Chronos and Kairos (or the art of accepting your timezone)

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Hello Beautiful People,

Grab some tea or hot chocolate, this is a long one. In this post, I hold a sorta-conversation with an excerpt of Meggan Watterson’s amazing book, Reveal about embracing the timezone of our lives. Enjoy.

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I used to love the fuck out of five year plans. On December 31st, there I would be, scribbling all the goals I was definitely going to meet the next year.

I never listened to the sane advice about setting small SMART (Specific/Measurable/Achievable/Results-Focused/Time Bound) goals, or to complete one thing at a time. I’d always have to add more lines to the space allotted for my plans.

I wanted to do it all.

Time was this incessant rushing that surrounded me at all times and I never, ever felt I had enough. I believed in pushing and linear progress and that life did not reward those who sat back and let things come to them.

“Chronos, or chronological time, is linear, sequential, “clock time”: this is where the ego lives and thrives. We often want time to unfold this way, one event following the next and arriving just when we want it to arrive.”

When I got out of Coast Guard, I felt I had to go all out; do all the things I missed out during my active duty years.

And I needed to do them all right now.

At the same time.

I was extremely judgment of all the time I “wasted” beforehand. Why had I waited this long to pursue my art? I should’ve been writing more. I should’ve been doing burlesque. I should’ve been traveling.

“Kairos, on the other hand, is nonlinear, sacred time–the right or opportune moment.”

It wasn’t long before I felt entirely burned out. I was taking trying to be a better writer, exploring burlesque, taking three classes, teaching writing college freshmen at Pitt, doing my Coast Guard reserve duties, trying to balance time with my partner/friends/family, mentoring a student on her manuscript, planning group outings, posting to Instagram almost every day, coordinating photo shoots, working out, starting my entrepreneurial dreams, reading every self-help book that came across my path…..and a lot more.

I developed this weird twitch in my right eye that semester, at least three times a day my right eyelid would flit wildly for minutes on end.

And still, during all this time, I told myself I wasn’t doing enough, that I could do more, that I needed to work harder. I never quit regretting all the time I didn’t pursue these activities earlier on in my life.

“We can pray our butts off for something to happen, say finding a lover, or getting a car or house, or having a long-awaited child. But then the person we meet ends up smothering us with love we weren’t ready for, or the car payments puts us in debt and the house catches on fire, or the baby of our dreams has colic and we don’t sleep for two years straight. Then we realize, that maybe, just maybe, in willfully pursuing our ego’s desire, we tampered with sacred timing. Kairos is aligned with the highest truth of our lives, and being aligned with kairos means not always getting what we want when we want it.”

I was very frustrated during this time. Every writing rejection stung. I was annoyed that I didn’t have the flexibility to performing the standing split of so many burlesque performers. I was frustrated that it didn’t seem like I was attracting new “followers” for my work online. I was frustrated that writing still felt so difficult. I was frustrated that my body, my personal growth, my boss dreams seemed to be moving along at sloth speed.  

In 2009, when I was just a wee Ensign, I wrote Issa Rae a fan-girl letter of appreciation when she released Misadventures of the Awkward Black Girl (she wrote a really nice thank you back :) I would gain inspiration from bloggers on Feministing and looked at Gabi Gregg’s fashion blog on the weekly.

In 2016, many of these women are stars in their industries. Writing books, creating shows for HBO, releasing their own swimsuit collections.

I looked at the magnificent and amazing progress these women had made in the years I spent in the Coast Guard and while I was really excited for them, but a question would reverberate in my brain whenever I saw their amazing progress: what the fuck was I doing during those years?

“Kairos is the sacred time needed for us to meet with not only what fulfills us but also what fulfills a need in the world. Kairos works on our soul’s timing, not the laminated table the ego has set up for our life. Kairos-time allows things to unfold naturally; nothing is forced or contrived into being out of fear.”

Fear. That was my main motivator. I tried to dress it up in a fancy assemble of Ambition and throw some Passionate cuff-links on, but the truth was that all my goals in life were fueled by a persistent feeling of not being enough.  I was scared I was never going to meet the big goals of my life.

And I was extremely dismissive of my actual achievements.

I wanted to bully time into the timeline I wanted. But the thing was, every time I did this, things fucked up. I felt harried. I didn’t get to spend the time I wanted making my writing or art really shine. The work I would often showcase felt cheap and under-cooked. I would get some sort of success and then realize I didn’t even have the time to actually savor it because I was already onto the Next Thing. 

“When we judge where we are in our lives and how much we’ve achieved, we do so from a place of chronos. Our judgments are based on the expectations we set for ourselves: job by 25, married with children by 30, book published by 35, own business by 40, and so on to the grave. Many of us measure ourselves by these milestones without even examining them to see if they’re our own. Meaning some of them are acquired by social osmosis. What shifts the weight of our baggage is simply choosing it. Owning the baggage as the particular story our soul needed to live out allows us to claim it. And oddly enough, claiming it allows us to then let it go.”

When I really sat my ass down, I realized that I had been entertaining this ambition-fueled-by-terror my entire life. Even in the Coast Guard, I was like this. Taking self-improvement class after class. Always questioning how well I was doing as an officer (which was never good enough).

I had to come back to Story. What was the story I am telling myself of how my life should’ve gone? What I should’ve done? Who I should’ve been?

It sounds simplistic and it is not. Getting to know our specific story means we are probably encountering some not-so-shiny parts about ourselves, views, and influences. Things we think we should be past now—or never have assimilated into our belief system in the first place. Like if I see a beautiful woman and instantly feel the first pin-pricks of jealousy, I can decide to ignore these feelings, minimize them or inquire about what story I am telling about her and myself in relation to her. Do I believe in the hierarchy of beauty? Even a little bit? Do I think my life will be easier if I looked like her? What junior high hang-ups are still operating under my skin? What is the Story here? And it’s the same about the timezone of our lives.

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“Once we let go of some of the stories that have been defining and confining us, we can align our identity with a deeper truth—with the soul-story beneath the surface drama of who we are according to ego. We can dive beneath the wreck we fear we’ve made of our lives to hear the story our soul is living out. Listening to our soul-story allows us to release the idea that life is something happening to us. We can claim the power to become the author of our own narrative.”

Owning our story and our timezones isn’t easy. Our parents and friends and social organizations will chime in or hammer away at us about how they want us to live.

If your story is that you don’t want children or you really want to live abroad or you are tired of hanging around with your work friends at functions that cause you to want to stab a pen through your hand, this is YOUR choice. People will probably never shut up about their opinions about what they think you should be doing. The magazines and social media apps won’t stop showing you what other people in your similar fields are succeeding at. It’s up to you (and me) to reinterpret what we see.

“This is how we begin, how we remove a crucial veil: we claim our baggage as the story of our soul. No matter how old you are or what you’ve been through, you can change your perception of what’s possible by claiming what has weighed you down and what you’ve used as an excuse to remain closed and unworthy of love, and accept that your baggage is, in fact, your personal soul-story, which has unfolded in exactly the sacred time required. You may not be where you wanted or expected to be at this point in your life, but you can choose to acknowledge that you are right where you need to be. This does not mean that where you are is not painful or frustrating. But it does mean that you have the power to change your life in an instant, simply by changing your perspective.”

My name is Hannah Eko. I was born in London in the mid-80s. My family is Nigerian and I have one sister and two brothers. I spent some time in foster care. I went to schools in the suburbs of Southern California. After I graduated high school, I spent five years in military school and eight years in the Coast Guard. I had my first kiss and relationship when I was 25. I am jealous, kind, very sensitive, stupid-competitive, creative, often a procrastinator, funny, a little vain, shy with new people, and smart. I am not an influencer, widely published, or a Thirty Under Thirty. I eat out way too much. I love my friends. Sometimes I am still overly self-conscious and tied to people-pleasing. I love corny shit like self-help, astrology, and seminars on Being a Good Person. This list cannot cover the magnitude of who I am, but I must own it. All of it. This is where I am in my life. This is what I have to work with. This is my timezone.

“Take all those stories you’ve used as a reason not to love yourself. It’s time to see them as lessons to challenge, refine, and even polish your soul. You look at those hard-to-let-go-of stories, and you love yourself enough to see that you deserve much more than to dwell on them and punish yourself with regret. You own the stories that have kept you in hiding, knowing that they form the unique narrative of your soul. You also know, however, that they are only a part of your journey, not the whole.”

My story of rushing, of constant comparison and that dogged sense of not-enough that has tailed me for most of my life does not have to be yet another reason to hate myself. It is because of my over-scheduling days, that I truly know the benefit and gift of slowing the fuck down.

My twitch taught me a lot.

The success of Issa Rae and Gabi Gregg has taught me in the power of going after my passion, of consistent effort and action, and what is possible for black women today.

My not-enough has brought me to classes and teachers who have opened my eyes to meditation, attachment therapy, the effects of trauma, and a deeper sense of self-love.

My not-enough wound lends me compassion to others who suffer in this world. My stories aren’t “bad” or the entirety of my existence. They are ways for me to be a more solid human being. I am truly exactly where I need to be. This is advice I’ve heard since I was about 18. It is only now, thirteen years later, that I am beginning to believe it.

“In this way you clean out your inner closets. You dig out the piles stashed behind the couch and under the bed, in the basement, the attic, and the spare room, and you lay the contents of your life at your feet. You sift through everything that makes you who you are and what you will be able to do and become.”

This process takes time. It is constant. I think we hear these sort of pronouncements, these entreaties about day-to-day progress and we add them to some automatic check-list in our mind, got it, check, moving on.

We scarcely rest with the awesome but beautiful task of growing and what it really entails. I have been in the habit of living about two days in advance since I was like, six. Life was all about what I was going to do and become by next week, next month. So yeah, this consciousness is not going to be something I embody in one fell swoop.

“If we didn’t have baggage, if we didn’t have dark, troubling stories in our lives, how would we ever get to practice the power of love? What if every traumatic event we’ve endured, every regretful choice we’ve made, is actually an opportunity for the soul to spread its wings? We lift the weight of what has held us down by choosing to believe that everything in life has happened for our soul’s formation. It has not only happened for a reason but happened exactly when it needed to. And that means births and deaths, marriages and divorces, epic gains and epic losses.”

Honestly, if someone came up to me after a stupendous hurt, a death of a loved one, a catastrophic disaster and told me, “Don’t worry, Hannah, everything happens for a reason,” I would probably slap them across the face. I believe that sort of advice is not anyone’s to formulate expect the person who has gone through the loss. I don’t even think everything in our lives will make sense.

But, some things will. There are some things we can locate in our storylines with the awesome benefit of hindsight and maturity and see them for the wisdom building events they were.  We see that yes, this had to happen to me exactly this way or I would have never learned to stop dating assholes or stand up for myself or go for that audacious goal or leave the only home I’ve known.

Or maybe we still don’t know the lesson. Maybe there never was one. Maybe we didn’t become a “better person” or deeper.

Still—whatever happened is.

We have to say, I know that This Very Happy or Visible or Fit Person is doing ______________ right now, but this  (whatever this is) is my current life.

We are the only ones who can see this. We are the only ones who get to sit down with the complete tapestry of our lives and accept it all.

There are times when I feel like I get this on a level of depth I have never encountered before in my existence.

Then there are other times when I am like, fuck-this-lesson, fuck-soul-formation, just let me get what I want. Now.

I accept this too.

I am not a cyborg programmed permanently to the setting of Zen.

I’ve got my stuff like every other human and part of that stuff is being hella impatient and fearful.

And not always knowing.

I hope that you can find some space this week, this month, this year to sit down and go over your life.

To slow down and accept your own timezone with open arms.

I hope you can find the beauty in what is only yours to see.

I hope you can learn to let go and trust in a way that truly works for you.

I hope you can shed the expectations this culture places on you that don’t actually jive with your own life and heart.

I hope you can learn to love the Kairos.

Onward,

Hannah

I’ve Got That Summertime Madness : Happy Summer Solstice

 

My favoritest season is here! June 21st marks the Summer Solstice for us people in the Northern Hemisphere and is a time for truly shining forth, being outward directed, and getting moving.

It’s hard not to love Summer. Summer is often the arena of vacations, lazy days binge watching Netflix san guilt, and enjoying the deliciousness of being outdoors. I love Summer so much that I can even recall my summer school experiences from third grade to my first-year at military school with a smile. (And I got my bottom wisdom teeth pulled and was taking Calculus during my last summer school experience.)

In Taoism, Summer alongside Spring are the two “masculine” energy oriented seasons. This does not mean that there is not room for more inward dwelling feminine energies, but that Summer is the time to take action: Publish shit. Travel. Bring that new project to life. Date like a hedonist. Meet new people.

In Fall, we start to shed what doesn’t serve us and slow down.

In Winter our roots grew deeper and stronger and we go deep.

In Spring, we probably saw the first evidences of our winter introspection and took more muted steps toward action.

In Summer, we go all out. We get out there and let the world greet us as we are. We are unashamed about listening to our pleasure as a guidepost to living with meaning.

I wish you all a bountiful, beautiful Summer my friends.

Here are some questions and prompts for summertime reflection.

cartoon of black woman with natural hair and dark skin, butterlies land on her and she is wearing multicolored bracelets

Summer Questions for Reflection:

-How can you show up big and bright for summer?

And “big and bright” is totally your definition. Summer is a time to shake things up, move far beyond the tried and true and show up as our outrageous, quirky selves. We all have things (please let them be at least sorta legal) we’ve wanted to try and be. How can you honor what small pictures of growth you saw in Spring and shine them even larger during Summer? Is it wearing something a little risqué? Going to a concert solo? Finally telling that sort of toxic friend you’ve let hang on for too long to fuck off? Channel the largess of a mid-1990s diva and take up space this summer in the beauty of you.

-What is the biggest thing you learned from Spring?

Growth can feel sorta spurty and half-there in Spring. But, trust: you learned a lot if you just look for the lessons. Sometimes you have to look extra hard, but too often we rush through life without any real time of reflection. This is especially true for those of us who have said goodbye to the time-markers of graduation and end of semester days. What did you learn in the space from March 20th (the Spring Equinox) to now? Write it down. Honor that shit 😊

-What is one daily or weekly practice of showing up can you commit to?

Summer is all about outward directed action and launchings of all kinds.

This is the time to start Acting As If. Act as if you are publishing all the stuff you want to. Act as if you love your body and think you’re the sexiest person in your region. Act as if you already take exquisite care of yourself. Act as if you are the parent, teacher, student, candle stick maker you so wish to be.

Again, summer is about taking bold (see what I did there?) steps my friends. Sometimes you may feel kinda silly Acting As If. Acknowledge it. Then continue to Act As If and you’ll be surprised at how natural it starts to feel.

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-How can you bring in more nurturing, slow energy for Summer?

Much like Spring, it is still important to slow down on occasion during Summer. I enjoy just sitting, not looking at my phone, but just sitting in public shaded places staring into space like a weirdo. (Try it, you’ll love it.) I also am starting to fall back in love with naps. Another thing I do when I remember: before rushing from one location to another, I pause for three seconds. I hold my key to the door of my apartment or I purposely sit an extra five seconds in my car before I start grocery shopping. These tiny instances of pausing can do WONDERS for your day.

Happy Summer everyone! Stay safe and beautiful.

Onward,

Hannah

Art: Simone Digital, Akeisha Walters, and Annelie Solis

 

Flower Power : An Ode and Reflection on Spring

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My dear friends, Spring has arrived.
Of course, for those of us some parts of the US, this can seem like some cruel joke as we still are buttoning up coats and the skies are a blanket of grey.
The Spring Equinox of 2017 occurred on March 20th and marks the official start of Spring. Spring is “yang” energy, outward displays of power, a grand awakening from the slower, deeper rhythms of Fall and Winter.
I am an Aries baby*, so I kinda love Spring.
I get seasonal allergies, so I also kinda hate Spring.
Nevertheless, she is here in all her glory. I see the green buds starting to show themselves on the once naked branches outside my window, the temperatures are finally starting to heat up with some consistency, and there’s a more fast-paced energy snaking around the world.
I also love Spring because she represents new beginnings and a chance to acknowledge all the work we put in during the Winter season.
The sign of Aries coincides with the beginning of Spring for good reason. Aries of childlike wonder and leadership, of inspiring individuality, and the start of creative projects (not always good at finishing le sigh…)
So, the question is, how can we harness this energy of Spring and move with nature rather than against it?

Continue reading Flower Power : An Ode and Reflection on Spring

Don’t Let the Door Hit You: 2016-A Year-End Review

2016. My friend sent me this meme:

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Looks about right.

This year I turned 30, went to Nigeria to study the Goddess, sobbed in an empty movie theater on November 8th, and committed a major personal fuck-up.

It has not been a year without lessons!  In this blog post, I talk about my 2016 realizations, my releases, and what I intend for 2017 under one word. Of course, there are more major lessons that came into being, but these are the top 15 that spring to my mind.

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NYE in Denver

I have realized:

  1. Managing other people makes my life unmanageable.
  2. Sometimes you can be under repair and still open for business.
  3. Setting boundaries is real adulting.
  4. Fantasies are no place to make a home.
  5. No one will give me permission.

I am releasing:

  1. Old stories
  2. Disordered ways of taking care of my body (eating, rest, etc)
  3. Needing to please
  4. Not Looking at My Own Shit
  5. Not feeling

My word for 2017 is Balance:

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Balance
  1. I am dedicated to steady growth.
  2. I am dedicated to taking care of my eating/exercise needs as much as my creative desires.
  3. I am dedicated to releasing and transforming my emotional attachments.
  4. I am dedicated to truly listening to others from a place of curiosity.
  5. I am dedicated to feeling it all—good, bad, and numb. All.

I wish you all a beautiful 2017. My you realize the growth you’ve made happen. May you release all that which does not serve you. And may your intentions bring you and the world joy in 2017.

Here we go!
Here we go!

Onward,

Hannah

 

Winter is Coming and This Time I’m Not Full of Absolute Dread

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Nature has so much to teach.
The winter solstice is set to occur (in the northern hemisphere) on Wednesday, December 21. At this time, the days actually start getting shorter as we get closer to Spring, though we don’t really see evidence of this until the Spring Equinox in March.
 
As in nature, so in life.
Winter is cold days, bare trees, bundling up, slower energy, waiting, waiting, and more waiting. Oftentimes, we feel that “nothing is happening”, we who are so used to and value the rapid fire energy of Spring and Summer.
But things are happening, my friend. We are building a more secure, solid foundation (many plants’ roots actually grow deepest in the winter) and moving closer to the exuberant, more show-offy energy of Spring. We just can’t always see this.
Winter and Autumn in the ancient Chinese Taoism tradition are associated with the feminine, darkness, introspection and the “yin” side of the famous yin-yang symbol. Yang is the masculine and associated with light, action, and breadth. These two energies are made to co-exist with each other, neither is “better” than the other. We need both. 
 
All this to say, where are you in your embrace of Winter and her associated energies? Are you (like myself) pretty resistance to this slower, deeper, quieter pace? Do you still want to be on the go all the time even though your body, soul, and mind say otherwise? Is it difficult to not see obvious evidence of your work (whether personal or professional)?
As a SoCal native, I was totally bewildered and honestly, a little annoyed when I experienced my first real winter in Long Island, NY in 2005 (and no SoCalers, 60 degrees is NOT freezing…) I have gotten better over the years, but I still have some reservations about fully inhabiting this time of year. 
Last year, I started writing about some pretty heavy shit I had never ever processed before on the page. It resulted in lots of random bouts of crying, long nights of staring at my Instagram feed where I wasn’t even seeing the pictures, and most days felt like I was walking around in my own personal grey fog.
Instead of setting down into these feelings and accepting them, I berated myself and tried to “just get on with it” in a bluster of activity or I soothed myself with emotional eating and a myriad of other self-harming behaviors.
The result? More stuckness, not less.
But, all is not in vain. I learned something valuable last year. I learned that resistance instigates even more suffering. I learned that darker, more introspective, and slower moods have their rewards and are just as valuable as sparkly summer nights.
I fully plan to put that all into practice this Winter.
 
No matter where you are, I hope that you use this Winter season to nourish you and gain more acceptance of the quieter, but no less powerful energies present. I hope you go deep and learn to trust yourself. I hope this Winter is one that leaves you feeling more whole and ready to show the world your gifts in the Spring. 
winter sky with bare trees and grey sky
Things are gonna get deep around here.
 
Winter Questions for Reflection:
 
-How can you explicitly slow down (even just a little) this Winter?
Ideas include more naps (never a bad idea), starting a ten minute per day meditation practice, committing to eating more slowly, setting more time aside for work projects, taking restorative yoga classes, saying fuck-it to to-do lists items, allowing and even scheduling “dawdle” time, and tapping more deeply into your intuition.
 
-What is one thing you want to see born in the Spring, something you can go deeper with during this winter season?
Perhaps it’s a piece of writing that you allow to mature and shift with more ease, maybe it’s deepening your meditation practice, or committing to exploring (via journaling or another art form) some personal question that’s long lingered on the right side of your brain but you haven’t had time to explore. What do you want to bring into the world next year? 
 
-What is one daily or weekly practice of nurturing you can commit to?
Aromatherapy, daily mugs of tea, movie days/nights, sitting in the sauna at LA Fitness (join me), lighting candles instead of using artificial light, spending unrushed time with those you love, buying that ridiculously long scarf that actually looks like a mini-rug…don’t forget to take deeper care of yourself this season. We all need it and winter reminds us of this fact. 
 
-How can you bring in a little fiery energy this season?
Even during this darker, more sub-conscious laden time of year, we still need some fire. Have fun with this! What excites you about life and/or literally makes you warmer? For some it’s a high energy work-out, spicier foods, exploring a new part of the city, and of course, there’s the obvious activity (or just where my mind always goes) of sex. Find some way to explore your fire. 
 
 I wish you the best over the holidays and the entirety of this winter season. Please never forget:
 

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” – (I’ve seen this quote attributed to Buddha, fake Buddha, and Sharon Salzberg…no matter who said it, it’s wise and true.) 

 

Onward and happy winter,
Hannah