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Why I’m not going to South Africa

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 by Marianne Elliott

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Remember how I decided to try to raise US$20,000 for HIV/AIDs projects in South Africa?

How that was about the same amount that I earned in 2009?

How the whole idea scared the sh#t out of me because I didn’t know if I could do it, and because I hate trying something, especially publicly, and ‘failing’.

How I knew I needed to do it anyway?

Remember how you all rallied around me, cheered me on, helped me raise the money and generally reminded me that I don’t have to do everything myself?

(That part was really, really good)

And what I learned about the law of generosity in the process?

Remember how, if I hit the $20,000, I was going to get to go to South Africa with Seane Corn and Suzanne Sterling (two of my real life sheroes, women who I would happily cross oceans to spend time with) to visit the projects?

Well, we raised the $20,000 – or near enough. We raised $19,600 and I topped it up with the last of my savings and sent it all in before the deadline.

Which meant that I got to go on the trip. Which was pretty exciting.

That all happened just before Christmas. So I didn’t have time to tell you all about it before I went off on my little mini-digital sabbatical.

When I got back, at the beginning of last week, I realised how much work I had to get through if I was going to take off to South Africa for three weeks in February. So I started to draft my work schedules. I felt tired just looking at them.

And then I remembered the word that kept coming to me in the last few months of 2011 every time I sat still and asked “What do I need right now?”

The word was space.

I knew that I was going to have to practice what I preached. I was going to have to give myself what I needed, which was more space. And I knew that to find space I was going to have to let some things go. I knew that I was going to have to say no to something, and since everything in my life is fabulous (in its own messy, slightly chaotic, very human way) that would mean saying no to something fabulous.

How could I choose what to say no to, when everything on offer is so fabulous?

So, I went back to the basics. I went for long walks, sat quietly with the questions, talked them over with a small number of trusted friends. I reminded myself of my purpose, my values, and my priorities (including the ones that got neglected a bit in 2010, my year of expansion, like caring for my friends and doing what I can to support my loved ones).

In the end I knew that no matter how badly I wanted to go to South Africa – no matter how appealing the idea of three weeks of yoga with Seane, singing with Suzanne, hanging out with my Off the Mat colleagues and meeting the amazing people behind the HIV/AIDS project might be – it isn’t the most important thing for me to be doing in February 2011.

And – for me – it isn’t where my growing edge lies.

For many people a trip like this would take courage. For me, it would be more of what I’ve done all my life. What takes courage, for me, is to say no to an exciting opportunity because it isn’t the right time for me to be doing it.

What takes courage for me is to say no to something fabulous, in order to make the space that I know I need.

And so I am not going to South Africa. I’m staying in New Zealand. I’m revising my book (again). I’m helping the people I love make their dreams come true. I’m slowing things down a little bit. I’m taking some time to get clear on just what – out of all the fabulous opportunities 2010 brought me – I want to be doing with this one precious life.

I’m also planning to take more of these nap things. They are growing on me, as it turns out.

So thank you – from the bottom of my big old heart – for all your help to raise the $20,000. It will go to the following projects:

EarthChild Project
Christel House South Africa: School Library
South African Whole Grain Bread Project

Gold Peer Education Development Agency
Linawo Children’s Home
Baphumelele Halfway House

I might not be going to South Africa to visit them all, but that only means that there is even more money for the projects themselves and at the end of the day – I suspect they need the money much more than they needed a visit from me.

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22 Responses to "Why I’m not going to South Africa"

  1. wildish says:

    I’m quite a new reader of your blog. What an amazing thing you’ve done. Because there are people like you in this world our country is slowly healing.

  2. Emmanuelle says:

    First of all Marianne congrats on raising the USD 20 000! I’ll be proudly wearing my “Seva” tank top 🙂

    Second, congrats for listening to your self and your need, for making the space you need. You are right, acknowledging our deepest needs and acting on them takes courage.

  3. Acmelbournegirl says:

    You are absolutely amazing and I applaud your decision. That took more courage than anything. Thank you for continuing to share your amazing life with us, the humble readers.

  4. Cheryl says:

    Thank you for having the courage to share what it takes to say “no” to the fabulous and say “yes” to what you really need right now. This is something I have been struggling with for a while – and as a consequence my year hasn’t got started yet. I am resting (and participating in 30 days of yoga).

    And thank you for creating $20000 for these projects in South Africa – that is fabulous !

  5. Lubna says:

    Thank you for raising the funds for these wonderful causes. I know, now, first hand how difficult fund raising can be. You did the right thing. More power to you in 2011.

  6. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Emily Lu, Marianne Elliott. Marianne Elliott said: Why I'm not going to South Africa http://bit.ly/fZFgD8 […]

  7. Lindsay says:

    Seconded, or is it thirded? : More power to you Marianne!
    A wise and courageous decision, and huge congrats on making the money so that you had to decide 🙂

  8. […] thinking about self-care and priorities…. Today I read Marianne Elliot’s wonderful post “Why I’m not going to South Africa !”  about saying “no” to the fabulous and saying “yes” to what you need right now. It takes […]

  9. kathleen says:

    Congratulations Marianne, on raising that amazing amount of money to help the people of South Africa – and I think you’re right – the money is needed more than a visit, although I have no doubt that a visit from you would have brought more love and light and energy than any amount of money could ever do on its own!
    Your courage and focus is an inspiration – thank you and wishing you a spacious and joyous 2011 x

  10. Much love to you! You’ve done a powerful thing; thanks for sharing.

  11. penny says:

    What a courageous decision! You never cease to inspire me. Thank you so very much for sharing your thoughts here. 🙂

  12. Debbie says:

    Congratulations on raising such an impressive sum and knowing when to say no!

  13. Bridget says:

    You inspire me, deeply. The way you raised these funds and the way you listen to yourself. Very cool.

  14. Next time you drift into one of those nap things, imagine all of us, jumping up and downing woo-hooing for you and your beautiful generosity, honesty and kindness. You continue to be such an inspiration. Tx

  15. Swirly says:

    My dear, dear, beautiful friend. This is such an extraordinary and powerful post, and I am so inspired by the thought and care you put into this decision. All of your global travels and experiences have inspired me ~ absolutely ~ but it is these quieter examples of your wisdom, grace, and strength that have the deepest impact on me.

  16. Emily Perry says:

    thanks for pointing the way towards listening to our hearts… something i needed to read today! i have been over extended, and have had to let me “online” life go for a bit, but it feels good to know that i am taking care of myself on the deepest level… so thank you for modeling that for me when i needed it most! xxoo

  17. Stacey Monk says:

    If I can learn only one lesson this year, it is the ability to say no (for now) to a few fabulous opportunities, so that the fabulous opportunities in which i do indulge actually *feel* fabulous.

    So much love to you.

  18. Sarah says:

    Well I am pleased cause that means you should be in Wellington when we come down for the opening!!! Yeah for us!

  19. susanna says:

    Hey there, Marianne,

    It’s been awhile and I’m catching up with your posts tonight. First, congratulations on raising and donating $20,000 to good projects. That’s awesome! It sounds like you are doing well. A trip to South Africa would be wonderful but it’s great that you can see clearly where you need to be right now in your life and as you know, New Zealand is a pretty awesome place to be. 🙂

  20. susanna says:

    PS: My friend, Moe, is taking and enjoying your 30 Day of Yoga course right now.

  21. Amy Lee says:

    I love the wisdom in that question, “What do I need right now?”

    And the value in the answer of listening to one’s self.

    Much gratitude for this.

  22. Marianne, I read your blog too infrequently clearly. You do do inspring things and though I’m sure you don’t need others to validate your decisions, FWIW, I really respect what you do.

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