My mother was born on February 29th —she was a Leap Year Baby. But I never knew it because she never let anyone in on her secret. I finally figured it out when I was older and noticed she secretly celebrated with special friends every 4th year on her birthday. This seems sad to me. Why didn’t she want her secret to be known to her kids or others? As women, why do we hold back these kinds of opportunities in our lives? She had a view of this unique birthdate and it wasn’t fun to her to be so different. Our culture tricks us into believing we need to look good, have it all together and hide our differences. Do we have to follow these unspoken rules? Do they serve us?

What happens when we open our perspectives a little bit more? Expand our view to see many possibilities? We could allow our differences to be opportunities to explore deeper connections. For example, I see Leap Year as a powerful opportunity to take a step into the unknown on this mysterious day. What might that be? One option is to give yourself the gift of self-discovery and do the very thing you’ve always wanted to do for yourself — and do it on you Leap Year Date with yourself— February 29th. Another option is to use the opportunity to help others in a special way, or give back to others. Whatever you decide to do, make this Leap Year Day a unique one that you will remember and maybe you can carry on a new tradition you start into next Leap Year Day.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten your attention, let’s talk about expanding your view with other things in your life. Where do you shy away from things/people that are different than you? What would it be like to have a practice of turning towards that which is uncomfortable, rather than pushing the opportunity away? I’ve watched myself during my mindful breaks in my day, and I see that I often do just this. I move away from things that are uncomfortable by distracting myself, by moving on to something else I need to do, by pushing it away or going to an addiction like exercising or drinking. Recently, I’ve been pulling myself back to the moment when I realized I was uncomfortable with something and staying with it longer. Sometimes that is difficult to do, but what I’m learning is that I can face it and when I do, I feel better, more expanded and able to work with what it is presenting. I almost would say the opportunity of turning towards something difficult is for me “transformational”. What I mean by this is, it changes how I see difficult things and empowers me to go deeper into my resistance next time.

Learning about what makes something transformational versus just empowering is important. An event becomes transformational when it takes you beyond being empowered to impacting you deeper. You are somehow changed forever by the transformational event and it has shifted you away from one perspective so much that your expansion is bigger than ever before. Many possibilities arise from this kind of experience and there’s no shutting down this expansion. You’ll find it in your next experience of hitting up against some resistance and you’ll find yourself turning more directly into it to explore what’s there. You are no longer afraid of exploring what is uncomfortable — it actually invites you in.

One of my transformational experiences was when I joined Citizen’s Climate Lobby, a Climate activist group in 2017. I took the most uncomfortable step and went to Washington,DC after only being a member for 6 months. In Washington, we lobby our Members of Congress in teams and I was on 3 different teams. We walked into our MOCs offices and actually talked to them for 20 minutes. I got to talk about what I was concerned about and policy I wanted written. This experience helped me see that I can take meaningful action even when it’s scary and I don’t think I really matter. Since then, I am not afraid to take on big projects or help create ways to build climate awareness that I would never have done before. This is transformational advocacy. You can read more about it in Sam Daley-Harris’ book Reclaiming our Democracy: Every citizens guide to transformational advocacy.

It’s important to understand what brings about transformational experiences in our lives, because this is what the world is calling us to learn so that we can get more engaged and not lost in the distractions of grief, greed, hate, fear and delusion. Fear of our differences is the biggest block to getting out of our heads and into action in a meaningful and compassionate way. By working on yourself, using mindfulness as a tool for your personal self-care and growth, and turning towards what is difficult for you, are ways to bring about transformational experiences.

You will be preparing yourself to take action on the right opportunity when it comes along.

Here’s your Leap Year Assignment:

Choose something that you are uncomfortable about. Sit with it, or meditate about it, noticing how it shows up in your body and how you react to it. Explore the sensations of discomfort and then explore where in your body you also feel goodness, pleasure, joy. See if you can bring the goodness, joy, pleasure directly to the place in your body where you are uncomfortable, feeling distress. This requires that you use your breath to expand your body/mind/heart so that you can hold all of it.

Keep practicing and allowing yourself to be kind with yourself about the process. Maybe it’s too difficult one day. That’s okay. Being kind is allowing yourself to work with this at a pace that is not too stressful, but one that allows fierce compassion, working with something difficult in a kind way. Not giving up, but continuing to turn towards it and being with whatever happens.