Why You Can’t Save the World and What to Do About It
I was 21, living on my own, and thinking that massage school would fix all my problems. I thought that as a massage therapist I could work and travel at the same time. I tricked myself into thinking I could “take my massage practice wherever I went.” All I really wanted to do was write as I traveled the world and I needed a way to make money to fund my dreams. I also really believed that as a massage therapist I would be truly helping others, which is also part of what I wanted to do in life.
Change the World with My Own Two Hands
I wanted to change the world, like most young 20-somethings, I was ambitious, driven, righteous (still am), and didn’t want a career, so I opted for only 10 months of school instead of 2 years. I wanted my adventures to start sooner rather than later. I also felt a deep calling to help other people on their wellness journey because I had already had some healing adventures and was fortunate to have incredible guides and mentor along the way. I wanted to do my part to help fix the broken belief systems around health, healing, body-image and negative self-talk. I thought I could do it with my own two hands. Literally.
During massage school we spent one week on business training and I quickly learned that in order to have a successful massage practice I would need to stay in one place for several more years in order to build up a client base which would afford me enough money to then travel the world—this is not what I had in mind. I worked harder. I pushed myself to finish earlier. I knew that if I were good I could get clients fast and then really make a difference in the world.
Wanting to be “Fixed”
Here’s the catch, I was good at what I did. People sought me out at the student clinic. However I quickly learned was that people came to my massage table expecting me to FIX them and I realized I couldn’t do that. Even doctors can’t “fix” people. People have to want to be helped. As one who seeks massage therapy and one who practices bodywork we have to enter into a space of reciprocity—yet I believed at the time that I could fix everyone who walked through my door. As a result of trying to take on the world and it’s aches and pains, I got sick.
This particularly stressful situation put me out of commission for months. At 19 I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. Living with Lyme + major stress = intense flare up. When I plugged my life into this equation, I was down for the count. I had rashes on my hands and couldn’t work in the clinic. I had brain fog and severe mood swings. I placed an unreasonable and unrealistic expectation on myself to be able to cure others with my bare hands. Plus, I didn’t know how to create boundaries to keep my own psyche safe and not take on other people’s stuff. I would walk out of each massage session exhausted, while the other person would walk out revitalized. I gave it all away without knowing how to do anything differently. So I did something I’d never done before. I quit. I quit massage therapy school.
The Freedom to Save Myself
I realized that I couldn’t live my life putting off the things that I really wanted. I didn’t want to go down the road of “shoulda, coulda, woulda.” I took two years off and traveled the world and wrote about my experiences. I stayed with friends and lived frugally. I loved every moment of those experiences. I got to know myself better. I learned to develop and hone my intuition for listening to and honoring what my body, mind and spirit needed at that time. I realized that this was the way I wanted to continue to live my life— to have freedom to call the world “home,” the freedom to save myself and inspire others to do the same, the freedom to care for myself first and from that place of feeling deeply connected my own own center, then I could offer my knowledge to others.
I still knew I wanted to help people, but this time I was clear—I wanted to help people HELP THEMSELVES. I still knew I wanted to make a BIG difference in the world. I moved back to my home town where I attended an awesome liberal arts college, and as part of my life plan I earned my 200-hour yoga teacher training certificate. The difference between massage school and yoga teacher training was I engaged in the yoga teacher training for personal reasons—I didn’t want to become a yoga teacher. The point was not to make money, the point was to learn about myself.
The Right Motivation
Fast forward five years and I found yogahealer.com and Cate Stillman. My main motivation for becoming a Yoga Health Coach was not to make money (although that played a key role)—I wanted to become a yoga health coach because I wanted to learn Ayurveda for me.
I’m having a realization as I write these words—I’m seeing a very interesting theme arise—the context for doing something (anything) in my life (however mundane), if motivated by scarcity, burnout is close behind. When I’m motivated by self-empowerment and further knowledge, I THRIVE.
I didn’t start teaching yoga until three years after completing my 200-hour yoga teacher training certification. For many years, I simply practiced. By then I was under no illusions that when I taught yoga I wasn’t going to fix anybody. I was no longer motivated by a need to “save the world.” The great thing about getting older is that my worldview changes and my perspective broadens. I hope that continues to happen as I age because I am still so young!
Luckily I’m still learning because it is a lifelong process of understanding how to have a body. Because at each new phase in life, the body changes. Every seven years we shed our skin as human beings. Every year we change with the seasons. Every season there is an opportunity to reinvent ourselves. No joke. Continually learning is, for me, is the only way to live!
I had, yet another, experience of the necessity of tuning my attention to my own body in order to be of greater service. I had to pay attention to my own health, the health of my ancestors that was/is still inside me, and how to transform that into workable energy. I could not be “fixed,” no one can be “fixed” and I can’t save the world unless someone is ready to have a deeper conversation with me about how to have a body.
I can’t save the world. We can’t save the world. All I CAN do is offer “A clearing,” as Werner Erhard says, “for love to show up in.”
Top 4 Questions to Ask Yourself if you Want to Save the World
- Start with YOUR aim—what role do YOU play on planet earth? Why do you exist in the world?
- Ask yourself, What am I sacrificing or putting off for “Someday later?”
- Check out your own self-care regime. Do you practice what you preach?
- Remember that the energy to work is directly linked with the energy of play—play feeds your work and vice versa. How are you sourcing your energy? From what purpose? With whom? What’s the payoff for work and play?