Achieving Your Dreams; Lessons From Inside A “Perfect Pressure Cooker”

In Montreal, we’ve been experiencing a yearly phenomenon called “Spring Fever”. After a long, cold and snowy winter, when warmer breezes come our way and the sun gets stronger, people become euphoric. All of a sudden, we wear brighter more flamboyant colours, smile broadly with a skip in our step and a lightness in our heart.

It’s contagious, but within a week or two it all becomes normal again.

Laura felt a renewed energy and inspiration to take out her art supplies and start a daily creative practice.

Laura felt the same way after she returned home from a weekend long creativity workshop. She had just experienced a blast of love. It was a breakthrough event for her and so much opened up; she felt a renewed energy and inspiration to take out her art supplies and start a daily creative practice.  

But, on the Monday morning, she was home again, and things started to go awry. Her son’s school called, the teacher and principal needed to meet with her. She would have to go over on her lunch hour break and learn about an incident in which her son had been the victim of bullying.

Meanwhile at work, a pile of extra paperwork that her co-worker placed there while she was away on Friday, was buried under her regular workload. Later that evening, her husband who was also experiencing some stress at work, came home to report the latest incident, and had little space to listen to her concerns.

The calm and confident inspiration that she’d experienced before coming home from the workshop was broken and dissipated, and replaced with stress, anxiety, and a pit in her stomach. The self-doubt and paralysis she had hoped to conquer since the workshop were back with full force!

The contrast between feeling so good one moment, and then so overwhelmed by problems, stress and the old self-doubt – was hard to deal with. It even crossed her mind whether she would’ve been better off never to have attended the workshop in the first place!

She was faced by what seemed like two separate realities.

On the one hand, there was this experience of beautiful support, connection, inspiration, and the well of desire to create her dreams. On the other, her life felt like it was falling apart. Her current circumstances seemed to be directly threatening or denying the reality she’d experienced the previous weekend. And, it made her doubt that the euphoria she felt after the workshop had been real.

Laura felt her current life situation was like a pressure cooker.

Laura no longer felt the spark she had felt upon returning from the workshop and she wasn’t sure how to find her way back to it.

One in which the tension was building up and from which she couldn’t escape. She felt very discouraged, but she had the good sense to reach out for some help through this tough time.

It didn’t surprise me that Laura was suddenly experiencing more stress than ever since she’d started on her journey of self-development.

When we start to grow outside our comfort zone, life will certainly challenge us.

The tendency when the going gets tough, is to try to escape into old, unproductive patterns, to avoid the situation altogether, or to blame others or life in general.

Laura could have shrunk back into taking on stress from those around her and playing the role of filling in the gaps for others. However, at the workshop she had started to explore some of her own dreams of giving more time to her art and self-expression. She was no longer willing to shelve her creativity and dreams as she’d been doing for the past 15 years.

The road to change is bumpy (because it’s one of inner transformation).

When we embark on the road to change, we inevitably hit roadblocks, obstacles and inner resistance. These may come in many shapes, sizes and forms, and they can really keep us stuck. You may experience a moment of inspiration, but to sustain the vision of yourself and of the life that keeps you moving through the obstacles, requires much more than a passing moment of “Spring Fever”.

In order to welcome in your new dream, you need to grow and expand yourself so that you’re capable of holding the space and vision for it. And to do that, you need to grow the new spiritual, emotional and energetic “muscles” to sustain your new desired reality. Bringing your project or dream into the world may require that you undergo a process not unlike giving birth to a real baby – a process that involves some intense contractions. 

I’m defining pressure cooker here to mean “life circumstances that keep you facing particular difficulties of struggles in a sustained and intense way“.

Old illustration of steam digester invented by French physicist Denis Papin in 1679. Original, by unknown author, was published on L’Eau, by G. Tissandier, Hachette, Paris, 1873

When does a pressure cooker come in handy in your kitchen?

The pressure cooker, originally designed by Denis Papin in the 1600’s (he called it the “Digester”), is a pot that uses heat and steam to rapidly break down and tenderize tough foods, such as beans and tough meats.

The high pressure steam raises the boiling point of water, cooking foods faster and the raised pressure forces liquid into the food, tenderizing it very quickly. The steam also promotes caramelization and browning creating flavours that are rich, deep and complex.

If your life feels akin to a pressure cooker, please do seek out help and look for solutions to what’s stressing you. Yes, you may indeed need to make changes to your circumstances. But, it’s also important to explore how you meet them and how you may need to change yourself. Your dreams and deeper desire might be calling you to transformation.

You may be asking yourself  the question: “Could this be the perfect pressure cooker situation for me?”

The answer is: “I don’t know.”

Here’s what I do know. Whatever challenges you’re facing, within them may be an opportunity to “let go” and come to a place of deeper surrender. Surrender, then leads to another level of being.

In  her book, “When Things Fall Apart; Heart advice For Difficult Times”, Buddhist Nun, Pema Chödrön, writes:

“Each day, we’re given many opportunities to open up or to shut down. The most precious opportunity presents itself when we come to the place where we think we can’t handle whatever is happening. It’s too much. It’s gone too far. We feel bad about ourselves.”

“Most of us do not take these situations as teaching  We automatically hate them. We run like crazy. We use all kind of ways to escape. We feel we need to soften it, pad it with something, and we become addicted to whatever it is that seems to ease the pain.”

When we face a situation for which there is no easy “solution”, the way forward may be through transforming how we meet life. This can be the process of ‘unlearning’ and it’s exactly what Laura began to discover as we coached together.

Laura’s ideal pressure cooker.

Laura began to see the pressures she was experiencing in a new light. Rather than take her away from her goals, they could be a doorway bringing her closer to them. She started to notice the role she was playing in putting her own interests and passions on the back burner and how a shift in how she interacted with her loved ones and others was required of her. She now began to build the new “muscles” of valuing her contribution at her workplace and honoring her creative nature.

The outer struggles which appeared to be the obstacles to her dreams, led her to see her inner conflicts which were in reality holding her back. Laura wanted to be there for her loved ones, and now had clarity about what she needed to do without neglecting herself or her interests.

She now began to:
  • Set healthier boundaries in her relationships
  • Open herself up to receive support, compliments and appreciation  
  • Shed limiting beliefs about her self-worth, her abilities and what she has to offer
  • Tap into her creativity

The transformational journey is also akin to the process undergone by the caterpillar in the cocoon, who turns into black goo before emerging as a butterfly.

Just as intense contractions can be necessary to deliver a baby, so are we sometimes required to go through an intense training period in which we develop skills, aptitudes and strength to carry through a project to its fulfillment.

Laura began to recognize that some of her circumstances had provided her with the perfect pressure cooker, that is, one which seemed especially adapted to helping her learn how to step into her power and become more of a leader when it came to her creativity and her life. Ultimately, these skills were fundamental in order for her to grow into the artist she was to become.

 

Questions for self-reflection:

  1. Do you have a dream or project that’s calling you to expand and grow yourself from caterpillar to butterfly?
  2. Is life presenting you with opportunities to unlearn old patterns and develop a new approach toward challenges?
  3. How are you being called to transform into a more empowered version of yourself, one that can bring forth your dreams and projects?
  4. Need help finding your way through your journey of transformation? 

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Gabrielle B. Taylor

Gabrielle is a psychotherapist and a Transformational Coach.
Her passion is offering support and guidance to
Sensitive Soul Leaders – visionary women
who deeply desire to break through
to the next level of their business or their dream.

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