As a being who is intrinsically connected to the rest of the world—whose personal wants are the whispers of the universe—your longings are not arbitrary, but essential. They are not whims, but movements of the divine. The deep wellspring from which your true nature flows is both unique and part of the divine unfolding.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray.”
While it is impossible to deny who we are—how can we be anything other than ourselves—paradoxically, we learn through the course of our lives to be more or (in many cases) less pure expressions of what resides in our heart of hearts. Being ourselves is the most natural and simple thing in the world, yet it can take quite a bit of effort.
To truly be living beings, we must surrender to the deeper truth of who we are, found through the exploration of what we love the most. It is when we are inspired, lit up, and aligned that we will find this wellspring of our eternal nature. And when it comes right down to it, anything besides being and doing what we love is, quite simply, a waste of our time.
“You are the perfect expression of the universe exactly where you are in this moment.” ~Alan Watts
Let’s not get confused on this point and think that life is easy and that our true nature will unfold without effort if only we are connected to it. All great works of art require effort and sometimes sacrifice. At times, our confusion about who we are can lead us to fixate on people, places, things, or ways of life that are not in alignment with who we truly are. In these moments of forgetting our self, we can be convinced that attaining the object of our desire will confirm something about us that we desperately want to believe (or disbelieve). These experiences can leave us wondering if we can trust the expressions of our deeper nature’s wants and desires.
But we can also use these moments to show us the nature of our own heart instead. We may learn through them what is not real and true, and we may find the opportunity to slip more deeply into what is. We can learn through these experiences that some love affairs are dalliances while others are romances that cross lifetimes, but all are beautiful teachers about the nature of our soul.
We can also sometimes be deeply disappointed by the twists and turns of life—what was once so clear and certain falling away as if it never was. We can feel in the words of Jennifer Welwood’s “The Dakini Speaks” that “life has broken her secret promise to us.”
In situations like these, we might start to doubt our direction and our deeper nature that called it forward, thinking that “we have been wrong before” and perhaps “it is better to save myself the heartache.” As we do this, our essential nature becomes more and more abstract and less and less realized. Or confusion increases and our investment in what is less ourselves does too.
Once we get confused and disconnected from our deeper nature, we are lucky if we can remember that our lives are meant to be an unfolding of our selves to ourselves. We are meant to be guided by our love, our happiness, and our dreams. We are meant to have our hearts broken as well so that we can continue to expand into bigger and truer dreams.
We really only have this one job in the course of our lives: being who it is we truly are. Navigating the pains that make us hold back and shut down. Finding, loving, and caring for what we are by our very design. Learning to bring that into the world with each opportunity. Living the paradox of knowing and not knowing ourselves.
Why do we dance this dance of being ourselves? Because there is a sacred fire burning in each one of us that demands a life fully lived.
Last week, my husband and I went to an Aimee Mann show. We’ve seen her perform before, and she was as wonderful as ever.
During that show, I had an epiphany about myself, my sacred work, and my business that I wanted to share with you because the questions it raised and answered are truly VITAL to any business owner out there.
If you aren’t familiar with Aimee Mann, she is a musician who has been around for over 20 years now with a successful and long-term career. Her music is deep and soulful and really full of rich content, melodies, and ideas. She has had a few “bigger” hits, but for the most part her work has received a ton of critical acclaim and a consistent following of loyal fans, without making it to the Top 10 on the charts.
At the show, for whatever reason, I started comparing it to what I imagine a Lady Gaga show would be like:
Aimee wasn’t playing in an arena with thousands of seats. Instead, the theatre held about 500 filled seats and I know she sells out to crowds of about 500 every night of her tour. There weren’t flashy light shows, but instead gorgeous stained-glass windows that were lit up in the theatre. Aimee didn’t have back-up singers or dancers or change outfits 10 times throughout the show. She spoke directly to her audience and told pertinent stories about her life. She joked around with her audience. She put on no pretenses and even came out on stage to play a few songs with her opening act before her set, not worrying that this was some kind of showman’s faux pas.
And then I paused. And I looked around the theatre at the fans that were in a trance with the beauty and power of the show. And I realized something so obvious, yet so important:
Aimee Mann isn’t Lady Gaga, and probably doesn’t want to be.
Meaning: her music simply wouldn’t make sense in a huge arena. It would get lost in there. In this more intimate setting, it was much more powerful. And, it didn’t seem Aimee needed to be in front of more folks or having thousands upon thousands of audience members present. It appeared that everyone at that show was there because they absolutely loved her – they were loyal, devoted fans, not passing audience members momentarily getting sucked into big name hits. It was clear she was delivering so much value in that evening, and she loved doing it.
And that realization brought me to an even deeper one: When it comes to my own business, I have a choice about what I want. My choice is to be more like Aimee Mann than Lady Gaga.
My work is deep and powerful and intimate, and right now it fits better in a “theatre” than in a “stadium”. I’m not interested in droves of strangers unfamiliar with me and my work being in the room. I prefer a loyal following of engaged women who really want to do the work and really resonate with my message. I’m interested in long-term relationships with my clients instead of temporary fans, and I am committed to being myself and showing up authentically, without any pretenses, no matter what.
I admit, it’s sometimes easy to get lured into the image of being a larger-than-life superstar, to think I want a flashy business with a million followers. But when I really connect in to my heart and soul and what I want for myself, my work and my personal life, it’s so clear to me that being a “larger-than-life” super-coach guru isn’t my calling. At least not for right now. ☺
That doesn’t mean that I don’t strive to create more or more visibility. Of course I do. But I do it knowing where I fit best, how I serve best, and being in control of how I want my business & life to look instead of an empty longing for a stardom that doesn’t really suit me.
Now, I’m not saying that Aimee Mann is better than Lady Gaga. Not by a long shot.
What I’m saying is that it is so valuable to get clear on who you are and who you want to be, and live by that. If you reach into your heart and find that you truly are a Lady Gaga, then YAY! Strive for that and go for it.
But if you reach into your heart and find that you’re an Aimee Mann or a Madeleine Peyroux or a street performer or anything else – EMBRACE it. Love it. Take joy and pleasure in knowing that you know who you are and set goals that reflect it. Don’t blindly yearn or strive for the biggest or grandest business ever just because you’ve been told that’s what’s best.
Know yourself. Be yourself. Appreciate all the diversity and paths that are available. And take pleasure in who you are.
Joanna Lindenbaum is the founder of Soulful Coaching for busy women. She believes with every fiber in my being that women have the power to transform the world. Because of this, she coaches busy women who are looking to nourish their creativity and take their lives to the next level.
The most unforgiving voice of all is the one that lives inside our heads. It is the constant drone of self-criticism, less-than and not-good-enough that leads our memory maps, habit patterns and fixed fantasies to the darkest of places. Silencing the Inner Critic is the first step toward rediscovering and reclaiming the authentic self.
You are perfect – mind, body and spirit. You are exactly where you need to be. You have never made a bad decision, although the consequences of your decisions may not have always turned out as you might have anticipated or expected. Sounds like a bunch of New Age nonsense, right? Well, not so much.
The factors that contribute to our evolution are myriad – nature, nurture, socialization, acculturation, collective consciousness, collective unconscious, racial memory, soul memory, in utero experience, prenatal influence – the list is seemingly endless. What often shapes us most immediately and most profoundly, however, are the instructions that we are given as we develop.
There really is no good explanation for why it is that we, as a culture, maintain a propensity to hear mostly the negative, as opposed to the positive, of those instructions, but that is the undeniable, and rather unfortunate, tendency. One supposes it has something to do with the Judeo-Christian ethic of “man-as-sinner” that is so deeply woven into the fabric of Western culture. Regardless, those negative instructions – “You’re fat.” You’re slow. You’re dumb.” You’re clumsy” – are part of the genesis for a pesky, self-critical and masochistic voice of self-denigration that plagues our self-perception.
That voice, however, – that Inner Critic – is predicated upon a lie; actually a whole series of lies. Those lies – or, more properly, our negative core beliefs as proscribed by them – establish for us many of the fixed fantasies that we hold about ourselves. And that voice, in turn, does its level best to inform – and mostly compromise — our self-esteem.
The lies issue from the perspective of those who themselves have lost contact with their own authenticity. They have their own set of lies to believe in. Remember the old adages, “When you point a finger, there are three pointing back at you.” or “We hate in others what we fear most in ourselves.”? Well, there you go. Psychosocially, and from the standpoint of emotional intelligence, the bully is always the weakest one on the playground.
On the other side of things, self-esteem is a wholly Western construct. Indeed, the notion of self-esteem – a notion that necessitates the inclusion of a dualistic “bad me” to balance out the “good me” – is quite foreign to Eastern thinkers. This is uniquely evidenced by the well known anecdote regarding a conference on Psychology and Buddhism some years ago where it was necessary to spend an entire day explaining the concept of self-esteem to a group of quite learned Eastern teachers and contemplatives, including the Dalai Lama. It’s not that they didn’t understand the construct of self-esteem, but, more, it’s that they didn’t understand why such a construct was even necessary.
The construct is necessary because we, at the sufferance of our own socialization, cling to this notion of “bad me”; a notion fostered by our fixation upon those formative negative instructions. There is really no way to avoid these negative instructions because they aren’t about us – they are about the person who issues them. We can, however, manage the experience of those instructions, and the degree to which we allow them to influence us.
If we minimize and contain our experience of those negative instructions, recognizing them for what they are, then there is no real opportunity for us to generate the notion of “bad me”. With no “bad me”, there’s no necessity for a “good me” — there’s just “me” This is a path back to the authentic self — no conditions, no qualifications, no limitations. In this way, we can work toward an unselfconscious iteration of ourselves, rather than version that is constantly second guessing and looking over our own shoulder.