Ep. 170: A Dream Deferred

Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | RSS

I’ve been holding the recent Maui tragedy alongside the fact that I’m here on the Big Island to celebrate my birthday with my daughter.


I remember in 2010, I was in Asheville, North Carolina at a business mastermind, not knowing anything about entrepreneurship or having a business. My coach asked us to write down a dream that seems totally impossible right now, but that we would be absolutely thrilled about. Dream BIG!


And I wrote down, “I want a house in the mountains and a house on the beach.”


And now… it’s happened. Crazy…


Like, actually really crazy. Especially for someone whose family rented and got booted every few years when the landlord wanted to raise the rent or create a space for a family member…


There’s a deep sense of not being grounded, or not having a true home in me…and now I have two. Whaaat?!


The thing is, I found it really hard to allow myself to wish for that to begin with. To dream. It was almost painful. There was so much resistance and fear.


I found this fascinating, and over the years as an entrepreneur, I realized I often had a pervasive fear of disappointment…a fear of wishing for something and not having it materialize.


What was that about?


I think of the poem, “Harlem,” by Langston Hughes. Essentially, the poem asks the question, “What happens to a dream deferred?” A dream that is repeatedly put off or delayed?


And while there is so much historical depth in this poem specifically related to social justice (check out the full episode to hear more about this), I want to address how the wisdom within it also extends to our own dreams for ourselves and our communities.


What happens when we don’t allow ourselves to actualize them… or even dream in the first place?


And why do we sometimes find dreaming so challenging?


I think many of the reasons we find it hard is how we are socialized.


It’s part of a capitalist, consumerist society that tells us nothing will ever be enough, and we won’t ever be enough, encouraging us to stay in a place of fear so that we can buy to compensate for our securities. Especially for those of us who grew up poor in a capitalist society, where the odds are stacked against them.


Then there’s the piece of the patriarchal society that tells people socialized as womyn that we aren’t even allowed to dream and that we exist to help others actualize their dreams.


And more. Variations of these beliefs that are passed on to us are present in all oppressive systems.


For me, this brings up many of the reasons I found it challenging to dream.


But guess what? This is exactly what oppressive systems want: for us to have our dreams of equality and equity, uplifting the underserved, having more abundance for ourselves and others, wanting more freedom of time, money, energy and location… to have our dreams of true freedom and joy FADE AWAY.


When Langston Hughes wrote Harlem, it was over a decade before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and not long after the 1935 and 1943 Harlem riots. The injustices of the time and oppressive systems of racism and white supremacy

wanted the dream of racial equality to be forgotten.


This is why our individual dreams and collective dreams are interconnected.


This is why dreaming is an act of resistance, of rebellion.


When my clients are invited to dream, I often see the same hesitation I had over a decade ago. Whether it’s a soul-aligned job or business, true intimacy with a lover, or even a sense of safety, peace, and calm, it’s not unusual for me to hear, “Nah, I can’t even imagine that.”


If we’re lucky enough to even know what we want, we can still be unwilling to even imagine the possibility that we can manifest it.


We’re afraid of being disappointed. Of the shame that may follow. Of that shit-talking inner critic who tells us we aren’t good enough or that we don’t deserve it.


Notice that what arises around the fear of disappointment is actually rooted in what we make it mean about ourselves if we were to fail.


These self-criticizing beliefs often stem from things our caregivers or other family, friends, teachers (etc.) said to us as we were growing up. Or maybe even later in life in those pivotal relationships along the way.


We’re told we shouldn’t dream so big or expect too much.


That dreaming is for others.


And at some point, we’ve had to choose between 1) loving ourselves for who we are and living it into the world authentically, and 2) needing intimacy, protection, and love from others as we vulnerably make our way through life. So we let a dream go instead of risking a relationship.


If we want to be able to create our dreams and change the world around us, we have to first be able to imagine it.


Remember: the things that keep us from dreaming and encourage us to defer the dreams we do have are rooted in how we are socialized and the oppressive milieu we may exist in. Capitalist consumer culture, patriarchal and racist systems, ageism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia, and more…


This is why the act of dreaming is an act of rebellion.


This is why manifesting our dreams is an act of rebellion.


So, start with your dream. Remember, DREAM BIG. Imagine it now.


Don’t try to be noble. Allow yourself to want what you want. Will it bring you true happiness?


If not, do you at least like your reasons for wanting it?


When I allowed myself to dream big all those years ago, wanting a house in the mountains and a house on the beach, I liked my reasons, even though they weren’t something more “noble” like building a non-profit meditation center (one of my current dreams).


And for me to get to the point where I can dream to create a dana-based meditation center, I had to walk my path of the other dreams first.


When I’m coaching, we hold space for all types of dreams. There isn’t pressure to only have a “noble” dream. If you can release your attachment to the dream, then dream for whatever the f*ck you want, as long as you like your reasons!


Suffering usually begins when we become attached to our dreams or when we hold onto them for reasons not aligned with our values.


We can want and dream. We can also release attachment to those dreams and not make it mean anything about who we are if, for some reason, that dream doesn’t become a reality.


We owe it to our people and to ourselves to allow ourselves to imagine it. To dream it.


If we can’t imagine it, it can’t be a possibility. So, we must begin with dreaming.


You will learn: 

// What happens when we defer our dreams… or not allow any dreams in the first place 

// The societal influence in our capacity to dream and believe that we can create it 

// Why we often defer our dreams and where our fears come from 

// How we can allow ourselves to believe in dreams and overcome oppressive thought patterns 




// This episode was released in the aftermath of the Maui wildfires. Hawai’i has been a life-saving, healing place for me and many of my clients. I donated to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement – Kako’o Maui Fund donation match campaign, and invite you to do the same: https://www.hawaiiancouncil.org/  

// Episode 38: How to Manifest Your Ideal life 


// Episode 39: The 4-Step Visualization Technique for Any Situation 


// Episode 140: So What? 


// If you’re ready to unpack all the ways your life experiences thus far have kept you from dreaming, from true happiness, from believing that you deserve it and can create it, get on the waitlist for the next cohort of the Adventure Mastermind, where we remove unhelpful patterns using wilderness, adventure, plant medicine, mindfulness, and more.  


Early registration opens soon! Visit AdventureMastermind.com to get on the waitlist to be the first to hear about the next dates and locations. (P.S. If you’ve already done the mastermind, stay tuned for a special alumni retreat. We’ll pick up right where we left off and dive even deeper!) 


// If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics. 

// Want something more self-paced with access to weekly group support and getting coached by yours truly? Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com. I can’t wait to see you there!