The church was really deceiving.
On the outside, the walls were covered in a beautiful blue and white tile with little flourishes of flowers. So pretty and feminine. I figured when I walked in, this light, feminine prettiness would continue on the inside.
I was wrong.
As soon as I entered I was hit with a wave of intensity. Statues of Jesus lying down in coffins with blood dripping out of the torso. Jesus with a crown of thorns agonizing while carrying a heavy cross about to break his back.
This place did not apologize for its intensity. It placed all of its agony honestly on the table for all to see. There was no whitewashing of pain in this church.
There was something in me that really needed that level of emotional honesty. I’ve been doing a lot of internal work lately. As I head into my next level of mastery, I am undoing even deeper family patterns I took on that wounded me as a child. The higher you rise, the older and deeper the wounds that come up. Always.
This is the work I do with my clients sometimes as they are rising into bigger and bigger impact. The path to leadership within a business or a career is a spiritual path. Every time you hit another level of success or visibility, there is more at stake. And that means that old survival patterns you learned growing up suddenly get activated, threatening to hold you back from that next level of your work.
You can’t avoid it. The only way to the highest levels of your purpose is through. Through the old wounds. Through the pain. Through the mental patterns that loop and loop.
Sometimes, there is this point in the process of clearing out those wounds and breaking off the old soul contracts, where it’s all there on the surface. You feel like you aren’t sure if you will ever want to stop talking about the hurt and anger that you feel that this happened to you and that it changed you. You just want to keep talking about it and for people to finally listen to what you couldn’t say all those years ago.
All that anger, pain, and disappointment needs to be spoken so that it can be released into the wind. But you worry that people will turn their heads, not able to handle the intensity of it. That you will become that bitter person who can’t get over it and they will eventually grow tired of hearing it or roll their eyes. So you walk around like a starved person, holding bits back for fear the intensity will scare others away.
This church didn’t do that. It left all of its blood and guts on display. And yet, people came to visit it. It was famous. Like a person, it was multi-faceted. Beautiful, luxurious & classy. Wounded, suffering, honest. Real.
I needed to see that.
I felt this pull in my body towards a certain area of the church. As if I was being magnetized I ended up in front of a gorgeously ornate statue of Jesus.
As I ran my eyes over the beautiful details of this depiction, the golden rays, his star-like aura above his head, I startled when I reach the hands.
Crossed and bound in ropes.
Well that’s a bit disturbing, I thought. How odd. What does it mean?
I stepped over to the placard to read. It was in Portuguese. But I speak Spanish, so I could decipher.
The placard read:
“Jesus stands with his hands tied but inside he is free and at peace”.
Wow. The words hit me right in the gut.
A voice in me said, Even when the body is not free, the soul always is. And the mind can be free, too. That’s what the work is.
My mind drifted back to the health issue I’ve been having for the last couple of weeks.
One evening, after working a 12 hour day (rare for me, but hey, when you own your own business, it happens sometimes), I started hearing a high pitched noise in my head.
I think it’s got to be something electronic in my room that is making the noise. So I walk outside into the nature that surrounds my home. But I still hear it.
It’s one of my worst fears, come to life. Tinnitus. A constant high pitched ringing sound in your head that never goes away. It doesn’t stop. Imagine a tea kettle going off in your head 24/7.
I went into a panic. On the first two days, I could not find my footing. My normally, cool-under-pressure self was nowhere to be found. I went to the ENT and she told me it was probably not permanent, just stress induced.
I cried with relief when she said that. Intensely. She became really uncomfortable and unconsciously walked over to the door and opened it. As if to say, emotions are not okay. Now you must leave. Surgeons aren’t good with emotions. They are all facts and technique.
This reminds me of the family patterns I am working through. Me, the only soft-hearted, sensitive kid with big emotions, in the middle of a family that had learned to bypass their hearts in favor of the intellectual and logical. The kid in the back seat of the car who was stunned when her mother and brother made fun of her for crying. The feeling of betrayal.
I wondered who was the first ancestor in my family to be shamed for their big heart. Who then turned in upon herself and protected herself by ridiculing emotions and making the act of having them “weak.” Then passing this down, generation after generation, until it reached me.
What made me panic about the tinnitus was the anxious thoughts that looped in my mind. My mind kept spiraling into worst-case scenarios of living with permanent tinnitus. What if I had to become a recluse? What if I was never able to have relationships with anyone ever again? What if I was driven mad or suicidal by this constant auditory torture in my brain? My life would be destroyed.
My normally high-achieving self booked appointments with every holistic practitioner recommended to me.
The night the ENT told me it was not permanent, I called my sister, also a doctor, and I cried a good hard cry. The one I hadn’t been letting myself have. She tells me, Lisa, I know you try not to put chemicals in your body. But take a damn Tylenol PM, put a heating pad on your tight back muscles, and just go to sleep. I hadn’t slept in two days. You try sleeping with this noise in your head.
I did what she told me to do. Surrendering to the help of others. I woke up the next day with the ringing almost completely gone. And a voice spoke to me.
You think this tinnitus is a backslide in your health. But it’s not. It’s an evolution in what your body will allow you to disregard. You simply can’t just pile on the work anymore because “you can handle it just this once.” This is a new challenge. To manifest more by leaning back even more than you already have. The tinnitus alerts you when you need to stop pushing.
Funny how things that seem like the end of the world can actually be a sign of a beautiful beginning.
In the last few years, I have reduced my workload by a great deal. I have delegated things to my team. I have trained my team to be autonomous. I work less than I used to, by miles. But still, this is an invitation to do even less. It’s an invitation to not take on the stress of others. To set even firmer boundaries on the constant barrage of requests I get.
I am a boundaries queen but the more we move into our legacy work, the more light we hold for others, the more our boundaries evolve to meet our changing needs as leaders.
When you’re visible and people know about you, more and more people want things from you. Those of us who are high-performers can unconsciously drain ourselves by saying yes to things we should not do. We think of ourselves as emotionally and mentally stronger than the average human, able to take on a lot more. As a result we risk burning ourselves out under the weight of shouldering things for others that we just don’t need to be shouldering. Period.
At these levels of success, we are just tweaking little things that make a big difference in our energy levels, so that we can show up powerfully in our work as we hold more light for others. Sometimes this “tweaking” looks like working on the time your mother told you that you weren’t creative, and how that is creating the resistance you have to that invitation to be a speaker at that huge event you always wanted to be invited to anyway. Sometimes your new, $50,000 client is your mother in disguise and you need to do the internal work to stop attracting her into your business. Or you hit a revenue ceiling and can’t go beyond a million because you’re afraid of who you might become beyond those numbers.
And sometimes our bodies bind us so that we pay attention to the nuances.
My thoughts go back to those tied hands of Jesus.
His hands are tied, but inside he is free and at peace.
I drop a Euro into the slot by the candles and 6 candles light up. Three for my sister’s children, who have candles lit for them by me in every church I visit around the world. One for the family that has caused me so much pain, and because of that put me on the path to soul leadership. Another for myself. And the last one for all of us.
An astrologer told me once “your spoken word has great power. It’s in your chart. Be careful what you say because it comes true.” I mutter under my breath, giving power to my prayer,
May we all have these shackles taken from us.
May we stop feeling that nothing we ever do is enough.
May we all be free and at peace inside no matter where we are tied down by life.
One of the first things I teach my clients is the concept of Equanimity.
I teach it because I constantly have to learn new levels of it.
We teach what we have learned and continue to learn.
Equanimity is one of the most important things a leader needs to master in order to make the levels of impact they are here to make in the world. It’s the internal quality that allows us to leave legacies long after we are gone because it allows us to stay well enough inside to continue showing up and creating.
Equanimity: the state of being at peace and free within, no matter what storms happen externally or what physically binds you.
I felt the peace rushing over me like an ocean as I stepped out of the church and onto the cute, chaotic world of Porto. I wonder what some stranger might have seen on the face of that curly haired woman as she stepped onto the lively curb, ready for the next adventure.
What resonated with you about this? I’d love to know in the comments below.