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Contentment And The Big Arena

annieburnside01Recently I wrote a post on my public Facebook page that unknowingly seemed to sum up, in many ways, my inner summer reflection and eventual clarity:

~Speaker Brene Brown says it takes great courage to step into the arena. I agree. But, it also takes great courage to step out of the arena once inside. And, it also takes great courage never to enter the arena in the first place. Millions of paths, there are millions of paths into our soul.~

I started the summer very tired. Not the kind of hard physical labor fifty weeks a year tired. Not single parent tired. Not grieving for the loss of a loved one tired. (Let’s get all that straight right away.) But, nonetheless, emotionally and mentally tired.

When I first started out on this career path as a soul nurturer, spiritual author, circle leader, blogger and public speaker, my goal was to create a brand, gain a following and eventually enter the big arena like so many of the other spiritual authors that I admired have done. Granted, I was never Type A about it because I am not wired that way, but still, there was a striving—a not there yet feeling—simmering underneath my work, and therefore, my life.

After several years of trying to get my name out there through various common ways, and specifically last year after two major attempts to take a leap into a larger arena that ended up feeling all wrong for me, something inside of me this summer lost all motivation and drive for the big arena.

Instead of questioning it, I chose to just let it be, take the summer totally off and relax with my family.

Yes, I KNOW that this is not possible for many people. But, it is possible for me, and I am grateful, extremely grateful for my circumstances. I chose the time off without apology as it is a reality of my life right now that I do not take for granted. Again, just have to shoot straight and get some things laid out on the table.

So I listened this summer. Really listened to my soul—not to the outside world, not to the big players in my field, not to any other players in ANY field.

What I was listening for, although I didn’t fully know it at the time, was this: At forty-three, as a fully operational soul (meaning I know what I am) embodied in this extraordinary/ordinary beautiful life with so many blessed choices, what do I, Annie Burnside, truly desire from my work life, from MY LIFE, in full knowing that I have the capacity to choose it.

Turns out, when I took away the outside aspects of creating a brand—numbers, readership, statistics, pushing, pulling, climbing, higher earning power, publicity and all else under that umbrella of “success” in most fields, I enJOY my chosen work, but not at the expense of Annieness and not at the expense of my LIFE.

I am basically a content person. I like lots of quiet and stillness. I like easy. I like simple. I like peaceful. I understand that for me less is often more. I am in many ways a loner. I don’t like long term goals. I don’t do yearly plans. I don’t desire busy. I don’t thrive wearing many hats all at once. I don’t do well spinning multiple plates.

I observed myself very closely this summer on vacation. While others may love an action-packed day filled with faster-paced pursuits, my great joy is simply sitting on the dock very consciously aware of the nature that surrounds me and how I feel on my inside. Or a long, lazy dip in the cool water. Or a slow paddle board to notice the natural habitat on the lake. I love simply to be with my family doing a whole lot of nothing. I am in many ways gentle.

I realized that what I enjoy on vacation and in my free time at home (similar type pursuits that allow me to feel highly connected to my soul) is actually how I feel about my work.

I am slower-paced. I am spontaneous. I enjoy the moment-to-moment, day-to-day unfoldment. I desire simplicity and focus.

Sometimes, the bigger arena and all that it entails just feels like a lot of ruckus to my soul. It feels too full and too loud and too busy. It feels like a big rush to an unknown top. At times, I find even the thought of it utterly draining.

I realized that if I had to choose, I would choose simplifying my life rather than striving for more.

I have often wondered if I am afraid. I have wondered if I am lazy. I have wondered if I just don’t have what it takes. At times, all of these may apply.

But by the end of the summer, the word contentment, and more importantly, the feeling of contentment, overtook me. I realized that perhaps, for me, the climb into the big arena may just be a big race to nowhere. I realized with great relief that I am more than okay never getting there. And suddenly, I knew without a doubt and with utter delight that my soul was smiling.

I see now, that the big arena is my own life lived in total alignment with my soul. From my perspective, that inner soul arena is as big as it gets. The climb is actually an inward “climb” not an outer one. And, I am already there. We all are…

This clarity that had been germinating all summer rushed in one sunny afternoon as an ecstatic knowing throughout my whole body while driving my daughter somewhere. We were listening to the new song “Easy” by Sheryl Crow. Something about it brought me to my humbled knees.

The striving, the need always for more, the exhaustion, when the life that I am already living is teeming with purpose, pleasure and love. My LIFE in the big arena IS right here and right now…

Warmth and LOVE,


P.S. It goes without saying that I can only share perspective and experience from my life. There are no rules. As I share in my post at the top, I am thrilled beyond words to understand that there are millions upon millions of paths, the number of sandboxes to play in are truly infinite, and I bless them all. Who knows how my life will unfold both in and out of different types of big arenas. I am open. I am willing to live from my soul and see what evolves. But in the meantime, I am content…

And, always, THANK YOU for reading!


A modern bridge between the mainstream and the mystical, Annie Burnside, M.Ed. is a soul nurturer, award-winning author, and teacher specializing in parenting, conscious relationships, authentic living and spiritual development. Her book Soul to Soul Parenting won the 2011 Nautilus Silver Book Award. Connect with Annie on her Facebook Pages and engage with her on Twitter @annieburnside

  • Michelle Crowley

    Your Vast Spiritual Path became a Vast Spiritual Now. Sweet! I just Love this and You!

    • Annie

      Michelle, thanks so much for the support and LOVE you offer so many! xx Annie

  • Allee

    Right on! I feel ya.

    • Annie

      Glad you enJOYed it, Allee! Annie

  • [email protected]


    • Annie

      Thanks, Susan!

  • Mike Vecchio

    I read this again, even though I read it in detail this summer when you posted it. This jumped out for me: “I have often wondered if I am afraid. I have wondered if I am lazy. I have wondered if I just don’t have what it takes. At times, all of these may apply.” What I know about you is that none of those apply! THAT is what makes this post so powerful! As Montressa has said, “The world does not need saving… it needs consciousness…” Your life is a demonstration of that. Your wisdom goes so deep that it calls up deeper aspects of me. It calls me to be a more conscious person, a more feeling person, a more happy person and a more content person. I so honor who you are …

    • Annie Burnside

      Mike, thank you, and I have missed you this past week:) I hope that you are very well. And that Montressa, her line above is one of my favorites! LOVE ya, Annie

  • Lisa Bova

    Wow Annie, thank you. I had a big life in my field for many years, but I became burnt out, bitter and tired from all the rukus as you said. It was hard to keep all those plates spinning and balls in the air. Some people are made for that, some are not. I took some time off and started to carve out my next path, which is health and wellness coaching, with the more spiritual side as a large component. What I have found is I started to compare myself to those who in my mind were bigger than me, doing more, making more money and more successful. Thinking that’s where I want to be. That if I am there, my life will be happy. I am finding that striving to do more, just like I did before in my previous life, is hard on me. I am not in a position to retire or not work. I need to make money, I don’t need to make a lot because I have simplified my life so much. I also know I have something to give, to teach and share. Your article has allowed me to see I can be easy on myself, to give myself the space to hear what my soul is telling me and not comparing myself to others and what they are doing. Somehow in my busy summer of getting my business off the ground, I lost the peacefullness that I worked hard to get when I took the time off. I appreciate your honesty and that you took the time to listen!

    • Annie Burnside

      Lisa, I could literally feel the push and pull in your comment as I know it well. Something in me just let it all go this summer and it is still gone. I am still working and living my life, but it feels different. It is from my soul, and I couldn’t recommend it more. This beautiful, precious, sacred life… Thank you for sharing! I am always so appreciative when someone stands with me:) Good Vibes! Annie

      • Lisa Bova

        Thank you for your kind words Annie. Yes you described it so well with the push pull energy. I will keep allowing and listening to my souls message. I know it is there if I allow it to come forth.

  • Donna

    Thank you for having the courage to write this. It pretty much sums up how I have been feeling for sometime but haven’t been able to articulate.When you are not a “striver” it is a challenge to feel worthy in a world where striving is the name of the game.

    • Annie Burnside

      Absolutely agree, Donna! I feel so much more at peace within myself now. Glad you are out there with a similar perspective:) Warmth, Annie

  • Dani Dane

    Wow. Thank you so much for this. I’m a simple girl and don’t like a lot of stuff going on in my life. I hate being busy all the time and I often wonder the same things you do about laziness and if I don’t have what it takes. This post makes me feel like it’s okay to just be me and I can thrive in it. I don’t have to conform to the striving and hustle of the world around me.

    You’re awesome. Thanks again. :)

    • Annie Burnside

      Dani, thank YOU, for just mirroring me back to me, as well. Your comment made me smile BIG:) Much LOVE, Annie

  • Annie Burnside

    Really, really appreciate all here who take the time to read and comment on my blogs. TDL just wouldn’t be the same without YOU! XO

  • Jim

    Yet again you have hit the spot with this one– loved it!!

    • Annie

      Yay! Thank you, Jim:)

  • Peter

    Thanks so much for this! This gives me the permission to be me and do what I WANT and not worry about what others want me to do!

    • Annie

      Thank you, Peter! Thrilled for YOU! Warmly, Annie

  • Sunikid

    I recognize your COURAGE to see, feel, accept and reveal your authentic self! I recognize your COURAGE to TRUST your Soul’s Message to you…to allow yourself to BREATHE…. to be restful…. TO BE CONTENT! I LOVE that you’ve shared this SACRED MIRACLE of BEING at this unique moment in your life’s journey!

    I wish I knew you …. I wish I could talk with you … But, maybe I DO know you and, maybe we DID just communicate/connect on a level far beyond imagination… You’re a special person…those who are close to you are blessed!

    • Annie Burnside

      Sunikid, I feel certain that we DO know each other in the largest sense. How could we not when there is only ONE:) Thank you for really hearing/seeing me through my post. It always feels like such a gift to be truly heard. And as far as a friendship, find me over on FB. I would love to be your friend! Much JOY, Annie

  • Rodd Higgins

    YES YES YES!! Very powerful Annie!! Thank you for writing that. I felt as if I was reading about myself. Contentment is more rewarding and satisfying than most of us realize, especially when we get caught in the perceived main stream expectations. I believe in……Quality of life over Quantity in life.
    Bless you

  • candy

    Hi Annie, I’m 68 and have never been in the big arena. I play small but with reading your post, I’ve realized I still can have a big impact even when playing small. I have a meetup group called Dream Connections in which we all support each other in following our dreams. I don’t have any formal education, but don’t need any and it is working well. No, I don’t get paid, but it is very satisfying. Thank you for reminding me when you said the striving, the need always for more when the life I am already living is filled with purpose and love. That had a big impact on me. Also we’re always hearing, “get out of your comfort zone” . Why would we want to make ourselves more stressed by doing that. I think you brought it home by saying we’re already ok where we choose to be. I also think having support can be crucial to following our dreams. Thank you so much for all the reminders. Love and joy, Candy