Shakti in the Mountains

 

By: Kim Bushore-Maki

I always thought that minding my own business had more to do with entrepreneurial savvy than with my personal growth.  If someone had told me,  before I started a women’s center, that minding my own business had more to do with personal development, I would not have understood.  I imagine I would have murmured a platitude similar to those that I murmured as a pregnant woman when every woman who had ever given birth voluntarily shared her birth story.  I had no comprehension of the challenges associated with growing a business, just like I had no understanding of how becoming a parent would change my life. Yes, I assumed my life would be different, but assumptions are no substitute for experience.   It is no surprise, therefore, that when I gave birth to Shakti in the Mountains my life irrevocably changed.
With a background in liberal arts, I was more concerned about scary words like “spreadsheets,” “tax forms” and “city code” than I was about personal growth.  In fact, as someone who studied psychology, I figured that personal changes would occur within a context, which if not comfortable, at least would be in familiar territory.  Instead, what I have discovered in the three-year process since leaving my full-time job with benefits is that I can ask questions and employ experts to support my burgeoning business.  (Let me know if you need a good CPA, contractor or licensed engineer.)  More challenging was holding my  vision, speaking my truth, and setting my boundaries.
Before launching my dream of a women’s community center, I visited one in San Diego, California.   During an inspiring conversation with a woman who worked there, I shared my concerns about responding to well-intentioned women who, while very committed to my project, had their own ideas about how things should be done.  Leah looked me right in the eye and said with a voice from on high, “You are the vision holder.  You have to be clear of your vision and stand firm.” She reminded me that my job as the visionary was not to please or accommodate people, but  to be the beacon of light that drew people to my vision.
Lesson #1: Acknowledge one’s motivation for listening to others.  My inner “good girl” was still trying to please people (be liked).  Just when I thought that I had laid her to rest, she reared her carefully-coiffed head and shouted her bad advice.  To be fair, my inner good girl saved my bacon on many occasions when conforming seemed the safer, less contentious route when I did not have the skill set or confidence to assert myself.  During the business launch, I challenged myself, and consequently, old coping mechanisms resurfaced.  By acknowledging that my good girl wanted me to succeed, I allowed myself the space to re-evaluate what strategy worked best.  Vision holders, I have discovered, are not about safe.  If I was going to direct a center where women nurtured their dreams and celebrated their authentic voices, then I had to model these behaviors.
Since opening Shakti in the Mountains, the opportunity to speak my truth has presented itself on multiple occasions, and most of the time, I have taken advantage of the opportunity.  On the occasion when I have not, the opportunity presented itself repeatedly,  usually in less comfortable circumstances.  While I would not have described myself as someone who is conflict avoidant, there were definitely times when postponing the difficult conversation was attractive.
Lesson #2: When concerns arise, the sooner they are addressed the easier it is.  As the vision holder, center director, bill payer, and service designer, I am likewise the primary risk taker.  While it is true that the risk taker stands to reap the biggest gain, it is also true that the risk taker easily becomes the lightening rod when things go bad.  One of the benefits of speaking with my authentic voice is discovering the contentment that comes when I act with integrity.  When I speak from my truth, my decisions may not always be liked, but they are respected.  My truth speaking became about liking and respecting myself.
Interestingly enough, the biggest challenges to my self-respect, and subsequently self-worth, arose from decisions that involved money.  While many factors influenced my relationship with money, including my parents’ money relationships, cultural values, and lack vs. abundance attitudes, the value I placed on myself was the largest determinant of my financial decisions.   The conundrum of balancing my needs as the facility manager and my needs as one of the service providers has presented one of my biggest challenges as an entrepreneur.  Considerations such as offering affordable services, making  a profit, and supporting other facilitators were all factors that influenced my financial decisions.  Initially I chose other people’s  welfare over my own best interests.  “Oh,” I would say to myself, “she really could benefit from this class.”  or “That facilitator is just getting started. I will discount the room.”   Not until I started  getting angry did  I recognize what I had done.  Not only had I put others’ interests before my own, I had let another old friend resurface – my inner rescuer. 
My inner rescuer likes to “help” people, and when in charge, the “help” quickly evolves into an unbalanced relationship in which the receiver expects a certain response from me.   I blame the receiver but,  after soul searching, I realize I created the situation.  Much to my chagrin, I discovered the rescuing was about feeling good about myself.  When I finally admitted that I still doubted my own worth, I addressed my fears about money, and in the process, set boundaries.
Lesson #3: Discovering that I had difficulty setting boundaries was humbling.  The admission contradicted my image of what a women’s center director did, and when I let my inner rescuer run the show, I was not modeling assertive, confident behavior. Unfortunately, this newfound clarity meant saying no to people whom I liked.  Setting boundaries also meant having uncomfortable conversations with well-intentioned people, and on the rare occasion, letting go of people who did not like my answers.  When I vented my frustrations with this process to a wise friend, she said, “Anger is a sign that one’s boundaries have been crossed,” and reminded me that I have a choice.  I could choose to stay angry, and eventually say or do something that I later regretted, or I could set a boundary. Remembering that I had choice put me back in the driver’s seat, a place that very much fit my image of a women’s center director.
Throughout this journey of minding my own business, I picked up valuable tools to use as the vision holder, confronted old coping mechanisms, learned to speak my truth, let go of fear, and summoned the courage to set clear boundaries.  While those lessons are invaluable, I am most pleased with the unexpected discovery of self-compassion.  This desire to treat myself with loving kindness is still  new, and therefore, intermittent.  I am happy to report, however, that the more compassionate I am towards self, the more I want to be.  As with all change, there are moments of resistance, and as I have discovered, part of minding my own business is recognizing that resistance is the treasure where I learn what I need most.

Kim Bushore-Maki lives in Johnson City, Tennessee with her partner and two children. She dreams of connecting equitable and sustainable communities from around the world and loves to hear from like-minded individuals.  She can be reached at: kim@shaktiinthemountains.com.   Visit her web site: www.shaktiinthemountains.com  or find her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/shaktiinthemountains

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