For several months now, I have been building my way toward a full-blown dark night of the soul.
Though it’s been a remarkable year – I self-published a book, launched a training program and counseled hundreds of people – it’s been equally challenging.
Last week, my coach, Mark Silver, reminded me that it’s a good idea to inspect your foundations at the beginning of an expansion because, once you start growing, little things that aren’t working quickly become big things that aren’t working.
In other words, he said, “Expansion expands everything.”
Which is what seemed to be happening to me. My business was growing, but so was this tiny splinter of doubt in my heart.
It wasn’t that I doubted my work – or the message of love that called to me. I doubted me: my ability to articulate, organize and package that message; to steward and deliver it. I doubted my expertise, my credentials and my stamina.
By summer, it was a full blown identity crisis: Was I, I wondered, the right messenger for this job?
When we REALLY want something – and we pray for it and work for it with all of our heart – chances are, we’re going to get it. Which is when the real challenge begins because it isn’t the work that scares us. It ‘s those ‘little things’ – the foundational flaws that have kept us from our dreams before. LIttle things which, through our expansion, have now grown into full blown edges.
What I learned this summer, painfully, but also, beautifully was this: At the bottom of every edge there is one choice: Will I let myself change?
- from dreamer to owner?
- from writer to author?
- from student to teacher?
- from planner to director?
- Will I let myself shift from a person who wants this thing to a person who has it?
Will I let it in?
We really do have a choice, you know. A dream is not an assignment: we don’t have to graduate; we don’t have to finish the novel or buy the house or marry the soul mate. We don’t have to become the person we dreamed we’d be.
It’s just that if we don’t – if we slide the manuscript neatly into the drawer, the dream doesn’t go away. It goes underground – calling from the shadows. When we turn away from our edges and return to the life we once lived, we find that while we were gone, the rooms have grown smaller, the bed less comfortable, the conversation less compelling.
We’ve outgrown our life – which is very very uncomfortable.
Though we will probably spend some time attempting to ignore, medicate, repress or otherwise, disassociate from this fact, sooner or later, it will return us to this edge, asking the same question: Will I let myself change NOW?
What I learned this summer is this:
At every edge in my life, two inner guides have convened: the Angel that whispers me forward and the Ego which seems determined to hold me back. At every edge, they hold the same conversation, arguing about me and about the world.
- The Ego believes that I am not ready, not enough, too young (and now, too old) to live my dream. The Ego loves me, and out of that love, it worries about me -warning me away from being hurt. To accomplish this, it builds inner roadblocks every time I try to be free, whole and happy. (It can’t help doing this; it’s programmed to create structure, make form, and see distinctions. It focuses on risk management -on cracks in the foundation. It believes that, if I could see these structural flaws, I would understand why I can’t yet have what I want.)
- The Angel knows that I am the perfect person for the job of being me; and that I wouldn’t have the dream if I wasn’t meant to live it. The Angel loves me, exactly as I am – and out of that love, it creates signs and serendipitous events to support my every effort to be free, whole and happy. The Angel knows that there is nothing about me that needs fixing, nothing broken, nothing missing. It focuses on illuminating what is good. (It can’t help doing this. Seeing and radiating love and peace is the Angel’s sole purpose.)
- The Ego believes in risk management.
- The Angel believes that there is no risk, that we live in a world of love.
- The Ego believes, ‘It’s every man for himself.” It invests in defense, protection, arming itself against enemies who would, if it left itself undefended, swarm over its borders and take away its freedom.
- The Angel knows, ‘We are all one.” The Angel reminds me, “You struggle over a power that is not outside of yourself, but within.”
- The Ego believes, “It’s a jungle out there,” a world of scarce resources. It defends against attack; protecting me from having my dream, my work, my light and my time stolen from me.
- The Angel knows, “It’s a sacred world with enough for everyone.” It does not defend, it meets whatever comes with curiosity, knowing that no one can take from me what I do not give. and that when I share what I have, the well refills, sourced by an infinite spring.
- The Ego believes the world is ‘going to hell in a hand basket,’ it is terrified of aging, of the breaking down of form.
- The Angel knows that the only hell is a world divided against itself (and, since that division is impossible (an illusion), the Angel knows that hell is not real.) The Angel sees the world, including my body, as part of a system of cycles, that all things flow into and out of form in their time.
To the Ego the world is scary and needs to be controlled.
To the Angel the world is sacred and unfolding just as it should.
And inside of me, every day, this wrestling.
Some days, I can hear myself thinking: Are you out of your mind? Angels are illusions.
Other days, the angels whisper, “We are real. It’s your fear, your suffering that is illusion.”
It makes no difference that I know which side I’m on. No difference that I see the Ego, spinning lies. Knowing buys me only the privilege of going to the mat with my eyes open.
Wide open eyes. Wrestling.
But THAT, oh THAT is everything.
Because as I am wrestling, I am also watching myself wrestle.
I am seeing the whole thing: the posturing and pretending; the story-telling, the competing, the wheel-spinning that I do to avoid seeing it
…. and then, every time, there is a moment of illumination – a point where, once again, I discover the exit door that leads to a world without wrestling or struggle.
This door is such a simple foundational little thing: Choice
All I have to do to stop wrestling is let what is trying to change change; let what is asking to be born through me be born … through me. All I have to do is let it in.
And how do I do that?
I choose toward love.
Every time I figure this out, I laugh (or cry). Oh, yes. I realize. This is that cycle of resistance and surrender, of observing and realizing; of forgetting and remembering. It is all a part of my unfolding, and, through me, the unfolding of the world.
Or laughing, like today:
Driving back from the dentist, light streaming, connected,back in the game. The Sacred there beside me, doing what it does – the only thing it CAN do, streaming love.
And suddenly, an image flashes into my mind’s eye: Archangel Michael. Michael, the protector. Michael, with the flaming sword, defeating dragons. Michael, who arrives, always, when I have lost my way.
And I start to laugh. Big belly laughs, tears welling.
I see that this sword is a symbol and is also real. (It slices through the illusion that we are not protected and in doing so, brings us the protection for which we called.)
And though this sense of protection is an inner state, it is also, real.
Illusion and reality.
Inner state and outer.
I see that this angel, with his huge and stately presence, is a projection of my own consciousness while, at the same time, also, a formed and very real being, a gift from the Creator: a response to my call – to the collective call – for the qualities he bears.
As always, Michael’s presence leaves a wake of grace, a stream of signs which arrive one after another to remind me that, even though I cannot see him – he is there, a part of the sacred world that supports and holds me in light.
A real world inside of which this other world resides.
As always, this string of signs is punctuated with Michael’s calling card: one feather, a big one.
Yesterday, I sat at a traffic light with tears in my eyes, talking out loud in an empty car – a crazy woman (who is also completely and totally sane, grounded and clear). “Michael,” I said. “Thank you for reminding me – with this flash of imagery, and these signs. Thank you for always bringing me back to the sacred world.”
Then, I flipped on the car radio and there was Paul McCartney singing joyfully, “Brother Michael, la la la… Open the door and let ‘em in….”
I sang along with that silly song all the way home, holding the duality – the Angel and the Ego – inside of my heart.
I pulled into the driveway, streaming light. I opened my laptop and I found, on Andrea Maurer’s blog, this beautiful post which contained, among other gifts, a great big feather.
What an astonishing world we live in. We are all so very blessed.