I took a slightly different approach to this post today, (rather than thinking and fussing about it, rejecting and revising, until the perfect idea magically appears–not that there’s anything wrong with that approach. I’ll probably return to it next week): Last week, two of my favorite people, Susan Piver (of the Open Heart Project) and Patti Digh (of 37 Days), put together The Week of Inward Looking, “7 questions from 7 teachers to help you contemplate your way across the finish line into 2012.” The people involved guaranteed it would be a meaningful experience, and it was.
So my idea for today was initially to “cheat” a little and give you seven truths I’d gleaned from the week of prompts, but what I realized as I worked with the questions is that the truth I was getting at was not staying neatly organized, one unique truth per prompt, but rather it was all tangled up and everything was connected. The prompts were about body, shadows, organization, serving, creativity, spirituality, and on being an artist. My answers kept circling around the same truths. They are:
1. Truth: Health means tending to heart-mind, body, and spirit. These may not each need equal time or effort, but balance definitely needs to be maintained.
For example, as an academic (my paid work) and an artist (my calling), it’s easy to spend too much time in my “head.” I have thought of my body as simply a vehicle for my consciousness, like a car, and I’ve only provided the most basic of maintenance to keep it running. As such, I often view my body as a problem. It needs cared for and tended–showers, food, sleep, exercise, etc.–attention that is an interruption, an irritation.
Because of this, I also see my body as a disappointment–why is it so weak, so fat, so tired? I smash it to bits for not keeping up, for making me look bad. I have been disembodied. Even after practicing yoga and meditation and dog (which requires much walking and “body-ness”) for so many years, I still treat my body as my enemy. When it attempts to communicate reality, I do what I can to distract it or deny it.
It’s only been in the last four months that I started to realize I can’t continue this way. I am instead actively sinking into my body, giving it equal time, enough time, accepting it as the oracle it is–my direct connection to what’s really happening. Being in my body means being anchored in the present moment, the place where my life is.
To be healthy, we all have to find our middle path, our middle way, and fully and wholeheartedly embody our life, tending as necessary to our heart-mind, body, and spirit, and maintaining balance.
2. Truth: Being the best version of your true self is being fully awake and alive, and YOU are necessary.
“We are so accustomed to disguising our true nature from others, that we end up disguising it from ourselves,” (La Rochefoucauld). When you hide who you are, or try to change it to please others, you can end up getting so good at it, you forget who you are, and that isn’t living.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others,” (from A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson).
And yet, the choice to be authentic is difficult. In an article in the January 2011 issue of fear.less magazine, the author Steven Pressfield (“The War of Art”) says “I think we’re all terrified of that, to be what we’re meant to be. Because then all the responsibility lays on us and we can’t hide behind anything.”
Maybe worse yet, if we are trying to do what we think others want or need from us or what they are comfortable with, it hurts when they don’t accept or love us, but if we are wholeheartedly being “ME”–the very best and brightest we have to offer–and they don’t accept or love us…that’s a whole other level of hurt. And yet, we must open up to it, tell the truth of who we are, and welcome whatever comes after, because it at least will be real.
“Who you are is infinite; you are a child of The Uni-verse and you have been sent here with a specific gift that is only yours to express. The events that happen, happen to shape us, to mold us and to help us step into who we are supposed to be. You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. You are eternal and a part of a living Uni-verse that supports you. Give us your gift,” (from The Daily Love).
As Oscar Wilde so simply put it you should “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” Come out of the shadows. Stop hiding your light. We need you. You need you.
3. Truth: You are the only one stopping yourself from having the life you long for, and you have to get out of your own way.
If you are waiting for something to happen, stop waiting and happen. Write that shitty first draft, paint the picture no one else will care about but you, consider what you “long to say with your life” and say it. Stop waiting for rescue and save yourself. Create and do for yourself because it feels better than doing nothing. Wake up, open up. Be brave. Make something meaningful and share it. You have the chance to heal and help, to touch and transform the heart. Save yourself. Be willing to fail, to fall, and when you do, get back up, try again–no matter how many times the wave knocks you down, don’t give up, giving up means drowning.
One wish: I wish for all of us gentleness, kindness, and bravery as we enter into 2012. I wish them in the way that Susan Piver describes them “gentleness (defined as opening to and accepting yourself from moment to moment, feeling what you feel without judgment or agenda), kindness (feeling, knowing, and acting as if all beings are just like me in that they seek love and happiness), and bravery (inviting my fears, confusion, and personal nuttiness as part of the path).”