I am so grateful. I am one of the lucky ones whose "spiritual" work and "bread 'n' butter" work is one and the same so much so, that to call what I do "work" in truly a misnomer, for it is "high play." This does not mean that I don't have my challenges, for I surely do.
Risk-taking is my biggest challenge. Anyone who is on a spiritual path knows that evolving does not happen in the corner of your living room, watching the tube. Learning, growing, stretching, becoming more has always meant, for me, being willing to take risks. It is something that I cannot not do, for my spiritual growth is my life.
Time and time again I have experienced great beauty and value from my work, my "high play": from channeling to retreats, energy drawings to my writing, I love it all, but still I have a nagging sense of reluctance to be "out there," doing it. It often involves taking a risk. Why, I wondered, when I love all aspects of what I do so much, do I hesitate and feel uncertain? What am I afraid of?
I have come to understand that I carry in me deeply ingrained societal values about success and failure. I have been trying to bring these values into my spiritual life, where they no longer apply. In the realm in which I work, there is no such thing as success or failure.
I realize now that I have energetically saved, like black beans in a cloth sack, incidences of failure. These collected memories are of times when I felt I did not do my job well enough, did not try hard enough, did not reach enough people, etc. I have held these memories as failures. This sack of beans has accumulated a weight and energy. As it gets heavier, there is the unconscious thought, "If I try this, am I going to add yet another bean to my sad sack of not-good-enough?" When I risk, and "fail," it makes the next risk-taking more challenging, and I hesitate.
I decided to look at some of the experiences I had labeled failures. One of them was on the Fourth of July 1998. I had put a call out to the healers of the Seattle area to meet at the Space Needle to activate it as an acupuncture needle for Earth. I felt, and still do, that Spirit was guiding me to do this. It had come to me in a vision, and although it was suggested that I was twenty years ahead of schedule, I still had big expectations around this event. Truthfully, I wanted a thousand people to come. I could see, smell, and taste the power such an event could create.
What actually happened was that about ten people came. We danced the ritual that had come to me. We danced for peace, and we felt the work was done well. We connected our Needle with the Washington Monument, in an arc of rainbow light: west to east, feminine to masculine. It was a beautiful and fulfilling experience, but I was still holding it in my "sack of beans" as a failure because of the number of people who came. My ego perception was that I had not been magnetic enough to draw a large number, so had not done me job well. I was disappointed.
I saw myself as a little girl who had taken her shoes off to revel in the thick, dark ooze of a mud puddle. Was she experiencing the delicious freedom of squishing mud between her toes, or was that her standing there in the water, hands on hips, insisting that others join her? "Don't they know this is fun?" she said. I realize that my part was the "high play": to squish in the mud. It was my spirit's desire to do so. The results, other people's experience, or other people's labeling of my experience, was not my concern. I was simply to be there with love.
I can understand that there is no such thing as failure. However, what about success? If one cannot fail, then on the other side of the spectrum, is there no such thing as success? What is success, anyway? How many people would it have taken to satisfy my ego's perception of success: one hundred, five hundred, or did it have to be a thousand? What if two thousand came? Success?
Like the dog that learned to salivate at the ringing of the bell, I feel that I have been trained away from my natural state of being: peaceful, non-competitive. I have been trained to strive for success. It is very deep in me, and it is this that makes me hesitate and wonder if I am good enough. How does one live without striving for a goal of success?
The image of a derelict comes to mind. Is that how I see myself: living in poverty, sitting on a corner with nowhere to go, nothing to do, no contribution to make? Of course not! That is society's indoctrination speaking, not me. In my work, there is no success, no finish line, no completion, no A+ on the great report card in the sky. One's life is an opportunity to offer and express love, and to expand awareness.
Recently, I had a Medicine Shield Retreat scheduled at Breitenbush Hot Springs. I felt strongly "called" to go there. I had to give a sum of money to Breitenbush to reserve my workshop space. It was a risk for me. I was trying a new workshop format there, in a different season than I had worked in the past. As it grew closer and closer to the retreat date, it became clear that I was not going to have the minimum number of participants I needed to break even. I was set up for failure. Even if I went and worked with the three women who had graciously signed up, I would fail, because I would still lose money. Money is definitely tangled up with my sense of failure, and with success.
My guidance said, "Do not be afraid to lose money." I took the risk and chose to go to Breitenbush anyway. I opened myself to loving those women and assisting them in the highest way I could. That decision came from my heart consciousness. It had nothing to do with succeeding or failing. It had to do with being. Our small group had a powerful time, and we all learned and grew from the experience. It was neither a successful retreat nor a failure. It was what it was, and I am experiencing no financial burden in my life because of it. I am glad I chose to go. I do not know how my being there at that time affected anyone or anything. I am not the judge. (Oh.)
When I was a sixth-grade girl, I was kicked out of choir for singing off key. It was a humiliating experience for me, and I didn't sing for years because of it. I thought my voice was awful, and held on to this failure a long time. I enjoy singing now, and find it an incredible way of sharing. I may still sing off key sometimes, but I don't care. I was even asked recently to sing a spirit song for a bride and groom at their wedding! My part was to bring the energy of love into the wedding, and my voice was a tool. I'm not interested in signing with Columbia Records. I'm interested in experimenting with being who I am, fully expressed. How glad I am that I have been able to release the judgement placed on my voice so long ago, so that I can sing! I would like to sing without feeling that it is a risk, that my voice simply is.
I invite you, too, to look at the sack of beans you carry around with you that you call your successes: golden nuggets, when you won the award, came in the fastest. Now open the bag of failures: not enough, not good enough, not strong enough, or whatever it is for you. These are nothing but life experiences; mingled together, they look the same. It is nothing but your ego's perception that makes them look different.
What will you do with them now as they are spread out before you? See these nuggets and beans on the ground as bits of memories. What I ask is that you gather them together and hold them in your hands, releasing all their charge of "good" and "bad." Hold them to your heart as life-giving beauty. As you take them again into your body, take them in as your story without judgement, without the concept of success or failure.
Let us learn from the river. It flows and flows and flows and flows, and when you come back a few weeks or months later, it is still flowing, bringing its life essence to people. Sometimes it overflows the banks, full, roaring, and loud; sometimes it is low, and the children come in and blow bubbles and play. Sometimes it is sluggish, slow moving, narrow, and cold, and sometimes it is voluptuous and life is born within its warmth and buoyancy.
So it is with every living thing.
See yourself stepping into the river, which is your own river of light. See that your body is there. The river flows to you, through you, and out of you.
Welcome to the land where there is no such thing as success or failure, for this is the land where there is peace. Peace is our natural state of being. What pulls us away from peace is fear: fear of failure, of not succeeding; fear of not doing well enough, not being good enough; fear of success, of competition. Fear causes the pushing to be better than anyone else, to be the one at the top.
I wish to move in peace, to be in a place where there is no striving to be "better than," where there is only expanding into one's unique greatness. Here, there is no fear. I say, "See me, being myself, being what I know how to be." I want to be like the child who burst into my shop recently, saying, "I'm here!" When that feeling of uncertainty rises again, I shall take a deep breath and remember that this isn't a race or a test. In beauty and balance, I offer my life, my light, and my creative force.
The light is simply given.
Starfeather is an artist, teacher, healer, and visionary, helping to reestablish the sacred feminine on the planet. She facilitates an ongoing Womens Sacred Circle and a new Lightworker's Circle. Starfeather also facilitates spiritual retreats and gatherings in Washington and beyond. You may contact her at Starfeathers Gallery, 201 5th Ave. S., Edmonds, WA 98020, (425) 776-7595, or e-mail Strfther@speakeasy.org.