your up level. What does it look like, feel like, smell like? How's the air up there? See in your mind's eye a day in the life of you, living your big life.
Give someone else a lift up too - offering others a hand up as you level up pays dividends exponentially. It's just good karma.
And, as with all things, do it from and with passion.
“Nothing is as important as passion. No matter what you want to do with your life, be passionate.” – Jon Bon Jovi
Passion, joy and love. After all, isn't that what life is all about anyway?
It often comes when you're not expecting it. At least it did for me.
Photo credit: Yoann Boyer
It was the middle of the night. The year was 2002. I was tossing and turning, thrashing in and out of the sheets because I alternated between sweating and freezing. No, I wasn’t ill. No, I wasn’t having a hot flash. But, my breath was hot as I sighed, the weight of the world on each exhale.
Dark Night of the Soul
I’ve come to understand I was having what could be known as a “dark night of the soul.”
The origin of this phrase goes back to a 16th century poem by Spanish Poet St. John of the Cross, where the poem narrates "the journey of the soul to mystical union with God." Eckhart Tolle defines it today as, “…a collapse of a perceived meaning in life, an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaningless…what really has collapsed is the whole conceptual framework for your life, the meaning that your mind had given it.”
This was exactly what was happening to me. My mind was engaged in a war of purpose, while I pleaded, cried, even screamed in prayer.
Ever had one of those, a dark night of the soul? It can be triggered by any number of things – anything that can rock your current existence, from a personal tragedy or loss, to a deep feeling of loss of direction or purpose.
But, as Eckhart said, the dark night of the soul “awakens you into something deeper… A deeper sense of purpose or connectedness with a greater life. It’s a kind of re-birth.” A spiritual awakening.
Well, I’ve experienced a few nights (and days) like this as I’ve evolved and grown in my human experience and as my consciousness has expanded. And, they can be gut and heart wrenching to go through. But, there are two that stand out as re-birth moments in my purpose – in 2002 and very recently – and what’s so mysterious and awesome is that they’re connected.
But back in 2002, it had been four years since I’d uprooted my life in Michigan to move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the arts, acting particularly at the time. I’d had a few trickles of success: some theatre roles, a co-star spot on NYPD BLUE, and several national commercials (McDonald’s paid for the redecoration of my West Hollywood condo). And, I had started writing, mostly so I could write roles for myself in which I could act. I wrote and starred in a tiny short film that I used to help me get an agent. I wrote a piece for an industry workshop. And, I wrote my first script, which placed in a prestigious screenwriting competition and helped me get my first literary manager.
But, so much of it felt like an uphill climb. I felt like I had a gift, but I felt split. I enjoyed the making of the art, but the business was daunting. And, if I’m being honest, which at this point that’s all I can be, I wasn’t sure I wanted the acting thing badly enough to do what I knew it was going to take, that being a gorilla approach to self-promotion. Whenever I did it, it didn’t feel authentic. And, I certainly didn’t enjoy it. And, truthfully, I didn’t think I was a good enough actor to break through the fray of other actors who really, really, really wanted it. The writing was still fairly new, although I’ve been writing in one form or another since I was ten. And, I didn’t know what to do with it, really. Self-promotion was going to be involved with that too.
So anyway. That night. With the soul. Some of these unvoiced and hidden truths were swimming around in my subconscious. Some of them I wasn’t ready to admit because I was determined to find my purpose, and I didn’t give up easily. As a lifelong seeker that was a force that was innate. My body was in pain as I stiffened on top of my mattress; my mouth was dry and I became aware that I was constantly sighing heavily, audibly a whisper of wanting that led to my conversation with God, my Source, my Higher Wisdom.
“God, what am I to do? Why is this so difficult? If it’s my purpose shouldn’t it be easier?”
The silence was beyond deafening, until another sigh of desperation exploded from me. “Why did you give me these gifts?” More silence. My cat, Callie, who had previously become very bored with my bed-top one-woman show of angst, came slinking back into the room. Like she wanted to hear the answer to this as well.
“Please help me. What am I supposed to do?”
And, then it came. An answer I wasn’t expecting, but it was very direct, short and surprisingly sweet. It made me bolt up from bed.
“Write meaningful prose that will change people’s lives.”
What? I can tell you, those were not my words. I didn’t use the word prose. But, that’s what I was told. “Write meaningful prose that will change people’s lives.”
Was that the call of my calling?
That’s when it became the “aha night” when I heard the call of the soul.
My body relaxed as I settled into this new mantra of truth. A mantra that has carried me ever since. So, my focus became writing. I’ve evolved into a pretty good storyteller, screenwriting mostly, my wheelhouse being characters, primarily women, who are in self-discovery, smart, sardonic women with big flaws. Heroines who also have dark nights of the soul. And, there’s movement around a few of them, although it’s Hollywood movement, which can mimic molasses. I’m okay with that though. All in the right timing, with the right people. And, this blog Thought Changer, was birthed from that mantra as it's about changing your life, an idea, an expression, a thought at a time.
Calling fulfilled? Maybe. At times it feels that way.
But, something has recently shifted around it, causing more angst. Oy!
After breaking my wrist and taking the time to reassess priorities, I decided to concentrate on writing a novel that I’ve been researching for awhile.
Also, during this time of rehabilitation I’d engaged with a couple of healers for energy healing sessions. Now, this may sound a little woo-woo for some, but hey this is my world, these are my peeps and it’s how I roll. So, hang with me. I love exploring different healing modalities and they have opened up my life and expanded my mind. Anyway, during the course of the sessions with both of these women, they received strong messages from my angels, spirit guides and loved ones that I’m supposed to do some more deep writing about myself. Both of them said the same thing, on separate occasions: I have a story of my own to tell. And, I said, "Aw thanks. I’ll definitely do that some day." And then I filed it away under the category “maybe someday when I’m interesting.” But these readings happened at a time when there was a lot of quiet in my life, so I heard it on a deeper level. Oh, and they also gave me specific topics and events I’m supposed to write about. Yeah, I know, but that's exactly what happened.
Well, that scared the crap out of me. I think because I knew what that was going to mean. Raw, hard truths that are challenging enough to admit to myself, let alone put out there to the world for others to read. And, my perception is that memoirists have really interesting lives that include huge events - often tragic and dysfunctional family lives - that catapult them into subjects of literary fame. I don't have that. I have a wonderful family that functions pretty well, most of the time.
But, there are some dark and transforming moments, as with any life. So, what did I do? I decided my new novel would be based on some real events in my life. I gave the main character some of my story, writing actual scenes from my life into it and recreating them. That way, I could embellish them and create a much more interesting story that what mine is or would be. That felt like the perfect solution! Much easier to hide behind a fictional character than to reveal anything messy about myself. I don’t show the world my messy. And, I could really write it! Write what you know, right? So, I wrote a few of those chapters and laid out a kickass outline that I was excited about.
Then, I stopped writing. I literally couldn’t write. I researched and made notes. But, I wasn’t writing the novel. I didn't know what to do with her, this character that was sort of me, but wasn't at all me. Procrastination became an appointment in my daily calendar. And. It. Was. Frustrating. Any prolificacy that I’d previously experienced when on a project had left the building.
When the Call Comes Again
So, I created a weekend writing retreat to help me focus. I got a lot done, both on the novel outline and the blog. I was tapping into some deep work. Although something was still in the way, scenes just weren't forming.
As part of the retreat I took part in an herbal tea meditation and breath workshop. The healing breath work was very intense. As the practitioner, Melissa Terese Young, told us, the consistent and deep breath pattern when done for an extended period of time (we did it for close to an hour) over oxygenates your brain and body and puts you into a meditative, and at times alternative, state. A lot came up for me during the session around my novel, my work and more aspirational questions than answers came forth.
That night, in bed, is when the 2nd night of the soul took place. Tossing and turning. I couldn’t sleep and I was feeling a collision of purpose coming. The difference this time is I had some sense of navigation because I’d been here before. So, again I prayed and I asked, “What is stopping me?” “Why have I been so stuck in my writing?” “Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?” "Please guide me on what's next."
In the silence that followed, a small voice came. “Write meaningful prose that will change YOUR life.” Hmmm. It went on. “Take your story back and tell your own story.” And, the deeper message I got was that the more I dove into my own truths, pains, revelations and transformations, the deeper the connection will be with those who read it, connection to that deep wanting and truth within themselves too.
Now that is a calling that rings really true. And, it petrifies me.
"Every time I picked up a pen, this grinding, unnamed fear overcame me—later identified as fear that my real self would spill out. One can’t mount a stripper pole wearing a metal diving suit. What I needed to write kept simmering up while I wrote down everything but that. In fact, I kept ginning out reasons that writing reality was impossible. I cranked up therapy and drank like a fish.” ― Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir
So, I’m committing to it, to writing those scenes from my own life, whether it’s about the loss of a baby and a marriage, the depths of food addiction, the perils of the hysterically funny and tragic voices in my head as I discovered boys and ran up against mean girls, the shame of pretty, the Miss America Pageant, the path of being a childless woman, the eye-opening metaphors that shifted my perspective and my own spiritual exploration, from Sunday school to shamanic journeys in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle. It’s all game and I have no idea what it’s going to look like or what path the story will take.
But, it’s calling. So, I’m answering the call. And guess what? It's pouring out of me, like a waterfall of life.
So, how do you know when your call is calling?
The best way I know is to:
Ask those deep questions - and then get quiet. Really quiet.
Listen intently - to what your inner voice tells you. It may be a soft whisper, or it may be a shout that makes you jump out of bed.
Pay attention - when your entire being feels in accord with that voice, pay close attention.
What is a soul’s purpose? Contemplating that question takes a lifetime, right?
When do I feel like I’m in my purpose? I think it’s when things feel easy. Things are flowing, like a river of motion, smoothly going from one moment to the next.
Like when I put together the agenda for a recent Writing Retreat. I was looking for a theme to drive the agenda, something that would inspire creativity and would release blocks and procrastination which is something I’ve been struggling with, frankly something we all struggle with from time to time.
I ran across an article where the subject interviewed mentioned “circadian rhythm,” which is the body's natural alarm clock governed primarily by our secretion of melatonin (at night) and serotonin (in day). It also has value in gauging the best time for certain activities like meditation and exercise and optimal productivity. The top of my head tingled when I read that. By the way, that’s another way I know I’ve tapped into my soul, the top of my head actually tingles, which I take to be a nod of agreement from my higher self. Some people get chills or their stomach flips. My head tingles. So there you go!
Anyway, I saw the phrase 'circadian rhythm' and immediately did a search on how using our own rhythms help us to find the time of greatest productivity. Something told me it would mean the same thing for greatest creativity time. And, a ton of items showed up on Google. As soon as I pulled up an image of what a typical circadian rhythm 24-hour clock looks like, I knew I was onto something, not only as a theme but also as a way of always staying in flow with my natural rhythm. I mean who doesn’t want to be able to tap into their greatest genius? And if there’s a formula already built into our own bodies, then it’s something worth exploring further. This was an experiment I was excited to try.
So, very quickly, I put together the 2-½ day agenda based on the circadian clock.
Looking back at that small window of time when I created the retreat – about 2-½ hours between 830-11pm – it flowed so easily that I barely remember being a part of it. It’s like something else came in and took over. And, I figured out what it was. My soul took the wheel, grabbed the keyboard away from my procrastinating ass and did its thing, with purpose.
Purpose. What an over used term. Everyone’s looking for his or her purpose.
I was thinking earlier about all of my blog content that I’ve written over the last several years. I’m in the process of re-purposing some of the pieces for other web publications.
Now that’s a interesting concept. Taking something that was created in one original form, and giving it another purpose. Sometimes, it means adjusting, updating or adding to give it new purpose.
That got me thinking more about Purpose. Since it seems to be a lifelong pursuit, seeking or understanding our soul’s purpose, maybe it takes a little of the pressure off (because it’s a question that always needs to be answered and re-answered) if perhaps we instead re-purpose, or tweak, what we’ve been doing all along. I guess that’s one way to think about it.
We recently celebrated my parent’s 80th birthdays by taking them on a memorable trip to Maui. During one of our discussions I asked them what they are thinking about these days. My dad’s response took me a little by surprise. I assumed it would be about finding contentment with the road already travelled and counting the blessings of a life well lived. But, no. He said, “I think about what’s next. What’s my purpose and how can I fulfill it?”
I loved his response because it drove the point home even more for me, that we are here in this lifetime to seek. That’s it. And, those who do seek are always seeking more: more evolvement, more connection, more meaning, more flow.
So, getting back to the question: what’s a soul’s purpose? To my way of thinking a soul’s purpose is to reveal those answers to our human selves, when we’re ready and able to learn them. Then, it’s up to us to take those answers and make the most of them in our time on Earth.
A soul’s purpose is not about making money or being famous or having 10,000,000 followers on Twitter or You Tube or Instagram. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But, that in itself is about one layer deep of shallow. However if it’s done from a place of self-evolving, or by a person who is creating meaning, in both deed and relationships, and living a life driven by love, then it can be a lovely byproduct of a purpose.
I wonder if those who don’t have that sense of awareness find fulfillment in those tangible successes. And, is it sustaining?
I can get caught up in that sometimes. I’m at a quandary sometimes as to why some things are found and followed and go viral and other things aren’t. It gives me a stomachache even writing that. Why the stomachache? What do I have attached to that? My mouth is dry. Hard to admit, but sometimes I feel like a failure because I don’t have that huge following. And, now I stop and think, will I be brave enough to keep this paragraph in here, it I decide to publish this as a post?
But, there’s something in here for me to learn, I think, so I have to keep it in. What is it? Does my soul care about how many followers I have? No. But, sometimes I, the egotist human, do. I really do want to share thoughts that may help someone think about something differently.
So, why do I keep doing it? Maybe I should focus on writing somewhere else that already has a built-in huge following. But, that doesn't feel soul-driven. At all. So perhaps the idea of re-purposing is more ego driven? It doesn't have to be. Is it ego to want to share good thoughts with more people? I don’t think so. I keep asking the questions in order to stay in awareness around it. That usually leads me to the right choice.
Should it feel hard sometimes? Probably. Growth is hard. Expansion hurts sometimes.
So, what’s next in the soul’s journey quest? Here’s the magic sauce.
Keep asking the questions.
Our soul’s wisdom loves questions. Living the questions is what makes a purpose-full life. Deepak Chopra talks about living the questions and allowing the answers to present themselves.
What’s my purpose?
How can I contribute?
What am I to share with the world?
What’s my legacy?
How am I to connect?
What is my life’s meaning?
Keep doing the work.
Keep following the flow.
Recognize when it feels really good. And, do more of what feels really good.
Always ask your Source for help: for me it's God, the Archangels and ancestral spirit guides. Every day, I ask them to guide me in the direction of what serves both my highest good and theirs. Just asking the question has guided me to the awesome place I live and it has guided me to events and people that have changed my life.
That’s the magic sauce, I think, for a purpose-full life. At least one worth tasting.
When I pulled the word prompt card of the day, these two were stuck together. Exploration and risk. Are they meant to be linked? The two words often appear together when talking about science, business and space: Exploration and the risk assessment thereof.
But, it got me thinking about how a marriage between the two ideas offers an interesting allegory for life.
I think of exploration as a road of discovery. Forging around corners of the unknown. Being open to newness. Trying things on for size. Dipping into an experience before fully committing. Digging deep in the microcosm of a thing and then connecting the dots and meaning therein.
So, an explorer? An explorer is a seeker, a questioner, a non-settler. Can an explorer ever really be settled, or are they not happy unless in the field of exploration? Always looking around the next bend?
Risk on the other hand, to my way of thinking, takes exploration to the next level. To safely explore is coloring within the lines. Certainly nothing wrong with that, although often the outcome can be rather beige.
However exploration with risk, skating on the edge of discomfort, where a choice made could be dangerous in terms of success or failure, yet doing it anyway: that’s risky exploration and is about being truly alive.
Risk-takers often jump without a net, the ultimate in self-trust. They dance in the precipice between staying small and living large.
The time that comes to mind for me is when I made the big cross country move from Michigan to LA to pursue the arts. I had never lived more than three hours from home and I was leaving my comfort zone and everything I knew to forge and explore the bumpy road of discovery. It felt like a big risk because I was heading into the unknown in a much bigger way than I'd done before. I could fail, fall flat on my face. But, I went anyway and it was such an exciting, temperature-raising time in my life.
Risk doesn’t have to be through grand public gestures. Internal risk involves leaping outside of our comfort zone. In fact, the switch often has to happen there, internally, before the great things transpire in our world.
The pillow talk between these two bedfellows is passionate and limitless and at times volatile, volatile only in terms of their mutual vibration, vibration that pushes them beyond what or who they were before. Surrendering to this powerful marriage means to continually step up, to grab onto exploration and risk and go, simply go. It’s momentum and marks the powerful agreement that this undeniable nuptial demands.
Now that’s a tête-à-tête I want to be a part of. I’ll even share the pillow.