I talked to a woman who had been very gifted in music, but who hadn’t pursued it as an adult. “I am afraid of failing,” she said, but as we talked further, she admitted in the quiet tones of held back truth, that she felt like a failure now. She felt tired and angry, out of sorts with her life. I don’t blame her. It takes more effort to create a life you don’t want than to create the life you crave.
An unused gift is a keg of dynamite. It’s dangerous. It leaks out and begins to poison you. It haunts your cells with a hoarse song, “use me or die, use me or die.” Your gifts are powerful energy sources. It takes so much energy to hold back life. It hurts to choose smallness. It hurts to let yourself down in secret ways, muffling the cries that no one else hears. It hurts to resist the evolutionary instinct within you to grow, express, go beyond survival and thrive, and stake your one true place upon this planet.
Brother David Stendl Ross said “The answer to exhaustion is not rest. It’s wholeheartedness.” Doesn’t that make you sit up straight or want to volunteer to be put on active duty in your life? I know it’s true. After I left a high paced legal career, I spent a year napping, and wandering in my own home like a small child lost at the mall. I’d keep seeing familiar things, but I couldn’t find any bearing. I felt exhausted and burdened and overwhelmed. Finally, I realized that I was “resting” in order to avoid myself. I wasn’t exhausted by my efforts in life, but by my lack of efforts – my lack of dedication to do the things that mattered most to me.
An unused gift (or one you don’t take all the way to harvest) will quietly annihilate your life. I think it’s a national threat. I think the Surgeon General should put it up there with smoking cigarettes, asbestos, uranium, and, maybe, mean small-spirited people who run for office. It’s not that you’ll keel over because you didn’t start taking photographs or take the trip you always wanted to take. But you will walk off kilter. Your heart will beat with labor as though it has to pick up an extra thousand pounds. Your hair may be brittle and your voice will crack when you say your name. There is something unrighteous about not singing your song, doing what you came here to do. And it can change this minute, this very second. You can choose to love yourself this way.
I urge you to do what you love and share it, now. Speak for free about a cause you believe in. Paint cards and give them to someone. Get out of the mentality that it has to end up in a gallery or you have to get paid a certain amount of money for it to beworth it. You are worth so much more than that kind of limited thinking. Besides, you can’t imagine the capacities, passports, and shooting stars you deny yourself by withholding your love.
I remember speaking one night at a small church in Minneapolis. I led a meditation, a spontaneous prayer. It felt right, as though a melody and harmony came together in a song I didn’t know I would sing. Let’s face it, I’m a Jewish girl from Brooklyn, so this didn’t seem the kind of thing I would spread on my bagel, so to speak. Not only that, but I’m a finely tuned logical instrument trained at Harvard Law School, so this spiritual, surrender, go into the big union-fest kind of thing wasn’t originally on my tour itinerary. But the experience was bigger than my thoughts about myself. The feeling was definitive, even if I had no definition. “I will do this,” I heard myself say in the inner sanctum of my being. “I will say yes.” I knew I was saying yes to leading, serving, honoring this small voice within me, a voice that used a different alphabet and octave of possibility, and spelled things out in whole new ways. It made no sense to my “practical” self. There was no money to be had here, no fame or recognition. There was nothing I’d submit to my alumni magazine in a billion years or share at a networking group or even a backyard barbecue.
Still, I felt as though I was saying yes to bigger questions. I was saying yes to a larger game. I didn’t know what I was saying yes to, but the act of saying yes, felt like love of a higher order. I felt as though Spirit was asking me, will you play for my Team? Yes, maybe, I should have asked about the benefits package, but I was teeming with benefits at the time, and feeling something I’d never want to retire from. The questions spread through my cells: Will you trust this goodness? Will you spread light? Will you follow your guidance and ignore the fears and instructions of the world? Will you bless everyone you can by doing what you love? I said yes, then, and I still do.
Oh and I’ll tell you this. There are so many gifts that come from doing what you love. It’s a joke to me that people think they will be poor by following something infinite, invincible, and alive within them. I want to tell them about the increased energy, immunity, clarity and peace. I want to tell them about the ridiculous synchronicities and elves and extra cherries in their cherry bowl. I want to reassure them that they’ll shine in colors invisible to the human eye, but not to the human heart; and it’s inevitable that everyone wants to hire someone who glows.
Mostly I want to tell them about the love. It’s a love that has a texture and a depth and a fragrance like nothing else. It’s a love that makes the axis of the earth finally tilt in your direction. It’s a love that makes all things possible, and nothing necessary. Of course, that love is intangible, but bear in mind that every good thing on this planet started with a delicate desire and a great amount of love. Also, you may think love is intangible, as in insubstantial, but let me say this. No tangible item, income or substance, nothing in this whole world or universe, will ever make up for its absence.
Please take care of your energy. I am amazed at how much money we will pump into taking care of our bodies, while we casually and consciously ignore our souls. I watch people go on health kicks. They drink wheat grass for God’s sake, while refusing to play the piano or read about starting a yoga studio, or whatever else they long to do. Why pop a thousand vitamins and supplements if you’re swallowing poison every night? It’s poison to tolerate the boredom, the loneliness, and the relentless haunting. When you do what you love, the loneliness ends. A part of yourself holds and loves you as you have never been loved before.
I’m not saying you have to quit your job or move to New York City to dance on Broadway. Start small, because believe me, there are no small steps. Every step you take to honor your dreams is huge. Take 10 minutes and sing, write, brainstorm about your vision or ideal business, meditate, or journal or do the one thing you know would make all the difference to you to do. You know what it is. Start this very second. Or do what it takes to kick start yourself. Go on a weekend retreat. Go to the ends of the earth. Hire a coach, a therapist , a lion tamer or a medicine man or anyone who will tie you down to the mast of your ship, and help you ignore the Sirens, if that’s what it takes. Please do whatever it takes to be wholehearted. Save your life and transport it, all at the same time, in this lifetime.
An unused gift is a keg of dynamite. It can blow up your life. But if you use it wisely, it can blast through limitations. It can blast through dimensions and galaxies. It can blast through resistance, guilt, doubts, fears, and the sad illusion that you ever had to struggle or be adrift in any way. It can be a blast.
(Join Me at the Omega Institute August 13-15 for Unleashing Your Calling: Create the Work and Life You Love! Or again at Kripalu in the Berkshire Mountains during leaf changing season, October 11-15)
Love and blessings,