A while ago I shared an article on my personal Facebook page about my “awakening.” Sounds dramatic, right? My intention in posting it was to let the people I loved in on an incredible secret: there will come a point when all of a sudden you get it, and you know — truly know in your heart and soul — that there is SO MUCH MORE to life than the humdrum, day-to-day existence through which you drag yourself. You suddenly see the world through new eyes. You start to appreciate your place in the universe and begin to truly understand your meaning of life. You want nothing more than to live a life of love and ask your inner GPS every morning how you can be of service to others: where would you have me go today? what would you have me do today? what would you have me say today? and to whom? You expect miracles and shine your light so brightly that everyone can physically see your positivity. You are a beacon, a lighthouse. A magnet for good. It’s almost overwhelming in its awesomeness. But in the best way possible.
So of course, when I personally began to experience this miraculous shift, this awakening, this spiritual metamorphosis, I wanted everyone to feel that incredible! Who wouldn’t want to wake up to this new perspective on life and love? Jump on my bandwagon, people! Just do it! Get spiritual, dammit! NOW!!! (The implication being that I would drag you — perhaps even kicking and screaming — to your own awakening because I knew it was the best thing for you.) I can only assume this is a common reaction to one’s own awakening. This new life of yours where only love is real means that you want to do everything humanly possible for the people you love. And of course that means leading them along (i.e., pushing them toward) the spiritual path, right?
Spiritual teacher Ram Dass addresses this very urge: There is an intense desire, once you have tasted something as sweet as spiritual awakening, to want to share it with people you love. Sometimes it’s so strong that you get into a proselytizing stance that awakens in them a paranoid defense, because you’re saying to them, “Who you are, just as you are, isn’t enough; if you only knew what I know, or had what I had, you could be happier than you are, and I want that for you.” And that’s just the thing. Who am I to assume that I know what’s best for anyone but myself? How dare I make someone feel… less than, lacking, not good enough. It’s not my job to judge. It’s not my job to pound spirituality into the heads of my loved ones! More than likely, the lessons I’m here on earth to learn are NOT the same lessons my family and friends are here to learn. My path is not THE path. And it’s arrogant to act as if it is. I’m guessing that arrogance is not one of the pillars of enlightenment??
But I can’t just keep quiet about all of this jazzy awesomeness. I feel compelled to share it! But what is the RIGHT way to share it? I have a sneaking suspicion that the answer is deceptively simple. I think the answer is: don’t. Don’t preach. Don’t judge. Don’t push. Don’t assume. Just BE. Live the awakened life. Shine your light for the simple reason that you want to live in the light, not that you want to force others into it. Ram Dass captures this lesson beautifully: After a while, you come to appreciate that what you can offer another human being is to work on yourself to be a statement of what it is you have found in the way you live your life, and one of the things you have found or will find is the ability to appreciate what is, as it is, in equanimity and compassion and love that isn’t conditional; that is, you don’t love a person more because they are happier the way you think they should be. What you cultivate in yourself is the garden in which they can grow, and you offer your consciousness and the spaciousness to hear it.
He encourages us to become “an environment that is available.” You’re available when others seek your council. Basically: Don’t teach where you’re not invited to teach. But live your life in such a way that people do invite you in, do approach you, do want to talk about spiritual issues because they see the light in you. You don’t need to force it on them; you can’t force people’s hearts anyway. If I am what I am, people will ask when they are ready. And I’m not going to lie — I LOVE IT when people, my beloved friends and family, do ask. When they invite the dialogue, want to know what books I’m reading, what meditations I’m doing, what podcasts I’m listening to, what kind of yoga I practice. Ask my advice about how to mindfully or spiritually handle a difficult situation. I feel truly fulfilled when I feel like I’ve helped point someone in the right direction to figure out what’s right for them. But that’s not my primary job. My job is to be the very best version of me. A friend on Instagram posted a quote today that resonated with me as I learn this lesson: “If the world is cold, make it your business to build fires” (Horace Traubel). You can’t necessarily lead people to the fires but you can build them, make them available, and invite people to come warm themselves when they’re ready.
Lead by example. Be the change you want to see in the world. Become REAL like the Velveteen Rabbit (I just made that one up).
But I’ve learned not to force it. I don’t need to. In the immortal words of Terence Mann in Field of Dreams: People will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.