Maia’s 2015 Annual Report
I want to thank Susan Piver (meditation teacher, author, and founder of the Open Heart Project) for inspiring this report. A few days ago I came across her brilliant review of her past year and remembered that I used to create reports like that for nonprofit organizations.
Reading through Susan’s report, a couple of lightbulbs went on above my head:
- Yes! I want to share my reflections on this past year with my tribe. I want to celebrate the good stuff, harvest the lessons learned, and invite you into imagining where things could go.
- Yes… I understand the challenge and the joy of offering spiritual teachings and practices in the context of a ‘business.’ I haven’t quite figured it out yet either, and I want to be open about that process because it’s probably relevant to lots of other folks. And we all have something to learn from each other.
What you see here is the result of paying attention to those lightbulbs. While this review comes from my own life and work, I hope that in the end it’s not “all about me” and that you’ll find something to apply to your own life and work.
At the same time, I hope this report will give you a better sense of what I offer, and how you can support my work in the world.
To frame this report I’m using the questions that I use in my mindful end-of-year review and planning process.
1) What am I celebrating? What am I grateful for?
People. This has to come first! Relationships are at the heart of everything, and I’ve been so grateful for the people in my life – friends, family, clients. (And those categories are frequently blurry and overlapping!)
New website! After years of feeling all over the map with multiple online presences (at one point I had 3 websites going!), in 2015 I focused on creating one website that could encompass the essence of who I am and what I offer to the world. The result is what you’re looking at right now…
While it took me a while to feel okay about a website named after me, I feel great about the result. The tagline is “creating space for liberating change” because that’s at the root of what I love to do. The site features archived posts from my “Liberated Life Project” blog (plus new writing every month), and makes it easier to see how it’s possible to work with me. Big thanks to Anoki Casey for being a fantastic web designer and bringing this vision to reality.
Ongoing opportunities to teach mindfulness and socially engaged dharma. Some of the highlights included co-leading (along with Katya Lesher) a “Re-Connection and Renewal” retreat with 40 women at Upaya Zen Center in June; a September “Day of Heartfulness” in Santa Fe (also with Katya); and spending a month in Thailand where I once again helped to teach and facilitate at the Buddhist Education for Social Transformation training, organized by my friends at the International Women’s Partnership for Peace and Justice.
I’ve also served as a practice mentor to residents at Upaya each week, and for a few months I taught basic mindfulness practice to people coming to Santa Fe Need and Deed, an organization that supports those without homes.
One of the more challenging things I had to do was give a dharma talk at Upaya Zen Center a week after the horrific massacre of nine people at the Mother Emmanuel Baptist church in Charleston, South Carolina. I so much wish the reason for that talk had never happened. Yet in this world, we constantly need to confront the reality of hatred, racism, and institutionalized oppression. And we need to remember that liberation and awakening — both individually and collectively — is always possible.
Co-creating “Waking Up to Your Life” with my dear friend and collaborator, Katya Lesher. We offered this online program twice in 2015, both times with a full house. Participants gave great feedback and it felt wonderful to create and run it. We’ll offer “Waking Up” again in Spring 2016.
Organizational consulting work with the Academy for the Love of Learning in Santa Fe, and High Meadow Farm in Freedom, New Hampshire. (It felt just right to work with an organization based in a town named Freedom!) I feel blessed to be able to work with organizations that are so closely aligned with my own values… that gives me a lot of joy.
More individual coaching this year. I’ve been privileged to work with a number of you on a close basis, to witness your dreams and help you clarify them, and support you to make a plan to manifest them. I also loved being an associate coach for Pamela Slim’s fantastic “Indispensable” course, based on her excellent book Body of Work. Nothing gives me more happiness than supporting wildly visionary and creative souls to tap into the power of mindfulness to live more fully and create great things for the world.
Reaching a wider audience. In addition to what I published on my own site, I continued to write for other venues including an article on “Researching the Heart of Contemplative Practice” (about how the Tree of Contemplative Practices was created) featured at On Being with Krista Tippett. I also enjoyed being interviewed by Ursula Jorch for her podcast series on “Impact.”
2) What is one aspect about myself
that I have especially loved this year?
This one is more personal… this year I did a lot of heavy karmic lifting to identify and release some very old ancestral patterns and wounds. Without getting into the details, I’ll just say that some of them had to do with carrying an excessive amount of fear and anxiety – particularly related to money.
While I wouldn’t say that has completely disappeared, I understand more clearly the source of those feelings and have been practicing with how to be with them in a more loving and productive way. I am appreciating my resilience and commitment to free myself from my own suffering so I can be more available to others going through challenging times.
How did I do this? Well…. a combination of a lot of past therapy, an ongoing meditation practice, and more recently integrating shamanic practices plus dreamwork into my mix. For those latter two modalities, I’m especially grateful for the work of Luisa Kolker and Robert Moss.
3) What would I have done differently this year?
Perhaps like many of you, I have a tendency to try to do everything myself. In my business, this has translated to feeling burdened by doing a lot of my own administrative work. While I’ve got a number of tools in place to help automate certain tasks like client scheduling and invoicing (which I am happy to share with any of you who need tips), I’m still juggling a lot of different roles and it gets exhausting.
On a related note, this past year I’ve needed to put in a lot more work to promote my offerings, and even while doing that there lower enrollment numbers for some of my programs. I’m not exactly sure why this is… it could be in part due to the expanding number of others who are offering their goods online, and it becomes harder to get seen and heard through all the ‘noise’ out there. As time goes on, I realize I have less motivation to do the marketing work (even though I’m pretty good at it), and I’d rather spend that energy on creating and teaching.
For both these challenges, I’m considering ways to get more support this year, perhaps someone to assist me on a very part-time basis. But mostly I feel the invitation to continue practicing something that I’m not always so good at: asking for what I need.
4) What do I want to let go of?
Financial stress. I can’t tell you how much work I’ve done on this area of my life over the years. (I wrote about some of that in this article a few years ago.) I’ve come a long way — and yet, it is still there.
In the first half of 2015, I completed a couple of major projects for organizational clients. While I worked with a number of individuals during the last half of the year, no other organizational clients filled those spots (which is where the majority of my income comes from). After eight years of running my own business I’ve learned a great deal about how to generate revenue and I’ve come to expect that some cycles will be fruitful and others not so much. Still, it can feel scary when you’re in the middle of it. I was grateful I had built up an emergency reserve fund to draw on during the down time.
This is such a juicy area for me… I’m guessing probably for many of you as well. What I’ve discovered over the years is that for the most part, my sense of confidence and stability is actually not correlated to the number in my bank account – it’s much more of a state of mind. We probably all know people who are wicked rich and yet incredibly insecure about what they’ve got, never feeling that it’s “enough.” And conversely, there are people with very little money who have a deep sense of “enough-ness.”
Having said that, though, there is a bottom line that most of us need to meet, and when we don’t have enough to pay for the basic things like shelter and food, it does feel stressful. So I try to dance between those places and cultivate an internal sense of “enoughness” while also tending to my business and finances in a responsible way.
5) What do I want to call into my life for the new year?
Playful creativity. Speaks for itself!
More interaction with all of you! Over the past couple of months, I’ve tried something new: offering free webinars (the first in November 2015 was on how to do a mindful year-end reflection and planning process, the second in January was on the “6 Keys to Liberation-based Livelihood”). These have been a lot of fun to do and I plan to keep offering them each month. While I love writing blog posts, it’s great to hear your voices and the questions that are important to you so that this can be a co-creative process.
And I want to continue to show up in person and offer retreats and workshops so I get to meet you! Some of those are already lined up for 2016, including an August Re-Connection and Renewal retreat in New Hampshire (co-led with Katya) and something yet-to-be-created at The Hive: a center for Contemplation, Art, and Action in Cincinnati, Ohio. (You can see my complete schedule on this page.)
I also love to custom design retreats and workshops that meet the needs of specific groups of folks, like healthcare workers and teachers. Contact me if you’d like to explore that possibility.
A long-term vision. I am so good at helping other people to listen to the call of their heart, discern their vision, and take tangible steps toward it. But it’s kinda like the shoemaker’s kids have no shoes…. At times that is not where I can easily go myself. Recently I’ve noticed that I feel my own lack of direction, and a need for a longer-term vision that is as big and expansive as my own soul.
Tying it all together…
As I look back on this year it’s clear that I’m in the middle of a big ‘phase shift,’ a term I learned from my friend Roshi Joan Halifax. I’ve navigated through the world of the marketplace for many years, plying my trade as a communications professional and organizational development consultant while sharing my own content through The Liberated Life Project. My own mindfulness practice has always informed all that work.
Over these past few years, I’ve felt more and more called to support people in their meditation practice, and this is what I find most deeply fulfilling. I am also in a process of preparing to receive entrustment as a lay Zen teacher from my own teacher, Victoria Shosan Austin of San Francisco Zen Center.
I love creating and offering mindfulness retreats and workshops, both in-person and online. I love supporting individuals on their spiritual journey. I love being part of the socially engaged Buddhist community and facilitating opportunities for spirit-based activists to find each other, such as Sangha in the Streets. So all this is the direction I want to go more in…yet this kind of work does not bring in enough income to pay the bills.
My bigger vision is still in process, but I feel it is something around living more within a gift economy model. It may involve becoming a nonprofit organization somewhere down the road (because I’ve worked in the nonprofit sector for 20+ years, this is where my mind naturally goes).
I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while now… and I’m pretty sure this doesn’t have to do with a problem around money or valuing myself. It’s more that I see how we are all living within a system of exchange and transactional interactions that can be toxic to our souls. I’d like to be part of helping to move us into a new paradigm where all of us can live from a place of generosity and mutual support (actually this would be a return to an earlier and wiser way of life that our indigenous ancestors knew). For more on this, check out this beautiful video from Charles Eisenstein.
Right now, though, I am in that in-between stage and it is one factor in the financial challenges I sometimes face.
Here’s where you come in…
There are a number of ways you can support me through this phase shift:
I’d be so grateful if you’d take a few moments to fill out this survey that will help me understand more about you and what’s important to you. That, in turn, helps me to shape my offerings so they are geared toward your needs.
For those who would benefit from working with me
If what I offer is something that would support your visions and creativity, here are options for working with me:
You can also see what’s already scheduled on my calendar of workshops, retreats, and dharma talks.
For those who feel moved to support me in this transitional phase:
Become a patron of my teaching and work! This is the practice of dana, generosity, in the Buddhist tradition.
You can make a one-time donation using the button below. You also have the option to make this a recurring monthly donation if that feels right to you. Either way, I am deeply grateful for your support and for your own participation in the gift economy.