"To be nobody but yourself
in a world which is doing its best, night and day,
to make you everybody else
means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight;
and never stop fighting."
~e.e. cummings, 1955
"Always be a first-rate version of yourself,
instead of a second-rate version of somebody else."
I occasionally quote the e.e. cummings quote above when I'm teaching yoga, as a reminder to everyone that never before in the history of time and never after this moment will there ever, ever be another you. You were made unique, and as Carl Sagan said, you are made of star stuff.
A friend of mine recently encouraged me to listen to Joel Osteen and, while I'm not religious, I decided to give it a go, because I highly value her input. It used to be that I was really uncomfortable with the use of the word "God." When I was growing up, my parents and grandmother raised me to be vaguely Buddhist, which meant that I would go to temple a couple of times a year and then light incense during certain holidays, kowtowing on a cushion a certain number of times as a gesture of deference and humility. One of my favorite quotes has always been, "Religion is for people afraid to go to hell; Spirituality is for people who've already been there" and that's truly been my experience.
As I explored my own definition of spirituality, I was encouraged to replace the word "God" with something less charged, an idea of a greater force that I felt more comfortable with. Initially, the only thing I could relate to was Mother Nature, as she was absolutely a power much larger than me, but also one that seemed unconditionally loving and non-judgmentally nourishing. Eventually, as I became a yoga teacher, this idea morphed into "Source" or "The Higher Ones" or one I really like, my "Divine Guidance Team." Now, I feel much more comfortable with using the word "God" as it connotes to me one's connection to Spirit, which I believe can be non-denominational.
I like to listen to podcasts when I'm driving or when I'm running, as those are times when I feel like my physical self is being occupied in a slightly monotonous way, so that my brain has the freedom to focus on audio input. Today, while driving down to Pacific Beach, I listened to Joel talk about the power of I Am statements and how the descriptor that follows that phrase shapes our lives. We invite what we believe, so whether you say to yourself, "I am beautiful" or "I am unsuccessful," you invite more of that into your life.
Joel relayed a cliche many of us have heard, "You are a masterpiece. When God made you, he threw away the mold." Yet, for some reason, it truly sunk in today for the first time. I never really got the "threw away the mold" part until today.
Suddenly, I realized that I truly am an original one-of-a-kind and after God/Source/Spirit/Universe made me, He/She/It decided that I was perfect just as I am, and there's no need to make another Judy Tsuei. It affirmed once again that we really don't learn things until we're ready, and as much as we can "fake it til you make it" or practice by teaching it, only when our consciousness is ready to open up our hearts and our minds can we fully embrace anything.
"There's a reason God made you the shape that you are, the race that you are, with your personality the way that it is. You're not flawed. You're perfect. Be proud of the fact that you are made with God's purpose, not in a way that is boasting or that makes other people feel badly. Be strong in who you are, because that is how God made you," is a lot of the gist of what Joel was saying.
Why do we spend so much of our lives trying to fit into a convention that was set by who-knows-who? Why do we shun what makes us uniquely beautiful and divine? Why do we feel badly that we are different, when the people we celebrate the most are the innovators, the artists, the iconoclasts, those people who blaze the trails when there was no path before them? Why are we such hypocrites?
One of the things that happens when I listen to podcasts like Joel Osteen's is that I realize how many of us are in this place, one that Brene Brown describes as:
"I think there's a growing silent majority of people who are really kind of thinking, at a very basic human level, I don't want to spend my days like this. I don't want to spend every ounce of energy I have ducking and weaving. I don't know where we'll go next, but I really believe with every fiber of my professional and personal self that we won't move forward without some honest conversations about who we are when we're in fear and what we're capable of doing to each other when we're afraid."
So, we're not alone. These thought-leaders and change-makers are sharing messages that are going viral for a reason. They're not just talking to air. They're talking to us. To the people who feel and live and breathe in ways that are searching for a freedom to be who we really are at our core. Vulnerable. Gorgeous. Imperfect. Human. Humane. Godly. Surrendering. Strong. Bewildering. Eccentric. Quirky. Fierce. Humorous. Beautiful. Humble. Innovative. Visionary. And any number of other attributes that speak to your soul, and maybe perhaps, to yours alone.
Just think of that idea — that you are a masterpiece. Every color, every stroke, every hue, every texture, everything is priceless.
I am an artist, creating. It used to be that I felt like I was always a work-in-progress. Now, I feel like I'm ready for my unveiling. And however the audience responds, I've found my place in a gallery with the spotlight ready to shine. No one can take that away from me. I've earned it. I've put in my work. And now, I'm ready to be seen.