Marianne Williamson

Cat in a Bag

The other night Bebe decided to make a "cat cave" out of a paper bag. Safe and snug, content and tranquil, she hid inside her protective sack. After a few minutes, however, she had her fix and hopped out of the sack and onto the bed with her two humans and the Fox Terrier. All of us need to be like a cat in a bag from time to time. We need a place to escape and hide out. Yet, after a respite, we too need to come out of the dark caverns and rejoin life. While it is comfortable to stay small, cozy and unnoticed, within us is a drive to express, connect and shine.

For the past few weeks before my morning meditation, I've been reading a selection from Adyashanti's Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic. This morning's selection (p. 159):

We turn away from the light and into the darkness, because sometimes the light is hard to bear. It's a myth that the light of being is always easy to bear; sometimes the radiance of the divine asks us to do difficult things. To remain oriented toward the spark of divinity within us is not always easy, and to act from that space can take great courage and faith...Do we embody the radiance of spirit, or is it simply a passing experience? The whole Jesus story is the story of embodied spirit, of what it means and what it looks like to embody and act from divine being.

To embody and act from divine BEING. Wow! What a life that would be. It would shift the energy with which we do everything. It would mean pausing throughout the day to ask:

  • Am I acting from a place of openness, centeredness and compassion?
  • Am I emanating that essence of my divine spark, no matter how menial the task?
  • Am I consciously choosing to be the presence of Christ/Buddha/My Best Self as I interact with people today?

For most of us shining this brightly is a terrifying prospect. Would people think we are crazy? Would we be on a different wavelength than our loved ones and coworkers and feel isolated? Would we have to change long-cherished patterns and behaviors?

We usually just slink back into our paper bags.

But everyone once in a while, the divine spark turns into a flame, and we can no longer ignore it. Those critical moments change the trajectory of a lifetime if we decide to come out of our "cat caves".

Perhaps no one has said it better than Marianne Williamson in A Return to Love:

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.

Ain't That a Shame

I've been a bit prickly lately. Negative internal chatter. Knee-jerk emotional responses. What's going on? Ah yes, one of those old issues which I had totally resolved (right!?!) was rearing its head again. It's the return of ye olde perfectionist streak. It goes deeper than just avoiding mistakes. It’s more of a feeling that I am personally wrong, that I'm not enough. I notice anxiety emerge whenever I sense that I might make a mistake or even be perceived as wrong.

I remembered a TED talk from a few years ago by Brené Brown, a researcher on shame and vulnerability. Her work focuses on the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt says, "I made a mistake." Shame says, "I am a mistake." Guilt apologizes for errors, learns from them and moves forward. Shame paralyzes with judgment and blame and is highly correlated with addiction and self-destructive behavior.

All of us have "shame triggers", those identities that we try to avoid at all costs but which persist beneath a thin veneer. To identify your shame trigger, complete the following sentence: "Above all, I don't want to be perceived as..."

Shame thrives in secrecy, silence and judgment. It withers in openness, compassion and empathy. When we bravely tell our stories, shame dissipates. "You're not good enough" and "Who do you think you are?" loose their oomph. We might even have a Stuart Smalley moment: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggonit, people like me!" I think my version is, "Yes, I'm imperfect dammit. I make mistakes and often don't know what I'm doing. Thank heavens I'm enough, loved as I am and have nothing to prove."

Brené Brown's followup TED talk explores how creative innovation arises from the willingness to be vulnerable. We'll never shine unless we risk failure and imperfection. Here's the link to her latest TED talk:

Welcoming our failures and imperfections with an open door airs out our humanity. No longer expending energy on pretense, we are free to live wholeheartedly as a whole person. We lose concern for who might be watching and how they might perceive us. Playful enthusiasm bubbles to the surface. Even old Scrooge couldn't help giggling and dancing a jig after he faced his ghosts. The final words of Dickens' classic tale says of Scrooge that:

"Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them...His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him."

P.S. Please join us the first three Monday nights in June for Mindful Photography: The Art of Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes.