“What if becoming who and what we truly are happens not through striving and trying but by recognizing and receiving the people and places and practices that offer us the warmth of encouragement we need to unfold?” ~Oriah Mountain Dreamer
This notion goes completely against the grain of our cultural mythology of the American dream where we are all capable of becoming anyone we want to be through our hard work and effort. We transfer that mythology of the material world to our inner world all the time, believing that with enough striving and effort we can achieve the kind of inner growth and development we long for. But what if Oriah’s right? What if it is not about that at all? What if what is really required is recognizing what offers us encouragement and cultivating those things?
I know that I blossom most in places that offer me encouragement, and I shut down and often regress in places that offer criticism or hardship. I am least like to grow in any place that causes me to head into a defensive stance. Growth comes from taking risks to do new things, and (at least for me) that requires a safe place to take those risks and experiment with new ways of being and doing.
I have often been frustrated at how slow my growth curve has been in my adult life, but as I talked about yesterday, I’ve spent much of my life in places of criticism that keep me in a defensive survival mode instead of the spacious safe spaces of growth. I clearly need to continue working on figuring out how to break the habit of choosing and creating these places of criticism in my life. I cannot continue to hold up under this load of critical voices—both mine and others’. Yet this concept makes me think that just ending the criticism may not be enough.
I also need to actively discover and cultivate the people, places, and practices that encourage my soul, that provide the safety I need to risk, that provide the support I need to blossom into the Self that I truly am. This blog is providing one such practice in the act of writing as an exploration of the caverns of my soul, which is why I am continuing this as a daily practice after NaBloPoMo. Reading is another practice that encourages my soul because it allows me to safely explore other points of view through entering the life of a fictional character or learning about someone else’s thoughts, feelings, or beliefs in nonfiction writing. Yoga and walking are other practices that encourage my soul through physical activity.
I am actively cultivating relationships with people who encourage me and am gaining a supportive community through my shaman and the group of people who participate in her activities. Over time, I need to continue to expand this network of people and communities that encourage and support me and my growth. This does take time to build, but it must start somewhere. Some of the other changes I am about to face in my life will (hopefully) create greater places of safety, support, and encouragement and provide greater access to people and groups who can expand that circle of community around me.
The other word that catches my attention every time I read this quote is receiving. Receiving is not something I am very good at most of the time. Most of this is likely due to the fact that deep down I don’t really believe that I deserve it. Because of this, I tend to distrust people’s motives when they give, and this prevents me from opening to receive the full benefit. I am always looking for hints of manipulation or the sense that they are trying to make me indebted to them in some way. So I need to take that next step beyond finding and cultivating these people, places, and practices that offer encouragement to make sure that I open myself to receiving the gifts that they bring if I am truly going to find the encouragement I need to grow.
This new life is going to take time and effort to build, but perhaps if I put more focus on cultivating the presence of the kinds of encouraging places, people, and practices that I need and on receiving their gifts than on more striving and trying to force change, I may find that the change comes more easily and naturally.
In the meantime, I recently received a link to a free song of encouragement from coach Rhonda Britten. I’ve got this song on constant repeat for now as a start to building that bubble of encouragement around me. If you’re needing a little encouragement, I’d encourage you to take a listen too!