So I’m right in the middle of living an awake and inspired life when suddenly – or maybe not so suddenly, maybe it was ever-so-gradually and I was just too busy to notice - I’m not feeling awake or inspired. I’m feeling… dull and uninspired, to be very frank. And tired, and whiny, and cranky. And just a teensy bit hopeless. Despairing, even. Quite a long way from awake and inspired, now that I think about it. I was having a bona fide dark night of the soul, except it had dragged on for more than a few nights. I was too exhausted to do much more than sit back and watch the show.
The Drama Queen within fell to her knees, wringing her hands at an indifferent God and moaning, “What was I thinking?? I can’t pull this off…passion-filled lives of meaning and purpose and abundance are only available to the lucky few, the ones with good karma or good genes or a very long string of good hair days…” The Cynic waited patiently for the Drama Queen to finish, then offered her singular brand of comfort: “Get over it.” The Earnest Seeker stepped in cautiously, asking hopeful questions. “How did I get to this place? What can I learn from it? What is it that I most need right now?” The impatient Critic had no time for such foolishness; she already had the answers and they weren’t pretty. Clearly I had brought this on myself: I had pushed when I should have paused, worked when I should have rested, questioned when I should have trusted, planned when I should have flowed.
In short, I was doing it all wrong. And I knew better! I knew that this journey of creating an authentic life of meaning, passion and purpose is a journey of trust and discovery and revelation. It cannot be planned, willed or worried into being. But there I was, planning and willing and worrying. But I knew better, really I did! I knew I was getting in my own way, and that only I could untangle the mess I’d created. And I was right - in a way I hadn’t fully grasped.
Soberly I began a tedious process of self-analysis, holding my recent thoughts and actions up to the harsh light of my “I Should Have Known Better” wisdom. Yes, the Critic was right. I had bungled things quite a bit. Look, over there – Little Miss Energy Balance had been working virtually seven days a week for months and months, and had not taken a vacation in over a year. And she wondered why she felt depleted! Oh, and over there – she signed up for a 10-week training course at precisely the time her corporate client work would be most demanding, effectively consuming precious hours that might have been available for writing or resting or being with friends. And there was more. Sure enough, the relentless glare of the “I Should Have Known Better” torch illuminated a rather pitiful sequence of choices I had recently made. The situation was grave. It seemed I was a long way from living an awake and inspired life.
Except, miraculously, I wasn’t. After thrashing around a bit – writing feverishly in my journal, calling my coach for an emergency appointment, leaning a bit heavily on friends and family for encouragement and, finally, pushing that Drama Queen out of the way and dropping to my knees in prayer – I was graced with a new appreciation of an old truth: an awake and inspired life is already and always within me, waiting patiently for my loving acceptance. I understood that my recent, seemingly questionable choices weren’t standing between the life I was living and the inspired life I longed for – but the ruthless judgment of myself for having made them certainly was.
It’s a subtle trap that’s peculiar to a path of spirituality and consciousness: once we begin to understand how life could be – flowing, peaceful, grace-filled and authentic – we distort that insight into a prescription for how life should be, and then berate ourselves when our experience doesn’t match our image of spiritual perfection. My “I Should Have Known Better!” admonishment had become a blinding searchlight I’d mercilessly aimed into the dark corners of my decisions, in hot pursuit of dreaded mistakes: if only I could see clearly what I’d done wrong, then surely I could learn to do things right!
Yet in that grace-filled moment of compassionate awareness, I saw with new eyes that my recent choices weren’t mistakes, or even good decisions gone bad; they were part of the sometimes-glorious, sometimes-fumbling exploration we sign up for on this journey of self-discovery.
We’re bound to make a few turns that seem “wrong,” but in truth are exactly right for helping us expand our self-awareness and self-compassion. And so we follow the energy, we take a step, we observe, we get scared, we regroup, we adjust. Nothing more, and nothing less.
The only real mistake I’d made was in forgetting to be kind to myself. And in the absence of kindness, this journey of living an awake and inspired life isn’t really possible. So now I’m committed to replacing damning self-judgment with compassionate self-curiosity. The Drama Queen and the Critic are more than a little alarmed at this turn of events, but that’s okay. Their fake drama could never be a substitute for the real passion of a life well lived. They’ve had their say, but this time around, I’m listening to my heart.