When I was 21 my dream was to be a dancer. I loved to dance and studied contemporary dance, jazz ballet, and classical ballet. I wanted to continue my studies at a degree level but didn’t have a strong enough foundation in ballet to qualify for the colleges I applied to. This was never more painfully clear to me than during the college auditions when I struggled to keep up with far more competent and experienced dancers soaring through their jetés and pirouettes.
Really I had no business even being at the auditions. I’d gotten through on the strength of my written words and academic records. And because I was committed to following through on my dreams I mustered up enough courage to actually turn up at the auditions with the sincere but foolish hope of someone too young to know any better. I eventually realised that I’d need another year or two minimum of intensive ballet training but just wasn’t willing to put in that time and energy. I didn’t enjoy ballet classes or feel like I belonged in them. I didn’t have the stereotypical ballet dancer’s body so always felt awkward and ungainly. I never knew how to talk to the others in the class and thought they ate waaay too much chocolate and candy.
So my dream stalled.
But I had another dream: to be enlightened. I wanted to understand the reason I was alive, the meaning and purpose of life. I wanted to make my life count and live it in the best, wisest possible way. For this dream, I was willing to do the necessary work.
Over the next two decades, I woke up before dawn to meditate and practice yoga with yogis – even on cold unforgiving winter mornings. I purified my body through water fasts and by switching to a mostly organic and unprocessed whole foods diet. I made my way through hundreds of books on philosophy and metaphysics and diligently studied the wisdom of Buddhism, yoga, shamanism and Taoism.
Willingly and consistently I followed the guidance and teachings of spiritual teachers and guides as impeccably as I could alongside training in psycho-spiritual counselling, healing and coaching.
There was something that kept me going even when I felt uncomfortable or pushed to the limits of what I felt I could withstand. Even when I got frustrated thinking that I wasn’t getting anywhere, something inside me urged me to carry on. Year after year, my desire and dedication to the dream I had of finding meaning outweighed any discomfort and difficulty with the process. I felt I belonged in yoga and meditation classes or in the audience listening to a dharma talk. I fit in at shamanic workshops and mindfulness courses. I knew what to say to the other participants and teachers. We spoke the same language and ate the same vegetarian food. I’d found my people, and together, we were helping each other find and live our purpose. This has been my path since I decided to follow my dream and go on a journey to find the meaning of my life. It feels right somehow on a subtle level and just works, even when it doesn’t. When I feel I’ve stalled I reach out for help or an alternative perspective and keep reaching until I find a way out and through.
Over the years, I’ve gained insight into the reason for my life, ever-deepening meaning, and heart-felt fulfilment beyond anything I could have ever imagined or hoped for. I also now have the privilege of supporting and witnessing others finding meaning so they can live their potential and create fuller lives. I’ve learned that enlightenment is not a singular transcendent experience where you attain all-knowing wisdom, peace, and understanding but rather an awakening to and embodiment of a more aware, open and benevolent state of being. I still continue to dance but only in ways that give me joy and make me feel comfortable and at ease with my body. I know I don’t want to be a professional dancer and wouldn’t be as happy or fulfilled in that career.
Whatever It Takes
If you have a dream that’s stalled, ask yourself if you’ve taken practical steps to make it into a reality. Then be very honest about whether or not you’re willing or able to. If not, my hunch is that this isn’t your deepest desire or you need more support and time to find the right shape and form for it to materialise.
Wait a while more, get help or dig deeper and find the dreams you’re willing to wake up before dawn for, to sacrifice your pride and comfort zones for, to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to make it into a reality because those are the dreams that have mileage. They offer a whole new way of living, teeming with challenge, growth, purpose, and meaning. A life where you won’t have the time to be bored or find yourself counting down to the weekend or holidays. You’ll instead be enjoying an uncommon aliveness and freedom in your day-to-day life. You’ve got to give yourself permission to dream and find out what it takes to make your dreams into a reality and then be ready and willing to take those steps. You don’t have to do it alone. There’s a lot of help and support available, but you’re the one who has to take action – the right action in the right way for the right amount of time.
If you’re doing it right, you’re sure to not only experience triumphant personal wins but also humbling false steps and heart-rending failures. You’ll come to many points where you’ll struggle to have hope for what you want to achieve and wonder if or how you’ll ever get there. You’ll face the limitations of your humanity and have to choose to continue to have faith in yourself and your dreams.
It’ll all be worth it because you’ll learn and grow as a person. You’ll become the very best version of yourself and see that you’re capable of so much more than you thought. And your life will be a rich, joyful and daring adventure.