When Answers Arrive

Although I have not gone into great detail, I have been facing a dilemma this year and was hoping to find guidance in the midst of being in beautiful, peaceful places. I expected to find the answer hanging in the air somewhere if I was able to enter into stillness.

Sometimes that’s how answers arrive.

But that’s not exactly how it happened this time.

With all the changes to public education – some of which I feel are harmful to the young children in my care – I had been considering leaving the teaching profession. The past two years have been so difficult. For much of the summer, I couldn’t even discuss my job with anyone – at least not in a positive way. I felt that I needed to get out in order to protect my physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being as well as my family’s well-being. Problem was, I couldn’t figure out what I’d want to do instead – only what I didn’t want to do. I found myself unable to form a clear vision of any alternatives. When I allowed myself to dream Really Big, I realized that my ultimate dream is to operate a small retreat center or to live and work at one that’s already established. I love cooking nourishing food for people and creating healing spaces. There is a woman I follow on Facebook who is living this dream in Pennsylvania. In addition to running a retreat center, she is a photographer and artist, and she integrates all of this into such beautiful work. Part of her work is to uplift others on a daily basis by posting beautiful imagery paired with inspirational quotes on Facebook, which is something I have been trying to do as well. There is a retreat center close by that is very simple, and I can see myself creating something like that if I had some land to call my own. So who knows: Maybe someday I’ll attract that into my life.

Last summer, Eckhart Tolle presented a three-day workshop at Omega Institute which I attended via live-stream. I was able to download all of the teaching sessions and have been watching them again this summer. During one session, he was asked how you know if an answer comes from the higher Self as opposed to ego, and his answer, in a nutshell, was that it comes with a sense of abiding peace. There is a knowing, a certainty when the answer or guidance you seek arrives.

When I had essentially made up my mind to leave teaching, my mind was running a mile a minute trying to come up with solutions about what to do next. I realized it might take another year of preparation before it would be feasible for me to really pursue an alternative route. I was not at peace.

Then, all of a sudden, about two weeks ago peace washed over me, and I knew that staying was my answer. I awoke from a dream in which I had been preparing to fight Voldemort (the terrifying dark wizard from the Harry Potter series). The words on my mind when I woke up were, “I don’t think I need to fight Voldemort after all, but if I do, I will kill [him]!” (There was a much more colorful term in place of “him.”)

Instantly, all of the negativity fell away, and I felt peaceful and empowered. I was able to think about and talk about the upcoming school year, and my entire attitude changed. It was around this time that I also received some positive, affirming comments about my online portfolio (a brand new requirement under New York State’s Annual Professional Performance Review legislation) by my administrator. I poured my heart and soul into that portfolio. By the time I was done, it represented 100% who I am as a teacher, and I received a “highly effective” rating for it. Maybe in the midst of all of the testing frenzy and what feels like way too much change all at once, what I needed most was to hear that what I do – and who I am – is valued by someone in a position of authority.

I am amazed and fascinated by how answers arrive – answers that resonate deeply. You know it when the “real,” deep answers manifest! And on that theme, I want to share another synchronicity that happened last night related to all this, that I found quite astonishing.

Yesterday, I finally ditched my TracFone for a smartphone. I’d considered doing this for a long time and finally felt the time was right. Since I barely ever used my TracFone, I didn’t feel the need to keep the same number. At first, my new number was difficult to remember. However, eventually it occurred to me that it was a complete date. The way my mind works, the next step was obvious: Find out what happened on that date! At first glance, it didn’t look like anything newsworthy took place. However, I realized that small but significant moments occur every single day all over the world and felt strongly that I would discover something happened on that date that would resonate with me.

Here’s what I found, with very little effort:

Henry David Thoreau (one of my very favorite Americans) wrote one of my favorite quotes in his journal on that date! The particular quote has been on my mind all summer long! Reading it within the context of the journal entry, I realize that it applies directly and perfectly to my dilemma about teaching. (Although I would love to, I’m not going to offer the quote here so as not to broadcast my phone number!) It’s not a definitive yes or no answer but rather an important insight about relating to the work one does to earn a living – the way our heart and soul relates to our work and the importance of our work staying true to the highest within us.

Thoreau’s journal entry rang true to me, resonated deeply, and arrived with a sense of certainty and peace. As long as my higher Self can remain connected with my current work, then it is the right path for me. If my higher Self becomes deeply connected with something else that is pulling me elsewhere, then that is the right path for me. I think that “right work” is ultimately the result of moving toward something you love rather than away from something you don’t love.

It’s interesting, too, that I spent so much of the summer dredging up the negative, just as the dredging machinery is doing all around me on the river this year. Such a perfect mirror. The barge that was in front of our house has moved down to the next hot spot. A lot of junk has been removed and is being shipped to a landfill across the country that can accommodate toxic PCB waste.

As I’ve written time and again, I can’t speak to whether the Hudson River PCBs Superfund Dredging project will go down in the history books as a net success or failure. Perhaps it would have been better to leave it alone and let it remain undisturbed in the sediment. But something has motivated me to sit on the dock at night and watch the excavators removing the toxic muck from the river bottom – and to feel a sense of excitement about it. A river can be a metaphor for life itself. I think there’s something in all this that speaks to the value of removing the toxins polluting our life – namely, our negative, sabotaging, limiting thoughts and habits – so that we may lead a healthier, fuller, more authentic life. For a time, disturbing the toxic junk might make it more intense. But if we stick with the process, eventually it all either gets shipped away to a place that can handle it or settles back to the bottom. But hopefully in time – after such great effort has been made – the river becomes healthier than it was before and can accommodate a greater, fuller diversity of life.

I just love river metaphors.

Rainbow over dredging barge

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