You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Soul Speak’ category.

This time of the year always invokes certain emotions, memories, feelings within people, and while they are not all the same, they are all powerful in themselves.  The autumn solstice, for many people (at least in the northern hemisphere), marks the beginning of the time of darkness.  Days are shorter, nights are longer, the weather becomes cooler, and some people begin the next countdown to summer.  In mythology, the autumn solstice marks the decent of Persephone into the underworld, where she will spend the next 6 months in the darkness, and the subsequent mourning of her mother Demeter until her return to the earth in the spring.  In some belief systems, October is the month when the veil between the physical world and the spiritual world is at its thinnest, allowing spirits to cross over into our world with greater ease.  For me however — I always love this month, as it signals the start of my favorite time of the year.  Homecoming.  Halloween.  Pumpkin EVERYTHING (yes, I am one of those people).  The coming of winter, Thanksgiving, Christmas….for me, this is when I really feel like I begin to come alive.  Ironically, New Years always seems to mark the end of the celebration, rather than the beginning.  Not that it brings doom and gloom and negativity for the next 8-9 months, but that after the first, things begin to wind down.  I find myself falling back into routine and habituation, doing things without really feeling much about them one way or the other.  This is not the only time of the year I feel “alive,” nor am I trying to say that I find no joy, enjoyment, or pleasure in anything starting January 2.  I get sparks of energy, creativity, passion throughout the year, sometimes lasting for days and weeks, but overall, January has marked the beginning of my descent.  This year, however, may be different.

Tonight brings a new moon, one of the darkest of the year.  It also, for me personally, marks the first week in this SouLodge session of working with the Shadow self.  The archetype of the Shadow self is that part of us that we hide away, ignore, try to pretend doesn’t exist.  I think that everyone can relate to this on some level, however you want to define it.  The problem with the Shadow, though, is that it doesn’t want to be hidden — it wants its own freedom to be expressed.  And the more we try to suppress it, the more pain and anguish we bring upon ourselves.  The Shadow self isn’t bad — it isn’t the “evil” side of us, the side that would destroy the world if allowed to run rampant.  Rather, it is the side of us that harbors our pain, our feelings of guilt or anger, the darker sadder emotions that we carry.  In other words, the Shadow is what we hide when we try to pretend that everything is okay — the side that is hidden by the mask of perfection.

Someone made a comment that began to provoke some of my own thoughts.  It brought up the truth that, at the end of the day, the last person we give any love or compassion to is ourselves.  We overwork ourselves, say “yes” to everything, avoid free time, all to avoid the accusations that we are “selfish,” “lazy,” or even “worthless.”  We overextend ourselves to prove that we are valuable, that we have worth, that we are not just wasting oxygen that should be reserved for the “more productive” members of society.*  At the end of the day, we give everything we have to others, leaving nothing for ourselves, running ourselves to exhaustion, not because we have an abundance to give away, but because the minute we attempt to fill ourselves up we face judgment and criticism.  While I think every person experiences this to some degree, I do believe that a majority of the burden is placed on women — we are supposed to be the “caretakers” of the world, so we are expected to take care of everyone else first, think of ourselves last, and then we are told whatever is left over can be used for ourselves, all the while being expected to have nothing left (because giving less than all we have is selfish). As a result, the feelings of exhaustion, depression, loneliness, guilt, anger, frustration, all continue to build and build, just to be suppressed into the shadow realms for fear of appearing weak.  And the more we shove into our shadows, the greater our burden becomes.

This year, this time of the year is marking my confrontation with my own Shadow self.  All of the work I have done this past year has begun to prepare me for this work.  It won’t be easy, nor will it necessarily be “fun,” but it is necessary.  I know all to well the dangers of suppressing the Shadow to the breaking point.  I don’t know that I’m prepared for what I will find, what I will be asked to deal with, what will come into view.  All I know is that it must be confronted, addressed, and acknowledged.

Just in time for the darkest night of the year.

 

*This point was also addressed in the book Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

Some things cannot be described, only experienced.  God is powerful.  God is in all, around all.  There is not a living thing on the planet that does not contain His spirit.  His messages are all around to those who are open to listening.

Aho.

ImageImage

Wow, what a crazy past couple of weeks!  So sorry to not have updated sooner, but life has been a whirlwind for a little bit.

First off:  I mentioned in my last post about a friend that was in need of prayer.  Here is the story on her.  On May 27th, Debra went into the hospital for an emergency c-section, during which a healthy but premature baby girl was delivered.  Debra, however, continued to bleed for 12 hours before finally being life-flighted to a hospital that could do the surgery necessary to save her life.  At one point, her heart stopped and her family was warned that she would likely be brain-damaged if she awoke.  They were also warned that she was not likely to survive the flight.  However, she overcame both of those odds, and for the next few days faced a multitude of challenges that ultimately resulted in the loss of her spleen and 90% of her intestines, something that required countless surgeries with slim survival odds.  Her entire body blood volume was replaced 12 times and her kidneys shut down.  Miraculously, she survived and is beginning to recover.  She is still on dialysis but she is eating solid foods and has been able to hold her baby.  She has also been moved out of ICU. She is an amazingly strong woman who has overcome some of the worst odds known, but the medical bills her family now faces are staggering.  As a result, I have created a piece of art inspired by her amazing fight.  Prints are available in my Etsy shop (linked on the left), and all of the profit from every print sold will be donated to her family to help offset the medical costs.

SouLodge is once again going strong.  I am currently halfway through the Summer Solstice mini-course and am preparing to celebrate the solstice tonight.  I am looking forward to spending some time meditating out in nature and sitting under the sun on the longest day of the year.  Nothing spectacular, but incredibly spiritual and I am so honored to have been brought to this tradition.  The summer class is right around the corner, so if you would like to learn more or sign up, follow the link on the left side of my page and check it out!  It is a life-changing experience, and you will not regret it.

I will do my best to update more regularly.  I head out to San Francisco next week for a veterinary conference, which is exciting in itself, but I get to spend time catching up with a dear friend.  After that I will be flying out to visit my grandmother in Indiana as well as attending another dear friend’s wedding.  So the whirlwind continues, but maybe next time I’ll have some pictures to share.

So much of our lives is spent trying to fill the voids in others, in turn expecting others to fill the voids within ourselves. At the end of the day, we feel exhausted, empty, lacking from holes that weren’t filled. The sad thing is that we cannot be all things to all people. In fact, we can’t even be all things to one person. No matter how hard we try, we will never be able to fill the voids that others have in their souls. And no one will ever be able to fill the voids in ours. Only we are capable of repairing our hearts, of healing our souls, of filling the voids and making ourselves whole. The problem is, the more time and energy we spend trying to fill others’ voids, the less we have available to fill our own. Eventually, we are empty, standing there will nothing left to give to anyone, let alone ourselves — and yet others still aren’t satisfied. No matter how many voids we fill, there will be new ones that arise, and the more we fill another person’s, the more they expect us to continue to fill those openings. The more other people fill our voids, the more we expect them to fill the new ones that arise. It sets up a vicious cycle of sucking the life out of other people in order to replace the life that has been sucked out of us,

What would happen if everyone filled their own voids first? What would happen if, for one brief period of time, everyone made themselves whole? So much more would be available to give to others without giving anything of ourselves. Think about it — fill the cup up, and anything after that can fill other cups without emptying the one that has just been filled. But if we are continuously emptying our glasses into other people’s, then no glasses will ever be full. I remember watching a rather cheesy teenage movie one day when nothing else was on and studying had lost interest after 6 straight hours — one line that I remembered above all others was this (paraphrased): “you can always make more love.” In other words, you can love a person without taking any love away from another. Yet we never apply this to ourselves. We believe ourselves unworthy of such love, or are made to feel guilty for even thinking about doing anything for ourselves when there are so many “more deserving” people who need us first. We are taught it is the moral, religious, spiritual, ethical thing to put others before ourselves, to consider another’s needs to be more important than our own. This does absolutely no good for anyone, for once we run out of ourselves to give, we realize that we can never meet the need of the world. So we are left broken, beaten, dejected, lonely, depressed, and all around just utterly hopeless as we succumb to the reality that we cannot do it all. And until we begin to put ourselves first, to repair the brokenness that is left at the end, we will never be able to give ourselves to anyone. We cannot give away what we do not possess.

We must learn to take care of ourselves. We must learn to listen to our hearts, to hear what is broken and empty, to fill it up ourselves, rather than trying to decipher what others expect us to fill for them. Once we are made whole, everything after that becomes extra that can be poured out into the world. We give to others without taking away from anyone, including ourselves, and we become able to do so much more than before.

Will I take my own advice? Probably not. It’s a hard cycle to break. It takes courage and strength to stand up and say, “I can no longer fill you.” It takes guts to tell someone that you will not put them ahead of yourself, to say that your needs come first, to say that you must heal yourself before you can reach out to heal others. You will be called selfish, lazy, worthless, slovenly, greedy, and many other horrible things as others try to make you feel guilty for wanting to be whole again. You will burn bridges, destroy relationships, lose social positions, and alienate yourself from those who do not understand. It can seriously affect your life, and it will be tempting to run back into the comforting arms of the known, even if it means losing your very soul to the people who will never be satisfied with what you give to them. And you may not be ready now. It may not be your time. He soul must be prepared to take such a leap, and even little steps to build it back up will prepare it for the ultimate test. Restoring the soul isn’t something that must be done all at once, nor is it a one-time fix. It is a constant process, for no matter how important it is to restore ourselves, we will never stop giving to others. At times, we will find ourselves giving more to others than we give to ourselves, and we must start to restore the balance. Still, it requires saying “no” to people who aren’t accustomed to hearing that, turning down things that we want to do for others, stepping back from the rigor of life to simply be still in the moment, to breathe in rejuvenating life back into our hearts. And every step, no matter how small, is important.

We can be healed. We deserve to be whole.

I am now working through my second week of SouLodge, so forgive me for my absence. Posts will likely be a bit more spread out for awhile, for reasons which will be obvious later in this post.

I’m loving the work of SouLodge and can almost guarantee I will be in every class from this point forward. It has already brought a greater sense of self-awareness, but with that also comes the weight of what that awareness brings to light. I have frequently felt as if I have an intense wanderlust, a desire to get out in the world, go explore, do things, experience life to the fullest. At times, I am frustrated that circumstances and obligations have me “tied down,” preventing me from taking off at a moment’s notice. It wasn’t until this week that I realized this is exactly where I am supposed to be. I have felt frustrated, not because my heart is tethered, but because I have been fighting against what I am supposed to be experiencing. In other words, right now, I am being called to simply be still, to be present where I am, to recognize that everything has a time and right now is my time for rest, rejuvenation, healing, and becoming rooted to my soul. This was made even more painfully obvious after I wound up double-booking two days worth of activities and plans, after a whirlwind weekend road trip, after realizing that I haven’t taken time to simply sit back and breathe in the moment.

I am loving this work right now. I have so far done everything in the class, although it took me a bit to get started and caught up. I have been learning so many important things about myself, new things and reinforcements of old lessons. As much as I feel overwhelmed at times, this is something I will not give up. I may have to rework my schedule sometimes, but there is never an excuse to not take care of ourselves and do something that nourishes the soul.

I may be posting less frequently for a month or so, but I will try to keep up with tidbits if nothing else, just so things don’t get too boring over here. 🙂

Whenever I hear that the Bible is the “living Word of God,” it makes me cringe. Not because I don’t believe it, but because people use this as an excuse for using it to spread hate, treating it as if it is stagnant, unchanging, concrete. But living things are not stagnant, unchanging, or concrete. They are constantly changing, evolving, adapting. We are living, and we change every day according to our circumstances. So when I hear “living Word,” I think exactly that; that God uses the Bible to speak to each person individually, according to their circumstances, according to what their heart needs at the time.

Something cannot be living and unchanging.

I’ve had many opportunities in the past few days to become reacquainted with modern church and mainstream Christianity. Yesterday, my boss’s daughter gave a concert to celebrate the release of her new cd, an album dedicated to songs written in worship to God. The songs were powerful and well-written, and the concert was fantastic, but the premise on which many of the songs were written was something I have since become less accustomed to. (Grammar people, feel free to tear that sentence apart.) Mainstream Christianity fixates on the notion that we are unworthy of the love of God. This belief forms one of the main tenants of the religion, for if one is unworthy and loved anyway, that is supposed to somehow make it better. But here is my problem with this belief: when we start believing ourselves unworthy of love, we begin to see others unworthy of love as well. We begin to loathe ourselves and justify hatred toward others by identifying various sins. The focus is on our lifelong never ending debt to God, to somehow justify our worth and find ways to constantly “please” Him because we believe that unless we do so, we will never receive His love. Even those who profess that salvation comes with the simple act of accepting the sacrifice of Christ and loving God, giving Him credit for everything in their lives, do so out of a state of contrition. And then they wonder why people don’t want to go to church.

If someone asked you why you loved someone, or something, you can probably come up with a list of reasons, but at the end of the day, you don’t have a concrete answer. You love them simply because you do. You love them because they are, because they exist, because they are a beautiful soul that is recognizable. Or more simply put, you love because God loved you first. (1 John 4:19 for those keeping track.) And I guarantee you that God does not have a list of His reasons for loving you. He loves you because He created you, because you exist, because deep inside you lives a piece of Him. We only believe ourselves unworthy because we fail to see this in ourselves. And even worse, we fail to recognize this truth in others. Jesus commanded us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” Granted, that’s hard to do when we have such a deep-seated loathing for ourselves, and the sad thing is that most people follow this to the letter — despising their neighbors for the unworthiness they feel in themselves. We feel that we need to somehow earn or justify God’s love for us, all the while professing that this cannot be done, love cannot be earned, but still trying to somehow create reasons for why we are more worthy than another person.

One of my favorite quotes of all times is from Andy Horner, founder of Premier Designs Inc. His number one most repeated statement is, “God did not take time to create a nobody.” Everyone has worth in the eyes of God, everyone is worthy of God’s love simply because they exist, because God took the time to create them. But we don’t treat others this way. We see someone who is different, label them a “sinner,” and proceed to find all the ways that they are worthless. To make ourselves feel better, we then proceed to declare that we are unworthy as well and it is only because we have somehow made ourselves more worthy by (insert favorite Christian redemption recipe here) that we have reached a higher state of piety. But the bottom line is that this belief does more harm than good. Tell someone they are unworthy of love but will get it anyway if they just “accept the gift” and all they hear is that they are unworthy and have to do something to receive love. And isn’t the entire point of unconditional love that it is, well, unconditional? And isn’t requiring someone to do anything, even if it’s just as simple as believing in something, putting a condition on it? Parents don’t love their children because their children love them back — they love them because they are their children. They love them simply because their children exist and belong to them. And no parent in the world will tell you that their child is unworthy of their love. So how can Christianity claim that we are the children of God and that God will love us no matter what when there are so many ways we are “unworthy?”

This doesn’t mean we aren’t perfect, doesn’t mean that we don’t have flaws. We get lost, confused, begin to despair, do things that are wrong or hurtful. But all of this comes out of an inability to love ourselves and therefore makes us unable to love others. And perhaps this is just a side effect of being human. It’s hard to love someone who has hurt you, but what we must understand is that people hurt us because they are hurting first. And they are hurting, whether as a result of being hurt or simply being broken, and as a result they do not recognize the beautiful perfect God-center that resides deep within their soul. When one cannot recognize that within themselves, they cannot see it in others. It sets up a cycle that will likely never be broken, one of an incomplete understanding of who we are, how we are all the same at the center of ourselves. And I don’t expect that everyone will all of a sudden come to realize that, nor do I claim to be perfect. I recognize that I have problems with loving myself and that this, in turn, makes it hard for me to love others. I find faults with others because I cannot stop finding faults within myself. I am trying to recognize this, trying to work on this, but it is a process, one that may never be complete. But the more I recognize this, the more I can stop myself from sending out negative, loveless energy to those around me. The world has enough of that as it is.

I don’t know which came first — the self-loathing or the hatred of others — or if it is simply our human state that makes it impossible for us to understand a love that truly has no conditions or justifications, but what is being taught today is harmful. And it’s hard to try to convince people to lead a “moral” lifestyle if God will love you no matter what. But all of our morals start with the same basic underlying principle — that of love of God, self, and others. In reality, they are all the same, for God created each and every person, and God exists in all of us. We cannot love God and hate our fellow man when God resides in each of us equally. Hatred of others is hatred of the creation of God, and claiming the whole “love the sinner, hate the sin” nonsense is simply an excuse for hating a person without having to admit it, for those people often cannot see the “sinner” past the “sin.” They focus so much on what it is that they dislike about the person, making them one and the same. To truly love God, deeply and wholly, is to see others how He sees them — as a creation, a part of the Divine, a perfect soul just as it is.

I’ve always loved reading, so when I learned at a book club in town I was thrilled. Never mind that I’m one of the youngest people there, it’s still exciting to read new books that I haven’t discovered yet. This month, we read Watership Down by Richard Adams. This is the second time I’ve read the book, but the first time was when I was in middle school so it’s not exactly fresh in my mind. Still, it’s a phenomenal book and a modern classic, so if you haven’t read it, you need to find a copy now.

Without spoiling too much of the book, it is the adventure story of a group of talking rabbits who are trying to find a new home. It’s a thick book, so you can imagine they have quite a few adventures. Interlaced throughout the narrative are stories about the great rabbit that started it all, much in the similar style of Native American folklore tales. Sometimes it’s easy to forget you are reading a story about a bunch of rabbits, although Adams does a good job of staying true to bunny mannerisms (which, if you’ve ever watched a rabbit for a period of time, just enhances the story that much more). As great of a story that it is, the way the story is told is just incredible. There are times when, for no apparent reason, Adams goes off on a bit of a tangent about something, such as the moonlight, or a description of the Downs, and it stirs something inside that almost made me have to step back for a minute before continuing with the story. His descriptions are so vivid that you can’t help but see yourself in the story, as a bystander watching life play out before you without creating any disturbances to the flow. By the end of the book, you are so connected to the characters that you feel as if you have lived beside them the entire time. And even though the story takes place over a matter of weeks, you feel as if an entire lifetime has been lived before you.

In case it isn’t obvious by this point, this is one of my all-time favorite books. There are very few books out there that I can say have touched me so deeply, moved me so profoundly, and this is definitely one of them. In a way, it’s a life-changer, although perhaps not in the way as others such as C.S. Lewis. It may not make you think about how you live your life, but in my case at least, the story went so deep into my soul that it almost became a part of it. I finished the book last night, and right now I almost feel at a bit of a loss as what to do next. It is so tempting to just pick the book back up and start reading it again. I feel like anything I read or do at this point is not going to live up to that story, as if anything I try to do next will just be a disappointment. Music doesn’t sound the same, other books just look forlorn sitting on the shelves, as if they are saying, “Don’t bother with me, I’ll just let you down.” Still, the beauty of books is that each one has the potential to transport the reader out of everyday life into a new world, to create a temporary escape into a new reality where problems are solved by other people and the weather is always perfect. So I will continue to read books, to find new lands, to connect with new characters, but when a book comes a long that is this profound, I find myself a bit reluctant to leave the world behind that I have come to love so much. And out of respect for the book, I will wait a few days before embarking on a new adventure.

I recently had someone ask me if I enjoyed my job. The main reason for this question was not because of anything in particular regarding the job itself, but rather because I was finding other things to do outside of it. This isn’t the first time this has come up, amazingly. Besides working at the clinic, I have two home-based businesses that allow me to bring in additional income while having fun and meeting new people. I realize that most people would say that they have hobbies and passions outside of work, mainly family, social life, and vacations, but when it comes to my life, I feel like there is so much more out there that I want to discover, something that is missing.

I’m almost afraid to use that wording. People read things like that and think that I’m not happy or that I am dissatisfied with my life. That’s not true. I love my life right now, I thoroughly enjoy my job, I’m truly happy. But I feel like there is a part of me that hasn’t been developed yet. I have spent literally my entire life reaching this point, getting through school, arranging my life solely for this purpose. Now that I’ve achieved this goal, I feel as if there is a part of me that I don’t yet know. My career is only one part of who I am, only one facet of my personality, one small piece of my soul. The rest has been suppressed, pushed down, put on the back burner so to speak so that this one part could come to being. Sometimes this is necessary, and in my case, getting through school required me to pour everything I had into this one sole goal in order for me to succeed. For me to explore other avenues would have been overwhelming, most likely to the point of either sacrificing more during school or possibly getting frustrated with my other explorations to the point of giving up. I can’t necessarily say that this suppression was a bad thing for the time being, but now that I am done with school, I have the time and freedom to seek these out, and my heart is begging for that chance.

My life will not be defined by one thing, and not everyone is happy about that. Some are afraid that I have worked my whole life just to find another path, while others worry that having outside passions somehow means I am less dedicated to my job. Neither of these are true. Just because I seek out another part of my soul does not mean that I will turn completely against another. It simply means that I am still defining myself, still learning who I am at the center of my being. It is possible that following some paths will end sooner than others, not a lasting journey but no less important. But if I don’t explore those paths, I will forever feel as if I am missing something, as if my life is incomplete. I don’t expect to excel at every endeavor I seek, but if I never try, I will always wonder “what if.” It just so happens that I have had the opportunity to explore many facets at once in a way where they will overlap and intertwine in such a way that I feel I will learn more from the transitions than I would from taking each individually. At some point, my husband will be facing deployment and we will be dealing with our first major separation since school. During school, I was too busy and overwhelmed to notice the separation, but now that we have actually been able to live together for awhile, now that I am not continuously stressed, this will be different. It may be no big deal, but I’d like to have a better idea of who I am as a whole before he leaves rather than finding him gone and feeling lost or empty. I have the opportunity to take 3 consecutive soul-searching/art/expression classes before he leaves, and I cannot help but feel there is a greater design in all of it, in the way that everything has fallen. I’ve learned to not question a strong heart feeling — when I feel especially pulled in a certain direction, I have found there is a reason, and usually one I could not have imagined on my own.

There are some people who are perfectly happy being completely defined by their work. I have nothing against these people, don’t think any less of them, don’t find them shallow or superficial or incomplete. For those people, that is their soul. They have discovered who they are and have found that they have one thing that truly expresses their soul. I am not one of these people. That doesn’t make me any less dedicated, nor does it make them any less complex. It simply means we are different in our ways of expressing ourselves. This is the beauty of being human, the freedom to express our hearts in one way or many. But we must be allowed the freedom to explore ourselves, just as we must respect those on their journeys. We must understand that expressions are different, that Van Gogh was no less an artist that Michelangelo, or that Bach was any less of a musician than Chopin. Life is a series of journeys, and we are all travelers.

Last fall, I participated in an online class that was all about being brave enough to follow your dreams and how to appreciate the little steps to help you reach them. It was an amazing class, and even though I have yet to actually start work on my chosen project, it still left me changed. That class was the beginning of an ongoing soul-searching transformation that has been long overdue.

I have always had difficulties finding a place in the world. I’ve survived by defining myself by my own strengths and abilities rather than how the world viewed me, and I owe that to my parents and their guidance. Had I chosen to go by what others thought of me, the journey would have been much more painful. I definitely faced my share of bullying (albeit mild compared to what our youth is forced to endure today) all through elementary and middle school, and the only thing that made it lessen through high school was that my dad was a teacher at the school and kids knew better than to screw with the daughter of a Marine. But that didn’t mean I was instantly accepted, just tolerated. Even in college, I didn’t have any set group that I fit into, and that was painfully emphasized in vet school when I was overlooked and frequently left out of the one group I tried to be a part of. But please don’t think I’m complaining — in it’s own way, this was the best thing that could have happened to me.

As a result of all of the above, the friends I did have became that much more dear to me. The friends I made in high school are still my friends today, and it is such a strong bond we can go months without talking and pick right back up when we do. My friends I made in undergrad were my rock through vet school, and my friends I made in vet school are like my sisters. Had I been tied down to a set group, I would never have met many of these amazing people, and my heart hurts to think about how much I would have missed out on.

Still, it is our nature to want to fit into a group. When we don’t fit into a set group, we feel left out, hurt, unimportant, even worthless at times. Depending on the group, those people may even try to emphasize those feelings, try to wear us down and make us feel that we aren’t part of the elite group because we don’t deserve it. Extreme cases create bullies whose primary goal is to create these feelings in people who may not have felt them before. It takes a good support system and strong role models to remind these individuals that they are still valuable, beautiful, smart, talented, and amazing just for being themselves.

When we begin to identify with a certain group, the group becomes our identity. We begin to believe that our attributes are those set by the group and forget what it is that makes us special. For awhile, this may seem enjoyable, and this is the face we put out to the world. We want the world to think that we are happy because we are a part of this elite group. Identifying ourselves with the group becomes safe and comfortable, mainly because we believe that the group will be around forever. The longer we continue to blend our identity with the group, the more ours becomes buried. Then one day, the unthinkable happens: the group dissolves, and suddenly we are standing alone, holding on to an identity created by something that no longer exists, and we realize we have forgotten who we are.

We need to encourage our youth to discover their own individual identity, to discover and feed our special talents and abilities, to define themselves by their own dreams rather than by the dreams and talents of others. No one else can be us better than we can be ourselves, but that also means that we cannot be someone else better than we can be us. We were created to be us, not someone else, and the more we try to create a separate identity, the scarier the world becomes when that identity is suddenly taken away from us. That doesn’t mean we can’t be part of a group, just that when we do find that group, it doesn’t replace our identity. On the other hand, if we fail to find that one specific group, we still know who we are, and that enables us to face the world head on, to tackle our challenges using our finely developed strengths that we have been tuning all our lives.

Our dreams are our own, and the strengths and abilities we have are given to us specifically to help us achieve our dreams. If we fail to discover those gifts, it becomes that much more difficult to reach our destinies. If we begin to identify ourselves by something outside of us, we will lose sight of not only our strengths, but also our dreams themselves.

Define your dreams and then focus on your strengths and talents. Begin to visualize how those gifts can be used to reach your dreams and appreciate that they were given to you just for that reason. This is your identity. This is who you are.

P.S. If you are interested in learning more about the class I took, visit Big Dreams Small Wonders. To visit the artist’s website, go to Louise Gale.