Cali, Valle del Cauca, Colombia.
In three days from now my plane to Amsterdam will depart from JFK airport in New York. I won’t be on that plane. On the one hand it is a huge decision, on the other hand I am getting used to the idea.
I have made it into a sport and a way of life to be continuously aware of my feelings and thoughts. I still don’t feel fully at ease with being me. One of the things I am aware of is how I alternate between feeling useful and useless every day. But I feel a lot more useful than before. Ha, yes! Now that I think of it: my experience of feeling useful is growing. Now that I think of it I can’t remember a time that I felt more useful than now. Generally speaking that is, I might have days in the past where I felt more useful than today.
This is amazing. It rarely happens that a post takes such an uplifting turn so soon.
Usefulness and uselessness; it is a big topic in my life. For many years I thought of myself as lazy. I would hear I was slow or too slow since I was a very young child. At the same time I would always score very high: without much input I would get a lot of output. My classmates and I myself would believe I was doing nothing when others were studying and I would learn without effort. This resulted in arrogance. I adopted the assumptions others projected on me and used it as a way of making myself believe I was cool and superior. It took me a very long time before I figured it out.
Yesterday I gave my first workshop of this year and my first workshop in South America. I have now worked on all the continents, apart from Africa and Antarctica. I am pretty sure I will nail Africa this year; Antarctica might have to wait a bit longer but l am getting distracted. When I prepare for a workshop I have learned that my ‘vision’ comes ate the very last minute. Only then I can ‘see’ the route that I want to take with my participants. I used to think that my preparation only took 5 minutes. But it is not true; I need the run-up. If necessary, like here in Colombia where I partied in the weekend, I will clean up my life 48 hours before I have to work. I will start focusing, eat healthy, meditate and ponder.
During this process I used to feel a knot in my stomach. I would feel guilty and ashamed for not being productive. The knot sometimes would get the best of me; tying me up in negative thoughts, fear of failure and stage fright. I would always fall into the trap of wanting to present the ideal version of me. What if I am not fit tomorrow? What if I am not rested? What if I am nervous? What if I stutter? And I will always come back to is that the only ‘me’ I have to offer is the me that is present at the given moment and the only thing that matters is that I do not hide what is real. Confident, scared, nervous, calm, happy: everything is possible.
What I am finding over and over again is that being real serves me the most. In my case it doesn’t really serve me directly in a financial way. And because of the rules of our society and my upbringing in a capitalistic and wealthy environment I still have tendencies to feel unsuccessful. But I remember very well the first workshop I lead in 2007. I felt successful for the first time in my life because I had helped people to open up by being real and showing the way. I could see the light in their eyes. I realized that all my earlier ‘successes’ in life were based on me outsmarting something or somebody, coming out on top of some little battle or competition around things like ‘marketing strategy’ or ‘creative concept’ in the ‘advertising industry’. It would celebrate my ego’s need for being superior and temporarily hide my feelings of being inferior. It would make me swell up but it would not open me up.
I have learned that feeling successful as a human being is something different then feeling successful as an ego. Our heart desires different nutrition than our ego. As a human being I feel gratitude and fulfillment when I see something opening up in the person or persons I am communicating with. The only thing I have done is giving the other permission to be real by being honest myself. To see the other find himself or herself back is blissful and magical. Just take a look at the picture. I met the girl on the bus and she told me she could not meditate although she had tried. She is having her first meditative experience. She will never think again that inner peace is outside of her reach.
The feeling of expansion when we open up is much vaster than the feeling of expansion when we swell up. Still, my ego is worried about income, proper compensation and status.
What I am seeing today is that this nagging of my fearful ego is getting less and less. It took me years though. But my sense of fulfillment is winning from my feelings of uselessness. Yesterday I received an email from a lady that told me that this website is the best she had come across in a very long time. Because of a chronic disease she can’t travel and if I read correctly it is even difficult to leave her house. By sharing my adventures with her she feels part of my journey. We are not separated anymore. Such a message makes my day. It makes that there is less room for feeling useless. Being real matters.
Kathryn ehnebuske says
I too have rarely left my house for the last five years as I struggle with physical pain. The useful/not useful dialogue is very familiar. I have read your blog with delight for this last year because of the honesty and the kick I get out of watching someone else walk their edge. Intimacy with what is real is not where our ego wants to hang out. Luckily we are much much more than wandering egos.
Haha! I would never have thought that someone would get a kick from watching me. Con mucho gusto, dear Kathryn. You give me courage to get even closer to the edge. 🙂
I very much enjoyed reading this post. Thanks! That struggle of the ego wanting to be recognized for success versus being myself, open and honest feels very familiar. And I think you´re doing great in beating the ego and inspiring others…
Atalwin Pilon says
Thank you, Caro!