March 18, 2015

Lessons from SXSW: 4 Ways to get Out of Your Own Way & Shine.

Wildflag - SXSW Music 2011 - Austin, TX

The SXSW family of conferences and festivals that is held in Austin, TX every year started with a music festival in 1987.

They promote themselves as the “premier destination for discovery” and a space for intellectual and creative intermingling to promote creativity and social change. People from all over the world descend on downtown Austin each March to participate.

Through a serendipitous connection, I ended up presenting a workshop called Using Mindfulness to Transform Self and Students.

As I was winging my way to Austin last week, the inner critic started in—maybe you know the one. She says things like, “Um, who do you think you are? These are heavy hitters! The head of the Gates foundation will be there. Goldie Hawn and Jill Biden are speaking. You have no business thinking you can play in this league. You’re a little meditation teacher from New England. No one is going to come hear you. You’re going to embarrass yourself.”

She went on and on…I’m sure you get the idea.

Finally, I put a stop to this. Since my business is inner work, I know how to handle this voice. I thanked her for coming and trying to keep me safe, then assured her that “I’ve got this.” My plan was to deliver my message as clearly and heartfully as I could. It was about them and not me and hopefully they would learn one thing that would make the world a better place.

I meditated on this intention right before my session.

Well, people did show up. They eventually had to station someone outside to turn people away as the room filled to capacity. I spent the next two hours sharing from my heart to theirs. The focus was basically on how we can teach kids (and ourselves) to be happier and more compassionate and how this could change society.

I knew I didn’t bomb but was not at all prepared for what followed. Comments on twitter like “best workshop I’ve ever attended to date.” People sharing things I said on social media.

The next day I found myself interviewed by NPR. The day after that I found myself offering an encore session of the workshop (the only one at the conference to do so). People were telling me how they were going to bring the practices back to their communities and how it would be helpful. I had a fistful of business cards and offers to collaborate.

Stunned would be an understatement of how I was feeling.

This would never have happened if I had been swept away by the fear. This was only made possible by letting love drive the proceedings and letting the divine take the lead. What are the take-home lessons here?

1. Deal with your inner critic.

It is always there, trying to keep you safe and sometimes it is louder than others. Do not argue with it (only strengthens it) or try to ignore it (makes it go underground). Acknowledge this voice. Thank it. And give it permission to rest as you shift your focus to a more loving aspect of yourself; the part that knows that love is stronger than fear and that you truly are always safe and protected on a very deep level.

2. Connect to your deepest intention.

What are you trying to accomplish? Make it about something bigger than yourself and keep your focus on this place as you navigate life. I want people to be liberated from unnecessary suffering. Coming from this place, it really didn’t matter whether anyone showed up to my workshop or not. I’d trust I’d be given another opportunity to serve when the time was right.

3. Speak from the heart.

The energetic field of the heart is much stronger than the one from the head. This is not woo-woo, this is medical science. The electrical field of an ECG is about 60 times larger than that of an EEG. When you deliberately connect with the feeling state of the heart and communicate from that place, people feel it and are more receptive to your message.

4. Do not be attached to outcome.

Your job is to speak your highest truth without blame or judgment and not need things to end up a certain way. A wise teacher once told me that an expectation is resentment in the making. There tends to be much less suffering when we are open to outcome and not attached to outcome.


I invite you to play with getting out of your own way a bit more and see if things shift in a positive way.

It’s all about the love, people.



 5 Ways to Find your True Calling.



Author: Erin Sharaf

Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: kris krüg at Flickr 

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