“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great”
~ Maya Angelou
Although I may seem confident, due to my extroverted nature, the truth is that I often rely on various coping strategies to ‘safeguard’ myself and gain the favour of others. Most often, these methods show up as dysfunctional, approval-seeking, protective and “getting” behaviours. The subtle layers are not always obvious to me, although they may be to you. I expect it is like asking a fish to describe water. Without a point of comparison, my understanding is limited as to what I can know.
So, it can feel challenging to step outside of myself in order to invite a different point of view. I always experience the world through my own senses. While others can offer alternate viewpoints, and I may intellectually grasp them, they will remain theoretical if I can't truly experience them.
This concept reminds me of Plato’s, Allegory of the Cave, in which individuals, chained in a cave all their lives, perceive reality beyond the cave only through the shadows that they see cast upon a wall. In Plato’s story, others from outside the cave may talk to those chained inside about a colourful, dynamic world of their experience, but, to the cave dwellers this remains mere fantasy because they have no context through which to understand or believe these ‘tall tales’. (For more info, click here: Allegory of the Cave).
Imagine if any one of the chained prisoners ventured out into the outside world where the sun shines brightly, filling the landscape with colour and texture. Initially, the cave dweller might be blinded by the light, and that would be a painful experience. Over time, however, with perseverance, if they stuck with the adventure, they would discover a new way of seeing. This would lead them to a new reality, and a new ‘felt experience’.
Living consciously parallels this process. Each individual’s ‘current reality’ tends to be laced with shadowy ideas that we believe to be ‘true'. Most of us are comfortable with the familiar, so we don’t question it. Over time, our behaviours adjust to our perceptions, which then transform into our habits. It takes strong personal commitment to grow our abilities to the point where we are able to embrace a new perspective on life and trust that there is, indeed, a different experience available to us. This requires faith and endurance… especially as we navigate through the painful first steps of the change process.
I have been in the throes of following a path that leads to ‘another way’. I believe in the wisdom of the explorers who have journeyed this way before me, and I am prepared to be blinded by the light of Truth, as may be required. I seek to uncover my more ‘authentic’ self that has been hidden beneath years of stories. Regardless of my dedication and faith, though, I can still be left shaking in my boots… terrified of the possible ’death trap’ that lies ahead. (Meaning, my ‘shadow story’, of course).
So, here I am, believing that the way forward for a better world is an inner journey… a dissolving of the false beliefs that we mistakenly believe are keeping us safe. Here I am, asking that we all learn to stand in our vulnerability, and to trust… regardless of perceived ‘threats'.
How can I ask this of anyone else, when I personally find it so daunting? Because it is the only way forward. So, I am asking this… of everyone. This type of practice is what spirituality for the modern world looks like. And, like any high risk adventure, it will always be thrilling, and will ultimately be filled with rewards.
I am not asking you to adhere to any specific beliefs or rules. Instead, I invite you on a journey of self-discovery. I can’t begin to know what is right for you, or where your heart will lead. But, what is clear, is that you won’t know either, until you begin to examine the false premises that lie beneath any old stories that have been holding you hostage. Let them go!
Researcher and author, Brené Brown, often discusses the idea that a true sense of belonging first requires the courage to stand alone; to be different or to feel unpopular. Brown asserts that belonging is not actually about seeking external acceptance. Rather, it is about staying true to oneself and one's core beliefs, even when that means standing alone.
Here is my invitation to you: Embrace the discomfort of something totally different and new. Leap where there appears to be no footing. You will find me there.
ACTIVITIES for TRANSFORMATION
~ Each day for a week, spend 15-20 minutes writing in a journal. Reflect on the following prompts, inspired by today’s article:
Day 1: Write about a time when you felt like you were in a 'cave' of your own old beliefs or perceptions. What was your 'shadow' reality?
Day 2: Discuss a moment of 'stepping out of the cave.' What new reality did you discover? How did it feel?
Day 3: Identify a belief or 'story' you have about yourself. How has this shaped your actions and thoughts?
Day 4: Imagine an alternate perspective to a strongly held belief. How does considering this new viewpoint change your feelings or thoughts?
Day 5: Reflect on the concept of 'being blinded by the light.' What might be a 'new truth' that seems difficult for you to accept?
Day 6: Write about how you can apply the concept of living consciously in your daily life. What practical steps can you take?
Day 7: Summarize your insights from the week. How has this reflective exercise impacted your understanding of the article and yourself?