Saturday, April 23, 2016

An Authentic Life

The other day, I was talking to two women who found out that I was an inspirational speaker.  As we were conversing, they asked me what I spoke about, and where do I speak and do my workshops.  My main theme is to try to inspire people to love one another, to show kindness and compassion to our fellow beings, to know our magnificence, to laugh and to find ways to enjoy our lives, and to learn to count our blessings.  It’s also okay to love ourselves and to be happy!  As Marianne Williamson said, “We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

It’s been a long journey over the years of getting to the point where I could teach others what I learned for myself.  I really believe that everything I’ve been through in my life, the perceived good and bad, brought me to where I am today.  When I was young, I dreamed I would grow up to be a well-known, successful actress, as I’ve always loved the entertainment business.  (I did have a taste of it when I was acting in L.A. and Nashville.)  I also always thought I would get married and have a dozen children.  But life had other plans for me. 

In 1997, I had a breakdown and all my dreams went right out the window.  At the time, it was devastating for me.  I had started my spiritual journey several years earlier when I opened my heart and mind to all things God (by whatever name you use) had for me to learn.  I had already been reading countless books on spirituality and self-improvement, so I had a head start in learning what I needed in order to get through it.  It was a rough couple of years, but I persevered and the breakdown ended up being one of the best things to have ever happened to me.

Then Toastmasters came into my life.  There’s a great group here in Cookeville and it really helped me come out of my shell again.  During my very first speech, my hands were shaking so badly that I had to hold my fingers together so no one would notice.  I then started competing in speech contests and made it to third place at the district level.  It was during this time that I decided to pursue public speaking.  I’ve always said that I may not be acting, but I’m still entertaining only now I’m entertaining with a message (though I still miss the entertainment business).

Because I was so passionate about my spirituality and helping people, I decided to become an ordained interfaith minister.  I went on to achieve my Bachelors, Masters, and then a Doctorate of Holistic Ministry.  Since then, I’ve spoken at numerous churches in several states (Unity, Unitarian, and United Church of Cookeville), as well as at other venues, secular and religious.  Speaking has become a passion of mine and I’m very enthusiastic about teaching people to love, not only to love others, but ourselves as well.

As the ladies and I spoke further, I mentioned to them that one of the main things that keeps us from being ourselves, pursing our dreams, or saying what we really want to say is because we’re so afraid of what others may think of us.  They say that public speaking is the number one fear people have, but I say it’s not the fear of speaking, but the fear of what the audience will think of our speaking. 

How many times do we not do something or refrain from saying something because we’re so afraid of what others may think?  We end up hiding behinds these masks because we can’t be who we really want to be or who we were really meant to be.  If we could get past worrying about what others think and just be our authentic selves, think of what all we could accomplish!  And to be clear, I’m still working on not worrying about what others think and learning to be who I’m really meant to be.

Eckhart Tolle said, “Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.”  And Parker J. Palmer declared, “Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be.  As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks, we will also find our path of authentic service in the world.”  

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper April 22, 2016.

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