|Posted on April 20, 2012 at 2:00 PM|
Four weeks ago my coach asked me a simple question: "When do you feel the most inspired?" I thought about it for a moment and replied, "When I'm outside, in nature." This answer gave me a huge shift in perspective, and in a few short weeks it has changed the course of my business and, in some ways, my life.
What I realized is that even though I love being an author, speaker, researcher and yoga teacher, I spend most of my time inside, hunched over my computer. Sure, it's great that I'm not stuck in a cubicle anymore, but in many ways the past 2 years have closely resembled my corporate life. I get up, log in to my computer, check my email, work at my computer for most of the day, and call it quits sometime between 3pm-5pm.
I have a ton more flexibility than I used to, and I don't have to report to anyone - but I still spend most of my time indoors. I realized that if I truly want to help people create a life they love, I need to practice what I preach. If being in nature inspires me, then I need to spend more time in nature.
My coach left me with a homework assignment: look into some opportunities to work outdoors.
After our call, I said a little prayer to the universe. It went something like this: "Universe, if I'm meant to work outside, please allow these opportunities to flow into my life with ease. I trust that you will bring me whatever I need so that I can be of the highest service to the world."
Later that night, I went for a reiki appointment with a healer that I've been working with for years. We decided to set up an exchange where I would get three reiki sessions in return for helping her in some area of her life. As we were brainstorming how I could help her out, she said, "Well, I have a bunch of work that needs to be done at my farm. I hurt my shoulder and there are a few things that I can't do. Would you be willing to spend a day there helping me?"
In that moment I knew without a doubt that I am meant to be working outside. I've manifested many things in my life, but never has the universe provided an opportunity for me so quickly. I agreed and ended up spending an amazing day working at my friend's farm. By the end of the day, I had dirt under my fingernails, in my eyes, and up my nose. And I'd never felt better.
This quick manifestation motivated me to look into other opportunities to work outside. I decided to email my resume to a couple of garden centers in my city. After a week without a response, I showed up at one of the garden centers and dropped off my resume in person. They hadn't advertised that they were hiring, so I figured it was a lost cause.
But I thought too soon. That night, the manager called and asked for an interview.
To my delight, I got the job. I'm now working 20 hours per week in the annuals department at Heritage Country Gardens, a huge garden center nestled between two farmer's fields. I've worked two full days so far and I couldn't be happier. I spend the day surrounded by plants. Plus, I get to work my body instead of spending so much time working my mind. The decade that I spent in university trained me to be a thoroughbred thinker, which is great, but it also causes me to over-analyze and ruminate.
When I come home from the garden center, my body is tired, but my mind feels energized. I get to wear jeans, an old t-shirt and safety shoes to work. My "commute" involves a 20 minute drive through the country as the sun rises and the birds sing. I walk around with garden gloves and an exacto-knife in my back pocket. I don't have internet access or cell phone reception. My hands are starting to get calloused and I'm using muscles that I didn't know I had.
I make a fraction of what I get paid for my consulting work and my speaking gigs. But I feel more abundant than ever.
John Muir put it perfectly when he said:
“Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
Here are some pictures of my new part-time "office" (and one of my new co-workers):
When I was a stressed-out grad student, I used to make two jokes:
1. "I'm going to leave academia and work as an IT Research Analyst at a local firm."
2. "I'm going to leave academia and work in a greenhouse."
I obviously need to start paying better attention to my jokes, because both of these came true. In fact, I've wanted to work at a garden center since I was a teenager, but my logical mind would interrupt with thoughts like, "Ok, so you're going to spend 10 years and thousands of dollars on a university education so that you can work at a greenhouse? That's ridiculous."
What I now realize is that I often use jokes as a way to test what other people will think of what my intuition is asking me to do. My heart tells me to do something, but my analytical, left brain mind tries to squash it. So I make a joke to ease my inner tension.
Do you tend to tell these types of jokes to people? Maybe you joke that you want to spend all day fishing on your boat, or that you want to move to a cabin in the mountains. Maybe you should start paying better attention to your jokes, too.
What does all of this mean for the rest of my business? I'm still writing, consulting, speaking and teaching yoga. And I get to work outside. I'm walking my talk by following my heart even though I have no clue where it will lead. Maybe I'll only work at the garden center for a couple of months. Maybe I'll end up there for years. Maybe I'll own a greenhouse or a farm someday. Who knows.
What I do know is this:
When you follow your heart, you will never be led in the wrong direction. Start paying attention to what your heart is asking you to do. Throw out any concerns about what other people will think of your decisions. When you act from your intuition, you create inspiration. People who were naysayers will become converts, because they start to see the magic that you're creating in your own life. It might not be easy, but it will be worth it.
As Joseph Campbell says:
"We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us."
I know that as I do what inspires me, I will be better able to inspire you.
So how do I intend to become an urban legend?
There's a common story that you've probably encountered in your life. You and a few friends take a taxi home after a late night out. You have what you believe to be an entertaining and thought-provoking conversation with the cab driver (I'm sure that these conversations are usually full of drunken rubbish, but you feel smart at the time). You leave a nice tip, and as you're walking toward your apartment, your friend says, "That cab driver has his PhD you know." Your other friend replies, "He does not, that's just an urban legend." A brief argument ensues, but the conversation is quickly dropped as you start debating what to order on your pizza.
Well my friends, I have become that cab driver. Dr. Butzer is now Dr. Greenhouse. None of my co-workers or customers know that I have my PhD. My pay is definitely not commensurate with my education. And I couldn't care less.
This summer I have visions of myself helping customers haul vats of flowers to their cars. As I walk away, one customer says to the other, "She has her PhD you know." The other customer replies, "No she doesn't, that's just an urban legend."
I smile and walk back to my begonias.