Follow your gut and step aside, sister

Last July I was wallowing. I was numbing. I was freaking. I was running. I was frozen. I was half here. I had recently resigned from my academic career of 15 years, and I hadn’t committed to anything new, so I worked little and anguished mucho. I felt disconnected and floating. July sucked!

This July I have been sad too. But I have also been delighted. And I have been worried. I have been mad. I have been proud. Most importantly, I have been inspired. I am working lots, but my work is meaningful and it is all for me. I am not working out of fear of not having enough money, or to prove my worth to the universe. I am instead working to grow. I am setting intentions, playing with affirmations and being curious. I am witnessing, studying and listening.

Because of all this work (or perhaps in spite of it) I have experienced a couple big insights this summer, one of which I want to share.

In mid June I received a request from the university where I’m scheduled to teach yoga in the Fall for the most recent transcript of my most advanced degree. This immediately got under my skin. Interesting, I thought. What does an MA in Spanish have to do with yoga? I couldn’t swallow the silliness of it, though I couldn’t spit the bad taste out of my mouth either. Instead, I held it in the hollow of one cheek while I celebrated the solstice, my birthday and Independence day. Holidays over, but before I responded, the university called reiterating the same request. It was time to pull this icky feeling about academic yoga back out for a taste. I rolled it around a bit, and I started to feel sick.

I did not want to do it.

What was going on with me? This teaching job was a good gig. It paid well, provided me plenty of practice, had perks. I could say “I am a college professor” once again. I could witness inexperienced yogis learn and grow over the course of a semester.

But I was dreading it, the parking as well as the commitment associated with a credit class. I didn’t want to check university email, take attendance, report academic achievement or assign grades.

My body was saying no very loudly, but my mind was trying to rationalize and bargainYou can do this. It’s only four months, plus, these students are required to be there (aka you don’t have to worry about pleasing them, they have to come back!) You can impact young hearts and minds! You can be proud to be working for an established institution!

My heart screamed, I don’t want to rush in the morning! I want to keep two sacred mornings a week to sip coffee in the silence of my empty home, to tinker, to write, to read, to do nothing. It’s taken me a year to really appreciate the act of chilling in solitude and I want to chill.

My mind, in a somewhat patronizing tone responded, you made a commitment, dear. Please don’t let them down. Classes begin next month. You have the time. Besides, the classes are full! How will you look backing out now? What will they think? What will they do? This is flaky. Unappreciative. Put your big boy pants on and honor your commitment. Don’t cause a scene!

At a very uncomfortable loss, I made a deal with the universe. I took a photo of the raised-seal transcript I dug up from 2003 and emailed it to the director’s secretary. If that didn’t suffice as proof that I was capable of teaching for whomever (whatever) needed to document it, then I would say no.

She said it wouldn’t work.

Shit! Now what? I sat at the computer but still  couldn’t pull the “just say no” trigger.

Flash forward a few hours to when my therapist, head cocked and brow furrowed, watched me enter into battle. After having shoved that deal with the universe out of the way, I let my parts begin  to combat again about what I should do.

She didn’t even let me get me get it all out (perhaps she’d heard different versions of this story from me previously??) before interrupting, “what if you’re just getting clearer about what you want?

Yeah, that thought has scurried across my consciousness, but it sounds a little selfish.

And then she added, “and, you are always replaceable.”

What?!  Excuse me. That is mean. 

Then the realization: Hahahaha! That’s right. This is my giant ego freaking out! Maybe the world continues to operate just fine without me. Maybe the college has plans in place for this sort of thing. Maybe it’s not my job to worry about it. Maybe everybody else can take care of themselves, and if I trust that they are then I can take care of myself too. Maybe I don’t have to consider options from 108 different angles. Maybe I can set down the spread sheet that is my decision making and listen to my gut.


So, with my gut ringing in my ears I sat in my parked car outside the yoga studio and wrote to the college that upon closer inspection, this assignment wasn’t a good fit for me.

I hit send.

I breathed in and I breathed out.

No symphony. My vision didn’t focus and brighten. I didn’t feel the earth drop away. Nor did I feel panic rise. Everything was the same. Except that I was softly and sweetly empowered. I had acted in alignment with my gut, even if my mind didn’t understand. I was practicing an art and a skill that over the course of my life I had smothered into suffocating silence. I unlocked the studio standing proud with my Karma, fully aware that I could be causing a hassle, disappointment or a shuffling of schedules, but also fully aware that I could deal with any consequences that came my way. They would be okay, and I would too.

And then, as if the universe really wanted me to feel absolutely assured in the power of my gut-aligned action, she made shit happen.

I entered the lobby just as a new class on the yoga schedule was ending. I didn’t even know it was happening. The teacher and I began to chitchat. Turns out she recently gave up a handful of classes elsewhere and was looking to teach more classes starting in late August. She was super interested in the gig I just let go of and is meeting with the University today.

My reluctant attitude out. Her excited attitude in.

Thank you, universe! Within minutes of me getting clear about what I wanted and having the gusto to claim it, the universe swept in to show me she was there arranging matters in a far more panoramic view than I can currently behold.

I am blown away by what the universe does when I get clear about what I want and need and don’t try to control the situation.

Now for remembering this wisdom.

Thankfully, since last July I’ve worked hard to create a community of soul-seeking buddies that can remind me when I forget.

Thank you friends, and thank you universe!

4 thoughts on “Follow your gut and step aside, sister”

  1. Hi Katie!
    I appreciate your thoughts you put down for others to read! I went through this job thing 6 years ago when I was 37! I can not get over how much your thoughts are mine to a T!!! Much of the time, I am not sure if my thinking is normal, selfish, or light years ahead of most. I was compelled to read every one of your short posts…again many similarities and questions alike. I feel a bit more at peace Thank You!

    1. Hi, Trista!
      Your comment means so much to me. Thank you. That’s exactly why I share. I feel so crazy half the time, but I know I can’t be alone! And what is normal anyway?! So great to hear from you.

  2. Hi Katie- I hear you girl! I can identify with your journey and applaud your “gut” instinct or should I say courage. It takes courage to follow ones true path. There are days when the only person standing in the way of my life is me. I keep working on mindfulness and am also learning how to enjoy the peace in all the little blessings in my life. Everyday I practice!!! Maybe one day I will figure it out or master the art. Love to you!

  3. I think if we are lucky in this life, we make our way to a personal evolution very much like you describe, Katie. Reading your story reminded me of that time of inner struggle in my own life some years ago that culminated in me selling a family business, leaving the work world at a much earlier age than most, displacing several long time and dedicated employees. All to follow my gut feeling. It was agonizing. It was gut wrenching. It was the best thing I ever did. Keep moving forward… you are right, it sorts itself out in fascinating ways and as you so wisely stated, we are all replaceable. Do what you need to do now. So I thank you for being that reminder to me… that following our hearts is the best path if we want to care for ourselves and others.

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