The changes that happen, the changes we make

Spring has arrived fully here in central Texas, with wildflowers sprinkling the meadows, trees bursting with green, and birds singing across the skies. Of course this spring feels different from years past, as the death that came through winter’s freeze presents itself starkly alongside the rebirth. The once proud agave cacti are heavy and drooping; browned palm trees struggle to stand while fallen branches rest defeated upon the ground. What’s fresh and new is intertwined with what has perished. Nature seems to be mirroring the paradox of our strange re-opening world, where excitement over returning to former freedoms goes hand-in-hand with the grief and uncertainty that remains.

If you feel both hopeful and unmotivated, depleted and on the brink of change these days, it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. You’re living through a complex time with complex emotions, and it’s not easy to move forward in ambiguity. Part of the challenge, as I see it, is we haven’t fully shifted out of modern culture’s warrior mentality towards growth. A plethora of personal development and wellness memes tell us to focus on what we want and manifest our truest desires. It’s empowering to realize how much we can affect change through awareness and intention. But as many of the cultures we destroyed and/or subjugated know, growth happens in cycles, with loss and gain inseparable. To support growth, we can observe what’s actually happening and learn to work with rather than against the natural forces more powerful than we are. 

When we push too hard for what we want to happen, we may end up exhausted from the effort of trying. When we don’t do anything because we lack the energy, we may get stuck in hiding rather than take a risk. Perhaps there is another way, a way that accepts and intends, slows down and progresses. With spacious mind and generous heart, something both new and old may emerge, integrating where we’ve come from, where we want to go, and where we actually are.

I’m guessing if you’re reading this, there may be changes you desire for your life. It has been a long hard year, and being shut in and shut down has certainly clarified what’s not working. Maybe some of the changes you’re feeling called to are not quite happening, or perhaps you’re getting waylaid and pulled in unforeseen directions. When confused between growth and acceptance, rather than asking, “What’s wrong with me? Why isn’t this working? or Why do I feel this way?” a better question might be: “What is the very next step for now?” 

The best thing I’ve done for myself lately was to take a day off to get lost in the woods. Wandering without trying to get anywhere, I feel free. It feels like true relief to trust the meandering path that shows itself rather than bushwhacking what might or might not be a shortcut. There is magic in following trails unknown, not trying to figure out the map. And all along the way, it helps to tell the whole truth–to one’s self more than anyone else. It helps to speak out loud to the trees, the river, the birds, or even the dry creek bed, “Show me the way and help me to trust it.”

I hope you’re being gentle with yourself these days, especially when there are more questions than answers. Top of the list for What I Can Do (a much shorter list than What I Am Not In Control Of) is the practice of being tender with the parts of us that are frustrated and confused. A few steps forward, however many back, I imagine that viewed from high above, together we walk the labyrinth of healing, getting closer in, moving farther out, yet somehow being led towards center.

Wishing you some vitality, inspiration, and peace each day, to receive deeply and share wildly,

Julia Aziz

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On burnout, waiting, and wonder

You might find this strange and a little gross, but the other day I spent some time watching a beetle roll a little balll of dung across the road. I became fascinated by his perseverance and how he naturally made use of what for most living beings on earth is just poop. I don’t know much about dung beetles, but it strikes me on a metaphoric level how we need this kind of resourcefulness in our current world. What creativity could transform what we must leave behind into something sustainable and life-giving?

The most common refrain I’m hearing from folks these days is “I just wish I knew when this pandemic would end.” There is a lot of sadness with this question, as no one can offer anything but predictions or false promises. Maybe there is a higher authority on the subject though. Nature tells us:

Everything changes.
Change happens on its own time.

Many humans in the modern western world use plans for comfort. We want to know what to expect, and we like to have something to look forward to. In some ways, we’ve forgotten how to wonder, how to give our full attention to the lived experience of now. Perhaps there is some connection here to the dung the beetle was pushing across the road. I wonder, what ways of thinking make us feel worse, and how can we digest and eliminate them for the higher good?

I also spent time last week watching some turkey vultures. I’ve never understood why these majestic birds are so underappreciated and almost feared. It’s captivating, the way they circle the skies above, feeding on what has completed its life cycle here. These birds live because other creatures die. In this, they embody rebirth. The vultures teach us that a new cycle begins out of the one that came before. Everything is made use of here, in this place we live. 

When we let go of the individual pursuit of happiness as such a supreme cultural value, perhaps compassion can be reborn. When the experts can’t give us good answers, maybe we’ll witness a rebirth in honoring curiosity and intuition. As I see it, we don’t need more gurus, we need more empathic, creative people who trust themselves and each other. I’m not trying to draw a silver lining around a very dark cloud. The weariness and the grief are real and everywhere. Still, I believe in us. I believe in our resilience and in our ability to make changes for the better. 

A friend who is more like a sister to me lives in the redwoods in California, and the fires this summer came within a quarter mile of her house. She told me after the weeks of smoke, flames, and devastation, the birds were the first animals to return to the forest. The birds, of course, were the ones who could most gracefully leave and most easily return. Their protection lies not in being the strongest fighters, but in being the lightest on their feet. Who is to say what’s most needed right now in our own personal and collective struggles. All I know is there are some great teachers living amongst us who have been there all along. We may have to open the door and look outside to find them.

May you feel the support of the ground, the possibility of the sky, and the beauty of your own true nature,


PS– If you’re a helper or healer longing to feel yourself again, consider joining us in the Release & Empower online community for regular mental, emotional, and physical release. It’s self-care accountability and spiritual renewal in good company. As of the time of this writing, I also have two openings for individual holistic psychotherapy. And all are welcome to check out this new pandemic support book: When You’re Having A Hard Time: The Little Book That Listens

PPS– Sending some extra love to all those who are grieving the loss of a loved one this year. Big big hugs to you.