woman at the edge of the unknown

Finding Peace at the Edge of the Unknown: Stoking Your Soul Fire

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In the pause, you can meet yourself.

RE-UPPING ON FEB 2024: Here we are, out of the pandemic and into election season. The edge of the unknown is up for all of us. We are staring over the edge of an abyss. One leap off gives us a known bad actor retaking the helm of our starship. The alternative choice contains consequences many of us humans do not agree with. Both are simply a choice. It’s the unknown that we are afraid of.

It is the same in life. I have a project I’m working on. I feel like I am ready to embark on the great journey to build something new and exciting. I am also feeling fairly comfortable for the moment, so the momentum to change things is less than it might be if I were unhappy or struggling to move my situation to higher ground. But, just because we are calm and happy does not mean we are done. Contentment does not equal happiness. There’s a zen koan in there somewhere, but I’m going to focus on the other part.

Choices are ahead for each of us every day. [Every moment of every day, to be more exact.] Some of the choices we make (coffee or tea, a walk outside, or a nap) have a direct impact on our lives and motions for the day. Others are less important, but still part of the flow of our story. What you do the second you read this sentence will determine if you continue along the narrative with me, or break off and go your own way, without finishing my story. The good news: both outcomes are fine.

When you are about to make a huge decision that affects your life as well as the lives of others, please take a pause at the edge of the unknown. Look at all the choices of the leap. Are there any other choices you have not thought of? Is there one choice that is calling you more enthusiastically? How do you know which option to choose for your courageous leap?


That is the only way to give your soul (spiritual, emotional, physical) time to catch up to the conversation. Often, in life, we jump before we fully understand the consequences. Sometimes, we don’t even realize there are C, D, and E options. A pause gives your soul a chance to arrive where your mind is. Hold back the momentum that draws you toward the edge and off into one course of action before you have a moment to consider the other courses. Go deeper and find the emotional content below the rush and fury moving you toward a rapid departure from your present experience.

In the pause, you can meet yourself. Ask yourself the tougher questions. Why? What? Where am I headed? What is my goal for this year? How will it affect my family and friends? How will I know when I have reached the best decision?


When the RIGHT ACTION is discovered, there will be no hesitation to leap into action. Until that moment occurs, resist the urge to jump into the abyss for less illuminated reasons like anger, fear, doubt, and regret.

UPDATE JAN 2021: The edge of the unknown came up and bit the human race in the ass over the last 9 months. Many of us have been trapped inside alone or with partners (plus sides to both options) trying to figure out a way forward for our lives, our livelihoods, and ultimately as a species. I mean, is this virus going to mutate and continue to hurt us for the foreseeable future? What does the future hold?

In the light of this week’s events, the 2nd impeachment of an awful president, the insurrection attempt at the capitol, and the changing of the presidential leadership, we’re all a bit on edge.

When I wrote this piece I was musing on my own relationship troubles, challenges, and hopes. The plans and ideas expressed here, however, seem to have new meaning for me. WE SURVIVED the crisis. To this point, anyway. We’ve still got months or years of vaccines and virus mutations, and protein spikes. Our future is unknown. How we can thrive on the edge of the unknown is a skill we all need right now.

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You might be feeling unsettled and frustrated at the moment. Things are not going as you had hoped. Plans are not going to plan. Relationships might feel stalled and unresolved. You are stuck somewhere between what you want to happen in your life and what is actually happening in your life.

The Edge of the Unknown

I call this place, this uncomfortable place, the edge of the unknown. You are frustrated by the present unsettled and unsatisfactory moment in your life.

I’ve been working on my own “edge” recently. A metaphor has been helping me find calm here in this moment of indecision.

Floating in Warm Waters

I imagine that I’m treading water in the warm waters of a large lake. I can see the shore that I would like to reach. I can also see the shore of my current life situation. It’s a beautiful day. I am buoyant and not struggling in the water to stay afloat. But I am longing to start swimming towards the distant shore of what I think I want. I want to get going. I am frustrated as I look at both sides of the lake and I begin to feel my anxiety as I think about how far I am from my desired outcome.

I stop for a second. I bring my thoughts back to this moment. There is nothing threatening me. I am not in crisis. It’s a lovely day to be swimming. As I take a deep breath I rest and allow myself to float on my back. Looking up at the sky I become aware of happiness inside. I am being taken care of. Something in the universe is supporting me in my pause as I contemplate my life and all of the options around me. I begin to relax as I agree with the message that emerges in my mind: I am not alone. My higher power (god, spirit) has the roadmap for my life.

If I can let go of *my* imagined map of how my life should-could-wish-it-would, be at this moment, I can enjoy more of the day, more of this present moment in time, more of my supported and beautiful life. I may not be ready to strike out for the distant shore of what I want. I may be in a period of emergence where my questions and requests are being considered and my answers have not been provided. It’s easy to understand that I could let my anxiety and fear turn me back towards the shore of what IS in my life. And I can also understand how my body, mind, and soul feel ready to go. But it is not the moment to set out for the shore of your next life adventure. You simply don’t have a clear answer.

Rather than go to sleep on your back (alcohol, drugs, sex, sugar, acting out) I can continue my curious inquiries about what’s next for me. I am ACTIVELY WAITING. I can explore all of my desired options without striking out for any of them. Until there is a clear answer, I can pursue all of the ideas in my mind. I can actively search for that job in New York if that’s one of my ideas. I can pause a difficult relationship, and ask for a moment of self-repair. I can give myself and my soul the time to find the answer. When the way is clear my path forward will light up with energy and clarity. I will know when it’s time to set out to fulfill my next big desire.

What We Don’t Know vs What We Know

What I don’t know at this moment is where I really want to put 100% of my focus and energy. I have ideas. I have dreams. I have numerous options. But, at this moment I don’t have a clear and energetic answer for my life’s struggles. I have plenty of inquiries going. And I wait.

This is actually a very powerful and sacred moment. I can see both sides of the lake. I can contemplate my current situation without making any drastic moves or life decisions to change it. I am not in crisis, I do not have to set out for either shore from desperation or exhaustion. In this moment at the edge of the unknown I can take care of my energy, my rest and nutrition, I can turn towards healthier habits that will give my body more agility and flexibility. Right at this moment, all options are available to me. If I can lean into the pause in the middle of the lake, if I can relax and float looking up at the beautiful sky, I can continue my explorations of potential paths without being forced into action. I have to relax, breathe, and listen to my anxiety, fear, and frustration. I can learn from my frustrations. I can learn from my aspirations. And I can stay in the calm waters of the lake until I know with every fiber of my being, what light on the shore is calling me in.

A Spiritual Life

We are all on a spiritual journey. Even if we’re not particularly religious, most of us have some awareness of our spiritual connection to other people. We are here to share our stories with others that join us along the path. That conversation extends to ourselves and our inner dialogue. We constantly chatter with ourselves about what we want, how it should be, who did us wrong, and how “if only” things were different we’d be happy. Well, here’s the bad news: it’s not others or external events that are going to make any of us happy. Here’s the good news: we can make ourselves happy, even in the middle of the lake of the unknown, if we can become aware of our larger place in the universe and our fractional particle in it.

We are small in comparison to the universe. The universe, however, is connected to us. If we tune into that connection and listen to what’s happening in our souls, in our hearts, in our chattering minds, we can slow things down, we can enjoy the warm waters of the lake, and choose to enjoy the float, rather than thrash off in a direction towards a shore that we are unclear about. Let’s get curious about this moment, this stillness. Let’s enjoy the breath, the feeling of our bodies, the warmth of the water and the sun on our faces. Let’s listen for the signals coming from within ourselves.

In our lives, we have UP Sparks and DOWN Sparks. If we are in a massive transition the most powerful moment is in the silence and stillness. Our goal is to identify the UP Sparks and bring more of them into our lives. This will rekindle the fire inside. At the same time, we can identify the DOWN Sparks and make efforts to damp them down, create less of them, and ultimately say goodbye to the things in our lives that are not serving our fully empowered and fully ignited selves.

Your Soul Fire

You deserve a great life. You deserve a huge bonfire of love and happiness. The Sparks are right inside you. The kindling of your life and the power of your attention are all you need to light your fire. Light it. And if you’re not sure what direction to head in, just keep enjoying the moment, keep breathing and pausing, and listen. Your soul fire will guide you home.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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