”What am I supposed to do with my life?” is the most asked question I get from students/clients/friends. They tell me “I know my life has purpose but I can’t see what it is!”. My usual answer is “maybe it hasn’t been invented yet, so that is why you cannot name it”. That is a very simplistic answer.
The way we have been educated makes us believe that we need to know the destination before we embark on the journey. To me nothing expresses the error in that thinking better them the Fool/Seeker card in the Tarot.
The image on the card is usually depicted as a man (although often very androgynous looking), walking happily off the edge of a cliff. He hears the “call” and with blind faith is willing to walk off the cliff’s edge.
To me life is like that. I don’t know the destination but I hear the call very clearly. Perhaps we are only supposed to know one step ahead, not the full destination–like a treasure hunt. We get a clue, which takes us to our first stop. There we find the next clue, and the next and the next until finally we reach the treasure. This is what I call the “crooked path”. It is not linear, it is not obvious, but it is a rich journey.
For most of my life I saw myself as a failure, never being able to stick to anything. I started my journey, at a very young age (eight or nine years old) as an ice-skater. I love ice-skating. I was good at it. The thing I loved most was choreographing solos for others and myself. I would hear the music and ”see” the piece. I still do that but I only recently remembered that I had that skill as a child.
As with most activities in the USA, you’re not allowed to just enjoy it, so as I improved I was ”encourage” to step it up—to take it “seriously”. I moved to a new arena to skate. In fact the whole family moved to a new house, in a new town, so that my sister and I would be closer to the arena. The pressure was on!
I had a coach. I started competing. I had to get up at 4:00 AM so that I could train before going to school… needless to say the passion was gone. I did enjoy the performance at the competition and being part of a team but that was about it. The crushing blow came when I was put in a competition against my sister. We had always been in different classes because she was three years older but somehow I had worked my way up and here we were competing against each other.
That was my last competition. My sister came in third and I came in fourth. I was so conflicted. My coach told me I should have come in third. That didn’t make me feel any better, because then my sister wouldn’t have won. And I wanted her to win as well. I refused to compete against my sister again. My desire to win meant that she wouldn’t. It was at this point in my life that the whole concept of ”competition” went into the shadow. For many years whenever I found myself in competition with another person, I would just choose to step out and let the other person win in order to avoid conflict (an issue I have since worked through doing “shadow work” 🙂 ).
But that whole experience of spending all those years building up to something, the time, the effort, the money (my parents money) and then leaving it by the wayside registered as a failure on my part.
Of course in reality it was a piece of the puzzle because when I stopped ice-skating I began dance classes—intensely. It was all ballet and jazz, very structured, but again I was learning skills that would serve me later in life, probably more than ice-skating would.
At the same time I was studying dance, I was very much involved in community-theater (my mother is an actress) and then professional theatre. That became my life and instead of getting up at 4:00 AM I was up all night!
We would rehearse one show during the week and perform another on weekends. This was all happening during my teenage years so I was going to high school during the day, theater at night.
Then I met a man who opened the door to the world of alternative healthcare. He was also in the theater but a ”health-nut” as it was called in the 1970’s. He jogged (which I hated, you shouldn’t be running unless something is chasing you), took supplements, baked bread… so I did the same.
We became involved in selling nutrition supplements and managing a natural food co-op. In the 1970’s there were few “health food stores”. Places like Whole Foods did not yet exist at the time so we had to get natural food by creating a collective and ordering in bulk. It was then that I became passionate about health. I started studying nutrition by taking some certification courses.
Back when I finished high school I had announced to my father that I was not going to college. It would be a waste of time and money. And it would have been. There was nothing I wanted to study. I probably would have studied theatre arts, which I was already doing, so what would be the point. But after studying nutrition, I was fascinated by the body and how it works—I had a new passion. I knew that was what I wanted to do, to study biochemistry!
It was not an easy task to find a university that had biochemistry as an undergraduate degree—but I did. I went, and I studied, and what I learned was that biochemistry is NOT about how the body works. It is about how the cell, and most often only the mitochondria in the cell, works. I had my challenges the main one was realizing that after four years of study I was in the wrong place. I was going to end up with a degree that would probably only get me a job in a lab, which I hated. So in my senior year of university, just weeks before graduation, I changed my major to psychology.
This was my best option because all of my electives were in psychology. It would only take me one extra year to complete a major in psychology. But again giving up on biochemistry left me feeling like I had failed. I had spent all those hours taking difficult, boring, courses like organic chemistry and identification of organic compounds (OMG!) and there I was with nothing to show for it!
Psychology was a better fit for me. It was easy, not like the mountain I had been climbing in biochemistry. It was also something I had been doing all of my life, counseling people. But the hidden jewel was that by staying that extra year I met the man who would become my husband and bring me to Egypt.
I think by now the pattern should be emerging. The crooked path was showing itself; at least it was for me. Often it is only in retrospect what we can connect the dots and see the gift. At that point I felt that something magical was unfolding. As a child my dream had been to become an Egyptologist, a passion I had long since forgotten in all the busy-ness of life.
In retrospect I can see that all the detours were gifts. I was blessed to have been an athlete as a child. It is only now that science understands how important physical exercise, at a young age, is to development of the child and the adult later in life. This was something that was unknown in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
My passion for choreography, or the physical manifestation of music through the body had been seeded, nurtured and blossoming since childhood. And I think because I was a child with no training, and not a dance major at university where I would have been “taught” how to choreograph—it came naturally. I had no idea that choreography was often built rather than “channeled” or “birthed” the way I was doing.
My years on stage made public speaking and performing like breathing for me. My years backstage and working at the Theatre gave me the skills to create events and productions of my own with no anxiety.
My journey into biochemistry made it very easy for me to understand aromatherapy and homeopathy from a scientific perspective, as well as giving me the language and confidence to explain it to doctors, researchers and teach it to my students. I also gained a huge scientific understanding of DNA that allowed me to see the connection, from an energetic perspective, when I was creating the Al-chemia Remedies.
My switch to psychology from biochemistry was an unconscious attempt to integrate mind and body at a time when mind-body therapies were still not acknowledged and mainly underground.
Looking back I can see the path, as crooked as it may have seemed at the time, was actually the perfect path to get me to where I am right now. And all the steps that I took, had I had a choice, would probably NOT have been the choices I would have made. Because, as I said in the beginning, many of the destinations I ended up in did not exist at the time I was making a choice. The sacred arts were unheard of or not acknowledge in the 1970’s. But by only being able to see what the next step was, not where the ultimate destination is, I could feel into it. I could know where to step next by following my passion, the sacred fire that was pulling me.
I say, ”where the ultimate destination is” because I don’t feel that I am there yet. I feel that I am still finding clues, following the breadcrumbs of my unfolding. I am still building the skills that I need, day by day. But now I do it with joy and a sense of adventure rather than a feeling of failure as I put down one passion to pick up another. All my passions and experiences are a pieces of my puzzle. Even though I may have collected them out of order, or not knowing what I would use them for—they all make up the culmination and uniqueness of me to do whatever that ”thing” is that I am meant to do with my life. I no longer need to know WHAT it is because the journey is the destination.
Enjoy the journey!
Writer Leslie Zehr teaches Sacred Dance, helping women reconnect to the sacred feminine. She is also the host and producer of the Sacred Dance Summit, as well as being an aromatherapist, hypnotherapist, reiki master and astrologer. She has published two books, The Alchemy of Dance: Sacred Dance as a Path to the Universal Dancer and The Al-chemia Remedies: Vibrational Essences from Egyptian Flowers and Sacred Sites. Her workshops have been attended by hundreds of women of different nationalities and taken her from Cairo and ancient Egyptian temples along the Nile River to studios and centers in New York, Maine, Maryland, Arizona, Washington, Puerto Rico and now to an online platform the Universal Dancer Temple of the Sacred Arts. Through dance, Leslie retells the archetypal stories, taking women back through time to the essence of their being, initiating and unlocking the esoteric wisdom buried deep within their psyche.