Starting your own business can be rough. I think everyone knows it takes a lot of time and effort to get things up and running. You prepare your business plan, establish your services, provide them, and reach out to potential clients, and so on. I knew the way wouldn’t be straight or easy following my heart into this endeavor, but just as the famous quote goes, by naturalist and author John Muir, “The mountains are calling and I must go”, I felt the pull too much to not act. I know this quote is also very famous among outdoor enthusiasts to seize the recreational longing for nature and for me starting my business, it is a sweet mix between those two: an obligation and recreation. This is what I want to do, what I take on as my responsibility. I don’t know all that it entails yet (if ever), I just know “The mountains are calling and I must go”. This is what I do with my life. It is not simply a job, it is an integrated whole, and I want to be there, and show up for every part of it.
However, following your heart in times of capitalism and narcissism is not that easy. How do you value what you do, both in terms of money and also esteem? In a fantasy world, I wouldn’t want to think at all about money. It bores me and it does nasty things to people, but even if my family is working on becoming more self-sufficient, we are very far away from being completely so and hence, we need money to trade for other things we need. Regarding esteem, who would want my services if I wasn’t deemed to be any good at what I am doing? A paraphrase from self-compassion researcher Kristen Neff brings the dawning paradox to light: “If everyone wants to be more than average.. does the word logical impossibility spring to mind?”.
This whole issue with money and esteem doesn’t need to be complicated though. If we saw everyone and everything as a participant in a great weave, then every thread would be interwoven with the rest and be a crucial part of the wholeness. Sometimes a green thread would be in the spotlight and when the light shifted, a red would enter. Or if we see it as a dance – we lead and we follow, there is a call and a response. And this DOES exist. This is how it is. And then enter: The Three Poisons.
In my last text, I briefly went over The Three Poisons in Buddhism: aversion (or also anger and hatred), craving (or also attachment and greed), and delusion (ignorance). These are “the roots of all suffering”. The Poisons can be seen anywhere and in anyone to different degrees. Now, these poisons aren’t all bad, just as nothing is all “bad” or all “good”. To some extent, we do need the poisons. For example, we need a certain amount of anger to set and assert healthy boundaries for ourselves. When we are completely unaware of the workings of the poisons, it is then that they are toxic. When they work in our blindspots.
The poisons have shown me so much fruitful practice areas in this process of starting a business of mine. Who am I to start my own business? What do I have to offer? Why go to me when there are so many good psychologists out there already? Now these questions are perfectly reasonable questions. However, I came to a place of great stress. I felt like I was chased by something (my conditioning perhaps?), pressured to somehow “make it”. And I don’t even know what “making it” is. I sat down with my husband, in tears, trying to explain this. He responded, in brief, “Get over yourself!”. My husband is not that into Zen, so I don’t think he realized how Zen-y his response was. Get over your Self. Do you see how many of your questions contain the word “I”? Do you see that you are making this about yourself? Just show up and do the next thing.
Caught in a self-centered dream, only suffering
Holding to self-centered thoughts, exactly the dream
Each moment, life as it is, the only teacher
Being just this moment, compassion’s way
– The four practice principles, Joko Beck, Zen Teacher and founder of Ordinary Mind Zen School