On long drives, I often take a couple audiobooks along for the ride. From my home base in Michigan, it's a fairly lengthy trek to Litchfield, CT - where my friend and colleague, Amy Oscar, hosted her first-ever Soul Caller retreat. The pristinely-quiet setting of Wisdom House gave this city girl plenty of time for contemplation, opening up, and revelatory introspection.
I'll get to some of that, but first, the audio book.
On this trip, I only took one: Michael Bernard Beckwith's book "Spiritual Liberation". It seemed fitting, considering this was mostly a trip for spiritual purposes (more on that "mostly" in a bit).
As I drove down the road, I heard Beckwith revealing his own story and spiritual journey. A one-time drug dealer that turned a new leaf and now leads one of the largest non-denominational spiritual centers in the U.S. But what really struck me was this passage:
"Many individuals have had intimations of an inner awakening, and many have indeed become fully self-realized. Perhaps you have not dared to share your own aloud, thinking as I did, that they border on the pathological or that you would not be believed... be encouraged to not dismiss or discard the revelations and insights that have knocked at the door of your awareness."
Before I set out for Litchfield, a flurry of activity befell my household: court appointments for nearly everyone in the house, the completion of my September course, and an invitation to interview for The Veda Company, among other things. I planned to swing down into NYC on the drive home from the retreat and meet with the man who would eventually become my boss. There was lots going on, and I desperately needed some time and space to clear my head, my heart, and get re-centered and focused on what was important to me.
So I packed this audiobook and headed for Connecticut.
Had I not been on the turnpike, I would have pulled over when I heard this passage. Instead, I pulled out my phone and turned on my voice recorder so I'd have it to listen to on repeat. Then, when I got to a service area, I wrote it down.
Beckwith's words spoke to me in a way that most divine insights do: like a pencil through the eyeball, it comes sharp, leaving me squinting, reeling, and wondering how I'm ever going to see clearly again.
He called it "Spiritual Shyness"
Beckwith argued that when we aren't confident in our spiritual pursuit, we waffle, or balk about sharing our gift or our calling with our world - and then everyone suffers. But we suffer most of all because we're the ones who know about it. People that aren't aware of our gifts don't know what they're missing. We, on the other hand, suffer silently along wallowing in our shyness and never really getting our light out from under the bushel basket.
For years - since childhood really - I've secretly held this belief that God had something BIG planned for little old me. Something inside me just knew that I was bound for a calling that expanded beyond my neighborhood, perhaps even beyond my country.
Hear that? That's my spiritual shyness rearing its head even now.
Bluntly put, I've known since I was a young child that my calling was to be on stage in front of millions of people, performing and inspiring the world to believe in their dreams.
Damn, doesn't THAT sound arrogant? I mean, how do you tell your friends, colleagues or family members something like that without coming off at least a teensy weensy bit big for your breeches?
So I let spiritual shyness overrule my life. When I went to college the first time, instead of boldly proclaiming my calling, I allowed myself to shy away from pursuing a music composition degree. I was told that "Freshman didn't enroll in this program" and I went along with it despite the fact that I was the only freshman (and woman, I might add) in the Intro to Music Composition class and had the highest grade in the course. My work consistently outperformed all the other students in that class, but I didn't question the "rule" that said freshmen weren't allowed in the program. Frustrated by my lack of acceptance, I left school and "life" started happening all over the place.
I had a kid and became a single mom in short order. I juggled a full-time job, raising my son, and completing my degree in a haphazard manner. I did the best I could with what I had, but my dream of performing kept moving farther and farther off into the distance. I even recorded 2 albums and toured a little locally, but couldn't stick with it because of other commitments and life demands. Eventually, I got married and had another child. I love my family, and those demands have made it difficult, if not impossible to be a performer, much less travel to support my art.
Now that my oldest is facing adulthood soon, and my youngest seems to be settling into school, the longing has returned more vigorously... or should I say I am more aware of it now.
The Art Of Wanting
There are those who have said "why can't you just be happy with the good job that you have?" or "Are you doing that music thing again?" - as if I ever really stopped singing. I love these people. They mean well, and they're scared as hell that I'll end up homeless on the street - or that my husband will leave me. Somehow they seem to think that having a job = stability while pursuing the calling God ordains for you = living hand to mouth (if you're lucky). The funny thing is that if I felt called to be a Doctor, or go to law school, I would have. And there's a lot less stability in those professions than you might think. I've met attorneys and doctors who are miserable even though they make "great income." They did the right thing, or chased the money, for years, only to find themselves miserable.
That's not for me.
Let's be clear, there are a lot more people vying for jobs than going after their dreams. There's a lot more competition for those jobs than there is for your dream, but you've got to work harder (or longer) to achieve your dream. There's no point in a start-stop approach. You've got to go after it consistently. Otherwise, it's like pushing a stalled car. You'll have no momentum if you keep hitting the brakes.
My husband is happy in his job, and he feels (at least for now) that he's called to serve the world in this capacity. I ask him periodically if he still likes it. "Yes" is his usual response. If that ever changes, I wouldn't force him to stay in that job. And I don't want anyone to force me to stay somewhere that I'm miserable. More to the point, I won't let them. I'm not one to quit just because something gets challenging, mind you. I actually like a challenge. But if the circumstances around a situation become unbearable, unreasonable, or just don't serve the higher purpose for my life, I believe God makes a way out. It might not be sexy or fun, but there's a way. For me, that way came when I dissolved my business 2 years ago. It took that long to clean everything up, but it was all finalized this past fall. Just in time for Amy's retreat.
The question came to me this way:
"If I've got a truly clean slate, and I can do anything, where is God calling me to serve?"
The answer came immediately, and with it a flood of spiritual shyness.
You've got to be pretty ballsy to look a person in the eye and say "I know God put me on this planet to sing and perform for large audiences. I'm a professional musical artist with a mission to inspire others to believe in their dreams."
It's sad that I have to be ballsy to say that. In a perfect world, I wouldn't feel the eye rolling and hear the comments under the breath of some of my family and friends:
"Who does she think she is?"
"Are we back to this again?"
"Why can't she just get a job like everyone else?"
"Why can't she be happy where she's at?"
"What's wrong with having a regular job?"
There's nothing wrong with having a job. I love my work. I enjoy my work. AND I'm clear this is not where I'm meant to be. I've said it before, just because you love something and you're good at it doesn't mean that's where you're supposed to be. In fact, sometimes, being good at something creates a comfort zone that's difficult to escape - especially with family and financial demands hounding you. That was me for 15 years! Now that I'm back into a job, I intend for it to be a strategy: to create space for me to do more of my great work and allow me to meet those family and financial demands while I build my following. But ultimately, I want more than just a job... and that's dangerous.
There's an art to wanting more than where you're at.
Gratitude + Desire = Abundance?
My brilliantly gifted friend and coach, Teresa, once told me that gratitude and desire are both necessary components of abundance. Gratitude allows you to experience abundance for what you have. Desire allows you to grow that experience. You can love where you're at and still desire something more/better/different. I used to feel guilty for wanting more than where I'm at. I married a nice guy, have two kids I cherish, live in a good neighborhood in a nice house. I have a good job, and I like my work. I have a LOT to be thankful for. I am incredibly grateful for all of those blessings (and all the blessings I didn't count here). I also know that God has something else planned for me. This is not my final destination.
That's not a slight to all of the wonderful people, places, things, and ideas in my life. It's not about "upgrading" from here to there. Think of it like this:
Let's say you have a chair that you love. It's beautiful, styled just the way you like it, fits you like a glove, feels oh-so-comfy, and you wouldn't dream of trading it because you really like it. Then, one day, you're told that you've won an Aeron chair. You tried one at the store and while you really like them, but you can't bring yourself to invest that kind of money in a chair. Who are you to spend hundreds of dollars on a chair when you've got one that works great? In fact, you love your current chair, and you're not just saying that to make yourself feel better.
But you've been told you've got to make room for an Aeron chair that's being given to you. Wouldn't you be excited? Maybe a little guilty, too? After all, you've got a perfectly good thing going. Why ruin it?
See that? That's spiritual shyness showing up and ASSUMING that the Aeron chair would ruin things.
What if things just get even better with that new chair? That's dangerous thinking, my friend!
Does that mean we really weren't happy before, or that we were fooling ourselves? Of course not! Are you not allowed to enjoy the "even better" part of your life? So many of us start to feel guilty - or we're afraid people will think we're arrogant, or boastful because we're grateful for the abundant blessings we're experiencing. For folks like me, who grew up in poverty, it can be a tough pill to swallow.
I'm not complaining about my blessings. I'm very grateful for them. AND I'm looking forward to the "aeron chair" part of my life, too. I'm working like heck, too. People seem to forget/miss/ignore that part. They see the reward or the result and say "Who are you to have that?" But they don't know the countless hours I put in, the late nights, the missed sleep, the skipped meals, and the emotional rollercoaster that was my life before now. You've got to be willing to put in the work, pay the dues, or show up and be counted if you want the rewards.
I'm still working on my spiritual shyness, and if you see me on the street and ask me about my calling, I'll still probably reel a little and tell you about this great job I have - instead of jumping in with gusto and sharing my divine mission to use music, storytelling and performance to inspire people to believe in their dreams. It's scary to start down that road. It's my baby. I don't let just anyone hold my baby!
But I'm happy. Happier than I've been in a long time, and I'm grateful for where I'm at in my life - and wanting more of the blessings in store for me. I say there's nothing wrong with that, and if you've got wants, keep on wanting - so long as you hold gratitude in your heart for what you've already got.
So whether you believe me or think I'm "pathological", that is my dream, my mission, my reason for being on this planet. I'm here to hold space for and inspire people to believe in their dreams. The best way I know how to do that is to believe in (and pursue) my own in the process.