Fear has been up for me lately. I'm stepping into new unknowns and therefore a new level of courage is required. And in order to function, I've woken up to a new way of greeting fear. Instead of trying to beat it down, or conquer it, which both contain the quality of resistance, I practiced this: "It's OK, fear. Come on in. You are welcome here. Sit down at my table."Read More
Here’s my definition of true self-confidence. I’m so over the days of being in a classroom and each of us painting our own “version” of what the teacher wants us to paint. We are told that this kind of imitation – producing something that looks “as good as” what we are told is a “masterpiece” – is what we should be striving for. That we should practice for mastery as it is defined by the experts.
I’m interested in the kind of self-confidence that comes from facing the blank page, the open space, the silence, the void. Where there is no map. Only your body, your breath, your instincts, and your wild-eyed awareness. Only by choosing to “go there” – to show up in territory that is uncharted for you – can you experience what I’m talking about here.
For me, it requires venturing outside my zones of mastery and wondering what it’s like to be a novice. I never sang, so I explored what my voice could do with sound. I never painted, so I played with brushes and paper and colors. I bring back the lessons of these experiences to the areas of my life where I may be stagnating in my attachment to being “good at it”.
When was the last time you stood at the edge of your comfort zone, and faced the open space?
When was the last time you took a step into that open space, truly not knowing where it would lead?
Each time you give yourself this kind of opportunity, you discover your relationship with fear, and you have the chance to see and accept yourself as you are.
I used to be good at making money. I learned all my business skills from venture capitalists, the masters of making as much as possible from as little as possible. Money, that is. But even with a pile of money coming in, and plenty in the bank, I was distant and disconnected from its source. I felt no direct relationship with my presence and the money coming in.
Now I’m exploring a new relationship with money. One that is not so distant or quick. One that asks me to pause, reflect, and give or receive from a place of whole SoulBodyMind participation. With this full participation, I am discovering a new way to define value that is not about what we’re told, but about what feels right, and what sustains and supports life. It goes beyond the transaction, but it begins before the transaction. It infuses money with intention, value, and energy that aligns with the exchange occurring between individuals.
I’m taking a hula dancing class – another novice territory for me. I get to notice that the military precision and emphasis on “getting it right” no longer motivate me. I observe, and patiently wait for the music to start so my eyes can close and I can start to listen inwardly to the grace and fluidity within me. I am not there to perform or perfect any outer forms. I am there to touch the soft and lilting place within me. I can enjoy myself whether I am “doing it right” or not.
True self-confidence. We are told it comes from practice, practice, practice. But it really does matter what you are practicing and how you are as you are practicing. Knowing the what and how you are require awareness and attention.
Do you gain true self-confidence by following instructions and repeating them over and over again, making sure you’re doing it right by matching the people around you or getting the teacher’s approval?
Or are you simply gaining more practice in following, trusting others before yourself, and living in avoidance of the dreaded feeling of “doing it wrong” or “sticking out” from the others?
Believing that this builds confidence is a bit like a caterpillar believing it could acquire the grace and confidence of a butterfly if only it put on a pair of colorful wings and took flying lessons.
But the real way that a caterpillar acquires butterfly qualities – which are part of the caterpillar's natural potential – is to make the courageous decision to begin weaving a cocoon. Once it completes this weaving, the caterpillar has created a container for itself where the world it once knew completely dissolves. The processes that occur inside the cocoon are natural, and they unfold according to the laws of the caterpillar’s own nature, which is to transform completely into the form of a butterfly, with the potential to fly and spread beauty.
What I mean by true self-confidence is a sense of trust in the desires of your true nature and your ability to find expression for them in your life. To show up and create experiences for yourself and others that reflect the uniqueness of what only you can offer.
If you feel like you’re standing over here and true self-confidence is somewhere “over there”, maybe you just need to know what to start practicing.
1. Listen. What is your heart’s truth? What is your true nature wanting you to hear? Listen for it. You may have to get very still and very quiet in order to hear its sound. Do it. It is worth it.
2. Decide. What decision do you have to make in order to create the space – weave the cocoon – for the expression of your true nature to take form? You may have to say goodbye to one way of life, and hold only in your imagination the possibility of another. But the decision to create space is necessary to start the process in motion.
3. Explore. Begin practicing the experience of being in expression of your true nature. Explore visual art, movement, sound, voice, and music, contemplative practices, writing, and other adventures that allow you to let go of your thinking mind’s conditioning. Connect with imagination, play, elements of the natural world, and wordless forms of expression.
4. Observe. Along the way, you will encounter all the fears and doubts and obstacles that have ever stood in the way of your true self-confidence. Know that this is all happening as a gift for you. Resist none of it. Indulge in none of it. Observe with precision and gently come back to your heart’s truth, your vision, the feeling of expressing your true nature in the world you are actively creating.
5. Repeat. With each expression of your vision that you experience fully, you will give rise to more visions. More decisions to create space. More opportunities to observe and come back. With more practice, the repetition becomes more familiar, more of a way of approaching your life in any given situation.
With this kind of practice – Listen, Decide, Explore, Observe, Repeat – your muscles of true self-confidence will be getting worked consistently and repetitively, with specific feedback you observe in your own experience.
Steps 1, 2, and 5 are up to you. Once you can envision these steps, it may be easier to accept yourself where you are, and begin moving through it. A coach can help to illuminate the process and help you see where you are right now. You can begin step 3 with your own sense of adventure, exploration, and imagination. Sometimes it helps to have the inspiration of other people’s stories, or a group in which to explore with companionship and support.
Step 4 is where a coach like me can be very helpful. The fears and doubts are often lifelong, deeply held habits of thinking that have not been questioned in many years. They may be the foundation of your identity, and without a gentle but firm and nonjudgmental atmosphere, the ego will put up a fight to its own death to preserve these beliefs.
Once you are familiar with your own responses to fear and doubt, and learn some simple methods to work with yourself in releasing these beliefs, you become your own best coach. You are limited only by your willingness to imagine more, and your curiosity to know the depth and expansiveness of what you can create from your own true self-confidence.
"Not Knowing is most intimate..." - Zen saying
This is a note for you. You are such a good student, when there's a teacher standing in front of the class, and other students surrounding you, all learning to do the same things. You are a stellar worker, always taking responsibility for your job, above and beyond the call of duty. You take instructions quickly, correct your mistakes diligently, and do everything you can to get along with others. You are smart, capable, successful, but still feel there's something missing from your life, even though you can't quite name it.
So what is it? What is that missing thing?
I don't know.
But I'm willing to bet that your relationship with Not Knowing could use a little tune-up. A little checking in and refamiliarizing. You see, each of us was born in a state of perfect Not Knowing. The first several years of our lives were filled with the joy, awe, and wonder of discovering, playing, experimenting, failing, and doing it all over again every single moment. This is how we learned to walk, talk, and explore the world around us. There was tremendous accumulation during this time, but the overwhelming majority of space was occupied with Not Knowing, and being perfectly content with that.
Then we acquired language, and experience, and started going to school, where we learned to correct our mistakes diligently, take instructions quickly, and get along with others.
Those skills served us in advancing through lots more school, in getting a job, and then learning the ways of the business and professional worlds.
Somewhere along the way, all of that accumulation began to take up much more space than Not Knowing. In fact, we may not even remember the last time we did something for the first time.
So right now you may be wondering, "How does Not Knowing actually solve a problem I'm experiencing in my life?".
Consider how your life might be different if you reclaimed the fun of it. Not having a reason, but just doing it - you know, whatever that thing is that you've always wanted to do or try. Letting go of what experience tells you, and embracing the fresh innocence of the present moment. Better yet, just existing without judgment.
If any of these sound scary or crazy, it may just be that you've been out of practice at Not Knowing.
And how do you practice Not Knowing? Well, not by fixing it or solving it. Not by hunting for an answer, or coming up with a plan.
But by consciously being there. And watching attentively while you are there.
Last night I went to my first ever hula dancing class. I had never dreamt of hula before, but I saw a performance locally that really inspired me, and then I found out there was a community class offered right in my town.
So I showed up.
There was a lot to learn. The teacher started out slowly, showing us the basic steps, then putting a few of them together into a simple first dance. Then we newbies were sent to the back of the classroom and were told to fake our way along with the more experienced dancers as they rehearsed songs they already knew.
I got to experience myself in the moment of Not Knowing, and to see how I stayed with myself. Now I am at a point where I can see this as a precious gift. But I also know that not so long ago, this was an edge I very carefully avoided, constructing my life so that I would never be in that position of Not Knowing.
How do you react when you are put in the space of Not Knowing?
Do you ask for more information?
Do you look around for someone who looks like they know what they're doing, then copy?
Do you sit out and wait until next time, when you'll definitely know more and do better?
Do you just keep moving, doing what you can, trusting that this is exactly where you should be?
Do you compare what you can do now to what others around you are doing, trying to figure out what's wrong?
All of these are possible ways to relate to Not Knowing.
And all of these responses - if we are able to observe them in ourselves - hold the possibility to bring us closer to knowing ourselves. Closer to becoming intimate with Not Knowing. And more grateful for being exactly where we are in any given moment.
So that is the gift of any brand new experience, whether you enter it by choice, opportunity, or crisis.
In one form or another, all of my work is an opportunity for you to experience yourself in relationship with Not Knowing. I hold open the space for you to experience how you are as you navigate this unfamiliar territory.
This fall, I'm offering you an expansive yet gentle way to become more intimate with your own space of Not Knowing. It's an oceanside retreat with me and a circle of 6 participants, called "Beyond Knowing: Many Paths to the Present Moment."
We will learn from the teachers in nature - the ocean, the sky, the birds, the trees, the sand. We will also learn from approaching and entering various portals to the present moment, which is always fresh and alive with Not Knowing. We will discover what arises when we clear our attachments to thoughts, align our mind-body-soul, and allow our innate expressions to find a voice. We will create a safe space together where we can touch the space of Not Knowing, with gentleness and firmness, full participation, mutual support, no judgment, no force, and no extra.
You will take home tools that you can continue to practice in your daily life, each time you come in contact with the beauty and terror of Not Knowing. You will also take home artifacts from your unique expressions created in the setting of the circle of support provided during the retreat, reminding you of your heart's truth, and your magical reserves of resilience. You will also have the experience - carried in every cell of your body - of having become more familiar, more intimate with Not Knowing.
You can learn all the details about the retreat here.