Who am I? What is my true nature? Am I worthy of love?
This last month I attended two different retreats that invited me to step out of my normal modes of operation and delve deep within. The first was a process painting retreat with my mentor Sarah Oblinger and took place at a YMCA camp nestled in the Flint Hills of Kansas. The second was an insight meditation silent retreat with my dharma teacher Robert Brumet and took place in a clubhouse tucked away in nature at Unity Village, Missouri. While these two retreats were quite different in design–(one involved the colorful and soulful acts of painting, dancing, connecting, sharing food and stories, while the other utilized more solitary and inward practices of silent meditation)–they wove together for me a common theme: The courage and compassion to see and accept myself as I truly am. Both retreats I went into with a sense of identity (of “being someone doing something”) and both I came out of feeling raw, vulnerable, fully alive, and completely connected with my heart.
Each retreat–each in its own way–taught mindfulness, or consciousness of what is. In order to have clear awareness, we must be willing to strip away the stories and see something as it truly is, not as we would like it to be. The myth of perfectionism has driven me for most of my life. Somehow at an early age I adopted the belief that “if I’m just good enough, I will be loved.” Unfortunately, from that vantage point, enough is never enough.
I am very moved by the work of the “vulnerability guru”, researcher and storyteller Brené Brown. In case you aren’t one of the 12 million+ people who have viewed her wildly popular TED talk on The Power of Vulnerability or the more recent talk on Listening to Shame, I HIGHLY recommend watching them. She talks about shame as being the fear of disconnection (“Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection?”) She says you must be willing to let go of who you think you should be in order to be who you really are. A scary thing, and yet crucial for true living.
Who am I when I strip away the strategies? When I let go of the stories? I might have a sense of comfort and familiarity in my old-yet-outdated identity, but the truth of who I am so much bigger. So much deeper. So raw. So human. Imperfect, and yet completely deserving of love.
When we reject part of our essence, we might unknowingly be treating ourselves in a violent way, whether through our self-talk or in the way we relate to our bodies. And that’s so easy to do–I mean, how many times through our popular culture do we subliminally receive the message that we are not okay as we are? Perfectionism is a trap. It’s a distraction from what truly is. Practicing compassion for oneself becomes an act of courage in a world clouded by delusion.
Who am I really? I am enough.