Good news! “Pathfinder: A creative journal for finding your way” is now available as a beautiful spiral bound journal!
I am very excited about this and hope that many, many people will dive into its pages, dig into the juicy journal prompts and creative exercises, and find their way to the places where their hearts want to take them. Buy your copy here.
Preparing for this launch, I asked a number of people I love and respect for their brief stories about finding their paths. Here’s what I asked them:
Who or what helped you find your path to the work of your heart?
I LOVE the stories I gathered! They are unique, beautiful and wise. Just as you’ll discover when you work your way through Pathfinder, no two people have the same story or the same path.
If their stories inspire you, feel free to add your own stories in the comments. Or write your story on your blog and I’ll add the link to the bottom of this post.
Tess Marshall, courage coach, author, blogger and teacher, Michigan
I was 25 and a young mother of four daughters ages 7, 5, 3 and 3. A young priest at the church we attended took personal interest in me. He convinced me to attend a nearby college when the twins went to kindergarten. I was AFRAID. He took me, signed me up for 2 classes: speed reading and how to study. I graduated nine years later. In two more years I had a master’s degree in counseling psychology. Life-changing.
Alana Sheeren, writer & intuitive coach, California
My daughter who made me want to deal with my demons so she didn’t have to inherit them. My son, whose stillbirth wiped the slate clean and began the journey of tying the loose ends of my life back together. The incredible women, like Heather, who crossed my path both virtually and in real life, whose love and support kept pointing me back to my true self. And through it all, listening to and trusting that deep inner wisdom kept me believing I’d find my way, even I was stumbling in the dark.
Christine Claire Reed, spontaneous dance maker and guide, Pennsylvania
Death. Finding my way back to dance and back to my essential self, finding my way back to LIFE after decades of debilitating depression and anxiety came through the lessons of death. My partner and I had a few years when death was a constant companion, and rather than shrink from that, we learned to embrace it and to live more fully because of it. I do not know where I would be now if I had not learned that death is just another necessary and beautiful part of life.
Mary Anne Radmacher, author, artist, actionista, Washington
Reading Hugh Prather’s HOW TO LIVE IN THE WORLD AND STILL BE HAPPY was a “line in the sand” turning point in my young life. We are now familiar that a single Chinese character represents both “crisis” and “opportunity.” That which felt tragic in the moment I was experiencing it – turned out to be key to turning me to my true life’s path.
Christina Baldwin, author & teacher, Washington
One thing that helped me find the path to the work of my heart is my own journal. There is a circular nature to the act of writing something down and through reading what I’m writing informing myself of my own desires… Countless times over the years, the pen has slipped out truth before my waiting gaze and I have been startled, surprised, delighted, or shocked at what I have just revealed to myself. The inner teacher is a sly one! In a life so richly full of people, I have enjoyed again and again the surprises springing forth from this most subtle inner source.
Amy Tingle, writer, artist, typewriter poet, New Jersey
The first dip into finding my heart’s work was quite literal, dipping my toes into Squam Lake during the inaugural Squam Art Workshops in 2008. I met so many women that weekend who were in the process of searching for, or who had already found, the heart of their passion. Taking art classes with great teachers like Judy Wise and Misty Mawn, and writing with Jen Lee and eventually, with Maya Rachel Stein, led me to begin teaching again myself. I started BraveGirlsArt, offering art and self-empowerment classes for girls and women in New Jersey, and more recently Maya and I embarked on a new adventure together with our mobile creativity business, Food for the Soul Train. Art and writing are no longer pursuits I daydream about, but integral pieces of my daily life. That first dip in Squam Lake was freezing, but I knew immediately that I could swim. -Amy Tingle, Food for the Soul Train
Rachelle Mee-Chapman, spiritual director specializing in “care for creative souls, Washington
What helped me find my path to my heart’s work? Art. I often say that when church failed me, art saved me. To me the creative process is an act faith, and to view the artwork of others is a connection to the divine. I was especially guided by the letters of Vincent VanGogh — another former preacher converted to the church of art. Now I help people connect the dots between spiritual development and creative expression. As an ordained minister, I never thought a museum would become my cathedral, but I’m grateful that it has.
Beth Sanders, conversation host and city planner, Alberta
Being a bit of an explorer has opened my life to my heart. When I went to university, and took my first job, I didn’t know what I was getting into; I just knew there was something there for me and I set out to explore what called to me, even if I didn’t understand why. As I look back, the path seems clear and I now understand that when I explore, the path finds me.
Kara LC Jones, creative grief coach and teacher, Washington
As odd as it may sound, my three dead sons helped me find my path to comfort with groundlessness. Prior to their lives/deaths, I wanted a fixed path; to know what I was meant to do; to feel I could accomplish or clearly show what I was doing in my life and work. But their deaths pulled all path from under my feet. I had to face the chaos of groundlessness and make peace with the path being no path. I do what I do. I treasure the moment — or lament, celebrate, curse, or dance it. I aim for things sometimes, but I know the path branches in dimensions I can’t even fathom. The aim is aimless. The purpose wanders. The path is no path, *and* being okay with that groundlessness every moment.
Tuesday Ryan-Hart, host/facilitator, community builder, Ohio
While I have been supported and loved into the work of my heart by many kind friends and family, I would say that I have always been led by my own internal compass. If I can get quiet enough to listen, I will always find my own “true north” and then those same friends and family give me the courage to follow where that leads. My path – finding it, walking it, blazing it if I have to – is always located at the intersection of myself and my beloveds, the personal and the collective, the known and unknown.
Mary Alice Arthur, story activist and conversation host, New Zealand and other places
I learn by travelling and being in new places, different cultures and groups has challenged my perspective and taught me to take a broader view. I’ve been blessed to meet many friends of the heart who have helped me to see my own guts more clearly. But the outward journey has to be mirrored by the inner one. I’ve learned as much or more through the prompting of my spirit and the longing of my soul. Always it calls to me to be still a moment and listen. That isn’t easy! In a world where”doing” has become paramount I look again and again to those who are profoundly “being”, and who, in following their hearts are a beacon to others. I hope I can be one of those. May you be one, too!
Terri Belford, writer, teacher, muse, California
The greatest wisdom about finding my true path came to me at a point when I began to feel like a dilettante because I was on my third business and once again feeling called to do something new. I literally was walking up a trail in the woods and heard a whisper asking “What if I have more than one life purpose? What if I’m not meant to stay on a single path?” At that moment I gave myself permission to remain open to unplanned twists and “stopovers” on the journey. Now, rather than judging myself as fickle, I honor my different callings and I’m guided by the question, “How will this make a difference?”
Lisa Wilson, artist, writer, mindfulness teacher, Indiana
Stillness. Because beyond all of the paths that were offered by others, all of the shoulds and the rights and wrongs…beyond it all was my heart, keeping rhythm for my breath. I simply need to listen, again and again, to remember who I already am.
Connie Zhuwarara, human rights lawyer, Zimbabwe
Being able to finally listen to that inner voice that tells you there is a better way of doing things more authentically. The yearning that never goes away and later the joy and peace that follows when you make the decision to finally listen to that inner strong desire for change. The grace that thrives when you know that although the work you are doing is important, there is a whole new world out there not known by many. It requires you to walk on the edge to discover new ways of living, working and being. It dawn on me, that mere existence was not an option anymore.
Walking the path to the work of my heart was like stepping in front of the train track. It was faith, then magic happened and everything started happening in slow motion. Then the chips started falling in place, slowly one by one. I was pointed to the right people to guide me to let me know that many have walked this path before me. I came across various tools that have lead me to this path; mandala’s, women in circle. Slowly like a baby learning to walk, I stumble, but get up knowing that I am on the right path. I allowed myself to talk to the women that have walked the path before me. Two particular women have had such a big influence in my life. One introduced me to the new way of doing things. I did not hesitate. I walked to the door and the other I called on. She told me, I was an edge walker. She told me, that the truth was within – she was going to hold my hand and guide me to reach my truth. Am slowly, but surely, picking up the pebbles of my truth. Am walking the edgy path. This path comes with it Grace, gratitude and courage. Sometimes it’s lonely but that path is worth walking.
Maya Stein, ninja poet, writing guide, and creative adventuress, New Jersey
I had great role models in my parents. They’ve lived a very creative life, pursuing activities and ideas and places they felt passionate about. They always carved out time and space for themselves – together and separately – and I was always aware that their interests and pursuits were a necessary part of our family life, even if I wouldn’t have known to articulate exactly why. But I understand, now, that their personal pursuits defined them just as much as parenting did. And this has taught me a lot about identity, about the importance of carving space and time for that amid the other roles and responsibilities of daily life. It’s so easy to lose sight of our personal identities, or even the investigation of what makes us tick inside – it’s probably the first thing that gets sacrificed because we can get so overloaded by what’s being demanded of us – but I think it’s ultimately a huge loss, not just for ourselves, but for others who might look to us for inspiration and guidance. I feel that when we let our passionate selves slip away, the best part of us is gone. And so I make decisions – not always simple or easy ones – on behalf of that “best part.” I want her around for a long time.
Jodi Crane, play therapist and professor, Texas
My parents, teachers, and mentors have influenced me through lessons learned via their teaching and modeling. And some steps on my path I didn’t have control over. For instance, only one school accepted both my husband and I for further graduate work. Thus, we moved from Texas to Iowa. My path has been most fulfilling when it includes elements of what I loved to play as a child: house, school, writing stories, and making crafts. In the end, my path has been one of self-exploration and increasing self-awareness, knowing above all else, I must trust myself.
Cigdem Kobu, writer, teacher and business coach, New Jersey
I’ve had many truly great guides and teachers, but I think my intuitive and daring inner self, whenever I remember to notice and listen to her voice, has been the one who helped me the most because she urged me to keep going and encouraged me to take risk, experiment and learn continuously.
I believe each of us has her own inner wise self who knows all the answers, who has all the guidance, and who can show the way if we let her.
Joseph Campbell said, “Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.”
I trust that the meaning I search for – as well as the work of my heart – comes from within myself in my commitment to do the work in spite of my fears, doubts and trepidations. It is the practice that sheds light on the path.
Oftentimes people want to know the meaning first – before they feel they can rise to act. But I think it happens the other way around. Meaning comes from practice. You feel drawn to do something. You feel called to do some type of work. You accept the challenge with an open mind, you take the first step, you experiment, you create, you serve. And all the time, you remain observant. Then you change, transform, shift, redefine, course-correct as the need arises. And then you do it again.
Laurie Foley, brand strategist and coach, Georgia
As much as I dislike the experience, uncertainty has always been the most profound teacher for me as I seek my path. Call me stubborn but I seem to require being dissolved into total surrender in order to discover the path that really matters. One of the best parts of getting older is that I can now shake my fist at the challenges of uncertainty while knowing deep down that growth and alignment will come in due time. Journaling is my best tool for allowing fist-shaking and anticipation to co-exist.
Jennifer Louden, author & teacher, Washington
A persistent tug, push, psychic shove that has always arose in me to create (something! anything!) and to help others (it can be better, really!) is what ushers me along the path of my work. I won’t say that following this path is easy nor is the path very clear but so what? I will continue to listen and follow. Knowing others are doing the same helps immensely.
Barbara Winter, self-employed gypsy teacher & writer, California
I spent a decade zigzagging around and wondering why I couldn’t find my calling like my archaeologist sister had when she was a kid. After three unhappy attempts at “good jobs”, I met a wise man who kept reminding me that the biggest influences in our lives are the people you meet and the books that you read. Although I wasn’t sure where to find those positive influences, one evening I read a little article in the local paper about two women who had started a business from their apartment in New York. Best of all, they’d written a book about their adventures called Supergirls: Autobiography of an Outrageous Business. I dashed to the bookstore the next day, bought their only copy and had a new world open up before my eyes. I must have read it 5 or 6 times in a row. Within a few months, I headed out on my first adventure in self-employment.
Andrea Shroeder, dream incubator & muse for creative magic, Manitoba
Joseph Campbell said that where you stumble, that’s where your treasure lies. When I look back on the path that has led me to where I am now, doing the work of my heart as my full time gig, I see my stumbles as my greatest teachers. Learning how to be ok with the struggle and to find the gifts in the darkness and what ultimately helped me to develop the courage to believe in myself enough to go after what I really wanted.
Miki’ala DeVivo, lifestyle photographer and family history chronicler, Arizona
I used to think that the answer to “what am I supposed to do with my life” was out there somewhere. I took all the courses and read all the books. Turns out the answer was with me all along, but in a place I’d never thought to look before. (Click here for a longer post by Miki’ala on the subject on her blog.)
Martha Atkins, PhD, master certified coach, licensed professional counsellor, Texas
Dr. Hooker, my psychology professor and advisor at Southwestern University was the key player. He started me down a path that led toward pediatric hospital work, then death and dying work. A WWII survivor, he practiced and lived unconditional positive regard. As an 19 year old college student, Dr. Hooker changed the course of my life.
Connie Hozvicka, artist, writer, yogini, Arizona
My paintbrush has always been my trusty ol’ compass in navigating my path. Simply the act of painting has helped me become comfortable with taking risks, lessen my fear of failure, and most of all tap into my innate wisdom. If it wasn’t for my paintbrush, I wouldn’t have the courage to paint a life that is true to my spirit and to find work that stems directly from my heart . (Click here for a longer version of Connie’s story on her blog.)
Mahala Mazerov, meditation teacher, New Mexico
I was born connected. A mystic. As I think we all are. The vital challenge is not to lose our heart connection as we move from the inner richness of childhood into adulthood. And, in particular, not to divide our heart from our work in the world.
David Harkins, business advisor, facilitator, speaker, teacher,
The work of my heart, my passion, is to build and create new things. It takes different forms, from painting and writing, to creating products and building businesses. I am grateful for my parents for giving me the tools and encouragement to begin, and thankful for a string of employers who have enabled me to continue to explore and support my passion.
Want to share your own story of who our what helped you find your path? Add it in the comments, or write a blog post and leave the link in the comments.