photo from the time I was still working in a corporate setting
My journey into the heart really began years ago, in 2014, when I first started practicing yoga. At the time that I began practicing - July 2014, to be exact - I was working a corporate job. Management and leadership. I supervised a sales team. I was 24. Young, ambitious, full of a hunger to achieve my potential. Very grateful that I spent a good chunk of my early twenties in the ‘real world’, before I turned off the beaten path. Back then, I wore a suit and tie to work and came home to quickly change into yoga clothes and ride my bicycle to yoga school every day. It was an interesting time in life, and I was learning a lot. It was at this time that I was just beginning to find my understanding of what it meant to be authentic, to live from the heart, and to lead and inspire others through truth. At the time of writing this, 7 years later, and it’s been a long journey. I’ve picked up some great nuggets of wisdom along the way and I hope to refine these nuggets through the process of reflection by writing and sharing with you all.
Teaching yoga at a festival in Costa Rica in 2020
I remember thinking a lot about the sales team that I supervised. This was between the years 2013 and 2014. I’d just been promoted into leadership and I was still very young and fresh. I could really relate to my reps. I wanted them to succeed. In my coaching sessions with them I sought to connect with them and hear about their lives. I was interested in their success, but I knew that the way my management was telling me to coach them wasn’t the authentic path for me. I had to figure out how to inspire them and no one was teaching me. So I relied on my instincts and ability to relate.
Genuinely, I want everyone that I encountered to succeed and be happy. This aspect of myself became realized to me after my first coaching gig in 2009, when I was head of a hundred youth preparing through a summer weightlifting camp for the next year of athletics. Another very interesting time for me. I was hired to lead the weightlifting camp by the head football coach of my old high school who had seen me grow and develop over the years. Years before this, in my junior year of high school, I am walked into Coach Lopez’s office and asked to join the football team. I hadn’t played a sport in five years or longer and I was in teenager video gamer shape - eating cereal for breakfast and waffles for dinner. The look on his face was priceless. I’ll never forget that, just like I’ll never forget how three years later - after I had risen the ranks and surpassed many of his best athletes in terms of my weightlifting capability and had really developed my own experiential knowledge around successful weight training - when he asked me to take a lead position on the Strength and Agility summer athletic program and be in the weight room everyday for three months of summer break with 100 kids. It was an honor, for sure, but what felt better than anything else was my own authentic growth that occurred during that time which allowed me to be recognized for the characteristics and qualities I’d developed over those three years.
During that summer of 2009, I think it was about this time that I realized that leadership was a choice and to lead anyone or anything for any reason meant that I had to embody what was authentic for me. I have concluded this because I discovered early on (in those days) that leadership was about inspiring others - not telling them what to do. It was embodiment and energy. It was about holding a vision or an idea in the mind and embodying the ideals or attitudes that led to the success or achievement of that vision. If your embodiment was flawed or inauthentic, those under your guidance could feel the leaks in your ship, and would hardly want to man the oars. On the other hand, a solid embodiment can lead to everyone feeling connected to the shared vision, and each person can then choose to row or not. A complete success is what happens when everyone in the group is in agreement and resonance about the goal or destination that is set and all parties are contributing their efforts towards the greater or higher vision. The best part is realizing that the achievement of the higher vision also leads to the fulfillment of the individual/ individuals who are part of this process. I had started to learn these concepts early on the path due to my involvement in various leadership projects, such as this youth weightlifting camp (Summer 2009), and over time I began to develop these qualities further through more coaching, and then working in a corporate setting as a sales manager, and eventually arriving more unorthodox leadership positions as yoga teacher and ceremonial musician.
This is just a brief history to give the reader an idea of what and where I am coming from. What I want to share mostly is not my personal history, but the lessons along the way, and the concepts I picked up and refined over the years. The trials and errors. Most importantly, I wish to define what is leadership, and how it can be successful, as I feel we are all offered unique positions of leading others at different points in our lives. What I’ve come to realize is that I had begun exemplifying leadership qualities before I was formally asked to step into a leadership position. Why share that point, and how does it relate to the main intention? It is my attempt at introspection and reflection to uncover what I feel is not a unique quality to me. I share my story and the conclusions of my experiences to help point the reader back to their own understanding(s). Ultimately, based on what I’ve discovered in my own experience, the main thesis of this essay is this statement: leadership is not about getting others to do what you want them to do; leadership is becoming clear about inspires you most allowing this inspiration to spill over and touch the hearts of those that share the vision.
For me, I call this the Path of the Heart.
It is the path of showing up fully as oneself, authentic and open and vulnerable, in whatever situation a person finds themselves in. Connected to the thesis, the primary intention of this post is to help the reader identify their own inner leader (by finding what is truly inspiring to them) and also discovering what it may take to reclaim their power in a world where many people are falling into the trap of being a follower without choosing to be. When we lack our own source of authentic inspiration, we will look for opportunities to be inspired by others. When we cannot find the inspiration we are seeking, we have the tendency to give our power to some outer authority which we have outsourced to be the leader that we then follow (for better or worse). This may manifest in all sorts of imbalanced ways in our lives. From what I’ve seen, the most common form of manifestation of the imbalance is resistance to any and all forms of leadership/ authority even if it could lead us to a good or positive outcome.
If, through contemplation of my words, a goal is arising for the reader, then the goal is to discover our own inner leader and our own authentic source for inspiration. To reclaim the Heart.
To me, leadership is about being who you are. Being who you are sets the example for everyone else to be who they are. This is leadership. Everyone in our life is looking to us to set the example, in whatever ways the example needs to be set. Regardless of where you are or what you’re doing, there will be people who, at various times in life, will want to be led. There will be times that you yourself want to be led. The most important thing to note here is that - in reference to, and in the context of, the concept of leadership - leading is the result of our own embodied understanding about what we are doing and why we are doing it. This sort of embodiment is what creates clarity and solidarity between the vision - a distant goal or ideal - and the present moment. A loss of connection to our personal and authentic vision causes us to continue to compromise our values in order to fit into other behaviors that may not be true for us. This disconnection is what causes us to be someone else than who we really are. This is a someone who is defined by the world, the world events or even their very own history. The distinction I making here is between this person and the self-governed, self-led individual. This sovereign being is one who creates and defines themselves based on their Heart of hearts, and what is inside of them. It is not based on anything coming from the outside. In my opinion, this is who we truly are, and anyone who is leading anyone else should be attempting to help the other reach this conclusion.
One must consider that making the connection to one’s inner leader is about making even the simple tasks important, and connecting their small steps in life to the bigger picture. We are talking about reclaiming our power, which means radical responsibility over and for all the situations and experiences in one’s life, no matter how big or small. We see that everything we do is connected to the goal, and the our goal continues to expand and encompass everything else that is. Staying on our path and staying connected to the heart is just remaining aligned with the bigger picture. When those around us see that we are taking life seriously, something very special begins to happen. Again, it doesn’t matter where or for what. To sum up what I’m talking about: if we are clear about our vision and goals in life, it will trickle through into our embodiment, which influences every action we take in every moment.
If we are not clear about what we stand for and our highest vision, our embodiment will have holes in it, and the world will define us. We will seek leadership or authority in other ways to tell us what we need to be doing. We will seek experts and rely on their opinions. We will outsource the intelligence of our own being and give it to the ‘other’. We will fight against the ‘parents’ of our government or other governing bodies because we are not coming into our own true sovereignty. All rules will be like constraints to us, including our own choices to find more discipline, which we will resist and create excuses to avoid. My conclusion here is that finding in ourselves our own authentic purpose for life will allow us to step into the leadership positions when and where needed, but especially to embody our own leader. We will also naturally possess a willingness to be led by those who are embodied in their understanding when and where it is needed, because we see the value in authentically following others who have something to offer to us.
What this entire essay is pointing to is that the path of the Heart, is the path of leadership, is the path of authenticity and purpose. We are all leaders, but we cannot lead our own selves to where our heart truly wants us to go, then will make all sorts of excuses at the same time as conflict between our inner and outer worlds. We will look to others for guidance while at the same time resisting their advice. We will fight against the systems in life which feel like they are taking our freedoms away, but we will do nothing to reclaim our own true inner freedom. It is a civil war, and an ongoing conflict than many of us go through daily. To reconcile this, we must return to understand what leadership is, how we can connect to our own inner leader, and how we can become embodied in our visions, values and goals. This will be the subject of another essay: Embodiment. Stay tuned and may all of us reclaim our power and sovereignty in a world that is designed to take it from us.