I know exactly when someone has actually read my memoir and learned my secrets, because the first time I see them, they cannot look me in the eye.
Don’t worry: Nothing has changed. Now you just know more.
The truth can set you free—but first, it will make everyone else around you incredibly uncomfortable.
Christina Sell, whose memoir “Yoga from the Inside Out” was an inspiration to me, warned of this phenomenon. She once said, and I paraphrase, “It took me many years to write about it, and then, a few more years before I was ready to talk about it.”
I learned that lesson the hard way. I tried to talk about my experiences too soon and found I could say nothing. This is how most conversations went:
Innocent Bystander: “You know, I was (fill in the blank with horrible life experience) too.”
Me: “That’s nice.” But it probably wasn’t nice at all.
Transparency can be great for the soul, but it takes a little while for friends to come around. Most everyone wanted to know why I would write about the past, if it was past. Aren’t yogis supposed to live in the present?
Well yes, but if you don’t make peace with the past then you can’t really be free in the present. That is what I know for sure having tried and failed for many years to be happy and content. Instead, I was very pissed off at how happy everyone else seemed to be.
Here is the thing about secrets: They hurt and they hide your true self. Note this passage from the Gospel of Thomas, which was ironically a hidden text not included in the Bible.
“If you bring forth what is inside you, what you bring forth will save you.
If you don’t bring forth what is inside you, what you don’t bring forth will destroy you.”
The secrets that eat you up like a cancer will impede your happiness. If nothing else, they take time and energy away from your real purpose in life, whatever it may be.
Ash Beckham is a hero of mine. She became an internet star with an impassioned Ted talk about coming out of the closet. She has become controversial as some say all closets are not created equal. I guess some people feel that coming out in Boulder, where people are more likely to be accepting, is not such a big deal.
Well, in my opinion, a secret, like a cancer, can do a lot of harm no matter what it is or who keeps it. It’s relative. What the world needs more of is empathy, not judgment over who has the most pain or is entitled to it.
As Beckham said, “A closet is no place to live a life.” Whatever defines your closet. Can I get an Amen?
We cannot live our lives as authentic, truthful, honest human beings until we live our life with truth and honesty. Sure, some people will reject us. Some people may ridicule us, or worse. But my motto is, it is so much better to be authentic than popular.
The reason many of us choose to divulge our past and live transparently, despite our fear of being rejected, is our attempt to get our true selves out into the bigger world. I get letters from people thanking me for giving them hope that someday they too, can live openly because the truth will set them free. And I don’t mind if it makes me uncomfortable for the time being.
You can catch Michelle’s Walk The Talk interview with Waylon Lewis on Friday, February 7, at 12 M.S.T. where she will talk about the art of authenticity.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise