young boy looking through binoculars
Image by nightowl

Through the spring of 2016, each weekend I led guided meditations on the beach, holding a space for all who showed up and feeling increasingly fulfilled, inspired, and moved to tears from sympathetic joy and sadness. In those moments, for the few hours I was on that cushion, holding the microphone in my hand and observing people slow down and deliberately pause to tend to themselves, I felt aligned with my purpose. Then, on Monday morning, I would return to my “real job” in the corporate world, feeling emptier and emptier.

However, I continued to show up for my corporate role as the head of a midsize firm with over two thousand employees, while also showing up each Sunday to support a growing community of thousands of meditators, but the two loads were too heavy. I couldn’t keep holding on to both. My heart was telling me which path to take — the one where I knew I would show up for myself, as a fully emerged butterfly — but my head was keeping me from taking the leap and trusting in my abilities.

In terms of my work, a lot of people depended on me. My income was important for our family, and the company I helmed provided a livelihood for its employees. Yet with each passing Monday morning ride into work, the knot in my stomach grew larger and the feeling of emptiness and dissatisfaction stirred in me like a tiger pacing in a cage, ready to pounce. Something had to give.

Making Room for What Will Be

At times, we have to let go of what is to make room for what will be. Of course, the very idea of change — small or major — usually produces at least some discomfort and agita. When I finally took a leap of faith and resigned from my well-paying job to become a full-time meditation teacher, most people thought I had lost my mind.

The final straw that broke the camel’s back and pushed me to hand in my resignation notice in July 2016 was a comment that my then-fourteen-year-old son, Liam, said to me when I came home from work after a long day and an even longer commute. He was sitting at the kitchen table, eating dinner with his pajamas on, and I was practically in tears and not interested in talking about anyone’s day but my own because I just wanted to vent about my misery.

innerself subscribe graphic

Liam looked me square in the eyes and confidently proclaimed, “You know what would be the best day of my life?”

“What?” I asked, expecting he would say finally leaving our house and my madness behind.

“When you finally quit that damn job and take your own advice!”

Ouch. That one stung. That evening, I wrote my letter of resignation. I dated it for two months from that day. I knew I needed to have a definitive date, but I also wanted some time to work through every aspect of this decision and have some semblance of a plan before I took this leap of faith.

Analysis Paralysis?

Intellect and logic are certainly useful tools for working through certain issues, but it is also easy to overthink and become paralyzed by analysis. I think the truth is that, when making decisions that require placing a bet on ourselves, the real question we are always trying to answer is: How can I be sure I will succeed?

When faced with these types of decisions, we are sharply aware of every door we might close, while being unable to see all the doors that might open. Hindsight is a beautiful thing. The trouble is that it shadows our foresight.

The term “leap of faith” is a fitting metaphor. There is no answer to the question, How can I be sure I will succeed? There are no guarantees in life. Yet despite this uncertainty, we choose to take leaps of faith, and with this choice, we boldly declare to the universe: I trust in me and…I trust in you.

In my increasing misery and discomfort, the universe sent me a sign from a fourteen-year-old boy, wiser than his years on this planet. He was watching me, a scorekeeper for the universe. He knew how to verbalize that something had to give. He saw I had become like a proverbial frog in a boiling pot of my own making, and he knew it would take an Indiana Jones–size boulder rolling toward me to finally get me to move.

Something interesting happened after I wrote that resignation letter, similar to what happened when I started to journal after my divorce — taking this leap of faith became real and attainable, and somehow, it didn’t seem absurd.

What the heck did I just do?

On a Friday morning exactly one month before my intended resignation date, I changed the date on the top of my letter, hit print, and signed the bottom. Feeling anxious, I walked down the corridor to the office of the owner of the company, sat down in the chair across from his desk, and handed him the letter to read in front of me. While I did feel a sense of relief that this formality was over and that I no longer had to live with this secret burden, the sense of euphoria I thought I would feel never came. Instead, what entered me was fear. After the deed was done, I found myself asking, What the heck did I just do?

I find it interesting that people tend to skip over these moments when they share their own stories about leaps of faith. Maybe they don’t want to admit to fear, or maybe in hindsight, after things work out and time passes, they forget how scary it first was. What keeps most of us standing at the edge afraid to take the leap is fear that things won’t work out, and right after taking a leap, fear can make us think we have made a huge mistake. It seems like we are in free fall, and so we desperately try to figure out a way to get back to the ledge. This is understandable and maybe even expected.

When we make a huge life change that requires leaving behind our comfort zone, we can feel vulnerable, exposed, and inadequate. We are no longer a caterpillar, but for the moment, we aren’t yet a butterfly, either. However, the absence of euphoric excitement is not an indicator that you have made the wrong decision.

The Power of Five

When I found myself struggling with self-doubt and worry after my resignation, I sought to calm and focus myself using an exercise called the “Power of Five.” In essence, this asks you to imagine what your life would look like if you did or did not go ahead with a decision. Specifically, I asked myself: If I went ahead with my decision, what would my life look like in five weeks? In five months? In five years? Then I asked the inverse: If I didn’t resign and take this leap, what would my life look like in five weeks, five months, and five years?

Such a simple tool, but incredibly powerful. Changing what no longer works for us, whatever it might be, is so brave. To be able to stand up and declare that “this no longer works for me” is a declaration of self-love and self-worth and an acknowledgment that we are capable of doing more and being more. It is how we show up for ourselves first. Only then can we do more and be of service to the world.

Copyright ©2021 by Shelly Tygielski.
Printed with permission from the publisher:
New World Library —

Article Source

Sit Down to Rise Up: How Radical Self-Care Can Change the World
by Shelly Tygielski

cover of: Sit Down to Rise Up: How Radical Self-Care Can Change the World by Shelly TygielskiAn empowering book on propelling profound social change by going inward, from a mindfulness teacher and activist who has turned personal practice into movements, 

The practice of self-care is most often touted for its profound mind, body, and spirit benefits. Shelly Tygielski shows that self-care can also be a powerful tool for spurring transformative collective action. In a winning combination of memoir, manifesto, and how-to, Shelly shares her evolution. Her work began as “me” work and transformed into “we” work. In Sit Down to Rise Up, she shows that this is possible for all of us.

Click here for more info or to Order This Book.  Also available as a Kindle edition and as an Audiobook.

About the Author 

photo of Shelly TygielskiShelly Tygielski is the author of Sit Down to Rise Up and founder of the global grassroots mutual aid organization Pandemic of Love.  Her work has been featured by over 100 media outlets, including CNN HeroesThe Kelly Clarkson ShowCBS This Morning, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. Visit her online at