The e-mail in front of me said “If you feel called, it’s best to make the commitment, rather than seeing if this is something that fits in with your life.”
It was an e-mail from my shaman, Ne’ith, inviting me to a vision fast, an 8-day ceremony that involved me fasting and sitting by myself on a mountaintop, alone (save for the spirits) for about four days.
I’ve been sitting with that e-mail for a while now — about a week. I feel called toward that ceremony, and there are a lot of fears that accompany it. I’m not really afraid of dying out on that mountaintop, or of being eaten by a cougar — my fears are more mundane, but every bit as real. Fears like being afraid of being bored, being uncomfortable, and having to let go of control (so ultimately, afraid of surrendering).
And yet I feel called.
Those words keep sitting with me: it’s best to make the commitment, rather than seeing if this is something that fits in with your life. What Ne’ith is inviting here is my commitment, in the face of my circumstances, as opposed to checking out my circumstances in the face of a commitment.
Most of us get commitment wrong. We put our circumstances in front of a commitment, and ask ourselves questions like “Does this make sense to me right now?”, “Can I afford this now?”, “Do I have the time for this?”, or whatever your version of the question is. If you don’t do this, don’t worry, I’m doing it plenty for all of us.
We’re basically operating with a conditional commitment. I’ll commit provided that things work out. As long as things go the way I’m hoping they’ll go, then I’m a definite yes to committing, but otherwise, I guess it’s just not meant to be.
A conditional commitment is really just code for “I’m not committed”. There’s no commitment in a set of conditions. We’re not at cause to create whatever we are committed to — we’re at the effect of our circumstances.
That’s not bad — it tends to be how the world is set up, and it makes sense on the surface. I want to talk about the possibility that is available for you when you practice something different — when you practice commitment, regardless of your circumstances.
The first thing that often happens when we make a commitment, in the face of our circumstances, is that we get scared. We get scared about what we’ve said yes to, and about what it will require of us. We’ve got conversations to have with people, things to sort out. We have to move the circumstances of our life to allow for what we have just said yes to.
There’s work to be done, and generally speaking, we would usually choose less work, rather than more work (we’re all pretty busy these days, right?)
It might feel rocky at first, like you’re forcing things, because in a way, you are. You’re creating new space in your life for something that wasn’t already falling into it. It’s kind of like when people say they want more connection in their life, go out and practice, and come back to share that it feels really forced. Of course it feels forced — it is, at least right now. Until you’ve fully integrated something, you’re in the process of creating something different. Being upset that it feels forced would be a little like going to the gym and saying “Goddamit, this feels really hard! Like I’m forcing myself to do something. This isn’t normal!” And then concluding that the gym isn’t for you. The whole point of going to the gym is to apply force.
The whole point of commitment is that it calls you forward to apply some force in your life — and in doing so, to create something new in your life, that wasn’t formerly available.
With the power of commitment at your back, fear can only keep you in check for so long. You’ve committed to doing something, and while fear is still scary, you know you’ve got shit to do, conversations to have, people to meet, stuff to make happen. Your commitment addresses fear head on, and while at first, your fear uses that initial bumpiness to try to keep you in your status quo, over time, your commitment starts to move you past it.
This is the point where something funny starts to happen. You’ll start to notice things showing up in your life that allow you to fulfill on your commitment. It’s not necessarily that the universe is magically arranging events and circumstances around you so that you can fulfill on your commitment (that’s a different conversation for another time) — it’s that the way you are showing up in your life is now through the lens of “How do I fulfill on my commitment?”
From that lens, you listen to the world differently, and you speak into it differently. You start to see possibilities where previously there may have been none. Your fear starts to fall away, and instead, you start to step into the spaces that were previously barred by your fear of how things might turn out.
You start to learn about and experience a deeper level of power within you than you previously realized you possessed. And you start to become contagious. People notice something is shifting, not just in your speaking, but in the way you are showing up to life. They want to know more, and in their curiosity, still more opportunities for you to act on your commitment show up.
In saying yes to a commitment, in the face of your circumstances, you open up new possibilities, new power, and new access to what was previously made impossible by your circumstances.
Fear tends to be more preventative than curative, as that is the best way to keep you safe, and so it’s going to do its damndest to stop you from committing in the first place. If it can stop you from ever making the commitment, then that is going to be a much safer way of keeping you from landing in (and confronting) what you are afraid of, rather than trying to rattle you once you’ve said yes. That fear will still come along for the journey, but once you’ve made a commitment, you’ll find that the impact of your fear is vastly diminished. It just can’t do its work as effectively when you’ve made a commitment.
THE Intensive is about six weeks away, and it’s possible you may be hoping the circumstances of your life are going to allow for you to be there.
Practice something different. Make the commitment to your life, and play a new game.