Leaving Physics: A Movement of Love & Fierce Grace


Many years ago –a lifetime ago – I was in a PhD program in Physics at UCDavis. I had finished all my coursework and was trying to find a dissertation topic that felt right for me. All my fellow students had already found their direction and were happily (or at least purposefully) plodding away on their course. As the months went on, the pressure and anxiety increased in me. Somewhere deep inside, I knew that the path I was on was not truly right for me, but to step off this path meant letting go of everything that I thought I was and every future vision I had of myself. There came a night when the pressure and anxiety took over and I had my very first panic attack. It scared the shit out of me. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t “make myself” do my idea of the right thing. I couldn’t override my emotional and physical body, which was much more in touch with the truth of my being. “I” wasn’t in control.

I was graced that night with a friend who I sought out in my panic. She said to me, “You don’t need to do this.” What she meant was, “You don’t need to stay on this path that is not right for you. You can step off it.” In that moment, my body stopped shaking and a deep calm came over me. Yes. I don’t need to do this. I can stop. I hadn’t known this until she spoke it.

And so I stopped. I wrote the chairman of the physics department that night, with no idea what was ahead, what path was next. I only knew that physics was the wrong path for me to continue on. And I got off.

Why am I writing about this on Valentine’s Day? Because I see now that there were so many movements of Love in just this one night of my life.

It was Love that wouldn’t let me continue on a path that was not aligned for me, and brought about such immense pressure that it literally forced me to stop.

It was Love that came in the form of my friend in the exact moment I needed her, with the exact words that I needed to hear.

And it was Love for myself that gave myself deep permission to get off a path that was not true for me and step out into the Unknown.

All along Love was there. Even in the moments that I couldn’t feel it and didn’t know it was moving things exactly where I needed to be.

So I share this on Valentine’s Day, which to me, is simply a day to honor Love, in all its forms and all its expressions – some of them blissfully happy and some of them immensely difficult. My spiritual teacher Adyashanti calls the immensely difficult ones “fierce grace”. I like that term. That is how it feels to me – fierce grace.

Happy Valentine’s Day Sweet Beasties…holding each of you with such tender love today and everyday…