Where Are You Holding Back?

06/21/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Where might you be holding back? Seventy year-old Hank, a retiring engineer, told me yesterday that he wants "to get involved in politics, to bring statesmanship back....This is an idea that just keeps coming back my way." So, I asked Hank: "What holds you back?" His response: "I guess it's my need to be liked, to be seen as a 'good guy..." Now, I don't know about you, but from where I sit, we need a major spring cleaning of politicians, in order to make room for those, like Hank, with noble, brave hearts, and real-world experience. When we deny our gifts, everybody suffers.

What gets in our way?

We do not see our dreams as connected to a greater whole. But, what if your heart's desire has a bigger purpose? What if what 'knocks on your door,' keeping you awake at night doesn't belong to you? Pretend you are being 'loaned' this inspiration, in order to bring about a better world. I'm not asking you to 'buy' this, just to be open to the possibility.

Growth is woven into nature. That's just the way it is. Life Substance seeks expression, be it in a plant, animal or us. Life Force taps us on the shoulder, whispers inspirations and says: ' Tap, tap. You're 'It.'

Remember playing 'tag' as a child? One child is 'tagged,' by another, who's the designated 'It.' 'It' runs to tag another child, creating a new 'It,' leaving the others scrambling, like cockroaches across the summertime floor at night when you flip on the light! The object of the game is to keep the game in play through rotating turns. If you don't believe, however, that you've anything to offer, you flee yours. I remember a few kids in my neighborhood that spent most of the time pretending to play by hiding.

Another possibility. If you've ever seen the classic Broadway musical, "Chorus Line," the hopeful auditioned for a part in the 'the big production.' Remember the song, "I can do that"? While watching someone dance, a youth's inspired to become a dancer. Trusting instinct and desire, he uses this positive mirror to reflect back to himself possibility.

This is not just a subject for the theatre. Many years ago, a non-dancing young man came to a growth group I was leading. His everyday job was conservative, predictable and lifeless. He wasn't happy. Instinctively, I asked him to act the role of Rudolf Nureyeu, complete with costuming, music, and ballet. Born to dance, Jerry leaped across the room like he'd been doing this for years. Shortly thereafter, Jerry moved to New York, stepped up to his dream, eventually becoming the lead dancer for one of the biggest shows in America. It happens, if you have a good mirror, and are willing to live your own Truth, despite the cost.

So, why is it that some literally, or figuratively, 'put on their dancing shoes,' and some don't? How is it that there are those who don't hold back, people like Maya Angelou, Stephen Hawking, Nelson Mandela? They see and trust a true reflection. Some dream and do not quit on themselves. Some claim the sword of their own Truth, step up, speak, create, and make a difference.

When what's mirrored back to us, however, is distorted, confusing, we give up on ourselves, leaving behind our would-be creations, stillborn. Someone raises an eyebrow at our embryonic idea and we cave. But, as the old 70's song went, "You've got to know when to hold them, and know when to fold 'em." But, when we hold back, we cheat ourselves and others because we are not creating from our Truth.

What makes us mistrust our creative longings?

It is doubt, it is forgetting that you are loved, that turns most of our best dreams into ghosts, most deeply held heart's desires, into orphans. This is what makes it so stunning when someone answers 'the Call' to serve in their own particular, beautiful way. They've disciplined themselves to be faithful to their strengths, aptitudes, and longings despite self-doubt, despite their fear of the consequences of 'breaking rank,' as we used to say in the army. They are willing to awaken.

"Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall..."

One of my colleagues, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola-Estes, author of best-seller Women Who Runs with the Wolves, zeroes in on this vital issue, in the aforementioned, as well as her current Pod-cast series through Tami Simon's Sounds True Studio. Focusing on "The Dangerous Old Woman," Clarissa says: "Whenever there is innocence, beauty and creativity the predator shows up."

Who is this predator? Our predator is the thief holding you back from taking that very next necessary step to advance your dream, to Voice your Truth, to express your magnificent heart and fine mind, even when you doubt them. The predator is, as Clarissa reminds us, the figurative, competitive 'Evil Stepmother,' of enduring stories like "Snow White." This shadowy 'character' that skulks around in psyche is supremely jealous of any originally beautiful budding life seeking expression. With supreme cunning, the predator distorts how we see ourselves, poisons connection to living freely. If you want greater aliveness today, the predator needs to be apprehended. Rix Weaver writes:

"To live life fully, whatever the sphere of one's capacities, is an art, and a creative art."

But, as every artist knows, creating masterpieces always involves a dragon fight. To bring the Spirit of inspiration into concrete form, we've got to deal with the demons of self-doubt fighting to usurp our dreams for greater aliveness, joy, expression, freedom, and connection.

In "The Dangerous Old Woman," Pinkola-Estes illustrates one central theme. It is only out of longing and chaos that something new can be born, including your Truth. How do you hang on, then, through such a difficult midwifery, trusting in the life you want to be living? Here are some Cliff Notes:

1. First, you notice that despite resistance, something deeper pushes for expansion of your personality.

2. Expanding your life means getting better at letting go. It means you've got to separate from the pack of lemmings, the old, familiar way of seeing yourself in the mirror.

3. It means barring the door to skeptics, cynics, complainers, nay-sayers, and others who are converts to the Church of Negativity with its 'impossibility thinking.' Build better boundaries. Your new life is fragile, at first.

4. It means cleaning off your mirror, so that your reflection is accurate.

5. It means engaging your wisest, most ancient Self as your internal G.P.S.

6. It means choosing whatever practice works for you to Practice Presence. Freely translated, you must find a time and method to reconnect with that 'wee small Voice,' that lives in the Stillness, away from distractions. Enter this place every day. If you've never done this, consider picking up a copy of Lawrence LeShan's How to Meditate. I found it helpful years ago.

7. Trust your process. As Jung, Stevens, Estes and others point out, there is a 2 million year old man/woman living in the Spirit of your Depths. This is your dream sender, your source of intuition, precognition, syncronicity, and other forms of guidance. You can awaken through cultivating your relationship with it.

8. Learn from those who've 'been there.'

To be continued.

What's helped you deal with your predators, inside and out? What's helped you take on your self-doubt, and grow? Where would you like to 'put on your dancing shoes?' I'm listening!
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