The Role of the Sacred In Crafting Your Dream Life

Do you consider yourself to be a religious person? Or a spiritual person?

It’s something that I’ve struggled with somewhat for as long as I can remember. I’ve always wanted to have faith, to have a certainty or sense of knowing or trust about what’s coming.

I grew up Episcopalian, aka mainline Protestant, aka Christian, in a fairly liberal, “low” church that saw more diverse families than I ever saw in my classes at school. It wasn’t unusual for our pastor (a woman) to have us dance around the church, singing a song that wasn’t in our hymnal, or have us engage in discussion groups during worship.

Nevertheless, even with her occasional elaborations and interpretations of the beautiful Episcopal prayer book, I still grew up with a fairly “by the book” religious education.

Going through confirmation classes, I did my fair share of questioning, but I’m also a rule follower, so it didn’t occur to me to do anything but complete the classes and get confirmed in the church.

When I went to college, for the first time I felt like I had a wide variety of options for where and how I would worship. Some of my friends became Pagan (intriguing, though it never occurred to me at the time to seek it out), but after trying out an Episcopal church service in town (nice, but nothing too memorable for me), I found my home at our college Protestant services.

These ecumenical services brought together students and staff from very diverse backgrounds, and they were designed to give everyone a little taste of the familiar. So we’d sing a “traditional” hymn or two that I might have sung growing up, and we’d have a praise and worship part of the service, led at the piano by our African-American pastor who had grown up Baptist and gotten his bachelor’s degree in music. For that section, there was no need to hold the hymn in our hand – the pastor would call out the lyrics and we’d follow him for the cues.

There might also be another hymn or two from a different hymnal, and perhaps we’d have a guest performer, and every other week, I’d sing with the gospel choir, where I was usually the only white singer and learned every song by ear – an incredible contrast with my strict, traditional, white, Western music education. It was a wonderful immersion in another culture and a new experience for me.

I’d stand on the stage with the choir, singing gorgeous music that filled and uplifted the space, and I’d be in my element. Afterwards, people would come up to me and say how transformed they were by my solo, or how much they enjoyed our performance, how moving it was.

I always wished it would move me that way. I felt like something was missing, something was wrong with me. To be fair, music did sometimes give me glimpses of God, just brief moments, when all the musical parts would come together perfectly. But otherwise, I’d always feel like there’s something wrong with me. Jason Robert Brown describes it well here when he requests, “Let the music begin.” and “Longing to feel what you feel…music of heaven to open some path to your soul and let something glorious in.”

After leaving the utopia that my bubble of a college experience was in many ways (definitely lots of privilege there), I spent the next year traveling the country with a children’s theatre, followed by a few additional years of searching when I settled down in New Hampshire. In weeks that I had some flexibility on a Sunday, I made a point of checking out a local church (in hopes of finding the connection I’d been seeking). I enjoyed the contemporary Christian experience from a music standpoint, but found it didn’t resonate with me in terms of beliefs. I found lots of mainline Protestant services that reminded me of home (similar, but different), and I got angry at the Catholic church a couple of times. I also had a couple of truly frightening interactions that I won’t get into here.

Later, I found a ton of satisfaction as the accompanist at churches I found a home in. I loved the communities I worked in, and in addition to those occasional transcendent music, I was delighted to help other people find those connections to God through my music.

In more recent years, I’ve loosened up my definition of spirituality. Maybe I’m never going to feel that clarity I’m seeking every Sunday. Maybe it’s more a question of creating a practice of contemplation, where I seek wisdom, get in touch with my inner knowledge and seek connection with the universe. I connect with nature. I read. I engage in challenging conversations. Creating sacred time for myself each morning has evolved into one of my favorite things about my day, and I’m so thankful to have a morning routine that truly lights me up and makes my day better.

Working with my clients, I’m finding it’s really important to encourage them to take time for themselves to check in and be still each day. We all need that time for ourselves, and the consistency of a morning (or evening) routine offers us so many benefits. For some it’s meditation, for others prayer or reading and journaling, but it is essential.

Do you aspire to have a consistent morning practice? If you’re working to create the life you want, it may feel daunting to acknowledge where you are now compared to where you want to be. I encourage you to take one small step today to get aligned with your dream life.

Does the dream version of you make time for a prayer each morning? Practice gratitude before bed? Take a walk outside? You may not have the car of your dreams, or the abundant bank account, or the dream schedule, but I’ll bet there are steps you can take today to make your present more like your future.

So while spirituality or religion isn’t a requirement as you create your dream life, it’s important for all of us to have some grounding practice that centers us each day. And honestly, sometimes even very religious people, on the outside, aren’t taking enough time to do the work on the inside.

If you’d like help with this, let’s get on a call to discuss how I can help you get there.

Do you have a sacred practice? Does it light you up? If not, what’s one change you can make this week to get you more aligned with your future and best self?

P.S. Ross’ new holiday ukulele album (it’s gorgeous!) is available now – what a perfect gift for a friend or yourself – and Ross’ online ukulele course is now available for purchase, less than half price until the end of the year. And my new Facebook group is a great place to chat about next steps in your life and career!


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Feeling the Freedom to Dream

After I wrote my first post, I had a couple of challenging days. I’ve never done well when the dark of winter sets in – I’m one of the many that have a very tough time functioning without sunlight. But I’m re-orienting myself to waking up early – and I’m finding that if I start one small de-cluttering project, that’s translating into more energy for other things.

Two days ago, I stumbled upon a job listing. I really wasn’t looking for a job. As I see it, the job I have is basically perfect, except that it’s too exhausting for me do forever if I want to also do theater. In other words, not going anywhere any time soon because it is awesome overall and allows me a fair amount of freedom to live my life as I want to.

But this particular job listing looked too amazing to ignore. Do I have a chance? It’s a long-shot, a big long-shot. So I figured, what the heck, I’ll go for it, polish a resume, and see where it leads. But you know the really amazing thing? Because I’m already on the path to a tinier footprint and a simpler lifestyle, the idea of altering my plans completely and moving and starting a new job in August of 2015 just isn’t that big of a deal!

A year ago, I’m sure I would have been worried about how in the world I could make that happen. But now, even though I have an INCREDIBLY long way to go, I’m seeing the progress, and I can look at my apartment and say, sure, you can get rid of half of this stuff and move by August if you have a reason to. No big deal!

It’s definitely the small victories. I’m very thankful that Ross is willing to make regular trips to drop off recycling and donations, they pile up fast!

‘Til next time!IMG_0603

A New Beginning

Ross and Jamie blurry dance

It’s absolutely insane for me to start this right now. My life couldn’t be busier – well, not easily. I’ve got a fantastic but completely overwhelming arts job that I love and am suffocated by on alternating days. I run my own theater company on a staff of none, a few volunteers, and some amazing actors. And I fit in as much theater, music, dance, nature and family time as possible while focusing on finding time to spend with my husband, Ross, who is equally overwhelmed and having his own life crisis as he juggles teaching music, radio work, live sound and his own composing and band projects.

But if all of this stuff is running around my brain, won’t it be more productive to get it all out? I sure hope so.

I had a dream last night. I dreamt a solution to the conundrum I’ve been pondering, somewhat unnamed, for weeks. If I know I want to go from where I currently am to a life that is simpler, involves a tiny home and a yard in a place with work we both enjoy (and less need of work at all), WITHOUT having to take a fancy job for a paycheck and give up what we care about in the meantime, how can I do that?

“Oh, I’ve got it,” said Dream Jamie. “Downsize your life,  you know, like you’ve been working on. Then maybe get a studio or something else small to save some money. Buy a used motorhome. Put your stuff into storage – but not before you’ve mapped out a tour for you and Ross. It should involve all of the awesome skills you have – you can both teach lessons, maybe write a show together, Ross can run audio, Jamie can teach some theater classes and do some editing work – in other words, you don’t need to save up megabucks. Follow the steps. Once you’ve got the motorhome and your tour dates, you’ll start traveling, spending time in communities you might like to settle in some day. And once the tour is complete, you’ll choose your new community and move there – and start saving for a tiny house, with its own land eventually, for the two of you to live in.”

Of course, right? How did I not think of this? Thanks, Dream Jamie.