Felt called to re-share an edited version of a post I wrote 5 1/2 years ago for my old blog, Have Fun * Do Good. Some of the ideas in it were good reminders for me, so I thought there might be something in it for you too ( :
Reflections from Off the Mat, Into the World: Your Wound is Your Gift
March 12, 2010
Yesterday I completed a five-day Off the Mat, Into the World Yoga, Purpose and Action Intensive led by Seane Corn, Hala Khouri and Suzanne Sterling. It was a profound experience. I hope I can do it justice in words.
My biggest learning was to be aware of where your motivation to be of service comes from. Oftentimes, your desire to serve is rooted in your shadow, the parts of yourself that are difficult to look at, but want to be healed.
Sometimes the connection is obvious: you had an eating disorder, so you decide to work with other people who have eating disorders. Other times it is circuitous, your parents bought you things instead of giving you love, so you become passionate about reducing consumerism. Becoming aware of the things about yourself that you don’t like, or would prefer to hide isn’t supposed to make you feel badly. It’s the opposite. Your wound is your gift. It gives you empathy and can reveal your purpose.
For myself, I realized that one of the reasons I like to help people figure out what their purpose is, and to facilitate their taking action to live their big vision for their work in the world is to heal my own lack of clarity and fears around living my big vision.
You might be thinking, why does it matter why I want to serve? The most important thing is to get things done! Results are absolutely important, but the idea is that you will become a more effective changemaker, activist, volunteer, or whatever you want to call your role in service, if you understand why you are doing it. Your awareness will help you serve from a place of compassion, rather than from judgement. Activism oftentimes requires one set of people to be wrong, and another to be right; “conscious activism” comes from empathy.
Many of the world’s problems happen because of a sense of “otherness” based on things like class, race, politics, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, etc. When you become aware of the shadowy parts of yourself that you project onto the “other,” you can serve from empathy and compassion rather than from pity, anger, or arrogance.
For myself, I’ve had to look at the qualities I hate in Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, and ask myself, how do I have (and hate) those qualities in myself in some way? By learning to hold the bright and shadowy parts of ourselves equally, we will not only feel better, we’ll also be able to serve more effectively, and be less likely to get burned out.
One of yoga’s roles in all of this is to help release the physical tension, stress and anxiety that difficult feelings and experiences can cause, so that we can relax and feel them. By opening ourselves up to feeling all of our feelings, we are able to become more empathetic, compassionate, and grounded. By relaxing and slowing down, we’ll be more likely to respond to challenging situations, rather than react to them.
In addition to all of this soul searching (bring your tissues if you do this training!) we also did some exercises around clarifying our purpose. One of the last exercises was something like this:
- List 2-3 qualities that your best friend would use to describe you.
- List 2-3 ways you express these qualities.
- Describe in a couple of sentences how the world would look if the problem that breaks your heart is solved.
- Then, fill in the blanks below to create a purpose statement: I intend to use my (answer to 1) _________________, through (answer to 2)_________________ so as to create a world where (answer to 3)_________________.
For example, my purpose statement is: I intend to use my insight, creativity and resourcefulness through big vision consulting, blogging, and cooking so as to create a world where people are clear about their joyful purpose and living it in a way that is fun and fulfilling for themselves, and beneficial for others.
It was an intense five days and words aren’t capturing it, but if it interests you, I highly recommend it. Seane, Hala and Suzanne were some of the most grounded facilitators I’ve experienced, and are expert at integrating the spiritual and the practical. For more information about upcoming Off the Mat Into the World trainings, go to: offthematintotheworld.org/training.
Photos by me.
I’ll be offering the 11th session of the Juicy Blogging E-Course September 14-October 12, 2015. Because I believe that having a “blogging buddy” will help you keep blogging over the long run, (and may foster a wonderful collaboration!) when you register, you’ll receive a special code to share with a friend so that they can register for 50% off the regular fee.