Burnout and the Bhagavad Gita
Posted on July 23 2018
This is definitely the longest I've gone without publishing a new blog post in.... a very long time.
And I could make a lot of excuses for that. I've been very busy with the acquisition of a new company, as The People Label affiliate program very excitingly recently moved to Bead & Reel. I've been very busy evolving the Fair Trade Fashion Show, which is growing and changing as it heads into its fourth year. And I was accepted into Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Make it in LA Catalyst Fellowship, focused on bringing manufacturing back to Los Angeles, which has also kept me, well, very busy, too.
Not to mention I’ve finally sort of figured out work/life balance, which means I’ve also been doing a lot of yoga, and meditation, and hiking, and cooking, and spending time with my piano and other dear friends.
And that's all fine, but, that's not why I haven't been writing. When I got really honest with myself, I realized I haven't been writing because I had lost my inspiration. I had burned out. Somewhere along the way, after years of 80+ hour work weeks and deep sacrifices and exploitative partnerships and an inbox perpetually filled with the loud dissatisfaction of others, I had fallen out of love with a company and an industry and a movement that seemed to do nothing but leave me feeling depleted and pessimistic.
This became abundantly clear to me at the same time as I was falling out of love with a person, and the parallel of the end of a romantic relationship side by side with the end of a professional passion mirrored each other eerily. And so I stopped writing, unable to find the words as I privately grieved both.
To quote one of my favorite tv shows, “The universe may not always play fair, but at least it's got a hell of a sense of humor.” So, there I was, deep in my mourning and moping, when I completely and unexpectedly fell in love (yeah, it surprised me too). After years of a slow, smoldering heartbreak next to years of a slow, smoldering burnout, this was the most enlivening, beautiful feeling imaginable, and I was dizzy with happiness for the first time in a very, very long time. But I still didn't write, unable to find the words as I revelled in the once-forgotten glory of love.
Plus, like all oxytocin-blinded dreamers, I started to think that nothing else mattered. Politics, culture, oil changes… it just all seemed so trivial next to love. I started to think that my endless focus on supply chains and pollution and veganism was misguided. I felt that the world didn’t need one more blog post about microplastics or artisan fashion or even one more plant based recipe; all we really needed is for everyone to just fall blissfully in love, and that would totally solve everything, right!
Recycled Polyester Legging + Bra: Tree Tribe
Love brings out the deepest sense of optimism, of hope, of wanting what’s best for another. And whether that love is for a person or a business or a cause, it’s vital in creating anything meaningful, from a relationship to a movement. But that’s easier said than done. We can’t just conjure up this sense of love for anyone or anything, on demand, and use that to build a better self or a better world.
Or, can we?
I’ve spent a lot of time meditating on this question and have decided that yes, actually, we can conjure up love, and in fact we must. While it was a person who ignited in me this initial remembrance of love, they didn’t create it or own it. It actually had nothing to do with them, honestly, because it was something I already, always had in myself. It had just been dormant and hidden until a spark (re)awakened it. And so we actually don’t need a specific person or thing to find this love – we just, often, forget that until something or someone touches us in a way that reminds us of our own heart (hello, heart).
And this is great and all, and even though I could definitely understand and appreciate this concept, I still felt completely stuck when it came to conjuring up love in my professional life. While on the outside, yes, there were many good and exciting things happening, my work – once my greatest passion - still felt devoid of love and remained deeply unfulfilling.
And life is too short to accept something that is loveless and unfulfilling. So I seriously thought about giving it all up, maybe moving to India to devote my life to the pursuit of God. I thought about just walking away from it all, as this industry and this country attempt to implode, devouring themselves in the angry and hungry chaos of ego. I could let the critics and the narcissists win, and I could go live a quiet life chasing after my next kundalini.
And I was totally into this idea (plus, I love Indian food!).
But then the other night, in the middle of another one my spiritual quests, I had a clear realization that I can’t give up on the world and my small role in it quite yet. I can’t just go sit in a cave meditating while the darkness permeating our industry and our nation and our humanity tries to win.
Infuse your life with action. Don't wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen... yourself, right now, right down here on Earth.
- Bradley Whitford -
The Bhagavad Gita talks about the importance of our life’s work – our dharma. We are each here to do something, but, the kicker is, we aren’t here to actually achieve a certain result. We are meant to fulfill our calling regardless of how it turns out, regardless of if it’s successful or appreciated or even makes sense to anyone else. We are meant to do it for the sake of doing it, not for a reward at the end. And I had let the seemingly endless disappointments and challenges and oppositions of others make me lose sight of this, forgetting that outcomes and opinions have no measure on whether or not I am living up to my calling.
I’ve known for years what my dharma is (thanks to a tarot reading): I am supposed to use my life to be a voice for the voiceless. And so, ultimately, it doesn’t matter if others don’t like how I use my voice. It doesn’t matter if my voice actually changes anyone or anything. All that matters, all that my dharma is asking of me, is that I keep speaking up for those who can’t.
Which sounds simple enough, but I struggled with how to do this, and ultimately decided that I need to – absolutely must – fall back in love with my work. To conjure up the deep wells of love that I – and everyone (you too!) – have inside, and channel it back into my businesses and missions. To not wait for an external spark to get me excited about sustainable fashion again but to instead create my own spark (and then, like any good love, put into place boundaries and communication and healthy, nurturing practices, so that this love can also be sustainable).
As soon as I decided this, I was able to write again. And I'm more excited than ever to get back to work to help create a cleaner, kinder fashion industry, one which we can all love.
Photographer: Eileen Schmitz
Location: Lost Mountain Lavender
A note on ethics in writing:
Many of the items in this piece were kindly gifted to me - and you will continue to see them in future stories because I love to re-wear things. I may sometimes (but not always) use affiliate links in my blog when talking about products or services that I truly suggest, which means that I may get a small commission if you end up buying or trying something through a link I share. This is one of the ways that I continue to fund the stories and programs that Bead & Reel creates and supports.