Talking with friends the other night, the topic of ayahuasca came up. Ayahuasca is a medicinal cactus used by shaman in South America to aid emotional, spiritual, and physical healing. I was the only one who had a personal experience with ayahuasca, so when I returned home I pulled the passage from my book about my first experience to share with my friends. I don’t know if they gained insight into ayahuasca, but I realized something amazing. I got what I wanted.
Ten years after my amazing trip to Peru, I discovered I have what I asked for. During that trip I wanted to be released by my apparent failures and disappointments. I wanted to create a new definition of what success looked like to me. Not a definition of a new career, an amount of money in my bank account, a new home, or any other tangible thing. But success which took “the form of being true to myself, having a pure heart, being grateful, finding time to be in nature, being positive, calm, and peaceful, and taking care of my body. I wanted to be a joyful Peruvian, not a stressed-out American.” Now, on most days, I have what I requested. Got the country wrong, but the intent is the same.
It was not an easy path. During the transition, I quit a stable position, was laid off from the next, and struggled with starting my own business. I experienced the exhaustion of caring for the dying, and the pain of losing them. I made good choices, bad choices, and really bad choices. I parted with friends who were not on the same path. I sold almost everything I owned and moved to a new country. I worked through struggles, challenges, and doubts of being in the right place but not quite the right place. I worked and worked and worked on my emotional and physical health.
After a decade of growth, the way I live and approach my life is completely different. I feel successful when I spend the day calm, centered, and compassionate. I have learned, and am still learning, how to be true to myself and take care of my mind and body the way it needs it. And I continue to work through the relationship challenges that appear again and again. Part of this is being an empath who easily takes on others’ energy and emotion without knowing it, and my background which taught me to care for others above myself. As I enter 2018, my goal is to learn to recognize, focus on, and fulfill my own needs and wants; to create strong boundaries against toxic individuals to keep them from infiltrating my actions and experience; and to spend my days focused on gratitude and compassion.
As we reflect on the last year, or even the last ten, take some time to redefine success for you. What would bring you peace, joy, and happiness? How do you need to be to feel complete? What do you need to experience to make you whole? Instead of struggling for things outside of yourself – money, fame – choose the hard road of working on the things inside yourself and see how your life can shift for the better.