I read a quote yesterday from Gandhi. It struck me as particularly powerful in that moment because I was thinking about life and how often we get stuck in patterns that aren’t working for us, and yet despite the fact that these patterns may actually be killing us, the fear we have of change is too potent to allow any forward movement. It’s an epidemic in this country and it’s incredibly sad. In this quote, Gandhi said:
“I cannot teach you violence, as I do not myself believe in it. I can only teach you not to bow your heads before any one even at the cost of your life.”
When I read that, I paused for the longest time, just staring at the computer screen as millions of people went through my head, people I don’t even know, stuck in lives that are wrong on so many levels. Lives that make them sick, and scared, and stressed out, and angry, and even bat-shit crazy… but there they stay. Because they don’t know how to let go, surrender, lose the illusion of control for however long it takes to find new footing.
This clearly feels like a form of “bowing our heads” to me, Gandhi’s quote directly transferrable. We allow ourselves to oppress our lives like nobody else. Why? How is this possible? If someone tried to force us into the situations we force ourselves into, we’d fight like hell, band together, “whoop their butt” as I heard a Texan say this week. And yet we continue to force ourselves into the most horrible conditions remaining in lifestyles that are literally killing us.
What would the cost be, to walk away from a career you hated, a life you know on every level is wrong for you, painful to your very core. Perhaps your body has been telling you this for years, so you take prescription drugs to quiet the wisdom of your cells, your organs, your joints, your muscles… anything to silence the voices, the pain, telling you “This isn’t it! This isn’t why you’re here! Remember your purpose? Do you even know what that means anymore? Listen to me!” What would the cost be, to detach from what’s not working to make room for what does?
What would it take to release the white-knuckled grip on life?
What’s the worst thing that could happen? What if you lost everything, just let it go, the house, the neighborhood, the social status… Could you handle it? Is there a part of you breathing a sigh of relief imagining it? What if for a temporary period of time your lifestyle became incredibly simple, Zen, modest… in order to build something new. Something that worked for you.
And don’t ever allow the voices to chime in with, “I’m too old to start over.” There’s no expiration date on why we are here, our purpose in life. I’ve had 25 year-old clients tell me they’re too old to make a change– it’s a survival strategy to keep us stuck, ego-generated, nothing more. I’ve also had 85 year old clients completely reinvent themselves with no hesitation. Change is scary to a person 11 years old or 98 years old… I get that. But you’re never too old to become something new.
So, this is what has been coursing through my head ever since reading Gandhi’s quote. “Do not bow your heads before any one even at the cost of your own life.” I invite you to ask yourself, who are you bowing your heads to at the cost of your own life? Is it your own fear? Your boss? Your abuser?
Taking the first step away from a life that is not working for us is terrifying. It might require us to lose our wealth for some time. It might require a transition into the darkest unknown. But there we find our freedom, our reason for living, and our right to the life we were born for. Keep walking, and there you’ll find your own soul.
Anything else is just an excuse, a resistance to change. You deserve more.