You Have to Show Up to Be Seen
photo credit | flickr: orangeacid
You ever freeze when Life gives you exactly what you ask for? It's curious how we ache with longing to be our authentic self—to be seen and accepted as we truly are, then shrink at the invitation to actually live it.
In October of 2012, I was asked to present at a Pecha Kucha event (20 slides x 20 seconds) hosted by Seattle Art Museum, in celebration of a museum-wide exhibit of women artists.
The title of the event: Women Who Rock: Agents Provocateurs & the Ideas That Inspire Them. Basically, it was an invitation to join a line-up of creative powerhouses and entertain people with a story about what lights me up.
I was honored. And paralyzed. What did I fear? Hubris and comparison.
I feared sharing myself with an auditorium of strangers, as if I mattered. As if I was worthy of people's time and attention. I feared not measuring up to the wildly-creative women who would also take the stage that night.
Can you relate?
Three weeks ago, on the Friday before Christmas, I was walking into my morning dance class on Capitol Hill and my friend Anne slipped me a little paperback book titled Art & Fear, saying she felt compelled to give it to me. It packs some great insights. Here's a juicy one:
"The important point here is not that you have—or don't have—what other artists have, but rather that it doesn't matter. Whatever they have is something needed to do their work—it wouldn't help you in your own work even if you had it. Their magic is theirs. You don't lack it. You don't need it. It has nothing to do with you. Period."
What other people have or don't have has nothing to do with me. A liberating reality.
So, back in 2012, Life was delivering an invitation to stop worrying whether what I have is good enough. To step outside my perceived smallness and claim myself. Exactly as I am. Was I going to accept? Yes.
I breathed a lot. I was patient with myself. I risked feeling all the uncomfortable feelings I might feel and, ultimately, I was able to OWN my authentic self, trusting that I am enough, just as I am.
This blog is a continuation of the movement I followed by taking the stage to an autumn evening in 2012. Thank you for being part of my journey and thank you for letting me be part of yours.
The following are the 20 slides of my presentation...
SLIDE 01: 14th century Persian poet, Hafiz, was a passionate mystic whose writing I have long adored. But this past June, one of his poems was unveiled for me. One I thought I had already understood...
SLIDE 02: If you take issue with the concept of God, you can replace it with the divine or Life.
SLIDE 03: The layers of this poem peeled back for me during seven transcendent hours in June that profoundly altered my perception of myself, of Life.
SLIDE 04: In these seven hours I could see myself with startling clarity. The way that I, with all my positive intentions, try to control and manipulate every aspect of Life…
SLIDE 05: I could see how I miss the ecstasy of the present moment by lingering on the meaning of things OR clinging to and trying to recreate the moment that just passed, or a moment from yesterday, last week, or last year.
SLIDE 06: In this state I could see my powerful need to make meaning of everything -- every event, object, thought and feeling, which leads me away from deeply experiencing what is.
SLIDE 07: I could see the exquisitely generous flow of Life, continually offering up the delight of the present moment. And seeing all this, I felt complete compassion…
SLIDE 08: I felt deep understanding and love for myself who misses so much pure joy and love from Life, without the slightest idea, because she is convinced that what I am missing or need is somewhere else.
SLIDE 09: This is how I came to translate Hafiz’s insight for myself.
SLIDE 10: I went back to my regular life with what felt like new eyes. Although I was no longer experiencing that altered state, I had a new perspective of myself – of Life and how I was choosing to live it.
SLIDE 11: I make a living telling the stories of other people, but had planned to take a three week hiatus in August to sort out my ideas and start a personal writing project.
SLIDE 12: But my June experience made it clear that my August retreat should not be about a project… I did not need practice DOING. I needed practice BEING. So that’s what I did.
SLIDE 13: But it turned out not to be as easy as this… (photo). I became excruciatingly aware that my whole life, even my “free” time is somehow organized around a plan, a project, a desired outcome.
SLIDE 14: I found that I could go with the flow of life for only a few moments, sometimes a few hours, before my habitual search for an agenda returned. Shaken by this realization, I grieved that so much of life is missed living this way.
SLIDE 15: Eventually, I discovered I could relax into the continuous arising of the present moment and began to notice so much more of Life. I became more peaceful, more loving, more joyful.
SLIDE 16: In the final days of my hiatus, I stumbled on this memoir, in which Natalie Goldberg shares how she came to understand that her writing practice paralleled her Buddhist meditation practice: a way to witness her mind.
SLIDE 17: I was inspired by the idea of using my writing to tap into the big sky of consciousness that I typically obscure with all my plans, agendas, and stories about Life and the way things should be.
SLIDE 18: I invited a few friends to join me, and now, one night a week, we come together to witness our own minds in the presence of each other. We are learning not to criticize or be embarrassed by what arises in our own being.
SLIDE 19: We draw a topic from a basket, put our pens to paper and watch what comes through our pens onto the page. Then we take turns reading what we’ve written, becoming witness for each other… without comment.
SLIDE 20: I am learning, little by little, to witness Life without my agenda, or to at least see how my agenda gets in the way. I am learning to trust that Life -- with its messy unpredictability -- offers gifts that all my effort could not possibly deliver. I am practicing the Art of Being.