Monday, November 03, 2008

Part V: Be Yourself

(fifth installment of talk entitled, "How being yourself guarantees infinite supply")

The "being yourself" part of this crystallized for me about a year ago when I began working with a life coach friend of mine. I had met her through the business networking group, and we'd become close. She needed some writing done, so we agreed to trade services for a while. It was one of the best damn things I've ever done.

She started me off with an exercise about values that blew my mind. It was a simple question, really. "What are your values?" Maybe you can relate to what immediately jumped into my mind. "Well, I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't take any medicine…" The only way I knew how to answer that question was to parrot what I'd been told my whole life by other people! Not that those things were wrong. They just weren't all I am. She stopped me right there. Were those my values? Sure, I do embrace and practice them, but were they all I am? Not really!

So she gave me some examples. A value might be loving to be outdoors, or traveling, or reading, or helping others. She made me focus on my values, which I was discovering for the first time at forty-five years old.

Turns out I value having one's voice be heard. I value creativity and expression. I value self-awareness. I value harmony within the home and accomplishment outside it.

I have values that are just me, mine. I can live according to these values in a much more directed and specific way. None of these values are inconsistent with my spiritual path, which is Christian Science. They are, however, highly individual and specific to me.

So take a moment now. Do this for yourself. Write down five to ten things that you value. Things that make you hum. Things you're passionate about. Write at the top, "I value:" and then list five things.

[They took some time to do this.]

Telling my values to my coach was hugely profound for me. I had to speak my truth out loud, to someone else, to a witness. Just doing that made them so much more real to me. And her objective validation of these values left me breathless with wonder.

So let's do that now. We're going to make those values you've just written down that much more concrete by speaking them out loud to someone else. Turn to a person near you, and share those values with him or her.

[They shared their values with each other. The room got very energized!]

Wow, the energy in this room just went through the roof! Did you feel that same sense of self-discovery that I felt? I tell you, at first this was so heady I had to wrestle with whether it was sinful or not. Was I allowed to spend this much time on myself?

When I talked with God about following my internal values, rather than limiting myself to the external values I'd been taught, I got a startling answer. I asked Him, What’s right to do? What would be wrong? What do You want me to do?

And I heard back, in the gentlest sigh of support, Laura, just be yourself.

I felt a cool wash of relief bathe over me at this. I can do that? I thought. That’s all right with You?

That’s all I’ve ever wanted for you, He replied. Just be yourself and all the rest will follow.

Still, I questioned. God was patient. I felt the next message come somewhat in this form:
Laura, you've spent your entire spiritual career finding out about Me. You've done a good job, you've served Me and gotten to know Me. You've built a strong foundation of understanding. Now it's time to find out about My creation. Now it's time to find out about you.

I can't quite describe how profound this sense of spiritual "permission" has been. I feel both mature and tested, and new and reborn. And I have this adventure ahead of me, partnering with the Divine to have my own genuine nature revealed.

It seems to me that much of my energy in the past has been spent trying to be good or successful or righteous, but I’ve never focused on just being myself. Now, I can feel a budding understanding of how effortless being myself will be, and therefore my energy can be spent on living my values.

Hear this from The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,
He who gains self-knowledge, self-control, and the kingdom of heaven within himself, within his own consciousness, is saved through Christ, Truth.
Our authentic self

So how can you discern your authentic self? Sometimes we have so much of an overlay we forget or never knew who we are. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • What do people compliment you on?
  • Are you ever surprised that the compliment comes for something that's easy for you?
  • When were you passionate and absorbed?
  • What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?
  • What would you do if there were no fear?

What is our authentic self? It's the only part of our being that will last. Truth always encompasses life, perfection, grace, intelligence, sinlessness, health, energy. Within that, Truth is expressed in infinite ways, by all of us. The truth of our being is all good and eternal.

Lies about our being are "here today, gone tomorrow." The lies can take many forms, not just the more blatant evil ones. They are not always conscious. For example, we may alter how we express our individuality because of wanting to please other people or to fit in. In my life, anyway, that always catches up with me, and I have some sort of burst of self-expression that isn't always graceful but does propel me forward. My true nature must be expressed.

And, it's not black or white. We're expressing the totality of the Divine, after all. Collectively, we are the complete expression. Individually, this can take an infinite variety of forms. It's all good. But, when we try to express someone else's good and not our own, even though it's still good for them or objectively good, it may be a lie about who we are right now. It takes some courage to stick to our own expression in the face of possible misunderstanding or disapproval. Trying to squelch ourselves into a misshapen form can take a lot of energy, as well, that would be better spent expressing our own goodness freely. I don't need to tell that to this crowd, do I?

It means a lot to me to remember that God likes my authentic self. After all, He made it. He likes what He made. What He made is the image of Himself. When I try to please other people or I make decisions based on what I believe others will think, I often squelch in the process what I'm hearing from the Divine. When I remember instead that I only need to please God, it's like my whole world opens up. I am joyous and inquisitive and energized and fearless.

This next is from one of my blog entries, called "God is Like."

God is Like

You know that feeling of loving someone intensely but not necessarily liking them all the time? I used to think God was like that.

You know, the feeling that He loves me because He *has* to, because God is Love, so what else can He do? The same as the way parents have to love their kids, it’s just required. But as for liking me, well, I figured if He really knew me, He wouldn’t like me that much. So there were times I avoided eye contact and figured it was best if He just loved me from a distance.

God didn’t leave it there, though. He really is like the father in the prodigal son story, who comes running out to meet his returning son. God came to get me, to let me know how He really feels about me.

It was a time when I wrestled with depression about how my life was going. I’d experienced rejection in a relationship and was weighed down under it. Yet as I prayed I came across this passage from the Bible:

the Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.
--Deuteronomy

The “apple of his eye” phrase glowed to me that day. What does it mean to be the apple of someone’s eye? To me, it means I am special to God, that when I walk into a room His delighted attention is immediately drawn to me, that I interest and even entrance Him, that whatever I’m up to has His full and complete approval.

In short, He likes me.

This insight had profound impact. If He likes me, then heck, I can call Him any time. I can bring Him my thorniest problems and He’ll drop everything to help. For a moment, I felt like the kid up at the top of the jungle gym, who looks over at his parents to see them smiling and waving. God was waving at me, grinning from ear to ear, happy I exist--seeing all that I am and being delighted with me.

I loved that feeling. The glow of approval and genuine interest healed me that day of my depression. I moved through that day with a spring in my step and a buoyant heart.

I still turn to that feeling now and then when feeling low. And there God is, smiling and waving.

With this new "orientation," if you will, toward myself as God's idea, I found things opening up in entirely new ways. Once I knew my own values, I could make choices for those things that energized me as opposed to feeling obligated to keep doing those things which depleted me.

For example, as a new freelancer, I had one assignment to do every week that at first met a need very specifically. But over time, as my interests and values shifted and I matured in my business, this task became increasingly arduous. I dreaded doing it each week, and it got harder and harder. However, I worried about losing the regular income from this task—it was about a sixth of my total monthly income.

My coach had told me, though, of the principle that one way to achieve balance was to start saying no to things that deplete you. It's interesting, isn't it, that sometimes making money can deplete you even when it's pretending to be meeting your needs? Making money just for money's sake can actually make you poorer because not only are you being depleted spiritually by the task itself, it's also taking time away from what you could be doing to enrich yourself both spiritually and financially. As Tom told us yesterday, money can sometimes be actually worthless. It could represent actual enrichment, or it can be soul-less. Make sure every dollar you earn is filled with Soul.

So I took the plunge with this one thing. On the year anniversary of doing this assignment every week without fail, even on holidays, I asked for a raise. That clarified things very quickly! My client was not receptive to this idea, and I soon was no longer doing that assignment.

But here's the interesting thing. That income was more than made up almost instantly by another regular assignment that was much more in line with my values—an activity that energized me rather than depleted me.

The more I winnowed out the activities that depleted me and the more I exclusively did those things that energized me, the more my income increased. It was like day following night. The income increase has allowed me to begin to dare to follow my lifelong dream of having a career in film. I was able to take three weeks this summer to work on a feature film shooting in Massachusetts, and I'm writing screenplays again. I don't know where that's going exactly, but as long as I can keep moving in that direction, I feel blessed. And wealthy.

I'm convinced now that this is a spiritual law. Doing what energizes you and being yourself means you're filling your unique niche in creation and are abundantly sustained while doing so.

TOMORROW: Part VI: Refuting Some Old Theology

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1 Comments:

At 11/03/2008 01:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Laura. This thread is really wonderful and just what I need at the moment. I have been stuck for far too long trying to "till" my way out of Genesis 2! The simple idea of giving up things that deplete you (ie tilling) feels exciting and also rather daring and scary! But you have walked the talk and that is encouraging.
Yours gratefully
Amanda

 

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