I don’t talk about this much in public spaces.
It’s a bit like showing my underwear to a person I’ve just met—it doesn’t matter whether I’m wearing something lacy and lovely or simple utilitarian cotton, it’s an intimate moment that opens me to ridicule.
But as a teacher, I’ve found the real gold is in stories and sharing.
Creating a life based on goals and intentions (what I think of as pushing the river) has become a national pastime. And as it has, this story keeps circling ‘round, tugging at my pant leg, asking to be shared.
Don’t get me wrong—I’ve pushed the river, pulled the river, and made it do loopty-loops. All of which has helped my business survive and thrive for ten years (okay, survive for 10 and thrive for 7). But the goal-setting, the intending, and the striving is only part of the story.
Here’s my secret:
There was no master plan.
I didn’t set out to become a healer, nor did I visualize shops in two states and a vibrant online community (online??! says ten-years-ago me, that’s crazy-pants!).
The year destiny wrapped me ‘round her little finger and tugged my life into a new shape, I was happily renovating my 1870’s Sears and Roebuck kit house, spending evenings rocking on the wrap-around porch and making gluten-free mulberry-peach pies with fresh berries from the trees along the back fence-line. I loved my house somethin’ fierce and swore I’d be carried out in a coffin.
I was 33. A magical year that I call the “Jesus Year,” not because I’m religious, but because Jesus died and was reborn at the age of 33.
Thirty-three is three 11s, the number of visionaries and dreamers, ideologues and spiritual seekers. Think about your own thirty-third year (and if you’re not yet there, pay attention when it comes!).
So I hit my thirty-third birthday and life got officially weird.
Unlike Jesus my old life took almost a year to die. It began slowly—a roommate moving in with her boyfriend, another deciding to return to New York City—then the dissolution began accelerating toward the unexpected denouement of selling my home and driving cross country, heading first to Whidby Island off the coast of Washington State and ultimately to Ireland.
And all of this in a plan-less state of wonder.
I think about it like this: if the energy of your life is a river, you can flow with the current and go where the river takes you. Your life may be odd or extraordinary, mundane or magical… but whatever it is, you’re in the flow of your river.
That river, that energy, becomes the guiding force. And when you’re being guided, it’s no longer about thinking or choosing, it’s about feeling into the energies around you and following whichever is yours.
On the other hand, you can always choose to hoof it. You can walk along the banks or hike far into the hills, circling around, coming back, stepping in and out of the flow. Or head off entirely and blaze a new trail.
We all do a bit of blazing and a bit of flowing in our lives. And we each find happiness in different parts of the journey.
In my 33rd year I stepped wholly into the river. Heck, I bought a boat and asked the river where it wanted to take me… and life as I knew it was turned on its head.
Each morning when I awoke, I’d examine my dreams.
One morning I grabbed my journal to record a dream so intense and clear and compelling that it had as much in common with my usual nightly perambles as a Hyundai does with a Bugatti.
In the dream an androgynous-looking woman with long black hair flew me to an island I knew was Ireland.
That’s how my adventure began. I was literally following dreams. No grand plan or mission, I simply grabbed the thread life presented and playfully stepped into the flow (what will happen if…? I wondered).
So what the heck am I telling you?
Life can be magical.
Sometimes the flow hooks you in the gut and offers you the ride of a lifetime.
But if you say yes, you don’t get to dictate where you’ll end up.
And that’s key. When you put your boat on the river, you go where the river goes. You surrender.
Here’s the other thing to note: the river is like The Force in Star Wars, it’s like gravity, or a chainsaw. It’s an energy and tool, neither good nor evil. It has no morality whatsoever.
Stepping into the river should be done with the same care with which you’d cross a street. Look left, right, and left again.
Trace the concentric circles of affect. In Witch Camp we use the image of Spider sitting on her web. You are Spider. Every relationship you have, not just to people but to animals, your work, the earth itself, all of these are affected by your decisions.
Stepping into the river is a choice which does not confer permission to abdicate responsibility for your life.
A Cherokee teacher once told me in his tribe the extreme individuality of Americans would be seen as a disease. When I watch someone step into the river leaving others to unwillingly tend the life they’ve left behind, I’m reminded of the balances we need to strike between flowing toward our dreams and tending to our web.
And yet… there are times when you look right, left, then right again and you get the all clear. You climb into the boat, grasp the sides, and let out a wild yawp as you shoot the rapids and enter the unknown.
That’s how this chapter of my life began: no plan, no intention, no visualization, only the willingness and the space to leap.
If you’re wanting the “right way” of going about this thing called life, you won’t find it here. You can ride the river or give it a push, chill on the dock or pull out a pole and do a little fishing. Whatever you choose do it consciously, aware of how your actions ripple outward and knowing you can find joy and fulfillment riding the flow or rooting deep into the earth.
Your turn to share a story! Tell me about your thirty-third year or a time you let destiny have her way with you.
P.S. All this begs the question: how did I learn to feel the flow?
I got a little witchy. I learned about plant medicine and the cycle of the seasons, I surveyed the night sky and followed the moons, I studied my breath and the feel of my body.
P.P.S. Need a little help connecting with your dreams? Intentionality is the key!
- pause before bed, put your feet flat on the floor, and intend to remember your dreams
- you can breathe a little mugwort smoke or inhale some frankincense or palo santo essential oil before you go to sleep
- be sure to have a notebook in reach and opened to a fresh page by your bed. I prefer something big and not precious (don’t use the beautiful journal you got for your birthday with your favorite sparkly gel pen).
- when you’ve dreamt, start writing in that subliminal space. Don’t turn on the lights. Just scrawl it out (which is why you’re using a big notebook), don’t worry about your handwriting or how it looks.
- when you wake up in the morning, before you are fully alert, go back to your notebook and flesh out what you wrote in the night.