Project ‘Me’ – On Being of Service to MyselfKathy Ryndak April 1, 2016
You might think that ‘Project Me’ is a narcissistic title for this column, but attending to one’s self first was one of my most important life lessons. The creation of the Transformational Arts College 28 years ago has been no ‘cake walk’. It demanded intense energy and creativity, along with the strong management skills needed to guide thousands of students who have studied at the College. It was an archetypal calling for me, brimming with passion and purpose. There was no stopping me and no one person or thing could have pulled me away from what became a most important life mission. Many spiritual people dream of starting their own centre, but most do not realize the blood, sweat, and tears that are required to bring their idealized vision to life.
Being of Service
I have always championed the concept of being of service to others but many times I forgot to get my own needs met – in other words, being of service to myself. As the College matured, the nature of my position changed due to external, bureaucratic requirements. Over the past six years, I veered so far off course from my original intentions that I was left feeling a significant lack of soulfulness in my administrative work.
I sometimes experienced repetition fatigue from having done the same thing for so long. Yet, specific tasks needed to be done to keep the College running, so few choices existed for me. I felt trapped by the outer, mandatory, and changing administrative needs of the school. I would ask myself: where did the magic and creativity go? Those who know me know that it’s a given that I am not a bureaucrat; rather I flourish in the realms of inspiration, creativity, and vision.
The changing nature of my work, along with many personal losses and more led to my eventual burnout, which resulted in physical illness. It happens often in this type of profession; with the constant giving and sensitivity that is required of us, we can forget to replenish ourselves. Medical and holistic practitioners can experience ‘compassion fatigue’ as we are consistently required to be empathetic and compassionate to foster healing.
I think the spiritual adage, “We are spiritual beings having a human experience,” by Teilhard de Chardin, can be easily misunderstood. It may convey the message that we need to focus more on our spiritual nature versus our emotional and human needs. But, as I have come to understand, if we do not get our human needs met, eventually we will not be able to effectively give to others because the well has run dry. We may even become more tolerant of others’ unhealthy behaviour as we over-empathize with them.
The term ‘burnout’, like mental illness, comes with great stigma and judgement, but it is real and can lead to physical illness. You might have seen the current TV commercial which addresses this stigma. Some may tell you to: “Get a grip”; “Get over it”; “Just move forward”; “This is taking too long”; “Focus on joy”; “Be positive”; “You’re a drama queen”, and worse yet, “If you were spiritual and conscious, this wouldn’t be happening to you.” You might also hear, “Happiness is a choice” – but that is not so when you are in burnout, or the dark night of the soul.
Karen Salmansohn, well-known author of such books as How to Be HAPPY, dammit, Instant HAPPY, and ENOUGH, Dammit, among others, states that: “Nobody has the right to judge you because nobody has been through what you have been through. They might have heard your stories but they did not feel the pain in your heart.”
Burnout can sometimes creep up on you without an awareness of how deeply you have fallen, and you may not feel able to climb up the downward, slippery slope. Trying to push through your exhaustion will not help; in fact, it only makes it worse. Anxiety, depression, disengagement, withdrawing, and isolation are all part of the experience.
Again, these states are aspects of the human condition and should not be judged, but rather met with compassion. In this state, you will definitely come to know who your real friends are as they will be there to support you.
The duality of seeing life as ‘spiritual versus human’ makes it hard to move through burnout or depression. Many regard spirituality as being only positive. Yet, when we are authentic, conscious, real and aware, we will embrace both positivity and negativity in our lives, without judgement. As Eugene Gendlin, author of many books, including Focusing, Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning and Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams, says, “Feelings are neither right nor wrong.” We need to explore them in order to transform and find a new perspective.
Eventually, I did take a leave of absence as I became aware of all the stressors and losses in my life, and the grieving that needed to be done. I grieved the loss of parents, family, and my calling, which I had been madly passionate about. In the throes of all this, my physical health declined and, by last Christmas, I was hospitalized. Fortunately, I had the support of many holistic/medical professionals and great friends to help me through this trying journey.
As I write this article in March, my physical and emotional well-being has greatly improved, although progress still needs to be made. I was thrilled and grateful to recently receive healthy blood test results, which lifted my spirits.
I have diligently reflected upon the soul lessons of this chapter of my life, lessons which actually extend to my entire life thus far. I am now contemplating the next leg of my journey and what that will look like. I look forward to continuing on in a modified form in this field, and I am getting excited about other possibilities to explore.
I thank all who prayed for me, and I am happy to acknowledge that prayer works. (I finally went to Facebook to ask friends and followers to pray for me; the next day I was discharged from the hospital!)
I will end with another Salmansohn quote which I found very helpful: “Sometimes we’re taken into troubled waters … not to drown but to be cleansed.” For me, this means transformation, redefinition, and a new direction.
Kathy Ryndak is co-founder of the Transformational Arts College of Spiritual and Holistic Training. The College offers professional training programs in Spiritual Psychotherapy, Spiritual Director, Holistic Health, Coaching and Esoteric Studies. It offers psychospiritual courses through a 10-part program, “Discovering the Total Self”. For a calendar, call the College at 416-484-0454 or 1-800-TAC-SELF, or visit www.transformationalarts.com. To receive their monthly e-newsletters, email firstname.lastname@example.org Readers can follow Kathy on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/kathy.ryndak.