Handling your worst ‘visibility nightmare’

COVER JULY 2015 SIBYL MAGAZINE

As published in Sybil Magazine, July 2015.

(#7 of a series of 12 articles on ‘Unlocking Your Sacred Power’)

What’s your worst ‘visibility nightmare’? Being raked over the coals after giving a presentation at work? Shaking as you stand before a packed auditorium? Freezing on your first live radio interview? Putting yourself out in public can be a tender and fragile act, and research shows that fear of public speaking is second only to the fear of death. But what makes the prospect of stumbling in public so frightening?

My biggest nightmare was the fear of being publically attacked. Afraid of ‘slipping up’ and feeling humiliated, I imagined wanting to sink through the ground and disappear. So, as a preventative measure, I did disappear. I continued improving myself to make sure I was ready. And when I did write, I held back my most raw and powerful voice in favor of a writing style that was ‘popular and acceptable’. I stayed safe, but I also held back my gifts, my career, my income and my impact in the world.

And then it happened. One sunny morning I wrote a story about a fugitive peacock that went viral on Facebook. Readers loved the story. They wrote that I had inspired and made their day. They said I was a beautiful writer. But then it came – one highly critical note that took issue with a phrase I used. The reader accused and labeled me and invited me to examine my beliefs and assumptions.

The critic surprised me but I didn’t have the reaction that I thought I might. I asked myself: “Should I respond and explain or defend myself? Should I apologize or ‘process’ the matter with her? None of those responses felt right.   And then I made a choice – I chose to NOT turn her criticism into self-attack.

When someone judges or criticizes what we put out into public it doesn’t mean that we have caused or are responsible for their reaction. It doesn’t mean that we owe them an explanation, retraction or apology. But I do think we owe our critics something – the respect to pause and consider what they have to say. Each of us has blind-spots. So we SHOULD stop and reflect on how they might they have understood our words, how their life experience might have been different, and whether there’s something they might teach us (which may or may not be different from what they set out to teach us). But we’re not obligated to be ‘wrong’.

I’m now grateful to the critic who criticized my sweet peacock story. Because the experience set something free in me – the belief that I have to be perfect in order to show up fully in public.   Speaking your truth publically comes with risks – the risk of angering someone, and the risk someone may criticize and point out your flaws – rightfully or not. But censoring yourself is far more damaging.

Stop Trying to Shine!

As published in Sybil Magazine March, 2015

As published in Sybil Magazine
March, 2015

(#3 of a series of 12 articles on ‘Unlocking Your Sacred Power’)

Can we shine or excel through an act of will?  Yes, intention, desire, and commitment are important. But our light never shines because we decide it should, because we tell it to, or because we ‘manage’ it into being. It shines when we get out of our own way and allow it to shine.

Think about what happens when you ‘try’ to do something important, something beyond your comfort zone. Maybe it’s writing a report or a speech, creating a program, or completing an important project. What happens? Perhaps you sit at your computer, looking at a blank screen. You fidget. Get distracted and check your email. Maybe you zone out for a while. Or get up and pace. Sooner or later, you get frustrated. You get up and make yourself a snack, or make a phone call, then come back and read what you’ve written. Annoyed, you delete everything. Maybe you tell yourself to forget it, to come back tomorrow and you start over again. Or maybe you ‘forget’ to come back at all.

When this happens, we know we’ve come up against a block or ‘resistance’. But what do we really know about this state of mind that we struggle so hard to overcome?   Our thinking mind may try to dissolve a block through the force of will, or by telling it what to do. But we can never push our way through our resistance. Trying to cajole or drive it away only makes it stronger.

Resistance asks something different from us. It asks us to stay put, to put aside our judgements, and to practice compassion.   Resistance asks us to be curious and ask questions. To ask what the block looks and feels like. To wonder what it wants and what function it might serve. It asks us to listen to its messages – to notice if they’re kind or brutal, or whether the block is asking a question or wisdom we might need to hear. Resistance asks us to know it intimately – to track how it arises and disappears. Whether there’s a pattern behind it.

Often we don’t stop to ask these questions. We only know that we feel frustrated. And, squirming away from our discomfort, thinking it’s ‘wrong’, we try to will our block away. But if we are willing to touch the block, to feel it, see it, touch it, and listen to it, resistance opens up into something else. Something we don’t expect. Something that feels more like ease, flow, expansion and light. Something that gives us access to our brilliance and higher capacities. The moment we relax into the experience of being blocked, we can bring the light of awareness to what we are doing. Resistance dissolves when we stop resisting it.

Why is ‘Shining’ a Daring Act?

COVER FEB. 2015 SIBYL MAGAZINE

As published in Sibyl Magazine, February 2015

(#2 of a series of 12 articles on ‘Unlocking Your Sacred Power’)

Shining our full light should be second nature. It’s what we did when we were newborns. It’s what we do when we’re relaxed or ‘in our element’ – whether that’s horseback riding, hiking trails, or when we’re in love. During those times we radiate joy, happiness and comfort – with ourselves, with others and Life. But for so many of us, shining becomes limited to rare occasions, those special weekends, holidays or times when we’re with our closest friends, rather than our everyday state of being.

We lose our light gradually as we accommodate to the needs and demands of our world, first to our parents, then to our teachers, and later to our supervisors at work. We hold back parts of who we are in order to stay safe, to fit in, to please others, to avoid conflict, to get ahead and earn a living.   Accommodation isn’t bad. It allows us to negotiate unfamiliar situations and helps us meet our needs for love, safety, belonging and more. Often, it’s the price of admission to success at school, in the workplace, in our homes and community.

The problem is this. As we put aside more and more of our true needs, values, desires and capacities it’s easy to lose or forget who we are in the process. We can end up identifying with the image we present to the world, the person our job or others want us to be, rather than the person we truly are. Or we can live our lives chasing a definition of success we don’t really believe.

A turning point in my journey was surfacing a hidden belief – that it wasn’t safe to be truly, fully visible.   Speaking with other women, I soon realized I was far from alone. Buried deep within is the fear that if we allowed ourselves to be truly transparent, we could risk our safety, security, success, and the support and nurturance of those we loved. It’s an ancient archetypal wound that many women carry – the fear that our tribe could abandon us to die us at the edge of the village if we dared speak our truth or be who were truly are.

But there’s a deeper truth. As the Earth and our world face unprecedented dangers and challenges, our old comfort zones and identities only offer the illusion of safety. There’s a larger definition of safety at stake. The future of our world asks women to own our full brilliance, to live by our most cherished values, and to speak our deepest truths. To live, speak and act not only on our own behalf, but for the entire web of life.

Shining our full light can entail risk and enormous courage. But fearing and refusing our brilliance can pose an even bigger risk.