We’ve decided to occasionally post inspiring writings by our students, apprentices and allies, beginning with the following piece by Tracy Carlton. Note that her “to do” list at the end, can also be downloaded with as a PDF in color for printing off and saving. In Animá, we teach that we’re all lifelong students, but also that we have a responsibility to teach with every knowing and tool we’re given. Tracy is a good example of taking care of oneself and not waiting to make real improvements in life. And with this piece, she begins trying on the mantle of teacher as well.
Living the Dream Now
Since becoming an Animá student in May of this year, I have started taking a deeper look at each of my actions, thoughts, and motivations in life. Everything I once valued is now up for re-examination: Is it really me? Does it still fit who I am now, who I have become, or who I would like to be? Even my long-held visions and life-dreams have not been spared this process! One of these visions has been to be part of an intentional community ~ living on shared land and co-creating a more conscious life together. Once this was in place, I then had a long list of things I would like to add to my life within in this community: growing and harvesting food, living off the grid, building a cob oven, creating a sacred dance studio… and it went on and on!
However, one day last summer I and a dear friend/sister and fellow Animá student were having lunch together and realized that even though the vision of an intentional community still rang true for each of us, we were putting life on hold until this community was formed. Why were we waiting for a future community to do all the things that spoke so dearly to us both? So we decided it was time to start living our dream now! We each wrote up our vision of what we wanted from life, and then made a list of actions we could take to make this vision come true ~ and come true in the here and now, not put on hold for someday.
My vision statement described everything from the kind of home I would have and the food I would eat, to how I would dress and how I could serve others. My list included growing herbs, sewing my own clothes, walking the Shamanic Path, and even getting a new tattoo. It held for me all the dreams and desires of a fulfilled, nurturing, engaged life.
We decided that each week we would choose one or two things from our list, and actively incorporate them into our lives. We also agreed to check in with each other to see how we were doing on this quest ~ were there unexpected hurdles? Was there fear to overcome? How did it feel to have accomplished something from our list?
It was easy at first, going down the list, picking the easy things first: buying local eggs ~ check! picking wild berries ~ done! creating rituals out of mundane ordinary tasks ~ incense lit, yep! I noticed myself avoiding or struggling with the bigger items on my list: being a stronger and more present mother, earning a living doing something I loved; putting time aside for myself during my moon-time… but despite these challenges, I have noticed that I am filling my days, my week, each moment with all the things I love. I no longer wait for someday to live a fulfilled life. And surprisingly, I have also become more present in not only my actions, but also my thoughts ~ is worrying about the future on my list? No. Am I going to try and change something that happened 12 years ago? No. Instead, I reel my thoughts back to what I’m doing that moment, even if it is simply doing nothing!
It has been a gift to have someone to share this process with, but ultimately, I know it is my responsibility to make sure I’m following through on my intentions. Some weeks I list out the same thing as the week before ~ sometimes because it turned out to be a bigger venture than I had imagined, but other times it’s because I just didn’t make it a priority and either forgot or chose to neglect it.
I am also quite aware that this list is not ever complete. It is a living document, that must reflect who I am at each moment. Something that seemed a priority this week may be irrelevant to who I am two months from now. Or, conversely, something I never ever imagined myself doing today may appear on my list in the future. This list is alive and organic and will grow and change with me, as I grow and change through all of life’s experiences.
The final piece of this adventure has been tying my list into each lesson from Animá. During the very first lesson, in describing my fears, my struggles, my goals ~ I found I had laid out the foundation of the very list itself. Another lesson, focusing on a Sense of Place, was where I gratefully realized that I could be doing all the things on my list right where I was. That these very acts would lead me to the place I am supposed to be, whether here where I live now, or to some other magical, powerful spot that fits who I am, who I am becoming.
In the lesson I’ve just started, Presence & Grounding, I already feel the incredible connection between my list and the lesson ~ what better exercise than to be focused, present and aware of each and every act and thought? I am focusing on fulfilling my life here and now, using my list as the bones of this adventure, not waiting until some obscure day in the future. But also how beautiful that I can create this list of mine, and at the same time let it go, not rigidly adhering to it nor worrying about accomplishing each and every thing on it. Being present means engaging in whatever I’m doing at the moment, on my list or otherwise.
So even though the dream of living in intentional community is still alive and strong and part of my vision for the future, waiting for that community to manifest before I live a fulfilled and engaged life is no longer an option. I am actively choosing each day, each moment, to be doing something that speaks to my soul, makes me feel alive, and truly represents who I am, and all that I dream of being. For it is the very creation of each of the acts on my list that builds and creates my life, my vision for the future right now.
My “Live My Dream Now!” List
My Life Vision:
My life includes, but is by no means limited to, ENCHANTED experiences of family, friends, cats, local, organic, wild foods and meals, sewing, embroidery, drawing, painting, belly dancing classes, belly dance troupe, sacred dance, a shamanic path, living outside integrated and connected to the spirits of nature (sleeping, walking, sitting, eating, cooking, gardening, harvesting, praying, giving thanks, ceremony, ritual, being), celebrations, gatherings, ceremonies, rituals, my moontime lodge and nurturing rituals, gardening, reading, conscious choices, being ALIVE, present and engaged!
What I Have Started Integrating Into My Life So Far:
~tattoo on upper back
~create an interactive equinox altar for my birthday gathering
~create an outdoor living space on the deck (table, chairs, rug, extension cord for laptop)
~using a solar dehydrator
~support local growers
~eat less meat or at least with intention and make it local
~make seasonal jams (buy fruit at farmers market or locally, or wild craft)
~buy local eggs
~grow herbs in pots in kitchen
~connect with spirit/nature where I’m at
~dance/have classes where I’m at
~shamanic path online course
~apprenticeship with Anima
~dressing a little more like a shaman
~created decorations for belly dance tent (sewing)
~engaged with Hawk & created ritual and connection with Hawk
~drink herbal teas when I’m not well
~light incense to honor a moment or ritual or act
~make tomato paste
~at peace and am a calmer, stronger Mama
~find used/antique bread making equipment and start making bread
~using cloth bags for all shopping trips
~make/sleep with a mugwort dream pillow
~creativity: new web site for Kundalini
My Acts of Conscious Living:
~set up a compost pile/bin
~set up a clothes line
~plants along/underneath cloths line that smell divine!
~make homemade soaps, shampoos, conditioners
~make homemade cleaning products
~make more food and buy less: tortillas, butter, yogurt
~find grains and mill for flour
~buying and sewing pattern/blouse & ghawazee coat
~dress like a Shaman: no boring clothes!
~tattoo on upper left arm; and tattoo of symbol of consciousness
~sew my own clothes or buy recycled/used or homemade clothes
~have fun hair! colors or whatever that may mean
~private time for myself during moontime
How I Live:
~rain barrels on downspouts
~create gray water system and use kitchen water for this
~collecting rainwater intensively for gardens
~full-on garden & orchard & food forest
~eat only local meat for special celebrations
~buy seasonal flowers at the farmers market and grow more here
~have free-range chickens
~natural/spiritual medicines and healings
~create outdoor labyrinth
~have a home that’s “seasonally outside”
~mosaic stuff (solar dehydrator, my cob studio/home)
~de-clutter my home/space of stuff
~recycle, reduce, reuse
~no inputs for resources, all reuse, recycle, create from what we have where we have it (ie: compost, natural building, growing/making food/medicine/cleaning products/etc)
~cob studio/temple for sacred dance/creative space
~shamanic services for community
~belly dance classes for women
~sacred dance troupe with sisters
~gather my friends for spiritual celebrations
~lead spiritual ceremonies as a shaman
~keep house on market in faith!
~live on communal land in an intentional community which includes children and elders
To download this list in color PDF form: living-the-dream-now-list.pdf
To apply for an Animá Correspondence Course, download and send to the Center the following application: student-application-form.doc
(Editor Note: Tracy has a new website for her N. Calif. sacred belly dance troupe: http://www.kundalinidance.com/)