This is happiness.
I repeat this over and over in my mind as my body is simultaneously filled with a sensation of stars shooting through my spine and an expansiveness that feels like the holiest of emptinesses.
I am floating with my face to the sky, in a hot tub overlooking the most beautiful view in the world. The caldera of Santorini, as viewed from a traditional canava — a Greek cave house built deep into the heart of the volcano.
Seven years ago, deep in meditation, a vision came to me as a mentor asked me to see where I would be in ten years.
A place I had never seen before flooded me. A vision of everything I had ever wanted.
The peculiar white cave house, the views of blue ocean with a smattering of volcanic islands.
The phone in my right hand on hold as I waited to confirm a TV interview.
The plastic wrapped book on the counter — a final proof of my second book, recently announced as an Oprah’s Book Club pick.
A handsome man walks through the arched doorway, announcing we are ready. We descend the long, winding, white stairs onto a boat to watch the sunset.
I am so happy.
I always remember how I felt in that vision. A deep sense of satisfaction. Deeply rooted in my body. A calm peace that I had been craving since I was 7 years old.
I have held that vision close to my heart for seven years.
There have been times I’ve wondered if it would ever happen. Where I’ve cursed the slowness of getting there. There have been times I felt a profound confidence that it’s all unfolding in its perfect timing. And there have been times, during the darkest times, that the vision has been the only thing that kept me going.
I found out a few years later that the place in my vision was real. Santorini, Greece, said the travel magazine from the plane seat pocket in front of me. I knew in that moment that magic was promised to me here.
And now here I am, for the second year in a row. And this time….
This time I decided to treat myself and I booked the luxury honeymoon suite with the views. The ones from my vision.
I admit, I felt a smattering of fear when I booked it.
Not because I couldn’t afford it — I could. But because still, after all these years of expanding, there is always a learned, self-imposed, and irrational edge to uncover and then gently push. Sometimes not so gently.
You know what I’m talking about.
Those voices that threaten you with how “irresponsible” you’re being for going after a true desire. That voice we were taught by this complicated world. That tells us it is somehow holier to starve, deprive, and prove. Or worse: settle for “just good enough”.
I left that aside long ago. But every time I choose a new expansion, the voice returns, as it does for all of us. The difference is that now it has less power than it used to. Now it rarely controls me.
Instead I do what I teach womxn to do: cradle it with love, let it vent a little, reassure it. Then move forward with what my soul wanted to do anyway. It’s the only way to conjure true magic in your life.
I almost gasped when I walked into the cave house I had booked.
It is almost exactly like the vision I had.
The price of the room three times what I would have paid last year.
And yet, I felt calm.
You’re getting closer, says the Empress inside of me. The fact that this room looks so close to your vision means you’re almost there.
I am still here, in the hot tub, repeating the phrase over and over again.
This is happiness.
Sharp intake of breath.
This is happiness.
This is happiness.
Sometimes I think this is what my mind does when there is so much happiness that she doesn’t know how to fully process. She frets that my body won’t know where to put all of this bliss. So she remarks on the happenings around her as a strange form of reassurance that this is, indeed, a visit from joy herself..
No, you won’t die from feeling this happiness.
No you won’t be persecuted and burned at the stake for having the audacity to enjoy this so thoroughly.
There’s a prominent modern day philosopher I follow online who I’ve noticed does the same thing. The other day I watched a video of him in awe of some parrots in a park he was visiting. As exuberance spilled forth from his eyes, I could see it whelming him. He couldn’t stop loudly remarking how magnificent those beautiful birds were. Stemming the joy just a little bit by separating himself from the feelings with the sharp edges of words.
In some small way, this thing we do, describing our happiness out loud, it’s a way of disassociating slightly. Not letting all the happiness in.
Have you ever noticed that the happiest most potent moments render you speechless?
How good can you stand it? I hear the voice of an old mentor ringing in my ears.
I can stand it real good. But there’s always more to receive. Always more to explore. Always nooks and crannies that need to be expanded.
Because we have a right to this feeling. We deserve it.
Actually there is no question of deserving.
We were born for it.
We are made of it.
We are it, if we would just continuously get out of our own way.
Why do we always feel we must do something to earn this happiness?
Why do we separate ourselves from it ever so slightly as if we did something wrong?
Why do we hide it when we feel it for fear others might see us in such a state?
Why do we feel that we have to prove that we deserve it?
Why is it so hard to stay in this state uninterrupted for longer than a few minutes, an hour, or a day?
(Please, spare me the guru quotes about enlightenment. Spare me the snide comments about how if I was really evolved and qualified I’d be in a constant state of bliss. Even the Buddha and Jesus experienced doubts and separation. It’s called “being human”.)
20 minutes later, after this moment of happiness and floating, I am in a spiral of body shame.
I tried to take that quintessential photo of the “womxn in the pool with beautiful view in the background”. Except I forgot that I am neither a size 2, nor a blonde with blue eyes, nor a model.
My arms looks so big, my ego says.
Your breasts are drooping a little too low.
Then I hear my mother’s voice and her mother’s voice: no man will ever find a body like that attractive. Womxn who look like that are not appealing to men.
I can feel the cortisol pumping through my veins. I’m going deep into a hole of shame and doom as the matriarchal voices repeat how unwomxnly this all is, how impossibly lovable this body of mine. How untouchable.
And now I’m pissed. Because I’m in one of my favorite places. And I am hearing voices that were never my own to begin with. And they are affecting my mood. Making me recoil from feeling I deserve the happiness I was just feeling. Asking me to be small, ashamed, head bowed.
And I refuse.
I take myself into a corner of the hot tub. I feel the warm water wrapping its arms around me. I kiss my shoulder. I know what to do.
I reach for memories that tell me the truth.
The way past lovers loved my body at every size.
The time I took nude photos of myself on that “bad body day” and was surprised to find such beauty on the other side of the lens.
How, when I look in the mirror, past all the conditioning that our world teaches womxn to keep them subservient and small, I see a work of art.
And I come back to myself as the sun begins to fall over the pink, volcanic islands in front of me. I feel the love that is infused into every corner of this world beaming down upon me. And as the setting sun reveals colors in the soil of these islands that can only be seen at this particular time of day, so does the veil lift from my eyes.
I am once again a child of this Universe, naked, floating in the water. Devoid of expectations and judgements. Just a divine source of energy contained in a body, floating.
I’m softly laughing now.
I’m thinking of all the womxn I work with. My clients. The countless voices of womxn I have held on the phone. Great womxn. Warriors. Womxn who inspire awe. Who do the hard and good things in the world. Who are changing the world with their voices and their work.
I think about why I chose Greece as the place to bring so many of these womxn on retreat.
The daughter of Metis, a giant womxn. A Titan.
And Zeus, the god of sky and thunder. Supreme god of the Olympians.
This child, imbued with the primordial power of the Titans, the direct descendants of the first gods. Her cells imbued with the Knowledge that existed since the beginning of time. And the power of thunder.
Zeus became threatened by this. Swallowed Metis, the great Titan womxn, whole with Athena still inside her. And yet, within the belly of Zeus, Metis still trained and taught Athena in the darkness.
And one day Athena emerged triumphant from the head of Zeus, after hammering her way out.
I think of these amazing womxn I work with. I think of myself. I think of the womxn who came before me. I think of all womxn throughout the centuries who have dared to do something great.
Who are willing to do the brave work.
And a large part of that brave work involves them overcoming the negative voices that tell them they cannot win against this world that wants to swallow them whole.
And yet, despite all of this, they hire me and together we hammer their way out and they leave their mark on the world.
I am floating here in Greece, still laughing. Lovingly.
We fear our own power.
We fear being as large as the Titans we came from.
And this fear is especially potent when we have the audacity to actually give ourselves what we desire. And the temerity to then deeply enjoy it. Feel proud of ourselves. Rejoice.
Whether it be booking a suite in the most luxurious part of Santorini…
or standing on stage and giving the talk you really wanted to give.
Writing that blog post you’ve been holding in your heart for a long while.
Saying no without explanation.
Accepting a compliment without apology.
Kicking that nightmare client out of your program.
Asking for the raise you know you deserve.
Investing an “irrational” but soul-aligned amount of money in your next expansion.
Or letting people see more of you, unfiltered.
Or in my case, irrational thoughts about my body that aren’t even true in my core of cores. Thoughts that make me want to hide or dull just a little bit of myself. Thoughts that want to prove to me how I hold no value unless I am the current ideal of beauty. That make me forget I am a daughter of Metis.
I am a Titan. A body like mine can’t slip under the radar. She takes up space.
So we learn to diet. Make our bodies small. Tame and flatten and tuck.
Make our voices higher pitched and less threatening.
Hunch our shoulders over ever so slightly when we walk into a room.
We learn to say words like “just” in front of our sentences so as not to piss off the gods of thunder.
We tell ourselves we are getting “too big for our britches” when we want to go big.
We make up excuses to separate ourselves from the immense happiness and joy we are here to say yes to.
I have worked with incredible womxn in the last 9 years.
Womxn who have delivered millions of signatures to the Japanese government to end nuclear weapons for good. Change the lives of millions of other womxn through their work. Break glass ceilings and make multiple millions of dollars helping womxn become more empowered and self sufficient. Tuck children in at night who are well loved and will take that love and change the world.
We all share this in common — this fear of our own greatness. The immense power in our very cells that holds the same power of creation as the Universe.
And this is your call, from the depths of a volcano in Santorini. From the low hiss of the primordial sound, the song of the first gods who created everything.
When you want to give in, remember.
Remember who you are.
P.S: Did this resonate with you? If so, let me know in the comments below.