Years ago, I was spending the holidays visiting family back in the Midwest, as I often do.
That year was nothing abnormal. When it was over, I packed my suitcase, left my mom’s house, and flew home.
Traveling home was also uneventful. It wasn’t until I threw my bag on my bed and opened it to unpack that the first clue of a mystery appeared.
Nestled underneath a layer of clothes
was a single piece of parchment paper.
Pulling it out I quickly glanced at an odd poem. Confused I flipped it over to examine it better. It wasn’t signed. No personally identifying information.
Certain my mother put it there, I called to say thanks.
And then the mystery deepened…
… she didn’t put it there. Hadn’t a clue what I was talking about (so she says).
I packed the suitcase from empty to full, so no chance the paper had been there before. What’s more, nobody was at home who could have slipped it in, so the mystery ended. Unsolved.
It’s possible the airline checked my bag, and rather than the normal boring paperwork, they included something special for the holidays. Unlikely in government work (creative empowerment) but possible.
I decided I didn’t care how it got there. Picking up the paper I read it more closely.
This is what it said:
“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, and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so
that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We are 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.”
Nelson Mandela, 1994 Inaugural Speech
My chest grew hot. My eyes watered.
That night, alone in my apartment, I sat down with this strange paper that appeared from nowhere and watched the emotions rise up.
I am a very empathic person. Like many empathic people, I feel bad when I feel others feel bad. Often, I adjust myself if I suspect it will enable them to feel better.
When I was young, and grew taller than others, I would catch myself stooping to match their height if someone was shorter than me. In elementary school, when I tested into advanced placement and offered a chance to join a program for ‘gifted’ students… I declined.
Partly out of shyness, and also out of a feeling of guilt for being separate. I didn’t want to be ‘better’ than anyone, which I what I felt they were telling me.
Holding that mysterious paper, I was sure,
those words were written for me.
They spoke to my soul. My nature.
They offered me liberation.
Not the freedom to be a competitive jerk, thinking I’m better than others. Some dominating, resource-starved, alpha male. But freedom to be me. The best me I could possibly be… and not feel bad about it.
More than that, it lifted my self-imposed ceiling. It gave me permission to fly.
The standard of comparison, in that perspective, was limitless! Everything became a question, not what can others do compared to me, but what can I do with the potential I was born with?
What creation, God, the Universe – had given to me.
When your sole comparison is the entirety of all
creation, suddenly, everything seems small.
Everyone had the same light. The same power. The same potential.
But others didn’t matter. In the end, it was a question of my light, my ability to conquer my fears, to rise up and become all I was capable of.
Taking the paper, I went and placed by my meditation spot. What it stirred in me – I didn’t want to pass.
Before every action, there’s a thought. Before every thought, an intention. And before every intention, is a feeling. An emotion.
I wanted to let these words sink into my mind,
and shake my soul, to see what transformation
they could bring.
For a month, each time I sat down to meditate I picked it up and read it.
It gave me permission to leave the world for a time. To soar into the openness. To push as far and deep as I could go. To not play small. Not shrink.
It told me to shine, as brightly as I could. To grow. To ‘make manifest the glory of God that is within us.’
That gave me permission to do anything.
Best of all, it told me to overcome fear. All of it. Wherever it hid, in whatever form. And that by ridding myself of fear, I would help others overcome theirs.
I’m not saying if you read these words, you will have the same reaction. Either they speak to YOU – or they don’t. But if these words don’t, others will.
That’s what you want to actively search for.
Inspiration isn’t a momentary fix. It’s not a
sugar rush. A quick high that passes through us,
like a wind blowing by.
It grabs you by the shirt. Drags you in close. It stares into your soul and dares you to do something greater. To be more.
Most everything you tackle in life, spiritual awakening perhaps most of all, is a mind-game.
If you are passive about seeking inspiration, then you leave it to chance. Some weeks you’ll feel up, and everything works, then others you’ll feel down.
It’s in planning for the lows,
that the real test begins.
Everyone does well when things are looking up. But what happens in a slump? What is your pre-designed strategy for getting up? Standing strong? Pushing against the odds?
You could place all the responsibility on another for your encouragement. This can work well, and be motivational, but then you are purely riding their wave. When they are high, so are you. But when they’re low… what happens to you?
You know what speaks to you,
in ways nobody else does.
You know what stirs you. What ignites your flame.
And make no mistake, it is your flame to fan.
It isn’t about rising from a slump. The best inspiration gives you extra fuel to burn you didn’t have before. A missing emotional element that serves to elevate your effort.
To make your highs, even higher.
That’s what that mystery paper did for me. I didn’t read it once and toss it. I kept it with me. Day after day. I let the full transformation run its course.
Your inspiration might not come in a mysterious paper left in your luggage, but it is there.
Look for it. Seek it out! And when it stirs you, don’t let it go so easy.
Follow it inside you. Every emotion is a conversation. Let it speak.
Meditate with it and see what journey it has in store for you…
P.S. For those wondering, Nelson Mandela didn’t say that. It was Marianne Williamson, but is often attributed to Mandela. That wouldn’t have changed the impact of the words for me. (I’m letting you know so as to not run around misquoting Nelson Mandela.)
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