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"By taking risks to show up big in the world, I must have been both drawing on and starting to strengthen my inner, 'spiritual' resources."
Suzanne Selby Grenager (SGrenager@aol.com) writes "The Art of Living," a monthly column for SpiritSite.com.
Suzanne is a writer, teacher, and life coach who helps people achieve their dreams. Her work has appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Yoga Journal, and she has contributed to Healing Journeys: The Power of Rubenfeld Synergy.
Suzanne Selby Grenager,
"Coming Into Our Power, Part One"
I’m back for Round Two of column writing on-line, with my usual mix of eagerness and angst about a new challenge. Although I’ve been uncertain of what I want to say for days, and still am, I’m also raring to go. When things feel right, they usually are. As I said in my inaugural column, “The Art of Living” feels about as right as anything recently has. In that trusting spirit, touted last time, I’m confident I can find much to share with you that matters. But you tell me, okay?
Dan, the SpiritSite man who invited me here, helped me out early on by supplying a list of topics he’d be “excited to hear about.” Glancing through it minutes ago, one of his questions popped out and drew me in. “Realizing that you had something powerful to offer the world – how did that happen?” Dan asks.
At first blush, I haven’t a clue, which is probably why I like the question. It’s not interesting to write about things I’ve already figured out. I prefer to plunge in and learn as I go. Call it making up the answer. I’m not sure how Dan knows I think I have “something powerful to offer,” because I didn’t always. But the truth is that I now do. How, is what we hope to determine, mostly because it may be of use to you.
I find it ironic that I did the most overtly powerful things in my life (so far) before I had enough self-awareness to see myself at all, let alone as “powerful”. Into my early 30’s, I just did stuff I was attracted to doing. I did it by luck and by pluck. Teaching French in the Himalayas, and writing an education column for a major daily paper come to mind. Not to mention managing a sizable government agency staff, when I’d never properly supervised a single soul, including my own sweet self.
I had no right to be doing those jobs. I wasn’t particularly qualified for them. The seasoned reporters from the paper – and the life-long government employees who’d applied for the director’s job I landed off the street – would have been the first to tell you that. But I enjoyed and was good at them all. And I began to touch people.
Something occurs to me. I was regularly biting off more than I could easily chew. In all three jobs, I was doing something completely new, and I was putting a lot of myself out there, on the line - teaching, managing, and with the column, sharing information and ideas – with and for others. Of course, I grew in both competence and confidence. In those years I began to see that I had considerable personal power and some ability to “make a difference.” Fortunately, it didn’t stop there.
For Dan’s question goes deeper. I imagine he’s curious about the origins of whatever spiritual power I’m in touch with. (This is SpiritSite.com, after all!) But since we humans happen to live ensconced in (often busy) bodies, our spirit finds expression by doing things, like jobs, in the “outside” world. We are body/mind, and we are soul. What we do affects who we are deep down, and vice versa. We’re of a piece.
So by taking risks to show up big in the world, I must have been both drawing on and starting to strengthen my inner, “spiritual” resources. But I wasn’t much aware of it. My life then was mostly about being – or more accurately, doing – “out there.” I defined myself by what I accomplished and how others saw me. Without a discernable inner life, or any model for one, there was no other yardstick. I lacked a reflective sense of who I am, or what I might be doing here - or here to do!
It took a major upheaval for me to start getting the full picture of my power – our power, as people with hearts and souls. That came at 32, when the relatively calm, collected woman I’d thought I was, suddenly erupted way out of control, following my friend Lucy’s hideous death by cancer. This was not, I should say, an obviously “spiritual” experience, of seeing the light, say, or hearing spirit guides gently whisper in my ear. No siree-bob.
This was about going as crazy as I’d ever gone, but once before (another story). It was about being riddled with heart and gut-rending terror by day, and, during those few hours a night when I could sleep, with grievous nightmares of Lucy expiring again. I was feeling my power all right – and it was intense and mysterious beyond my wildest imaginings. I was losing my old familiar mind, one rant and rave at a time.
I now call that emotional unraveling “spiritual” because it woke me up to how much I didn’t know, about myself, and life. It made me need to find out. Even in the midst of so much ignorance and pain, I somehow understood that I was not going “crazy;” that something important was afoot, and that it was my new job to discover what. If I was not who I had thought I was, then who the hell was I? And who were you?
So began a journey of spiritual growth, still underway more than two decades later. My practice, quickly joined by my teaching of Kripalu Yoga, offered a crash course in energy management, and the emotional and spiritual principles at work in the world. One critical thing I learned, for instance, was that if I was to keep learning, I had to share my growing wisdom with others, no matter how scary that felt.
Next time, I’d like to continue uncovering the answer to Dan’s great question: “Realizing that you had something powerful to offer the world – how did that happen?” That’s because I know well that we all have “something powerful to offer,” and what’s been true for me about that may also be true for and useful to you.