5 Ways to Find Your Life Purpose

DailyUrbanista.com invited me to be a guest blogger.
dailyurbanista.com/2016/10/13/how-to-find-your-life-purpose

How do you define success? Is it earning the “perfect” paycheck, holding a career title, or owning a house with large square footage?

What if you’ve achieved these things, but you’re still unhappy? Is that being successful?

What if true success is defined as living your life’s purpose so you experience more joy and easier flow?

Since I’ve adopted this definition, I’ve changed the way I live. This has been a tricky transition, because it’s counterproductive to what my parents and professors taught. But, incorporating these lessons has helped me become unstuck from limiting beliefs that were holding me back from living with inner peace, deeper meaning and bliss.

I bet they can help you live with a stronger sense of well-being too.

  1. Not sure what your life purpose is? Consult your Inner 8 Year Old and Future Elder Warrioress.

If you’re uncertain what your unique gift is, look to your childhood. What did you love to do that made your heart sing and time fly? Even if you haven’t done that activity in years, the desire is still within you. Those activities that give you pure joy are breadcrumb clues to your life’s purpose.

Have a conversation with your future Elder Warrioress. What would this wise, seasoned version of yourself urge you to do before reaching the last day of your life or else you’ll regret not doing it? The answer is an indicator toward your purpose.

  1. Believe your path can be easy.

We all have choices in life, and one of those choices involves seeing the world through fear or love.

You can view the world through fear, play small, and remain stuck in life circumstances that you’ve outgrown because they are what society expects or they seem predictable and “safe” (but your soul will suffer).

Or, you can choose love and believe the Universe will catch you when you take the leap and commit to fulfilling your life’s calling.

It may seem easier to remain in a predictable life instead of jumping into the unknown. But if you surrender to your soul’s whispers of who you were born to be and follow that path, your life will be filled with open doors of opportunity, people who will guide you on your journey, and resources that will help you fulfill your destiny.

Let your gut feelings serve as your GPS. If your heart is buoyant and happy, you’re on the right path. If you feel you’re trudging through life out of fear, resistance to change, or worry of what others will think, it’s a sign to look deeper into where your life is heading.

  1. Being is more important than a constant stream of determined doing.

However, being doesn’t mean giving up and not taking any action.

Being means you allow yourself to be in tune with the Universe’s guidance and be open to receiving impulses that lead to inspired actions. You can tap into this alignment through meditation, communing with nature, or simply taking a moment to become still each day. This allows you to connect with your higher self so you can perceive the inspired actions the Universe is urging you to take.

Attuning with this flow allows you to achieve impactful results more easily with fewer, yet more effective actions, rather than numerous hit-or-miss actions. Getting your nose off the grindstone and listening to your higher self leads to more joy and less struggle along your journey.

  1. Your thoughts become your reality, so choose them wisely.

One of the lessons of the Law of Attraction is: what you think about becomes your reality.

If you feel jealousy because of someone else’s success, or worry that you’ll never create a life around doing what you love, you’re in the lack zone. Thinking these thoughts will restrict you from manifesting your dreams.

However, if you tune your feelings to joy and gratitude even before your dreams become reality, the Universe will move you closer to reaching your goals.

The trick is to feel contentment for where you are in life now while expecting that more good things are on the way.

  1. Ditch the idea of failure.

What if you adopted the idea that failure doesn’t exist? Instead, believe that each perceived roadblock on your journey to fulfilling your purpose is really a silver lining meant to move you into a better direction, teach you a lesson to strengthen you for the next level, or save you from a disaster you couldn’t foresee.

So the next time you think you’ve failed and want to give up pursuing your calling, ask what the silver-lining lesson is in an obstacle. This mindset will help you move forward in a productive manner, which will bring you greater bliss along the journey to manifesting your dreams.

The choice is yours. Will you remain stuck on the “success equals outside validation” hamster wheel? Or, will you choose to live your purpose and experience more joy?

3 Reasons the Journey is More Important than the Destination

PicktheBrain.com invited me to be a guest blogger.
www.pickthebrain.com/blog/3-reasons-the-journey-is-more-important-than-the-destination

Which do you find more important: achieving a desired goal or the journey on the way to the destination?

I used to fall into the “make it to the finish line no matter what” category. But, that path is miserable. It includes struggle and the belief that you must work hard to achieve success.

During my first life flip from nonworking wife in a failing marriage who lost a baby I wasn’t meant to conceive to university professor, I made life harder than it had to be by resisting its inevitable call to change. I found myself running away from a broken life with the belief that nothing worth achieving happens without sweat and tears along the way.

But, what if you could experience joy along your journey instead of hardship? What if you believed that your path is there to equip you with the skills and opportunities you need to evolve toward living your life’s purpose instead of something to trudge through to get to the good stuff?

I finally discovered this easier route during life flip #2. I began meditating in 2013 and realized that my purpose in life is to use my art – my life-long love that had become a forgotten part-time hobby – to inspire others to follow their own unique life’s calling. I loved teaching my university students, but I knew that becoming a professor was a means to thrive after divorce, not the ultimate calling for my life.

So, I took a blind leap of faith and resigned from my 12-year, tenured position to follow my bliss of art. Instead of escaping from a broken life, this time I was running toward the joy of living on purpose.

That’s when I perceived that traveling the road toward fulfilling my purpose is the sweet spot. The end result is actually still a little fuzzy around the edges. But the excitement of learning who I am meant to be along this path has kindled insights that working with my nose to the grindstone did not allow me to observe.

Here are three lessons that have taught me that feeling joy along the journey is more important than achieving the final destination.

  1. Surrendering to the Universe’s flow makes you stronger, not weaker.

I’ve always been told: “Ask, believe, receive.” The problem is, sometimes what I ask for may not be in my best interest. So, no matter how much I believe it needs to happen, sometimes what I ask for and believe in receives the answer of no. This can be disappointing, but if I stop the pity party, I realize I don’t have the power to see into the future. Thank goodness the Universe has got my back!

Let’s add one element: “Ask, believe, surrender, receive.” Living on purpose means that you must surrender to a path that you can’t fully see. Life is like shaking a Polaroid photo – you only get one glimpse of the next right step at a time. The end result is sometimes blurry and hidden. But, the Universe may be guiding you toward a better path, helping you avoid a disaster you couldn’t perceive, or teaching you a lesson you needed to learn before advancing to the next step of your journey. When you allow yourself to surrender and co-create with the Universe, it’s a powerful combination that generates great insight and joy.

  1. Being is more important than a constant stream of determined doing.

This lesson has been a tough one for me to learn because it’s counterproductive to what my parents and teachers taught.

Being doesn’t mean giving up and not taking any action. It means you allow yourself to be aligned with the Universe’s inspiration through meditation, communing with nature, or taking a moment to become still each day. This allows you to tap into your higher self so you can perceive the inspired actions the Universe is guiding you to take. Tapping into this flow allows you to achieve results more easily with fewer, yet more effective actions rather than numerous hit-or-miss actions, which leads to more joy and less struggle along your journey.

  1. Believing that you’re not alone boosts your confidence.

Joseph Campbell, who coined the Hero’s Journey, said he perceived “invisible hands” that began opening new doors when he agreed to follow his bliss. I’ve found this to be true as I’ve begun to live my purpose. At just the perfect moment when I need guidance, a person, light bulb moment, or opportunity crosses my path that takes me to the next level of my journey.

The Universe will conspire to help you when you commit to following your purpose too, which increases your confidence and ignites true joy.

So, what’s your choice: joyful journey or determined destination?

My 4 Life Lessons from Driving Across the U.S.

ZestNow for Women 50 and Forward invited me to be a guest blogger.
zestnow.com/4-lessons-driving-across-the-u-s-taught-me-about-living-on-purpose

I ate dinner with a friend recently, and she told me something that disturbed me greatly. We had both read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear about allowing your curiosity to lead you to your life’s purpose. Sadly, my friend said she has lost her curiosity and doesn’t feel purposeful about anything in life. She said she’s in “survival mode” at her job and only needs to persevere for seven more years to reach retirement.

My friend’s predicament struck a cord in my heart because she and I were in the same boat. We were both tenured professors and chair of our respective departments at different universities. We both felt stuck in careers that once felt fulfilling but had become tedious and soul-draining. The difference between us is she chose to remain in her circumstance and trudge resentfully toward retirement, while I chose to listen to my soul’s whispers to resign and follow my passion of art.

This blind leap of faith may seem crazy, but I knew my soul would slowly shrivel if I didn’t honor my life’s calling. I could NOT turn 50 and remain stuck in a life that was blocking my path toward living the purpose for which I was born.

What prompted this leap into an uncertain future? I began meditating in 2013 and discovered my purpose in life is to use my art – my life-long love that had become a forgotten part-time hobby – as a tool to inspire others to live their own unique calling. I eventually realized that becoming a public relations professor was a means to thrive after divorce, but not the ultimate calling for my life. It was time to take the lessons I’d learned along this journey and evolve toward living my purpose.

So, I resigned from my 12-year professor position last spring to follow my bliss of art.

A few months later, I received an invitation to become the executive director of an arts organization in Washington state. This is a position I would not have applied for of my own volition because I don’t possess an art degree. Yet, it’s an open door that leads me closer to living on purpose. That’s how I found myself driving cross-country from Connecticut to Washington to begin a new life chapter at the age of 50.

Here are 4 lessons being on the road taught me about living on purpose that can help you fulfill your unique life’s calling as well.

  1. When you begin to follow your purpose, your soul becomes lighter.

As I drove from Connecticut on the first day of my road trip, I felt joy begin bubbling to the surface. I was leaving friends and a romantic partner behind, and I knew my departure was causing them pain, which wasn’t easy, but at the same time my soul was celebrating within me.

That’s how I knew I was on the right path.

Compare the feelings of rightness and bliss to the feeling of resentment caused by remaining in a life circumstance that no longer serves you and keeps you from growing into your full potential. The scenario that makes you feel lighter and more vibrant is the path your soul wishes you to travel. Following your purpose will make you experience exuberance for life, not apathy.

  1. When you’re aligned with your purpose and surrender to the Universe’s timing, obstacles will fall by the wayside.

On the second day of my journey, I drove the construction-congested Ohio turnpike. I began noticing that cars were stranded on the highway’s shoulder with flat tires or steaming engines. However, I was sailing right through with no issues. At times, the bumper-to-bumper lane I was driving in suddenly became clear of traffic allowing me to progress unobstructed.

I’ve found this is also what happens when I’m truly aligned with my life’s calling, and I surrender to the guidance the Universe offers. A knowingness replaces doubts. Inner peace replaces fear. Believe that the Universe will give you the skills and opportunities to fulfill your life’s purpose once you begin the journey. You may be delayed by lessons you need to learn that are meant to strengthen you, but once you align with your purpose via meditation, communing with nature, or by taking a few minutes to get still each day, your path will begin to flow easily.

  1. When you follow your purpose, expect that not everyone will understand.

On my journey to Washington, I drove through North Dakota and Montana. Both states offered beautiful natural scenery; however, both were quite desolate, which gave me an eerie feeling as a single female making this trek alone. I was glad to reach a more populated area.

Living your purpose can also feel desolate, as some people may not understand your need to grow and evolve into your True Self. Friends and family members have expressed sadness because I’m “changing” or tried to discourage me from pursuing my calling because they feel stuck in their lives and want me to play small with them.

It’s important to set boundaries around your dreams to protect them and populate your life with a tribe of people who recognize and celebrate your gifts.

  1. Gratitude helps you live in the moment and opens doors of opportunity.

Living on the road for six days was tiring and inconvenient at times. However, being thankful for small things throughout the day – a hot bath in a clean hotel room, a toll booth lady who allowed me to pay a dollar short because I didn’t have enough cash for the toll – helped me joyfully abide in the moment.

Consider this: why would the Universe continue to offer you gifts of abundance if you’re not grateful for what you’ve already been given? I’ve discovered expressing gratitude helps me remember the positive things that have transpired, which opens doors for more abundance to enter.

The road to living on purpose becomes more zestful at 50 and beyond. Where will your curiosity lead you?

Advice from your Inner 8-year-old and your future Elder Warrioress: What wisdom will they bestow on you?

No Regrets
No Regrets

I’m currently reading The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. So many wonderful insights in this book for anyone who wishes to rediscover and enhance your own creative process, no matter what form your creative path takes.

In one of the time travel exercises, Julia Cameron asks the reader to write a letter from your 8-year-old self and your 80-year-old self to you at your current age. What would these younger and older versions urge you to believe, feel, pursue? What dreams would they tell you are possible? What would your inner 8-year-old remind you of that you loved to do as a child that made time fly and your heart sing? What would the 80-year-old version of you caution you to be or do or else you would regret not being or doing it when your final day on this earth comes?

I decided to tackle this exercise in a slightly different manner. Below is a little play I wrote based on a true story about me as a 6 year old that I remember through my mother’s retelling of it throughout the years. I also wrote a monologue spoken by my 80-year-old version, predicting what this wise woman would say if I could sit and visit with her.

I hope you enjoy these time travel offerings. More importantly, I hope you try this exercise with your own childhood and future selves. If you could sit and have tea with your Inner 8-year-old and your future Elder Warrioress, what insights would they give you about your True Self and the Purpose for why you were created? What would they urge you to do or be to make your life more vibrant and rounded, and in turn make the world a better place?

Happy, Texas: 1971
A one-act playlette featuring the inner dreams of a 6-year-old girl.

Prologue:
The location is a large wooden stage in the school auditorium of the rural 670-ish person town on a hot July evening. The town’s people are mostly farmers, cattle ranchers and devoted housewives. There is only one school in town – home of the Happy Cowboys and Cowgirls – five churches, no stop light on the red brick main street. It’s a close-knit community, in which everyone knows everyone (and everyone’s business/secrets).

The scene begins with the 6-year-old GIRL on the large stage. Her doting mother has entered her in the Little Miss Happy beauty pageant. She wears a pink frothy dress, white ruffle bobby socks, and black patent Mary Janes. Her hair is perfectly coiffed by her doting mother – blonde ringlets hang perfectly, just touching her slight shoulders. The GIRL stands alone on stage with the pageant’s JUDGE, Kenneth Wyatt, a professional artist who paints western/cowboy-themed oil paintings. It’s the Q & A portion of the pageant. The lights of the packed auditorium are dim except for the bright spotlight on GIRL and JUDGE.

JUDGE: (speaking into hand-held microphone) And, what’s your name, little girl?

GIRL: (speaking into microphone offered by JUDGE, serious expression) My name is Vicki.

JUDGE: And, what would you like to be when you grow up, little girl?

GIRL: I want to be an artist.

Some people in the dark audience giggle aloud at the GIRL’s response.

CURTAIN

Epilogue:
At the conclusion of the pageant, the GIRL is crowned Little Miss Happy. A sparkly crystal tiara is placed on her blonde head and a white sash with Little Miss Happy printed in gold glitter is placed around her shoulder and torso.

When the mother and GIRL are in the auditorium’s foyer after the pageant’s conclusion, a few town’s women ask the mother if she had coached the GIRL to say, “I want to be an artist,” hoping to win over the professional painter JUDGE. The mother is surprised and replies, “No – she said that all on her own.” The GIRL keeps her artist desire safe – a seed waiting to bud and blossom at some unknown point in the future.

END

***

Santa Fe, New Mexico: 2045
A monologue featuring the wisdom of an 80-year-old Warrioress.

The location is the back porch of a brown stucco pueblo overlooking the desert sagebrush and hazy purple Sangre de Cristo mountains in the distance. An octogenarian woman sits in a hand-carved wooden chair. She wears all black except for a vibrantly colored Indian bead necklace and bracelet hand-crafted by a local Native American jeweler. Her white hair is cropped short, a youthful frame for her alert blue eyes and age-lined face. Her fingertips are stained with dots of fuschia, turquoise and purple acrylic paint, remnants from the morning’s art session. An essence of peaceful calm oozes from her being.

WOMAN: (speaking to the current me who has flown in to visit the Warrioress)

“You know those things you’ve always loved to do – art and travel? They’re your breadcrumb trail, clues leading you to the life you were born to live. Remember in 2012 when you were talking with Mom on the phone wondering what in the world your Purpose in life was? You said, ‘The two things I really, truly love are art and travel. Time just flies when I do them, and I’m the most joyful at those times. How can I make those into my career?’

Well, guess what? You CAN. Quitting your soul-sucking job was the best thing, although I know you’re scared to death at times. Don’t worry. Remember that cheesy 1980’s song, ‘The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades?’ Well, better get your sunglasses ready.

Don’t live the life of a dead woman walking.

Dump those limiting beliefs about work having to be hard to be worthwhile and you should pursue your ‘frivolous hobbies’ after retirement. The Universe gave you the gifts and passions you have for a reason. Use them! The Universe is eagerly waiting for you to open your heart and co-create a life of meaning and purpose that will give you an abundant life and serve the world at the same time.

  • Believe in your art workshops. You’ll help women around the world find their own True Self and Calling. Help them light their candle and pay it forward to the people in their lives.
  • Write the books that are in you. You do have experiences, thoughts and feelings that others will want to read about.
  • Follow your intuition. It’s never led you astray. It will lead you to the people, places and actions that are in your path for a reason.
  • You’ll soon find your Tribe. Love them fiercely, because they’ll water and nurture your Wild Woman spirit.
  • Forgive the ‘crazymakers’ in your life. You’ve pushed them to the edge of their own dreams and that scares the shit out of them. Their drama is really not about you; it’s about their own unfulfilled Callings. Take it as a sign that you’re on YOUR right path and keep moving forward.

Make an impact on this world. Follow the Calling that you know is in you and the Universe will support you in unimaginable ways!”

As she finishes speaking, she sits peacefully staring into the distance toward the purple mountains. Her wise words linger in the air like feathers floating on a breeze. They pierce their bull’s eye mark at the center of my heart.

END

Now it’s your turn. What encouraging nuggets of wisdom will your wise and wild spirits whisper to you?

Are you a Wild Woman? 5 ways to let your Wild Woman spirit howl!

WW
Wild Woman

I recently listened to the audio CD of Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths & Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D. My friend and mentor, Georgian, has been urging me to read this book for over a year, but I’m just getting around to it. As the Universe always works, listening to the audio CD at this point in time was just the right time for me. The message of the Wild Woman struck a deep, resonating chord in my soul. Hopefully, this blog is coming to you at just the right time too!

The Wild Woman archetype begins with an old woman, La Loba, The Wolf Woman, collecting all the scattered bones of a wolf skeleton from the desert and reassembling the wolf skeleton in her cave. She sings over the bones, and the creature begins to flesh out and breath. The revitalized wolf jumps up and runs into the desert. It transforms into a laughing woman – the Wild Woman – with long multi-colored hair who runs free toward the desert’s horizon.

So, what does this mean for us today?

The wolf bones represent our indestructible soul and creative spirit. Throughout life, our spirit can become scattered pieces, lost, bent and injured, but never destroyed. We need to recover each part of our soul, assemble the pieces into a whole, and nurture it – sing over it – to become our true creative selves and fulfill the Purpose for why we’re born. The Wild Woman represents our True Self. She longs to express her creative gifts, fulfill her Purpose, and to be free to fully express herself, not suppressed or tamed by society.

But, how can we nurture our soul and creative spirit? Dr. Estes teaches us 5 ways to reclaim and express our Wild Woman spirit.

  1. Recognize the urgings of your own soul.

Don’t blindly conform to the ideas of others around you or be the “persona” of who your family, job, culture, religion, or society thinks you should be without questioning: “Who does my soul long for me to be? What does my soul truly want out of life?”

  1. Rely on your intuition to guide your Wild Woman spirit.

Dr. Estes tells a story about a young girl named Vasalisa, who is sent by her evil step-mother and sisters to ask a witch for fire. Vasalisa has a doll in her pocket, and each time she needs to make a decision on which direction to go or on what to say, she touches the doll in her pocket who gives her the correct answers. The doll in her pocket represents her intuition. I love this metaphor because it shows how accessible our own intuition is. It’s always with us close at hand if we will only be aware of and listen to this calm voice within each of us instead of the drama going on around us.

  1. Don’t allow anyone to suppress what Dr. Estes calls our Vivid Energy – our creative thoughts, ideas, spirit, and intuition – or we will not be able to truly connect to our soul and be our True Self.

Dr. Estes says that Wild Women spirits are usually born into families that don’t quite understand who we are; we’re not quite the same as our other family members. As the only creative, artsy person in a family of logical, left-brained thinkers, I can relate to this notion! Even today as I’m transitioning careers from professor to artist and life coach, my artistic ideas and projects are usually met with, “Huh,” or “That’s nice, dear,” and then the conversation moves to a different (and usually much more mundane) topic. If you’ve experienced this with your family members, you know this can be extremely frustrating no matter how much you love your family!

The other part of not allowing anyone to suppress your Vivid Energy is to surround yourself with a partner and/or tribe who will fully support and nurture your creative spirit. Dr. Estes says that if you’re with a partner who doesn’t understand your creative spirit or who tries to extinguish it by cutting you off mid-sentence while you’re excitedly describing your current project, your creative soul will be caged and squelched. You need a partner and tribe – even if it’s only one or two close friends – who will water your creativity like a flower, allowing it to blossom and thrive. Only with complete support can you truly be connected with your True Self and soul.

  1. Be patient with yourself while reclaiming your Wild Woman spirit.

Dr. Estes says that we may feel rage if our creative spirit has been suppressed by family, a mate, our job, society’s ideas of who we should be, etc. If this is the case, we need to release that rage or else it will clog our creative flow and we’ll forever be blocked from expressing our True Self.

Give yourself time to get over and release any pain you feel. Feed yourself spiritual food that comforts you. Be patient with yourself. Use that rage as fuel to give birth to new creative ideas, but then let go of the pain. Don’t dwell in it. Some of my most meaningful paintings have come from the emotional purge of using those feelings of pain and anger – after divorce, during the uncertainty of big life shifts, when not feeling heard/valued by those close to me – and releasing those strong feelings onto the canvas. They became a symbol of inner strength and beauty, no longer a poison in my heart and soul.

  1. Remember, it’s NEVER too late to blossom into your Wild Woman spirit.

LOVE this one, because I’m changing careers to fully grow into my Wild Woman spirit and am turning 50 in a few months! Dr. Estes says that it’s common for Wild Women to be late bloomers, and age doesn’t matter a wit!

I would love to hear what you think about the Wild Woman spirit in the comments below. Are you a Wild Woman who longs to reclaim your creative freedom and allow your True Self to shine? If so, I’m in your wolf pack! Let’s howl together!

 

Self-Transformation: A 4-Letter Word or Your Birthright?

anni3Anni2
I
ntuitive Portrait: Anni

I adore this quote by Marianne Williamson, author of A Return to Love: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

So powerful!

I shared this beautiful quote with my 84-year-old mother the other day. She’s not a huge fan of change or causing a stir because of her fear of what others might think. She said she tends to shrink back to not cause what she perceives would be negative attention. So, when I first told her that I had resigned from my 11-year, tenured professor position to dive full time into life coaching and offering art workshops, she was shocked and disappointed. She said that she’s embarrassed to tell people in the small, rural Texas town I grew up in that I’ve gone from begin a professor – something she’s quite proud of – to this unknown entity.

This type of reaction has been a common thread in our relationship when I’ve decided to act outside of the “norm” and forge my own path (i.e. – not wanting to have a child, moving solo from Texas to Connecticut).

She usually comes around…eventually.

But, I can’t let those obstacles stop me from following the path that I know is right for me. Do I wish she could be more encouraging? Absolutely! Is it difficult to move forward toward a dream in the face of negative feedback? Yes, it’s caused more than a few tears. But I have to do what my heart is compelling me to do – to continue the journey of fulfilling my life’s Purpose – or I know my soul will shrivel within me, and my Light will be extinguished by “playing small.”

Tim Storey, author of Comeback & Beyond: How to Turn Your Setbacks into Comebacks, says when we think, “Is this all there is to life? There has to be more to life than this!” we’re experiencing Divine Dissatisfaction. That nagging tug in your heart is the Universe’s way of nudging you to grow into your True Self, shine your Light, and play BIG.

I recently read a fabulous book, The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion, by Elle Luna. She offers a hypothesis that really struck me: what if your job = your career = your Calling? In other words, what if your job/career/Calling were one in the same, and there was no distinction between what you do on a daily basis and what your life’s Purpose is?

As I describe in my Honor Your Purpose mini-course (sign up here free!), after I discovered through meditation that my Purpose was to use my art in some way to inspire others, it became clear that my job/career had nothing to do with my life’s Calling. This became extremely painful and frustrating. As Steven Pressfield states in The War of Art: Break Through the Block and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, the pain of NOT following your Calling becomes more intense than the fear of taking the leap toward your Calling. That’s when you find yourself at the crossroad of Should vs. Must. Will you continue to live the life your family or society thinks you should be living, or will you take a chance on going against society’s grain and let your Light shine, play big, manifest the glory that IS within you?

Looking back, it’s astounding how I’ve begun to make the shift from playing small to following my Purpose. In 2002 after my divorce, I briefly dated a guy I’d met in a singles Sunday school class at church. I showed him the first three of my visual diary portraits that I painted as a purging emotional release after divorce and while going back to school for my doctorate: Inner Beauty Blooming, Defiance and Sea of Hope. After I described the life circumstances depicted in each piece, I immediately felt hot and heavy regret. So vulnerable and wishing I could shove the words back down my throat! I swore then that I’d never again show anyone my portraits or explain the very personal messages behind each one!

Fast forward to December 2013. After discovering my life’s Purpose through meditation, it finally seemed natural and necessary to share my portraits and their stories beyond the walls of my home. That’s when vickiworldart.com was conceived. Fast forward again to January 2015, when I knew in my heart that I could not sign another contract at my university. The drumbeat of my Purpose had become too loud and too constant to ignore. I had to take the plunge, resign from my stable job and take the blind leap of faith into this new era of job = career = my Calling. Scary – yes – but the most joyful and fulfilling thing I’ve ever done!

And a new venture is bubbling to the surface. Creating my memoir portraits has given me comfort and joy throughout the years, depicting snapshots of my life at certain moments in time. But, what if I could do that for other people with paintings of loved ones or images they regard as dear and that hold meaning in their lives?

So, I’m dipping my toe into the new pool of painting Intuitive Portraits that capture people’s essence and vibration. The first I’ve painted is a portrait of my BFF’s daughter, Anni, who recently graduated from high school and is going into college this fall. Her intuitive portrait includes positive messages at this young crossroads in life – a quote from Maya Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman,” a quote about following your calling from Danielle LaPorte’s book The Desire Map, hidden butterflies for transformation, feathers for freedom, birds taking flight, and a reminder to Shine.

(If you’re interested in an Intuitive Portrait, let’s discuss possibilities! Email me at vickiworldart@gmail.com)

So, where are you on your Self-Transformation scale? Are you resisting inevitable change or has your drumbeat become so loud in your heart that you know you must create a shift to begin the journey toward your Calling? The unknown and lack of certainty can be terrifying, but from where I’m standing, the light is brighter, the air clearer, and the joy deeper and more true.

The world is waiting for your unique gift. Will you take the leap? I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

Tweet: Shine your light. Play BIG. Fulfill your purpose. Serve others.

My First Naked Boy

naked boy

Before I tell people I grew up in a small, rural town called Happy, Texas, I usually dare them not to laugh. But, as you’re probably doing right now just after reading the town’s quirky name, most people guffaw or at the very least, the corners of their mouth creep up in an amused smirk after questioning, “Happy, Texas really exists?!? Are people indeed happy in Happy?” This question is quite predictable. Depending on my mood, I might add that the town has a small billboard along the old 87 Highway that reads: “Happy, Texas: The town without a frown” and that Happy is the home of the Happy High School Cowboys and Cowgirls.

Let me set the scene for you. I grew up in a very sheltered environment. Happy, Texas only has 670-ish residents. Most make a living by farming – growing corn, maze, cotton or wheat – or by ranching – raising cattle, pigs and other farm animals. The town contains no stoplights along the red brick Main Street – not even a blinking streetlight some small towns have at main intersections. Since the grocery store closed in the mid-1980s, the closest food store is 14 miles away in Canyon, the next town over separated from Happy by farmland with cattle. There were five churches in Happy, which serve as centers for worship and community bonding – First Baptist – where my family attends – Methodist, Church of Christ, Catholic and Presbyterian. However, the church count is down to four because the Presbyterian preacher died some years ago, so now that building holds a funeral home. Happy has one elementary, one middle, and one high school from which my parents, aunt and uncle graduated in the 1940s, as well as three male cousins and my brother in the 1960s and 1970s. I graduated with 11 students in my senior class in 1984 – most of whom I’d known since kindergarten – and I was the valedictorian. I didn’t kiss a boy until I was a junior in high school, a boy who was one grade below me, and I got caught the first time I drank alcohol as a senior – amaretto in a white Styrofoam cup at a local baseball game. A boy’s mother snitched on me to my basketball coach (who also attended our Baptist church that banned drinking and dancing) and I had to run 750 bleachers on the football field stands as punishment under the withering glare of my coach’s disapproval. Of course, I went wild later in college as many sheltered kids do once on their own, but you get the Happy, Texas picture, yes?

Being the studious bookworm I was from kindergarten through high school, my mom fully planned to enroll me in summer school at West Texas State University in Canyon, Texas the summer after graduating Happy High School and before entering Texas Tech University in the fall. The wife of the Happy boys’ basketball coach knew I had an affinity for art and suggested I take a live model drawing class at WT – my first art class. I don’t remember the professor’s name, but what he told the class the first day has stuck with me, “You can think of the naked body as Playboy or as Rembrandt.” It was like a light switch clicking on in my brain! The human body is a thing of wonder and beauty – there’s nothing wrong or salacious about studying a nude figure and sketching its form.

Some of the models – both male and female – that summer chose to remain partially clothed in their underwear or a unitard. Others, more brave or needing the higher paycheck, chose to model nude. The professor taught us about the various colors hidden beneath the surface of skin tones – blues and purples of black skin, yellows and pinks of light skin. I used chalk pastels on rough sketch paper, which made it easy to blend the colors with my fingertips, squinting my eyes as the professor had taught to discern the hidden skin tones and translate them to my drawings. One day we were asked to focus on one body part of our choice of a lovely, quiet, thin female model as she lay nude on the raised platform in the middle of the art studio. I focused on one breast and concentrated on the gentle curves, semi-erect nipple, and soft skin tones of pink, lavender and yellow. I became totally obsessed that summer with her grace, straight posture, thin frame and quiet elegance, starving myself to be as skinny as possible to mirror her feminine form.

And then…my first naked boy. Toward the end of the semester, our model was a short, slight young man with a black curly mullet. He chose to model nude and reclined fully outstretched on his side atop the raised wooden platform – his head resting in his right hand with elbow propped on the stage, right leg outstretched, the left bent at the knee with that foot planted in front of the resting leg’s knee, private parts fully exposed and relaxed as if he were on a bed lazing on his side watching TV, serene expression on his blank face. In my mind, I thought, “Oh boy, here we go. Just breath.” I settled in on my wooden sawhorse, sketchpad turned to a fresh sheet, charcoal pencil at the ready when the professor approached me from behind and firmly said, “Please rise and follow me, Miss Todd.” He proceeded to drag my sawhorse across the cement floor noisily echoing in the warehouse-like studio while I silently followed behind clumsily carrying my sketchbook, charcoal pencil, gum eraser and pastel chalks in my arms, bewildered as to the new location my professor was about to select and why I was chosen out of all the other art students to make such an abrupt shift. Then I understood. My heart sank into my stomach, but I remained mute asking no questions nor offering any protests. The professor ceased the echoing clamor of my sawhorse directly in front of the naked male model and loudly pronounced to the class and the nude boy, “Miss Todd will sketch from the front today!” I guess I hadn’t realized my habit of positioning myself in “safe” angles throughout the semester as the professor obviously had…

Mortification…face turning color of summer tomato…sweat beading…shortness of breath. I screamed a silent self-admonition in my mind, “Suck it up, Buttercup! So what if this is your first penis sighting? You want an A in this class, right?!? Think Rembrandt and start sketching!” So, I obediently and quietly took my new sketching position directly before the nude model’s genitals and carefully measured the exposed body parts with squinted eyes and pencil in outstretched hand as we had been taught to do to determine correct proportions (not very impressive as I recall). This was a shocking and fabulous experience I’ll always remember. I still use those same proportion measuring techniques when sketching today, and I still see the nude body as a form of beauty and wonder when visiting museums.

However, a mystery remains. What ever happened to the full-frontal male model sketch from my first art class in 1984? As I recall, all of the works from that class were placed under my bed in my room at my parents’ home in Happy. I fished them out a few years later during my undergraduate career curious to remember what I had drawn during that course, but only found the sketches with partially clothed models. I know I didn’t chuck the missing sketch in the trash, so I asked my mom, “Did you throw any of my drawings in the garbage?” She stoically threw the question back at me. “No, why would I get rid of any of your artwork? You must have trashed them yourself.” “Would Daddy have come in my room and gotten rid of the naked drawings, then?” I asked with growing alarm. My mother vehemently denied this accusation as well. I dropped the conversation, but assuredly thought to myself that something was amiss. I knew without a doubt it had to have been one of my conservative parents who purged my bedroom of the perceived salacious artwork. Ah well, at least the memory of that impactful first live model art class – and my first naked boy – is etched clearly in my mind.