Spring Washam: When Your Life Stops Working

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

"My birth was not a celebrated and magical event. My parents’ relationship had always been rocky and, sadly, it completely unraveled during my mother’s pregnancy with me.

We lived in Bellflower, California, a low-income neighborhood between Long Beach and Compton, in a large concrete apartment building surrounded by chaos. Gangs were commonplace and I became used to the sounds of gunshots, sirens, and police helicopters.

Even as a small child I felt a lot of love and compassion for my parents, and I recognized early on that they were themselves survivors. My father left soon after I was born and my mother worked as much as she could for us. With state aid and food stamps, we just got by.

I wasn’t allowed to play outside very often, so my earliest memories are of my sister and me jumping up and down on an old green sofa in our tiny living room. I can remember thinking at an early age, “Wow, this is going to be a very difficult life.”” — Spring Washam

A well-known meditation teacher, author and visionary leader based in California and Peru and the author of A Fierce Heart: Finding Strength, Courage and Wisdom in Any Moment,

Spring Washam “understood even as a child that she was going to have to bloom in very muddy waters.”

Considered a pioneer in bringing mindfulness-based healing practices to diverse communities, Spring and I discuss why getting a wake-up call is not hard, but choosing to answer is.

When you answer the call, things are going to change.

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

BJB: In A Fierce Heart you write, “Cultivating a fierce heart is about learning to embrace the most painful aspects of our lives. We have to open up…become willing to use every condition, challenge, and misery as a teaching, no matter how bad it feels…” What is the most profound lesson you garnered from looking at pain as a vehicle for healing?

SW: I think the deepest things I’ve learned about working with pain, difficulties and trauma is you learn how strong you are, what you can endure, what you can rise from.

You learn and trust that everything rises and everything passes.

In some ways we’re testing ourselves — life is a series of tests.

One thing I really appreciate about working with difficulties is if I can open to the experience with compassion, I grow that capacity within myself to be more compassionate. If you can work with suffering skillfully and mindfully your heart opens in a completely different way.

BJB: Can you talk about what you refer to as the Great Calling and how it is often misunderstood, misdiagnosed and viewed as a problem to be solved?

SW: This is what I refer to when you’re being summoned onto a higher path; there’s another way to live, there’s another expression within you that you want to live out or play out.

The Calling is when your life stops working; what used to be exciting or make you happy stops making you happy. It’s like you reach a crossroads and start to outgrow the life you have and that’s when you know a new chapter is going to start.

Something starts “cooking.”

Suddenly you start to have a dream of something different and you’re being drawn to different things whether it’s meditation, yoga, healing arts or nature. It may lead you to want to change your religion, explore things that may be taboo, or live in a spiritual community or quit your job.

The Calling is like the Universe is “knocking on the door” saying, “Hello! Wake up! There’s another life out here for you.”

That can be exciting and also scary for some people because they’re used to being the same predictable person and want to break out of that.

To not view it as a problem, I would suggest to be open to it as a spiritual opening — an awakening of some kind. It’s important to listen to it.

It’s all about accepting what’s happening and seeing it as something leading you onto a new path, which is always about happiness. Growth is about happiness. It’s getting unstuck, it’s movement, and it’s that creative flow versus what you want to hold onto. At this time I might encourage you to start meditating, walking in nature, or maybe go on a retreat.

The dilemma is that we don’t know what this new life looks like, so some part of you is still clinging to old habits and old identities. If you can see it as an adventure, and see it as an awakening experience of something trying to get your attention, and connect to that, you can see it as a beautiful moment.

The Calling is a n