little boy stands on a window sill hidden from the waist up by a blind so all you can see is the back of his legs and feet. A blog about Riding The Lion by Kristyn Miller Photography

riding the lion:

getting clear on your path and your purpose

When you commit to doing something MAJOR in your life—changing careers, starting a new business, having a baby, applying for anything that you care about—it’s like riding a lion. People see you from the outside in and say all manner of things: Oh my gosh! That’s amazing! You’re crazy! That’s so fantastic! That’s so inspiring! How are you doing this? I can’t believe you’re doing this! 

And there you are, sitting high up on your wild beast, saying to yourself, “How did I get here? What direction are we going? How do I stay on this thing? How do I NOT get eaten?!” 

little shirtless caucasian boy stands in a dark room looking toward a window into the unknown. Raising kids is kind of like riding the lion. Image by Kristyn Miller Photography.

Riding The Lion: Showing up 

But, day by day, you do it. You stay on, mostly. Sure, somedays you get thrown (and probably hard) and it’s usually somewhere where the ground is tundra frozen, or muddy beyond measure. But you grab a little mane and you climb back on. Somedays you get bitten—not hard enough to bleed out, but hard enough to leave a mark. Some days the sky is clear and the pace is rhythmical, and you look back to realize you’ve gone miles in one day. 

This is the joy and the terror and the magic of showing up. Riding the lion through all manner of weather and moods and inner and outer terrain. And you might not have a specific destination— when you’re far off, perhaps it looks clear, so you go THAT way (or maybe it’s just that you know which way you don’t want to go, so you go the other way)—and you know you are meant to ride this particular beast, this particular idea, even though you can’t really explain to anyone else why that’s true, you know you’re called to do it. 

And as you ride, day in and day out, you learn how to stay astride the damn lion. 

gorgeous orange and yellow sunset with large pine trees silhouetted in the foreground. Image by Kristyn Miller Photography Coach.

Stillness and Action

Riding the lion long enough means you’ll, eventually, find that balance—knowing when you’re slipping one way or another—and the awareness to know when it’s just a tough bite, but you’ll be alright. And at the same time, you’re making choices all the time—this direction, that meal, that valley, this pace—and you just keep going. It’s the balance to know that both stillness and action are what keep you and your lion alive and headed in the right direction on any given day. Both stillness and action lead to a clarity of path and purpose far faster than just a quick pace or a frenetic attachment to every possibility.

I bet, without even knowing it, you’ve already done it at least one time in your life. 

There is a sacred balance—a spiritual technology, if you will—that comes from these two elements working together. In our life experience these days, it seems that there are so many voices to speak for both stillness and for action, and for good reason—each element has its own merit. Finding stillness, making space for quiet, for mindfulness and for awareness in our daily lives, calms our physical bodies, and brings us new perspective. A new inner space is discovered each time we move with mindful action and mindful intention. For some, this is called prayer, for others it is meditation—but either way, we’re making room for the still small voice that we come to know as our inner teacher. 

a young blonde girl twirls in her bridesmaids dress with lights strung behind her at night at an outdoor wedding reception with Kristyn Miller Photography

Listen To Your Inner Voice

She knows all things in a deep way—deep below the layers of what we have taught ourselves to know about our own knowing—she knows what our soul is calling out for, knows how to connect us back to the presence of an unconditionally loving universe. When we find an inner quiet, we find patience awaits us—a well of compassion that we did not know we had—where we lean into trusting instead of suffering, or at the very least, we find the patience to breathe through the suffering.

I think there is magic in starting with stillness. The purposeful slowing of the mind so that our heart may speak (or God may speak through our heart) is like a cozy, well-lit, warm house in a blizzard. A refuge.

But when we find ourselves longing to leap into something big and new and unknown, or at the threshold of a looming transition that feels beyond our control, we must also act. 

Action is a funny thing—mostly because we’ve tricked ourselves into believing that preparation is of the same usefulness as taking action. The to-do list is my favorite example (coming from a recovering workaholic who LOVES a good hearty to-do list). We spend hours preparing to act with our to-do lists and our Pinterest boards and our lengthy text threads with our closest friends —organizing and re-organizing our thoughts and plans into orderly (or not so orderly, if you’re like me) columns. When we have a big idea or we’re about to take a big leap, sometimes it feels as though the longer the to-do list, the more viable the idea is. And sure, it’s important to prepare. To think through the mights, and the woulds, and the coulds, and the maybes. But this thinking doesn’t actually move you forward. You know what does? Starting. Doing the first thing. Making the next right choice. Acting on what’s right in front of you, right now. 

a cup of coffee sits on a countertop with the reflection of a woman's hand and wedding ring in it. Image by Kristyn Miller Photographer.

Action Isn’t About Urgency

Now, there’s a big difference between allowing yourself to drift over to urgency—you know, the “answer me right now ASAP” kind of urgency.  The one that sidelines your hour, or your morning, or your day. Someone else’s urgent need doesn’t have to automatically be your priority, because newsflash: Action isn’t about urgency! 

Taking action, getting going, making that next right choice moves you forward into a space of openness for other possibilities that didn’t exist before you took action. Things become clearer faster when we’re in a mindset of action—yes this, no not that, and yes more of this please. As we move in a space of action, the Universe opens possibilities to us that our previous actionless “motion” couldn’t yet unlock. When we’re in the mindset of action, we get practice at taking action with less fear. Our “what if” worries may take up space in our hearts and minds, but they are no longer allowed in the driver’s seat. (And as American Author Liz Gilbert says, “Hands off the radio too.”) When we’re moving in an action-oriented state, we start to gain momentum and leave inertia behind. Fear becomes faith (and yes, goes back to fear, we’ll get to that too) and forward movement starts to feel like a cashable currency.

two young girls with long hair run through a path in a forest laughing and smiling with their hair blowing behind them. Image by Kristyn Miller Photography.

Riding The Lion: Putting It All Together

Sounds great! Sign me up! But how do we go from riding the lion to putting it all together—stillness and action? From mindful stillness, we make space for the clarity that is coming through action, we begin to see clearly what aligns with our innermost desires, and our purpose in the world. Without stillness, action can move you in a direction that doesn’t align with who you are at your core. On its own stillness can make space for a cleansing of your thoughts, but without action, your inner life will see magical changes that aren’t reflected in your outer world. Without action as a counterpart, we’re constantly in a place of preparing to move—preparing to evolve—without actually doing it. 

The balance of these two together—finding the quiet space to connect to the loving universe and learn the landscape of one’s own inner beauty and worth and wisdom, and then the drive to make shit happen from that place of worth and wisdom—that allows us to make our best creative work and evolve to our highest selves in this world. Each microcosm of stillness and action is like the moon and the tides—the moon pulls the tide here and away, and steadily the tide reshapes the shore. Each time we enable these two together, we reveal our own inner eco-system for the balance of joy and fear, courage and heartbreak, action and stillness. We cannot fully have one without the other. 

This is how we move ourselves forward at the deepest level, how we answer the calling to become our most alive selves, how we make our biggest dreams a reality, and how we live into our own unstoppable nature. 

This is how we ride the lion.

father swings his young daughter around by and arm and a leg in their backyard while she laughs. Image by Kristyn Miller Photography

Are you ready to ride? Working with a coach is a great first step. Let’s chat!