This Little Light Of Mine

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“…I’m gonna let it shine.”  I used to love this song as a child.  I would belt out the chorus (the only part I knew) with all my heart.  There’s a simple, small, quiet truth here that I loved.  It was good news & something I already knew as a child.

Funny how in life, we often relearn the same truth.  Somehow through adulthood I had covertly diminished the value of what this little ditty points to.  We all understand intellectually what happens when we ignore our authenticity.  We all know how this feels and the result it yields.  Yet, we overlook this data as we make key choices throughout the day…throughout our life.  At what cost?

I recently read two books simultaneously.  The first is “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown.  The second is “Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom” by John O’Donohue.  The books have not much in common, but ultimately describe the same things.  I found it fascinating and a bit incomplete.  I’d like to explain…

Both speak to the resiliency of the human spirit and to the idea that vulnerability is a necessary part of growth and actualizing your potential.  They both point to awareness as the key…aware of now, aware of who you are, and awareness that who you are is enough.  They both explain how each one of us brings forth something unique and vital.  This something is only actualized through the process of showing up courageously as yourself.

I agree wholeheartedly.  Knowing and believing in our own goodness (and in others) is a powerful thing, and one very crucial bit of info to take with you into your day.  This is a truth that is getting a lot of recognition in communities, businesses, schools, etc.  We all seem to be grasping the concept that having a tight-hold on ourselves and everyone else around us has not worked.  We all seem to be willing to experiment with letting go a little, with trusting…research on efficiency and other result-oriented points has made this a bit more mainstream.  We can now see measurably how authenticity and creating an environment where this thrives is desirable, but we are also left without a simple understanding of how.

I would not dare to touch Brown’s life long research on the human experience.  She is brilliant, hilarious and really on to something.  I also would not attempt to undermine O’Donohue’s spiritual and poetic teachings of all that is mystical about us as humans.  I do, however, dare to add to it.

There’s a story of a Zen monk in Japan.  The emperor, as it goes, had a beautiful vase which fell to the ground and broke.  He had the pieces gathered and called upon the best artist in the land to reconstruct it.  When the 1st artist failed to create something as lovely as the original he paid for it with his life.  As the weeks went on, the emperor called on artists throughout the land, all of whom failed and paid with their lives.  With no artists left, the emperor called on an old monk who lived outside of town.  The monk had his apprentice get the pieces from the broken vase and began working on it in his workshop.  Once completed the monk and his apprentice both thought that is was beautiful.  The emperor agreed and rewarded the monk.  A few months later while cleaning the monk’s workshop, the apprentice was horrified to see some leftover fragments from the vase.  He ran to the monk explaining his discovery.  He wanted to know how the monk had constructed it so beautifully without all of the pieces from the original.  The monk’s reply, “If you do the work that you do from a loving heart, then you will always be able to make something beautiful.”

I share this with you because it points to something profound that this monk knew beyond all the others.  He knew that there was nothing wrong with the other artists, only with the way they thought about the assignment.  Anytime we recreate someone’s vision, we loose a great deal of our own power.  When we think of recreating we are not making room for creativity, invention…our selves!

This is all made clear in the two books referenced above (in fact I found this monk story thanks to Brown).  The thing that I see missing is the role of thought.  The monk knew what to do, because he understood how not to let his fearful thinking cloud his work.  He knew he was enough if only he believed it.  He knew that believing it comes first from creating thoughts that affirm this, and dropping those thoughts that threaten it.  The monk knew that while he had no control over the emperor or anyone else, he had total control of what he put out into the world.  He stepped back into his space and did his thing.

I think it does people a disservice when we explain with such detail why vulnerability and authenticity are crucial without giving them an understanding of how thinking is at the root.  I closed both of these books feeling admiration & respect for the authors.  I know that each has discovered something meaningful and has put forth something worthy of our time.  I see that they explained the unexplainable to the best of their ability & with lovely intentions.

I also know that before I understood the role of thought in my life, I would have closed these books with a good feeling, but not with the clarity to handle life differently.  Understanding how my use of thought colors and creates everything that I experience is the glue that holds these new ideas together.  It makes them useful…and beyond just lovely ideas.  Because I understand my role as the thinker, along with a new respect for my job as a “light shiner”, I can go into my life with a new understanding of vulnerability.  I can keep scary thoughts at bay regarding vulnerability, knowing that vulnerability is beautiful…it’s only my thoughts about it that put me into discomfort.

In short, I see not only how I hold myself back when I hide my light, but I also see clearly how to shine.  Imagine if we all saw this for ourselves instead of just admiring it when we notice it in others.  Here’s to you remembering that your little light is needed in this world.  May you shine brightly and may you dare to drop any thinking that threatens your light!

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