This precious life

giftPrecious: of great value; not to be wasted or treated carelessly; beyond price.

As I move through this process of cocooning, one of the things I am working on is owning my gifts.  Nancy, my coach, encouraged me to practice really getting how precious I am, and what I uniquely bring to the world.   These words made me uncomfortable.  I want to distance myself from the idea that I am precious – it sounds so self-absorbed.  And yet the principle that we each have unique gifts to offer the world is something I readily embrace – at least for others.  For the past few years I had a quote from Marianne Williamson on my wall from her book 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.

I have shared this with people who came to me, struggling with their sense of value and fear of being an impostor.  I did not realize that their struggle was my own, until my coach gently pushed me.  This is an old pattern for me, this shrinking.  The work of both Brene Brown and Tara Mohr goes right at it and is very helpful, but changing the pattern takes practice.  It does not happen overnight, especially after years of doing the opposite.  So I am working as best I can to honor my gifts.

There is another way in which I am actively not owning my gifts – in the sense that they are not mine to own.  They are truly blessings.  I am participating in an online class with Pema Chodron called the Heart of the Matter on the practices of a Bodhisattva, in which she talks about how special it is to have this precious human birth – a very unique gift in the views of Buddhism, one in which we have the opportunity to awaken into full consciousness.  In this frame, I (meaning my ego) did nothing to deserve being born at this time and place and with the resources I have.  The question “do I deserve this?” makes it about me, about shoring up my ego.  The question that moves me to greater consciousness is: “how might I use what I have been given for good?”  If this is the question, then denying the gifts is not helpful.   My playing small, as Williamson says, does not serve the world.

My practice today is to sit with that statement, and notice the resistance that comes up.  Not doing anything with it or against it, just noticing.

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2 Responses to This precious life

  1. Gwen Sherman says:

    Thanks, as always, for sharing your personal reflections. There is always something in it for me to learn. And what a marvelous, powerful quote by Marianne Williamson. I used it when giving a commencement address (“The Power of One”) to a graduating class at my college alma mater. I reminded them that they each have unique gifts and that ducking behind their gifts will not serve the world. It’s lovely to read Williamson’s quote again, and be reminded of its truth. All the best to you, Eleanor, in these coming days of your transition journey.

  2. Betsy Bell says:

    Beautifully stated. A common struggle. Your remarks from Pema help. I remember reading signal rimpoche’s Tibetan Book of Living And Dying in which he states that being born human is a improbable as the surfacing from the ocean bottom of a great sea turtle into the opening of a floating life ring. This image stayed with me as evidence of the remarkable condition of being a live human.

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