Remember Your Greatness: A Lesson from The Wisest Spiritual Teacher I Know!
Of all the spiritual teachers, coaches and mentors I’ve had, the two people in my life that have had the most profound impact on me and who have taught me the most precious lessons are my five year-old-nephew and my two-year-old niece. In many spiritual traditions, children are regarded as innately wise creatures who possess those attributes necessary to attain enlightenment and to transcend human limitations. In the Christian tradition, it is said that to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must become like children. In the Zen tradition, the concept of ”beginner’s mind” – the childlike innocence of thought and openness – is said to be a necessary precursor to true mastery in any field of endeavor.
As someone who began really exploring creativity and the crafts of singing, guitar playing and songwriting in my 20’s, I’m very aware of the truth of these teachings. Much of the time that I have spent engaging in those crafts has been an exercise in shedding limiting beliefs, in becoming more open and more free in my willingness to express myself.
And that’s one of the things that I love most about music – it always humbles me and reminds me of where I am not being totally authentic, open or expressing wholeheartedly. One of my musical heroes, Ben Harper, said it best when he said, “You can’t fool music.”
In the simplest terms, music exposes my vulnerabilities and provides me with a vehicle to get down to the very purest and most naked essence of who I am. When I play music, when I sing, when I write, the more I can drop my armor, lose my baggage, accept myself and let go of the need to look good, to know how it’s gonna go or to get it right, the more connected and liberated I am. It’s a lifelong work in progress, as am I, but I’m so grateful to have found such a rich, deep and bottomless well for spiritual and creative exploration.
The same is true of and available in any art form, any act of creative expression and any practice or area of study that presents an opportunity for growth, for learning and for so-called mistakes.
I am always reminded of these truths when I spend time with my niece and nephew. Lately, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing some of their first attempts at creative expression through singing and dancing, and it’s been equally endearing, insightful and magical.
What amazes me most is the ease with which they learn and acquire new skills as if they’ve already known how to do them for years and are just being reminded. The more I see this and apply it to my own experience, the more I am starting to believe that we already possess all the skills we are called to learn and that we have simply forgotten them along the way. It’s as if they are dormant and just need to be reactivated.
Imagine that. You already know how to do everything you are here to do. You are already a master and you have just forgotten it. As such, your greatest task isn’t to learn the new skill, but rather it’s to remember what you already know and, in so doing, to release and let go of those beliefs and behaviors which you have acquired that prevent that remembering.
An example of this is shyness or embarrassment. Of course, there are varying degrees of being outgoing and liberated, but most of us are actually more shy as adults than we were as children. Shyness is a learned behavior and is often rooted in some limiting beliefs about what will happen or what people will think if we are too loud, too self-expressed, too sexy, too X, Y, Z. And the irony is that it’s this very shyness that often stunts our creativity, our authenticity and our sense of self in a way that hinders our connection to others through our crafts and creations. So our challenge isn’t to learn to be less shy, it’s to remember that we are innately free and liberated.
Another common instance of this dichotomy is the fear of mistakes. So many of us play small and safe because we don’t want to mess up. We believe that if we can’t do something at the highest level possible right from the outset, that we’re not meant to be able to do it or that we ought to focus our efforts elsewhere. Imagine if children took this approach to walking when they failed to rise up and walk at their first attempt. Or if parents saw their children’s first fall and decided, “Well, that’s too bad, I guess my kid’s not meant to be a walker.”
In the same way that children learn to walk by first taking baby steps, by falling and making tons of “mistakes,” some that even cause a bruise or two, we must go through life and pursue our callings with the same patience and willingness to take one step at a time. In this sense, we are the child and the parent and the way to nurture our growth is with encouragement, kindness, gentleness and the understanding that it’s by trial and error that we learn, that it’s by taking risks that we grow, and that it’s by failing that we ultimately find success.
There’s a child in each of us that could use some love and a get out of jail free card to have some fun, make a mess and play with no consequences or concern about the outcome.
Let us be more like children, and remember who we truly are and what we are capable of. Let us allow ourselves to live and create freely, to express soulfully and wholeheartedly, knowing that there is no such thing as a mistake. Let us give ourselves permission to take baby steps towards heaven.
Much love, CA
Published by The Daily Love (June 2nd, 2013)