Finding her voice and sharing the love: Veena is doing it!
Veena and I had a very lively conversation, about her path, her inspirations, and her exploration of the creative process that is life. I learnt a lot about the power of intuition, and the importance of following your heart: not your emotions, but your wiser self. Read on to learn more about Veena’s inspiring story.
Traduction en Français à venir.
Veena, tell us your story. When did you make the leap?
I have spent my entire career in social change. My last conventional job was to work for the government, doing mostly work on promoting on equality. I always had a job tied in with my passion – social justice, but something was out of sync. The culture in government, in particular, was stressful. I felt that many of us in the organisation weren’t fully using our abilities. But I can’t say it was only the environment, it was probably also related to who I was being as a person.
In work and in life, I wanted to enjoy more, shine more, be a better friend, daughter, sister, colleague, neighbour…
In 2007, I got given the chance to become a civil servant: a job with stability and a good income. But I would have to stay in an environment in which I wasn’t shining. I decided not to take the job, and decided I would go to Ecuador for three months at the beginning of 2008 and then freelance. When I returned from Ecuador, my first consultancy job was with a government organisation on social issues similar to what I had been doing before.
In 2010, after three years of being independent, while I was writing a report on discrimination in the workplace I realised that I had left the job, but not the mindset. Not only was I still working on the same topics, but I will still living in the same way.
You can leave a job, but unless you change something inside you, nothing will actually change.
In writing that report in 2010, I felt I wasn’t really using my skills and that I-we were’nt saying the whole truth. I definitely didn’t think we were being very useful in terms of bringing about social justice. I didn’t feel like I was expressing my voice. I decided I needed to step into a new me.
At the end of 2010, I took a three-month break to focus on writing. I wrote a book that will not see the light of day, on my internal journey. I think it’s a story I needed to tell myself.
I had wanted to live in a Spanish-speaking country for a long period. I had been to Ecuador for three months back in 2008, but that wasn’t enough. I decided to go to Mexico for six months. It would be a year before I would get on that plane out of London.
2011 was a quiet year – I found myself thinking and talking a lot about going to Mexico but not booking that plane ticket. Finally, in March 2012, before going to Mexico, I left London to be in Chicago for six months with family. While there, I was approached about taking two really interesting jobs, though I hadn’t been looking for anything.
I was determined to go to Mexico. To stick to my plan, I did not pursue these openings.
In September 2012, I went to live in southern Mexico for six months. My Spanish improved and I met some wonderful people, saw some beautiful places and learned a lot about different ways of living. To be honest, however, it wasn’t a straight line at all. I didn’t go there and have the most-amazing-time-of-my-life, as I had thought I would. My time in Mexico was very hard. A lot of emotional stuff happened that I wasn’t prepared for. I had been looking forward to this trip for a long time, but in the end, something was out of sync.
In the Spring, the time came to use the return journey of my plane ticket from London. I somehow convinced myself that I had to use it, even though I knew quite a few people who had cancelled their return tickets to stay in Mexico longer. I returned to London at the end of March 2013.
I arrived and soon wondered: « What the heck am I doing here? » I felt a lot of fear and anxiety – fear and anxiety which had begun bubbling up in Mexico.
When I was in London, I did a workshop with the School of Movement Medicine in southern England. The workshop was called Re-Creation. It was what some people might call ‘hippy stuff’ – dance, shamanic ritual and song. I went to this workshop in the depth of my fear, overflowing with anxiety. On the last night there I had a powerful dance where I connected to what I think of as my spirit – the life energy that wants me to be alive. That’s what spirit means – life force, animating energy.
I came alive in my dance in ways that reflect who and how I really wanted to be in my day-to-day life.
In the movement with my spirit,
I had direction, I became decisive, clear, confident, imaginative.
I went deep into my own rhythm while acknowledging, respecting and connecting with the rhythm and movement of others. I felt magical, mystical, insightful beautiful and fluid. I felt as though I had stepped into my creative power.
What state of mind are you in right now?
Now, five years after leaving a conventional job, I finally have begun to experience deep changes in my heart and mind.
I have created a mantra from my journey to date: to live differently, I need to change how I relate to myself, to other people and to the creative process that is life. Because life is a collective creative process: We create it. A big lesson for me has been learning to trust myself and this process.
To get unstuck, a big part of my work has been to learn to trust the journey. For me, it is all linked to Love. I’ve had to shift to moving from love instead of fear. In my case, a part of the fear and anxiety had roots in a lack of self-love and a search for love, acceptance and a sort of rescue boat outside myself.
I have spent a lot of my life (I’m 43 now) thinking that life was trying to keep me down, crush me, drown me – but it’s not.
Life loves me. It wants me to be and feel alive.
As a result of that episode of really bad anxiety in London in the spring, I have decided to dedicate a lot of energy to learning to trust my decisions. And to practice making decisions that might not make head sense, but make heart sense. When I say heart, I do not mean emotions. Emotions can trick us. I mean my higher self, my intuition. The part of me that is wise and knows.
I decided to make decisions that didn’t make head sense, but heart sense. When I say heart, I do not mean emotions. Emotions can trick us. I mean my higher self, my intuition. The part of us that is wise, and knows.
Following the workshop I did in London in May 2013, I tried to start a daily practice. Everyday, I wanted to practice living differently – living from love rather than fear. I started the practice of dancing with my spirit every morning. I let it come out of me. I step into the energy that I discovered in the workshop. Following this and a sitting meditation where I focus on my breathing, I ask myself out loud : « What should I be doing? » « What is my next step? » “What should I focus on today?” I get an answer. I listen to it, and I tell myself to trust that answer. That’s how I move beyond my emotions and compulsion and into what my heart-which-is-my-wiser-self is telling me. I ask my spirit for guidance when I’m in a state of being relaxed and calm.
I went from London to Chicago at the end of May to visit my family. Despite doing the movement medicine workshop, I still felt strong anxiety. Decision-making was still hard. I remember buying my ticket for Chicago seven hours before the flight. I could have changed my mind at the airport, because the sale hadn’t actually gone through – but I told myself: « you made a choice, you stick to it ».
Most of my life, I have had a lot of anxiety around decision making, but usually around relatively big life choices such as changing jobs. But in the spring, it was happening all the time. That was too much and I decided I couldn’t live that way. Now I am practising making a choice and sticking to it. Indecision takes up so much energy
I used to have a sense that there was a good or a bad choice.
The mind will play out scenarios of what is going to happen. But the truth is I don’t know. I was just making up stories. Sometimes my intuition will tell me « get more data ». The mind has a useful role to play in decision-making. My wise-heart might tell me, for example, « ask this question, find the answer to that, and then make a choice.”
It’s about creating a relationship where the mind and the emotional self are both playing a helpful role in my decision-making, but neither is the sole guiding force and both are linked up with intuition or spirit – whatever you want to call it.
At the end of July, I headed to New Mexico for five weeks and I really connected with nature.
Now I am back in Chicago, and I have a ticket to go back to London at the end of this month, but I won’t use it. I am going back to New Mexico instead. I found the land there so healing.
The last day there, I went for a long bike ride, and I meditated. I asked myself out loud: « what is my next step? ». I kept getting this answer « Come back to Santa Fe ».
I used to have a lot of regrets, thinking « I shouldn’t have done this », and I was often beating myself up. But this wasn’t loving myself. Loving myself would be: « I made a decision that has had some challenging consequences. I’ll reflect on what lessons there might be to learn for the future, and change my ways. » But I won’t have regrets.
Now, I consult myself and in that moment, I make a choice. There is no regret to be had.
Last month or so, I have been experiencing what it is to live in the present. For me, this means being present with the people I am with. But also, previously my mind was always on the past or on the future. It was all fear and regret. Living in the present means I cannot predict the future, the past is done and I won’t spend energy dwelling on the past except to learn lessons. And there is no point worrying about the future as it has yet to unfold and it can go in many directions.
Tell us a little bit more about social change: What does it mean to you?
Social change for me is about playing a role in creating an healthier world. In New Mexico, I am planning to work more with the creative arts. I realise that the dimension of social change that really interests me is working with our hearts and mind. The arts offer wonderful ways to open and expand our hearts and minds.
I think social change means changing the way we live together. Today, we live in a way that is harming the planet, fuelling depression, anxiety and loneliness. We live in a way that is harming us. Social change means building relationships that are rooted into nurturing, restoring, and regenerating instead of harming each other, hurting each other, killing each other.
What’s next for you then?
Now I have clarity. I want to own my identity as a writer, and I’m excited about getting active in working with the performing arts. I volunteered in New Mexico with a circus camp for kids for instance. It was great to put kids in a mindset of consciously creating something together. I think healthy relationships are at the heart of social change.
I am currently writing a manifesto to be published in November, called « (R)evolutionary Spirit », (R)evolutionary meaning a movement that sustains nurturing, regenerative and restorative ways of living.
Olivia told me about your « Saturn Returns » principle. Can you tell me more about this?
I keep coming across this! The principle, as I understand it, is that when we hit 28, and for the few years that follow, we are meant to shift from adolescence to adulthood – adolescence being when you react to the world around you, and adulthood being when you make conscious decisions about your life and you take more responsibility for your behaviour and choices. What this looks like is different for every person.
I have a theory: if you don’t make this shift at that time and you don’t take responsibility to live your truth, it will come back and regularly knock at your door. I imagine that people who have mid life crisis are often people in their late 30s or early forties who didn’t listen to the call of their truth in their late 20s.
The truth wants to be lived and if you don’t listen, it will keep trying to get your attention and nourishment.
I keep speaking to people in their late 20s, and they often say « that explains what I’ve been going through! » I’m intrigued by the principle but at the same time, I’ve come to think this isn’t really about age. You might already be living your truth in your early twenties. It’s about the principle of living your truth.
Imagine you were teaching children to tap into this level of responsibility and into their creative power at a young age.
Soon, I’ll be writing a book about this principle…
Veena, would you have a final word for our readers, a final bit of advice on how to « find their truth »?
My parting words are to remember that to create simply means to « bring into being ». Thus, we are all creative –we are all constantly creating with our thoughts, words and actions. I believe that the true power of creativity can come to any one of us through greater awareness of what we are creating. I want to encourage and support people to step consciously into our creativity.
Life is a collective creative process – What do each of us want our roles to be within it, in order that we might together create a healthier world where we support each other to shine brightly?
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