This week I want to share a story about my mom… and the joy of lifting a burden that was not mine.
Recently, I attended a daylong council held by one of my teachers on the Big Island. It also happened to be my mom’s birthday (she died in 2017), so while I was there with an intention of gaining clarity of what the last 50 years of my life have been about (and what the next chapter would be), it was also a day of remembering her.
My teacher had us all pick a card from a deck of dharma tarot cards she had created, and I chose my card, admired the artwork, read the quote, and began to cry. The weight of the recent past, as well as the heaviness of my immigrant mother’s wishes and dreams of me, became apparent.
It was a quote from Reggie Ray, a Tibetan Buddhist Vajrayana practitioner:
Dharma is not about credentials. It’s not about how many practices you’ve done, or how peaceful you can make your mind. It’s not about being in a community where you feel safe or enjoying the cachet of being a “Buddhist.” It’s not even about accumulating teachings, empowerments, or “spiritual accomplishments.” It’s about how naked you’re willing to be with your own life, and how much you’re willing to let go of your masks and your armor and live as a completely exposed, undefended, and open human person.
This teaching came after my recent conversation with teachers I’ve had about the burden I was feeling to do all these “teacher trainings” so I could receive “approval” to share the dharma in a deeper way. The prospect of taking 3 months out of my life to do a 3-month retreat and pay for it and additional trainings seemed… daunting.
I felt angry that it seemed set up for the privileged…and it is.
Finally, one of my BIPOC teachers said, “Ana, why do you feel the need to do that? You can keep doing what you’re already doing. Living the dharma and sharing it with others.” She told me I’d done I was doing enough still. And I didn’t need that “colonizer thinking” that I had to get even more approval and pay more money to be enough (I’m already certified in teaching meditation and mindfulness )..
Then I pull this card. And the quote touched beyond my insecurity around sharing the dharma. It reminded me of all my credentials that took time, money, and energy, as well as leaving my family for big chunks of time: 4 graduate degrees, 6 coaching certifications, 5 specialist certifications…it goes on.
And while some of this was from a love of learning, it was also me not feeling like I was…enough.
I was afraid that if I didn’t have that degree or certification, that people would prefer someone else.
But the reality is I didn’t need ALL the things I’ve paid to do to be as good at what I do. The degrees from fancy schools may be why some people first check me out, but they decide to work with me because of how I show up with them (at least this is what they tell me;).
Yet, I usually don’t remember that I’m not my degrees.
This makes sense. The capitalist society most of us live in based on instilling a fear that we’re not enough as we are. That it’s who we’re associated with that will keep us safe and employed and secure. That we can earn more and pay more and everything will be okay.
What I didn’t know was that I had spent many years thinking I was just playing the game, but not getting sucked in. I mean, I grew up poor. I knew better than to buy into that BS, right? I had been happy to live out of my car and just make 14k a year.
After reading that dharma tarot quote, I realized I had succumbed to the fears I had growing up. I had lots of fear about being poor again. Because it did suck to wait in line for government food. It was embarrassing to pay with stamps and shitty when we had to euthanize my pets because we couldn’t afford their treatments. Or to not be able to afford rent in a safe neighborhood or even own a house so that we weren’t always at risk of being asked to move out.
I made it a goal to make big money not for my happiness… but for safety.
I express my fear to the group out loud, and – most of them white – they tell me there’s so much evidence that money doesn’t make you happy, and why would I believe that. Not helpful.
Rashani sees that I am in a mind loop and comes at me with a rattle, and the sound and vibration the walls around me. I surrender and collapse, inside and outside.
She asks me what’s present, and I say that I feel a bunch of white people are telling me that how I feel isn’t valid.” Then I sob, and say, “I don’t feel safe in this society.”
“I don’t either,” she tells me.
I curl up in a snotty, sobbing, ball on the floor. And slowly, just from grieving this, I start to feel lighter.
Rashani takes my hands as I slowly sit up. And I realize that I did exactly what my mom didn’t want me to do. To work as much as she did. To not have financial freedom by going into so much educational debt.
I forgot that all my parents ever wanted for me was to be happy.
I cry out, “I’m so sorry!” to my mother.” I feel her presence. “I misunderstood. I see now what you wanted for me. I’m so sorry…” And I feel my mother’s forgiveness for all the ways my busy-ness and stress came out in harmful ways towards her.
It was cathartic.
My teacher says, “You’ve been sucked into that capitalist story. But this is the last day.”
“You’re decolonizing your mind.”
She asked me if I still felt fear, and I searched my mind and body and heart and was surprised to find that I didn’t.
I didn’t have the ongoing story that I was unsafe. That the world was unsafe.
I could see the multiple paths of confusion I’ve been having – about where to live, how to raise Maia, how to free myself from debt – become clear.
I know from my own experience that you are safe too. Even if you don’t believe me and you feel unsafe right now, know that I’ve been there.
The realities of living in a capitalist consumerist modern industrialized world exist.
And we can choose how deeply we participate in it.
We can choose how deeply that impacts how we show up in the world, how authentically we live our lives, how we choose to use our valuable time.
I will flash my degrees when I need to open some doors I will see them for what they are – and what they are not. They are NOT who I am, and they are not what validate my worthiness.
And I have my eye on the prize: true freedom.
And that starts from within.
What is one small choice we can make today to help feel in a society that instills fear in so many ways?
This is a call to decolonize your mind from the bullshit story that we aren’t enough as we are. That we aren’t worthy of safety, love, and protection just for being alive.
Because we are. We all are. Yes, YOU.
This is revolutionary. This is rebellious. This knowing is the biggest step towards freedom that we can take.
You will learn:
// What insight helped me take steps to further decolonizing my mind
// Why the capitalist consumerist society we live in encourages the idea that we are not innately enough
// How I secretly fed into my fears and forgot my parents’ ultimate dream for me… and the moment I broke free
// How to change your mindset from one of “unsafe” to one of safety, worthiness, and FREEDOM
// If you want to dive into this level of healing with a small group of self-identified womyn, having plant medicine retreats in Alaska and Hawaii, adventures in nature and learning more about your mind and your deeper Soul Purpose, 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!