Shiny vs Light

I saw this clip on a morning program today about a person who has achieved “viral” fame on Facebook for packaging and dispensing soundbites of mindfulness wisdom for the masses. Yes, I occasionally watch this dumb shit. As a therapist, I consider it part of my job to stay a bit in touch with what people are being fed through the boob tube – decade-old health advice, drug pushing, ridiculous recipes, fear mongering, sensationalism, frosted with gossip, fashion advice and the deal of the week. Understanding a bit about the environmental impacts people are coping with helps me understand the total load on their nervous systems.

As I listened to this very attractive person give “live” on the spot advice to the hosts, and watched them reel off a list of his accomplishments, pictures him and his work, I could feel the pull…”wow, if only I could do that”. And “he’s legit!” After all, he was AN ACTUAL MONK for 3 years! If I could make shiny videos, or give those talks or appeal to the masses, then…oh wait – I don’t have the monk thing for street cred…and then I caught myself. Mesmerized by the shiny. There are a few extremely young, hip, very visible individuals on social media who do this sort of thing. Their videos are captivating. And after the video is done… Have they impacted me? Does this change anyone or stick in any significant way?  I don’t know. I think a few of them are pretty awesome…Prince Ea, Russell Brand. They can say unpopular things, opposing mass beliefs, addictions, habits. And there are some really real ones out there, risking, telling the truth, doing it their own way, no matter the cost. My friend Elena comes to mind.

What happened today for me was a moment of clarity. I’m really not motivated by the shiny any. I am after the real. I am after true light, not just the reflections. I don’t need to be someone else. This is what I have to offer others. My whole life has been a journey of trying to move away from the need to entertain and maintain the interest of shallow wounded people, confused about why it felt so empty even though they excited me and attracted me and looked so good on the outside. When you’re deprived of connection for so long, you’ll do anything to get it, and settle for scraps, pretending to be whatever anyone wants. Hiding your real self away for approval, for acceptance, for attention.

I want to be real. With me, with you, with the world. I don’t want to feed anyone a line of shit just to make them feel better. I don’t want to pretend anymore. There’s not time. I want to stand up for what’s real. I want to feel others, and be felt by them. As I keep doing my own internal work, I can feel my own being while in relationship more and more, and it makes it possible to be at ease, to have difficult conversations, to be my real self, to be truly present for others. It beats the living daylights out of the pretend relationships – no contest. I can name what’s real so we can hold a space for it. I know that they can feel me there, and feel the safety in it, because they get better. They can see things that weren’t accessible to their conscious awareness before. They change. They marvel at the safety they feel.

Motivational sound bites have their place. I always have the quote nearby from Marianne Williamson about our deepest fear being our light, not our darkness that most scares us. I have the Teddy Roosevelt quote hanging on my wall where I can see it every time I look up from my screen, “It is not the critic who counts;…”. I’m always underlining brilliant passages in my books, and savoring beautiful quotes that point at Truth. These things matter. They are guideposts.

And what I know now, is that more than ever we live in a world where no one seems to be listening, everyone is overwhelmed and wants to escape, and the joys of capitalism offer us a million and one ways to numb the unbearable, muffling the part of us screaming that we need to pay attention. We need safety and presence and real connection in order to be able to attend to those ignored parts of us. Not diagnosis and eradication through either medical or mindful means. Guideposts will not be enough to support real change.

I want to help people stop playing whack a mole – getting rid of their symptoms and having  them continually pop up in another form. I want to help people be curious about what their bodies and the experiences of life are trying to tell them if they knew how to listen, or even thought for a second that they should. All you have to do is look around to see the sickness; anxious kids, angry drivers, everyone looking at phones nonstop, guzzling coffee and sugar, doing drugs, drinking and eating and exercising themselves to death, ever-increasing rates of cancer and gut problems and autoimmune diseases.

I don’t want to sell people some flashy mindfulness garbage about how meditation or enlightenment is going to make all of their problems or symptoms go away. I don’t want to make it easier for people to go on ignoring the messages life is screaming at them, to go on living lives of quiet desperation. Yes, it may make you feel better for a while, but in the end, thankfully, all techniques are doomed to fail. We are wonderfully and fearfully made to wake up, no matter what, and encounter ourselves as we are.

There are many heroines/heroes; many people whom I admire are doing fantastic things out there. I am grateful to them all, AND I am excavating the places that hide my courage. The courage to be what I am, and not worry about being shiny or pleasing. To not need to copy or model myself after them or anyone else who’s already been approval stamped. To let my own light shine however it wants to, and give you the courage to let yours shine. To show up for you and write here for you as my realest self. To motivate you to excavate and find your own light to add to the sea of lights out there so together we might burn off the veneer of shallowness and fear and trauma with the power of our lights combined. To truly live free.

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.

by Marianne Williamson from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles

About Cynthia M Clingan

Cynthia Clingan is a licensed professional clinical counselor in Columbus, Ohio who offers somatic psychotherapy, spiritual coaching, and meditation and mindfulness instruction.
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