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"All three of these powerful leaders Iíve known and grown with, were so busy polishing what they put out that they couldnít take much in."
Suzanne Selby Grenager (SGrenager@aol.com) writes "The Art of Living," a monthly column for SpiritSite.com.
Suzanne is a writer, teacher, and life coach who helps people achieve their dreams. Her work has appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Yoga Journal, and she has contributed to Healing Journeys: The Power of Rubenfeld Synergy.
Suzanne Selby Grenager,
"So Who's Ready to Shine?"
I am back at SpiritSite.com at last, following an unexpectedly intense July and August. I lost a brother, and I almost lost my mother Ė twice. While I imagine Iíve been changed by this trial-by-fire summer, some things, like my interest in owning our power, remain the same.
Toward the end of my last column, I recommended we all adopt the attitude embodied in teacher Andrew Cohenís words, "I have nothing to hide, nothing to prove, nothing to become and nothing to overcome."
I suggested that even if we donít yet feel all that free, we could risk showing up big in the world. "There truly is nothing for us to be ashamed of Ė except perhaps hiding our considerable light under a bushel," I said in closing.
Perhaps is the operative word for me. I mean by this that I am not sure itís a "shame" to hide out, short of "shining," sometimes. Lying low, even for years, might be just what some of us sensitive souls need, while preparing for our particular brand of brilliance.
I have long felt ambivalent about what exactly to do with my light, which can burn very bright. Before I watched my best friend Lucy die of cancer 25 years ago, I was out there on the fast track, burning up the world. Had that terrifying wake-up call not clipped my wings, I bet Iíd have burned out, like Icarus, by now. Disease, dysfunction, corruption, even death might have gotten me. No kidding, I saw it coming.
Instead, I am still here, doing well Ė physically, mentally, emotionally. But I know, too, that I am not doing all I am capable of doing, and perhaps want to do in the world. I do not, as we say in coaching, entirely "own my power." Like many of my clients, this particular life coach has yet to embrace all of who she is. So what!
Happily, Iím getting close to feeling Iíve little to hide or protect. And with help from my own coach, Iím increasingly clear about how much I have to offer. Thanks to more than two decades of personal growth work, Iíve gained remarkable insights into the psychological and spiritual realms. I know, too, that I am blessed with charisma, that I inspire people to be their best. Iíve got the verbal and promotional skills to share my gifts widely.
Still, to do Ė or not to do Ė more than I usually feel I want to do, with these gifts, is a question Iíve thought and written about for years.
Is the reason I didnít yet author a book, or host a radio show (two tantalizing ideas Iíve had), that I am irrationally afraid? Or, have I not done these things because a truer, wiser part of me knows it hasnít been quite safe for me to do them? Am I, in some important way, not ready fully to shine?
The Coaches Training Institute, where Iíve honed my professional skills, re-introduced me to Marianne Williamson's famous quote about coming into our own. She wrote:
I love and value the wisdom of these words. Having had a guru, who had a guru (and so on), Iím a beneficiary of a venerable line of teachers with the clear intention of awakening others. I got to bask in the reflective glow of my teachersí "liberation," and I got much freer as a result. I was inspired by their examples to be a yoga teacher, then a mentor to many cool people also supporting others in their growth. No question the guru model was a luminous example of service for many on the receiving end of the light.
But hereís the rub, and the major source of my ongoing inquiry about assuming my full power: The situation did not always appear so beneficial for those doing the shining. In fact, effective as he was at inspiring me to own much of my power, the man who was my guru turned out to have some powerful, apparently power-related problems of his own.
Publicly loving, he seemed privately self-absorbed and isolated. From what I gathered, he was unable to engage in the kind of intimate reciprocal relationships I rely on for my sustenance. Sadly instead, he engaged in "intimacies" of a less consensual (though sensual!) sort, causing him and others to suffer. Clearly, his personal life went awry.
One might argue thatís a predictable outcome of bringing the "guru" model to the very different culture of the West. My teacher was one of many Eastern spiritual leaders not practicing all they preached, especially in regard to sex and money. I wasnít surprised.
Standing as an adored model of near-perfection has got to be an impossible task. And since my guruís guru lived in silent isolation, he was ill equipped to guide my guru to be powerfully in the world, without being powerfully of it! And so, the man got lost.
It is getting lost that most worries me about stepping further into the world. Hereís why. Two other powerful teachers in my life, a man and a woman, were not Eastern gurus, but folks more like me; and both, in their own ways, seemed almost as lonely, self-absorbed, and out-of-touch with their precious selves Ė and with others Ė as my guru had.
Both gave profusely of themselves. They taught, led, took full charge of every situation, with stunning expertise, and to great effect. But they rarely relaxed, or seemed really to trust or enjoy themselves. Both worked hard at controlling how they gave (as perfectly as possible), and how what they gave was received (received well, or else they were unhappy).
Most disturbing, all three of these powerful leaders Iíve known and grown with, were so busy polishing what they put out that they couldnít take much in. They mostly missed the consummate pleasure of receiving what other people have to offer, and so were not nurtured. Peerless, they seemed personally underdeveloped and starved for affection.
I am coming to see that it may take a remarkably mature person to be happily and publicly powerful, especially (but not only) in the spiritual realm. The Dalai Lama and my guruís guru come to mind, along with Nelson Mandela, as possible examples of well-developed leaders. I note all three have had strong spiritual traditions to bolster them.
For us ordinary mortals, it is apparently not so easy to stand in oneís brilliance before Ė and for Ė others, while keeping in mind who one most deeply is, and what one most values. While finishing this article yesterday, I tuned in to catch Al Gore on Oprah. Coincidentally, a woman in the audience asked him to share his greatest fear about living his life in the public arena.
The Vice President paused for a moment. "Thatís a thoughtful question," he said. "I think," he finally answered, "my biggest fear is that I will get so caught up in what I am doing that Iíll forget what is most important to me." That, we knew from his earlier remarks, is his relationship with himself, and with his family. I rest my case, in regard to the pitfalls of power, and to the merits of Albert Gore, Jr.
Iíd like to continue this conversation next time. If you have any meat to add to the matter, please let me know, via my email address at left. Thanks, and Iím glad to be back.