I must see 10 tweets or Facebook posts a day that say something like, “Shine your light!” If your response to that is, “Oh, of course! How easy!,” then you can stop reading right now.
If you have ever shone your light only to feel that no one sees it, this is for you.
It’s for you if someone has ever said, “How selfish of you! Stop shining that light in my eyes!”
Or, if it has ever felt unsafe for you to fully express yourself.
Or, no matter how hard you’ve tried to do it, nothing works.
Or, if it used to shine brightly, but it just keeps getting harder and harder to let it shine.
Or, if you’re too busy putting out fires to even bother with your own light.
Or, if you don’t even know what the light is you’re supposed to shine!
No matter how dark or difficult things may seem for you sometimes, your light is always shining brightly within.
It is the core of who you are, the source of your uniqueness, and the energy that allows you to fulfill your purpose in the world. But, think of yourself as a kerosene lantern. No matter how bright the light, it can only shine outward through glass that is clear and clean. If your light is having a hard time making it out to the world, it means that the glass has become covered in soot.
So, the goal isn’t to work harder to shine your light, but rather to clean the glass.
The first step to cleaning is to know what we’re dealing with. Our lamp soot is something I call Learned Distress. It’s the feeling we absorbed in the womb and early in life that “there’s something wrong with me being just the way I am.” This negative feeling not only becomes the source of our negative moments, but also the energy our brains use to recharge our sense of self during sleep. This nightly recharging builds up many layers of soot over the years, and it gets harder over time to share our unique light with the world.
It turns out that sleep is also the time when the glass can be cleaned.
When your brain gets the message during sleep that you want it to recharge with your natural well-being—your inner light—instead of Learned Distress, aided by daytime work that tells it exactly what Learned Distress you want it to unlearn for you, your brain will actually clear the soot off, layer by layer.
The first thing clients usually tell me as they start into this glass cleaning process is that they feel an underlying sense of peace they’ve never felt before.
The inner light is what allows us to know that we truly are okay exactly as we are. As we work on the various ways soot has built up for them—difficulties with personal expression, relationships, health, career—their uniqueness begins to emerge. Many start to discover what their life’s purpose is. And, whether they’ve known that purpose or not, it becomes more effortless and joyful to express it in the world.
For example, one of my clients had been struggling with her plan to write a book about her experiences as a leader.
She had gone to writing workshops, she had gotten herself set up technologically to be able to organize her writing, she had worked to clear other things off her schedule. But, she was still finding it very difficult to just sit down and start writing. Then, one week, she had cleared enough layers of soot off. A task she would have gleefully used to avoid writing suddenly became irritating to her. She said, “I just want that out of the way, because it’s so much more fun to sit down and write! I just can’t wait to get to my writing time every day!” It was pretty much the opposite of what I had been hearing her say for months! This kind of turnaround is what I have come to expect when someone engages in this personal transformation process.
Whether you can identify the specific pieces of Learned Distress that coat your lantern’s glass, and whether you even know what your light looks like, it is shining brightly within you, just waiting to be shared with the world.
Are you ready to get out the glass cleaner and start scrubbing?
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta