Ananda Kiamsha Madelyn Leeke
Lean In and Listen to Yourself

Thirty-five years ago, I was 13 and reading Charlotte Bronte’s novel, Jane Eyre. It was the summer before I entered the ninth grade at Elizabeth Seton High School, an all-girls Catholic school. Jane Eyre was required summer reading for Seton freshmen. After I checked the book out from the local library, I thought for sure it would take me a month to finish. I was so wrong. I devoured it in two weeks and managed to reread my favorite passages which included a quote about courage: “I remember that the real world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had courage to go forth into its expanse.”

Bronte's wisdom on courage traveled with me throughout my four years at Seton. It taught me that having courage includes leaning in and listening to myself. As I have gotten older, I have allowed my life to travel at light speed online and offline, leaving little time to lean in and listen to myself on a regular basis. Twenty-first century living has convinced me that I am supposed to be really busy with an assortment of electronic devices. It has exposed me to a myriad of choices and information. It has made my to-do list run wild with no end in sight. It has done all of these things only because I chose to allow it. The key phrase is “I CHOSE.” 

Two years ago, I started to realize how my choices to travel at light speed were burning me out. So I made a decision to slow down. Slowing down meant saying no to activities, business opportunities, events, and projects. It meant reducing the time I spent with people, incorporating more time for meditation and yoga, and implementing a digital wellness plan that includes daily, weekly, and monthly periods of unplugging from my online life and electronic devices. Those changes weren't always welcomed by others. And some of them created a level of discomfort that left me feeling guilty. However, I used meditation and yoga to sit with the discomfort as I intentionally created more space in my life to lean in and listen to myself.

What I discovered was that I need time each day to be still and quiet. My meditation and yoga practices are the tools I use to achieve stillness so I can check in with my inner wisdom. Inner wisdom is often referred to as intuition or an inner voice that provides guidance. My intuition is my GPS for daily living. It helps me know and understand myself better.  It fuels my courage and determination to follow my dreams. It allows me to express my authentic self.