heroine's journey

PROGRESS ON MY PH.D. (PURE HEART DEGREE)

IMG_8442.jpg

BACKSTORY:

Over the last several years, I’ve been seeking.

I’ve been looking inside, outside, everywhere, on a journey of self-exploration trying with determination (and sometimes desperation) to find myself.

About two years ago in late 2016, I recognized that while on paper, I had “made it” achieving my dream in the material world, something was missing...

ALIVENESS

To quote the wise words of poet Mary Oliver, I was, “breathing just a little and calling it a life”.

I projected this feeling of dissatisfaction externally. Even though I was living in my dream city with a meaningful job, a loving partner, and freedom to travel, I still felt stuck. It seemed mad. I didn’t understand.

I wondered:

  • Who am I?

  • Why am I here?

  • What is my purpose in life?

  • How can I contribute to the world in a meaningful way?

  • Where will I go next?

My colorful messy process of self-inquiry...

My colorful messy process of self-inquiry...

This self-inquiry hit an existential tipping point and I decided I needed a change. Without a clear idea of where to start, I took a more traditional approach and began looking at higher education somehow thinking this strategy could solve all my problems. I began a lengthy research process and over the course of a few months, I looked into about 45 schools and graduate programs mostly in the U.S. and some abroad.

After all that research, I couldn't find a single program that fit my variety of interests and budget. The average cost was $60,000 USD for two years!! Which was all of my savings and I couldn’t justify that when I didn’t even feel the programs fit all my needs. I felt frustrated and deflated.

Finally I said, “Fuck it”.

465544_3907787566074_1610952252_o.jpg

I decided to design my own customized self-funded curriculum that combines traveling, working, and learning. My friend Ann also decided to pursue the path less traveled with an alternative education all her own.

We both yearned to go deeper and awaken our hearts to love in every form, so we made a master spreadsheet full of everything from yoga retreats, meditation, Ayurveda, Thai massage, divine feminine gatherings, social innovation institutes, design thinking workshops, global leadership programs etc. and we began calling this process, "Getting our Ph.D.'s = Pure Heart Degrees". (See her blog post on her journey.)

6360774-Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-Quote-Do-not-go-where-the-path-may-lead-go-1.jpg

Almost two years later, I’m in the thick of my Pure Heart Degree (I wrote another post at the start here: "Pursuing my Ph.D. Pure Heart Degree" ).  With all of this travel, learning, and growing many friends and family have asked, "How do you do it?" While that question involves far more than I can put into one post, I decided to document the journey and share my progress so far.

May this serve as an inspiration for anyone who is ready to take a leap of faith and is interested in designing their own life curriculum. If you’d like any support on envisioning the next step in your journey, I am happy to provide some visioning coaching and guidance for you. Reach out to me directly – hi@kelseykwong.com.

Hridaya Yoga School | Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico

Hridaya Yoga School | Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico

PROGRESS ON MY PH.D. (Pure Heart Degree)

START WITH WHY:

The first step when starting anything is to ask, why? what is your intention? For me it was:

  • To heal and purify the heart

  • To expand my capacity to lead, love, and create in the world

  • To return to my true nature

  • To become an instrument of generosity and love

Next, what do you value? What is important to you in your learning journey? Make a list of those important elements. For example, for me it was important this experience include:

  1. Variety of Interests - psychology, spirituality, nature, culture, art, social innovation, conscious leadership, international development, dance, movement, creativity etc.

  2. Experiential Learning Environment – on the ground in person learning as well as flexible online learning for digital nomads

  3. Cost – for the costs to be manageable and allow me the freedom to work minimally and travel as much as I want

  4. Process – to be playful, dynamic, and flexible, an ability to move with what’s present in the moment and not to be rigid or take oneself so seriously

  5. Love - the most important ingredient for anything. Self-love and self-care seems to be my ongoing lesson and something I struggle with often. It was important that I design the right conditions to care for, nurture and love myself through the journey. Being able to take breaks and slow down when I needed to.

Words of wisdom at Hridaya Yoga School | Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico

Words of wisdom at Hridaya Yoga School | Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico

While many people separate work, education, and travel, I chose to integrate all three by funding my travels and education through my consulting work. What makes this more achievable is that 70% of my work is remote and 30% is in-person, on-site. Plus I worked for American based companies but lived in mostly Southeast Asian countries so my dollars stretched much farther and I could work far less than if I lived in the America.

While this all makes perfect sense in retrospect, I will say it didn’t when I started. But something in me told me I had to do this so in December 2016, I said farewell, put my stuff in storage and took off!

And slowly but surely the path has formed.

WHAT I’VE BEEN UP TO SO FAR:

COUNTRIES TRAVELED:

  1. Thailand

  2. Vietnam

  3. Indonesia

  4. Australia

  5. Cambodia

  6. USA

  7. Mexico

  8. Taiwan

  9. Canada

DSIL Global Course  | Bangkok, Thailand

DSIL Global Course | Bangkok, Thailand

EXPERIENTIAL EDUCATION:

1.) LEADERSHIP : Designing for Social Innovation & Leadership Course – The DSIL Global course is a 5 month executive leadership course certified by the UN University of Peace. The course is designed to expand one’s creative capacities and develop one’s skillset in design thinking, conscious leadership, entrepreneurial mindset, sustainable development, and social innovation (Bangkok, Thailand; Phnom Phen, Cambodia, and Virtual Classrooms).

Tantra Heart Yoga Retreats  | Koh Phangan, Thailand

Tantra Heart Yoga Retreats | Koh Phangan, Thailand

2.) TANTRA HEART YOGA:·

Tantra Heart Kriya Yoga is a profound and playful way for learning to live in bliss. What distinguishes Tantra Heart is the focus on realizing your true Self, attention to emotional flow, and the skillfully designed sets of yogic techniques for safely activating your kundalini (most powerful and creative) energy.

Hridaya Yoga | Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico

Hridaya Yoga | Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico

3.) HRIDAYA YOGA & MEDITATION:

Hridaya Yoga & Meditation School - Hridaya is a school dedicated to teaching students to live with an open heart and discover their life's potential.  Through meditation sessions, Hatha Yoga classes, silent meditation retreats, and daily life awareness practices, Hridaya shares a path for the revelation of the Self and a way to live a life of joy, compassion, and gratitude. This is the path of the Spiritual Heart.

Social Enterprise Fellowship Program with  Unbound  | Sydney, Australia

Social Enterprise Fellowship Program with Unbound | Sydney, Australia

4.) COACHING & CONSULTING WORK:

Delivering Happiness (DH) started as a book written by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, on his business philosophy and lessons learned in focusing and prioritizing company culture and employee happiness. Today, DH is a coachsultancy [hybrid coaching + consulting], working with individuals and organizations around the world to create successful companies and meaningful lives.

  • Organizational Development and Culture Transformation consulting projects for six companies ranging from 75 to 10,000 employees on behalf of DH (USA and Hanoi, Vietnam)

  • Internal culture development and special projects for DH - 6 months part-time (online, remote)

DSIL Global Consulting - DSIL is a Bangkok-based design company that is dedicated to building creative capacity in people so that they can build innovation, together. DSIL Consulting serves teams in progressive companies working to learn design thinking as a process for development and as a path for innovation. 

  • Social Enterprise Fellowship Program & Changemaker Summit – facilitating experiential workshops for 14 Fellows and 30 Changemakers from 17 countries with Unbound (Sydney, Australia)

  • Branding & Marketing Strategy for 2 months full-time with DSIL Global (Lubao, Philippines)

  • Co-facilitated a Leadership Development Program for AAPTIP with 8 Program Directors for 1 week (Australia Asian Program to Combat Trafficking In Persons)

  • Co-facilitated a 2 day “Design for a Resilient Mind” POP OUT class with Stanford d.school and StreetCode Academy.

Design for a Resilient Mind Pop Out  with Stanford d.school and StreetCode Academy | Palo Alto, California

Design for a Resilient Mind Pop Out with Stanford d.school and StreetCode Academy | Palo Alto, California

More consulting work on my own:

NUTS & BOLTS: HOW

How much did 2 years cost?

  • $19, 800 Education

  • $24, 000 for travel, lodging and expenses to 9 countries and staying in approx ~80 places

  • $14,800 other misc expenses

  • TOTAL: $69,600

How much did I work over 24 months?

  • 60 hrs/week for 2 months

  • 40 hrs/week for 8 months

  • 15 hrs/week for 8 months

  • 0 hrs/week for 6 months

How much did I make? ~$78,000 + used some savings to fund my travels

How much fun did I have? WOW – I can’t even begin to describe this. More than I could have ever imagined and worth every penny.

Practicing my life-juggling | Nogales, Mexico

Practicing my life-juggling | Nogales, Mexico

LESSONS LEARNED:

I don’t think I can compile these in bullet points. While so much of it has been practical, I can’t say it’s concrete. Who I am is what I’ve learned. I’m living, practicing, and breathing it day by day, moment by moment, breath by breath.

The learning journey continues. But somehow I’ve found a resting place in my heart. I’ve discovered that though life will take many forms, there is something unmovable and unchanging, a background of stillness, of peace in my heart. And a really simple but profound truth, that my essential nature is love. I don’t need to do anything to become this love, only to let go of everything preventing me from being what I naturally am.

What's next?

My intention for this year is to SURRENDER.

To be as open and available as possible. To live in alignment with the divine, continue deepening my spiritual practice, to activate the artist of life within, and to engage in meaningful consulting projects along the way. That said, who knows what’s in store, many wise people have reminded me to listen to my heart, it knows the way.

"The only spiritual authority is the sacred heart."

With gratitude and grace,

Kelsey 'Lotus' Wong

A visual expression of the life I want to create with an inner feeling of WHOLENESS and a spirit of ALIVENESS.

A visual expression of the life I want to create with an inner feeling of WHOLENESS and a spirit of ALIVENESS.

I AM AS I AM

IMG_2185.JPG

I AM AS I AM.

Six years ago, I was gifted the name “Lotus” 🌸by a past love . He was my reason for going to Burning Man 🔥 and in that magical desert I found Lotus for myself. 

Lotus is a Heroine, an Adventuress, a symbol of rebirth and transformation I had never seen before. Living into her name and spirit helped me expand, deepen and open a wild world of magic, wonder, and possibility I hadn’t seen before 🌈🔮📿. I felt the unlimited love flowing through her veins. She set my soul on fire. We joined forces. We became one.🌛🦋🌜

But in becoming her, I began to deny me. I didn’t like the name “Kelsey”, I didn’t appreciate who I was, where I came from, nothing was good enough, I wanted and expected more. I feared being ordinary and became greedy thinking I had to be better. Traveling across the world searching for more.

IMG_2186.JPG

Today, through working with my coach, I revealed the truth. I saw the delusion I’ve been living in. The mind’s projection, a duality and unacceptance of self. My coach said, “I understand you want to grow but I don’t understand what was so wrong with who you were?”

And while everything in my path has been meaningful, beautiful, and I have no regrets. I see that in my urgent quest for reinvention and rebirth, I lost who I am.

So rather than striving for perfection I am choosing acceptance and realness. To accept myself for who I am as I am in this moment now. Who am I? I am that I am. I am free flowing universal love. What I wear, where I live, what I do, that will all change but love, love is eternal. Love is totality. Love has no bounds. Love is the present moment. Love is being happy, healthy, and fully alive. Love is all embracing, all encompassing, all loving no matter what.

So today, I ask the Divine for forgiveness for denying the perfection of its creation. I forgive myself for expecting more and loving less. And I accept my ordinary extraordinary ness as it is. I am as I am. And I’m happy with that. 😊🙃

May you be at peace and ENJOY🐛YOUR 🦋SELF exactly as you are. Perfectly imperfect, it’s all okay.

With light, love, and liberation,

Kelsey 🌸 Wong

Photography skills: Jamen Percy

IMG_2188.JPG

HEAVY RAIN & ROSE WATER: ADVENTURES & SELF-CARE IN TAIPEI

IMG_0557.JPG

Today it rained in Taipei. Hard.

I got swept up in the rain, soaked after getting lost on the train and having a fight with my partner.

It has been a long week and an intense month living in Taipei for the first time. We came here on nearly blind faith, offering ourselves to the Universe. Six months ago we had hatched an idea with another client friend who wanted to introduce us to their friends and potential partners in Taiwan.

After three and a half months of attending a yoga, meditation, and spirituality in Oaxaca, Mexico our hearts and calendars were so open we decided, why not?

Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico | Photography: Sabina Mac

Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico | Photography: Sabina Mac

Arriving in Taipei, the culture shock was real. Going from living in a tiny coastal town in Oaxaca where the farthest we traveled was 1km to and from the yoga school to living in a bustling city in Taipei was startling. We had spent three and half months getting grounded, increasing our awareness and sensitivities and then BOOM! Another country, another language, another culture, and way of doing things.

Welcome to Taiwan.

You could say we were naïve and a little unprepared. We had no idea what was in store.

Songshan District, Taipei, Taiwan 

Songshan District, Taipei, Taiwan 

And yet for all the challenges of city life and the identity confusion for me of being Chinese yet still a foreigner, Taiwan has been amazing. I love the people who for the most part have been so kind, generous and willing to help. The city is incredibly clean and well-designed. The train stations are spotless. I love the food, lots of traditional dumplings, scallion pancakes, and steaming hot pot. The island is full of lush green mountains and tea gardens just outside the city center. And more than anything there’s this air of peacefulness and this love for family and a good, simple life I appreciate so much. 

Wisteria Tea House, Taipei, Taiwan 

Wisteria Tea House, Taipei, Taiwan 

Taiwan has never been on my radar and I knew very little about the country before I came but the explosion of creativity and richness of culture here is astounding. The cultural history dates back to the prehistoric Stone Age when many aboriginal tribes lived here. During war times in China, much of the art and culture was destroyed. However, what was preserved still exists in Taiwan and to add to the mix, Taiwan has a true melting pot with Taiwanese, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, American, Portuguese, and Spanish influences.

Jiufen, Taipei, Taiwan 🇹🇼 

Jiufen, Taipei, Taiwan 🇹🇼 

But even with all this cultural wealth, the metropolitan area of New Taipei City is not immune to the struggles of city life. The air quality isn’t great with lots of noisy cars and pollution. Like most modern-day cities, many people you see are glued to their screens. This is the power of technology; it holds within it both the seeds of creation/innovation and destruction. When we lock our attention on it, our minds fall under a collective hypnosis. We lose ourselves.

Taipei, Taiwan 

Taipei, Taiwan 

That includes me. It’s been a mental, emotional, physical rollercoaster. Trying to work fulltime again and navigate my way in a busy new city. I thought I’d moved beyond “living for the weekend” but wow, I’m thankful it’s Saturday and I have a night to myself. A night to go IN.

ab08a2b64743e80b40484e05a4f4b575.jpg

I’ve drawn a bath for myself, a salt bath of rose water. I’ve lit candles and diffused some essential oils. I’m drinking creamy honey in my rose tea. Listening to the soul-caressing sacred songs of Peia's album "Four Great Winds" and the heart-moving mighty ballads of the new album "High As Hope" by Florence + The Machine.

IMG_0278.PNG
IMG_0279.PNG

There’s something so feminine about being in the water. A beautiful bathtub that makes even a busy city feel like home. Back to the mother, back to the womb. It’s so comforting, I feel so held. Slowly but surely I begin to relax, the suit of armor that I unconsciously wear to protect myself comes off. I peel back the layers and reveal my still beating heart. I breathe in deeply, filling my lungs with the scent of rose.

In this moment I wash away the rains from the day, the month, the year and I let myself be my own inner mother. Held closely and intimately by my self.

Wherever you are, I wish you some nourishing “you time” soon. It’s a wild world out there. Take care of yourself.

With love and gratitude,

Lotus

Da’an Park, Taipei, Taiwan 

Da’an Park, Taipei, Taiwan 

STEPPING INTO STILLNESS | 17 DIAS EN SILENCIO

“Be quiet in your mind, quiet in your senses, and also quiet in your body. Then, when all these are quiet, don’t do anything. In that state, truth will reveal itself to you.” — Kabir

Tomorrow, I begin 17 days of silence as a part of a silent meditation retreat at Hridaya Yoga in Oaxaca, Mexico.

While I mostly feel open, willing and ready to step into stillness, I also feel scared.

It’s amazing to paint yourself up to be this strong, capable, trail-blazing woman who of all things, is scared of silence and sitting still.

In the yogic tradition, realized beings transcended themselves and surrendered to something much greater. They sat in silence and meditated in caves for days, months, even years, reaching states of Samadhi (ecstasy, absorption in the essence of reality) and Nirvana (ultimate bliss) that most of us could never imagine.

While I won’t be sitting in a cave, I will be journeying inside into my innermost chambers, where I hope to come into deep resonance and intimacy with self (and Self). It is there that I also hope to engage in a process of discernment.

You see, while I know I have the gift of “a voice”, I also recognize I’ve accumulated many perspectives over the years, countless stories, media, messages, and loads of social and cultural conditioning. And while I accept and embrace all of this as a part of my karma, I also understand that the mind, even a beautiful mind, can be a prison.

Yogic sage and mystic, Ramana Maharashi says, “Your own self-realization is the greatest service you can render the world.”

I dedicate this time in silence and this lifetime as a whole in service of That.

100 blessings to you and see you on the other side.

xx,
Lotus

#heroinesjourney #yearofsurrender

STEP 2: COMPLETING THE HERO’S JOURNEY

Empress Falls, Blue Mountains, Australia |  Jamen Percy Photography

Empress Falls, Blue Mountains, Australia | Jamen Percy Photography

Step 2: Completing the Hero's Journey follows Step 1:  Conceiving the Heroine's Journey.

Over the past seven years I’ve gone alone. 

For my twenty-first birthday, my dream was to go to New York City to celebrate. I spent months planning the trip and invited my best friends at the time that said they were "IN". When push came to shove for many reasons whether it be money or time constraints, they couldn’t go. I was left with a choice, go alone or stay back with my friends. 

I chose to go.

I knew a couple people in New York and on my birthday itself I had planned to meet a friend of a friend. For some reason, her phone went straight to voicemail and no matter how many times I tried, she just couldn't be reached. We had planned to go to the Museum of Modern Art and by noon I finally stopped waiting. “I’m here. I’m going.” 

Through that experience and many others over the past several years, I've learned that pursuing your dreams often requires a solo journey. 

Biography drawing depicting my life in seven-year stages 0-7, 7-14, 14-28 etc.

Biography drawing depicting my life in seven-year stages 0-7, 7-14, 14-28 etc.

A psychologist friend recently took my colleagues and I through a powerful exercise called “Biographies” (above) where you chart your life in seven year stages. In each stage you record the significant events and then examine it for themes and unfolding patterns. What I discovered from looking at my "going alone" stage from twenty-one to twenty-eight is that it strongly correlates to the “Hero’s Journey”

After decades of studying ancient myths and stories, Joseph Campbell, developed the “Hero’s Journey” to describe the “monomyth” or universal storyline present in each. The general arc of this story unfolds where the hero (often male) hears a “call to adventure” and leaves the “known world” of home and family to undertake the “unknown world”. Whether alone or with the assistance of minor characters helpers, the hero conquers adversaries, obtains treasure and returns home with greater status or goods where he is welcomed and validated as a new leader and master of two worlds. 

herosjourney (1).gif

What Campbell also discovered through his studies is that we can apply this same storyline to our own lives and that each of us is experiencing our own hero’s journeys.

For me, my hero’s journey has been one of growth, learning, and exploring. I’ve traveled across twenty-five countries from the U.S., Europe, and Southeast Asia. I’ve held over twenty-four jobs ranging from serving in restaurants to managing graphic design firms to leading coworking spaces and doing global culture consulting.

Empress Falls, Blue Mountains, Australia |  Jamen Percy Photography

Empress Falls, Blue Mountains, Australia | Jamen Percy Photography

Through these adventures, I've been blessed to meet many mentors, helpers, and friends and though it's taken many forms, I can see that the Hero's Journey is a cycle I’ve repeated over and over and over again. I answered every call. I went all in. I threw myself into the ocean and became a “Yes woman” or “Yes-mad” a digital nomad that says “Yes” to life. 

As I round out this last year working and traveling in Southeast Asia, I see my hero's journey coming to an end. While it has been an incredibly insightful and useful framework, I’ve made a new discovery.

 “The Hero’s journey is a search for one’s soul and is chronicled in mythologies and fairy tales throughout the world. This quest motif does not, however, address the archetypal journey of the heroine. For contemporary women, this involves the healing of the wounding of the feminine that exists deep within her and the culture.

In 1990, Maureen Murdock wrote The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness as a response to Joseph Campbell’s model. Murdock, a student of Campbell’s work, felt his model failed to address the specific psycho-spiritual journey of contemporary women. She developed a model describing the cyclical nature of the female experience. Campbell’s response to her model was, “Women don’t need to make the journey. In the whole mythological tradition the woman is there. All she has to do is to realize that she’s the place that people are trying to get to” (Campbell, 1981). That may be true mythologically as the hero or heroine seeks illumination but psychologically, the journey of the contemporary heroine involves different stages.

heroines-journey-model.jpg

The first part of the heroine’s journey is propelled by the mind and the second part is in response to the heart. The heroine has been working on the developmental tasks necessary to be an adult, to individuate from her parents, and to establish her identity in the outer world. However, even though she has achieved her hard-earned goals, she may experience a sense of Spiritual Aridity. Her river of creativity has dried up and she begins to ask, “What have I lost in this heroic quest?” She has achieved everything she set out to do, but it has come at great sacrifice to her soul. Her relationship with her inner world is estranged. She feels oppressed but doesn’t understand the source of her victimization. (Article: Heroine's Journey, Maureen Murdock)"

Empress Falls, Blue Mountains, Australia |  Jamen Percy Photography

Empress Falls, Blue Mountains, Australia | Jamen Percy Photography

The Heroine's Journey describes with absolute accuracy what I am experiencing now. I’ve achieved a “successful life”. I’m doing work that I love, traveling around the globe with the support of a community of family and friends but in the process I’ve sacrificed much of my body and soul.

Though the soul is eternal and cannot die it has still suffered and been silenced beneath the noise of my mind. Additionally, my body has struggled to do all the things I demand it to do. My inner man has been in control with lofty performance goals and ambitions to live a life rich in life experience. And while this journey has been enriching it has also left me quite exhausted.  

The body is an amazing vehicle for the soul and at a young age, I’ve found tools that allow me to heal just enough so I can keep going. That said, this isn’t sustainable. One mentor has said to me, “the biggest reason brilliant people fail is they burn out.” I know I have an inner journey of healing to surrender to do. My soul needs me to slow down, to listen. 

Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia |  Jamen Percy Photography

Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia | Jamen Percy Photography

Though I've been offered a full-time role with an amazing innovation company in Southeast Asia, I've decided to shift my focus from "doing" to "being" by taking the next three to six months off. 

Sounds easy but keep in mind, I've built my entire identity on what I do. In making this decision my spiritual teacher asked me, "What feels like the hardest thing you would have to push yourself to do?" I replied, "Letting go. Letting go of "what I think I know" and "who I think I am" to explore my undiscovered multitudes, my "unknown unknowns" asking gently, who am I?" 

As I step into my next seven-year stage from 28 to 35, my sense is carving out space to reset the currents of my life is timely. 

“Finding out about being instead of doing is the sacred task of the feminine. Being requires accepting oneself, staying within oneself and not doing to prove oneself. It is a discipline that is accorded no applause from the outside world, it questions production for production's safe. Politically and economically it has little value, but it's simple message has wisdom. If I can accept myself as I am, and if I am in harmony with my surroundings, I have no need to produce, promote, or pollute to be happy. And being is not passive, it takes focused awareness." (The Heroine's Journey, Murdock, 1990, pg. 128)

Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia |  Jamen Percy Photography

Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia | Jamen Percy Photography

So here’s to the next stage, a time of going inward, of healing, recovery, and rediscovery. 

With gratitude and grace,

Kelsey Lotus Wong

WHERE ONCE THERE WAS GREY THERE IS COLOR.

FullSizeRender 84.jpg

I’ve been working on a rebrand project for  DSIL Global trying to conjure and call in its brand essence.

Something that rings true to every multitude at the table.

  • Something that speaks as clearly to the wise old sage as the 5th grade adventurer
  • Something that represents the world of the rebel revolutionary and the architect
  • Something that embodies the heart and spirit of the olympian from the ghetto, the riser
IMG_6727.jpg

What we’re talking about here is something that can’t be quantified or qualified but only felt.

  • Business people will call it the UVP.
  • Spiritual junkies will call it the soul.
  • And everyone else who can’t quite put a finger on it will call it magic.

For me, I can only attest to how DSIL has radically rerouted and reframed my life and it all started four years ago with the girl who cried, “Southeast Asia.”

Four years ago, I was highly considering leaving my job to seek adventure. I had seen photos of a friend’s travels in Southeast Asia and something about the vibrancy of the aquamarine waters and the pungent hues of street side delicacies drew me in.

I had to go.

I was living in Phoenix, Arizona at the time and Southeast Asia seemed like a far off and not commonly visited destination. Nevertheless, without a plan or a budget, I put my thirty days notice in with the intention of getting out there as soon as possible.

Long story short, I didn’t end up making it. I postponed that dream for another. I moved to my dream city, San Francisco, California.

Rooftop dance parties at Sunrise beneath San Francisco's infinite sky.

Rooftop dance parties at Sunrise beneath San Francisco's infinite sky.

Fast forward three years later, after living happily in San Francisco, I still had the Southeast Asia itch. When I wasn’t working I’d spend my free time pursuing personal growth at social innovation institutes, global leadership programs, and changemaker intensives.

Often at these types of things there’s an opportunity to introduce yourself and make a pitch or an ask. My ask was always the same, “Hi I’m Kelsey Wong. I’m passionate about people, culture, and community. If you know of any fellowship programs or courses in Southeast Asia, please send them my way.”

While many people sent me ideas or places to visit, the only program that was sent to me consistently was the DSIL Course. This globally certified executive leadership course includes a ten-day field immersion in Thailand/Cambodia or Indonesia and a virtual classroom setting for teaching design thinking, conscious leadership, and inclusive development applied to social innovation.

After receiving knock after knock, I finally looked up the site. To my surprise, I recognized the course, when I was living in Phoenix and first considering going to Southeast Asia, a social entrepreneur friend, Courtney Klein had taken the course and had encouraged me to check it out. At the time, I had read “Executive Leader” and been too intimidated to pursue it. But by this time, I had honed more of my leadership skills and creative capacities and could see myself doing something like this. Then, to my even greater surprise, as I was scrolling through photos of the current cohort, I saw a former mentor and dear friend, Tom.

The stars aligned.

Tom put me in touch with the two partners, Courtney and Katy. It took a bit of time coordinating schedules but Katy and I finally had a chance to Skype. After just a twenty-minute call, I was hooked. Katy was so real, down-to-earth and yet for all intensive purposes, such a badass. Her extensive design and teaching background, the complex problems she was working on and the countries she was working in really amazed me and I was eager to learn more.

The badass that is Katy Grennier, Partner at  DSIL Global.

The badass that is Katy Grennier, Partner at DSIL Global.

It felt like synchrodestiny. I expressed my enthusiasm and said as soon as the course application came up I would apply.

When applications opened I didn’t think I could be more stoked and then I read the application itself. Never have I ever loved applying for anything so much. The questions felt different. I felt different. Never had I applied for something where I felt I could be my whole self and breathe into my fullest possibilities. 

On top of that, I had manifested an opportunity to travel to Thailand and Vietnam six months before the course with two friends. I mentioned to Katy I would be in Thailand and she instantly volunteered her apartment to us. Remember, I had only ever spoken to Katy on Skype for 20 minutes and yet she offered me her house. WHO ARE YOU?! I thought. 

IMG_3570.JPG

In December, I did stay at her house. While I was there, I knew she was my people when I saw on the inside of her door that you see as you walk out, a hand-written note that said, “How are you contributing today?”

IMG_3572.JPG

Fast forward, not only was I accepted to the course but after spending the month in Southeast Asia I knew I had to be here full-time. So I made it happen. Katy and I had kept in touch along the journey and in May she started a dialogue about capacity gaps DSIL had and asked if I was interested in collaborating more with their consulting team.

I was simultaneously flattered and floored. I signed up for THEIR course, why would they hire me if I’m trying to learn from them?

We talked and she asked if I was interested in working together and even co-facilitating on an upcoming project to test it out we could. To say I was keen is an understatement; I was thrilled.

A week later she sent me an invitation to join her in co-facilitating a leadership development program with the Australia Asia Organization Combating Human Trafficking in Bangkok the following month. I was in Bali at the time and was so ecstatic receiving the invitation I let out a full-bodied YES.

Katy also let me know she’d be in Bali the following week and invited me to meet her local team.

FullSizeRender.jpg

So this is where it gets interesting.

The day before I met Katy in person I had a life-changing tarot card reading.

After a series of wild events, I found myself frazzled as I checked into the White Lotus Meditation Center. After sensing how disoriented I was, Sandee, the owner asked, “What’s going on? Are you okay?”

After I flooded her with neurosis she made me some tea and asked if I would you like to do a tarot reading. She thought it would be good for me.

I nodded and so we did.

FullSizeRender.jpg

I’ve only done a few tarot card readings in my life but the times I have were spot on.

Sandee had me shuffle the deck, lay out the cards and take a deep breath.

The first card she asked, “Which card represents you?”

I closed my eyes and sensed for the light. Wherever a golden light beamed in my minds eye is where I chose.

transformation_osho

XIII 

TRANSFORMATION

in the Major Arcana, depicting Shiva sitting in a flaming lotus with a phoenix rising above his head. 

Fitting.

The next card she asked, “Which card represents your current work?”

sorrow_osho.jpg

 

SORROW

I felt into it and pulled a card. I flipped it around only to see the card of Sorrow staring into my face. When I saw that card, I felt like the wind got knocked out of me.

 

My gut tightened. My face paled. I didn’t want to believe it but I knew exactly what it meant. I saw the hunched over monk in the darkness crying and I saw myself working late on my computer in the dark unhappy.

Sandee shook her head, “if you stay working for this company, this will be your life.”

I didn’t like hearing her say that but I knew deep down as much as I loved my team, that she was right. I had been working remote with a U.S. based company for the last four years and while it was an amazing ride and wonderful place to practice my skills, now that I was living in Southeast Asia, the time difference wasn’t healthy and the opportunities to grow were limited.

She asked me, “What other possibilities are opening for you?”

I told her I was meeting someone tomorrow that was a partner at another consulting firm I was very interested in working with.

She said, “What’s the name of this person you are meeting?”

“Katy.”

“And what’s the company?”

“D/O consulting."

“Pull a card that represents Katy and D/O.”

Again, I closed my eyes and sensed for light.

integration_osho.jpg

XIV

 

INTEGRATION

The light shined on a card right in the middle. I picked it up and turned it around to see the card of Integration, XIV in the Major Arcana.

Looking at the two cards next to each other. Sorrow and Integration was like night and day. The card of Integration represented a world of color where the card of Sorrow was all grey. Furthermore, the card of Transformation, which represented me, was 13 in the Major Arcana and Integration was 14, a natural progression, the next step.

“The next card is the most important,” Sandee said, “It represents what you need to do now.”

Again, I paused and took a deep breath, looked for the light and then…boom.

postponement_osho.jpg

4

POSTPONEMENT

At first, I thought that meant postpone meaning the D/O opportunity is not going to happen. The card showed a woman in grey looking into a frame of color.

But Sandee said, “No, what this means is that if you don’t act soon this opportunity for color will be gone and you’ll be stuck living in the grey. This is the most important card for you. If I were you, I’d resign today.”

My heart stopped.

Was she serious? That’s crazy. I can’t do that. I’ve been with this company for four years; I’m not just going to throw it away after some tarot card reading.

Yet even after thinking that, I knew she was right. Agh. She was really right. The writing was on the wall.

I wrote my letter of resignation that afternoon and though it took me two weeks to have the conversation, eventually I did. And to my surprise I received so much love and support.

Today, I write this blog post from my room at Prado Farms. It’s a biodynamic farm, eco-resort, and inspirational sanctuary that DSIL is living in and working out of for the next two months. I’m on the new team of four core staff leaning into the business as it undergoes a [r]evolution.

FullSizeRender 66.jpg

Not only did I complete the DSIL course in Thailand and Cambodia in September, but I’m working with the very team I was so intimidated by years before.

In short, I can’t believe I’m here.

And as I dive deep into this [re]brand and organizational transformation I can’t help but see what’s real and true.

dsil

This company, this course, these people have given me the lens of possibility. I’ve been equipped with new tools for designing, building, and doing. Together, we practice new ways of living, being, listening, and seeing. Creativity is streaming out of me like never before.

So I say again…

  • Where once there were roadblocks there are rivers.
  • Where once there were walls there are worlds.
  • Where once there was grey there is color.

With love x light,

Kelsey Lotus