I love the story Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen tells about an insight that changed her life.
She was attending a talk by Carl Rogers, the master psychologist who developed the therapeutic approach known as Unconditional Positive Regard. Rogers said:
“There is something I do before I start a session. I let myself know that I am enough. Not perfect. Perfect wouldn’t be enough. But that I am human, and that is enough. There is nothing this man can say or do or feel that I can’t feel in myself. I can be with him. I am enough.”
Dr. Remen commented:
“I was stunned by this. It felt as if some old wound in me, some fear of not being good enough, had come to an end. I knew inside myself that what he said was absolutely true. I am not perfect, but I am enough. Knowing that…allows healing to happen.”
Can you imagine moving through the world relaxed, confident, and feeling “I am enough”? Can you sense the possibilities of that?
We can, of course, go through life feeling not good enough, not smart enough, not good looking enough, not lucky enough, not educated enough, or not [whatever] enough.
But in my experience, that can be tense and draining.
Or we can follow Carl Rogers’s example of reminding ourselves: “I am enough.” We can even play with this idea:
“I am enough to fill the unique place in the world that only I can fill.”
“I am enough for the people I love and care about.”
“I am enough in spite of failures, disappointments and setbacks. (These do not disqualify us–unless we let them; they qualify us as being human.)”
“I am enough to overcome any hurt.”
“I am enough today, but I am also enough to grow and change.”
“I am enough” is not about ego inflation. I think it’s an invitation to wholeness.
It’s a marvelous insight that keeps encouraging us to bring our whole, genuine selves to everything we do and to the people we care about. And to know that’s enough.
When author Sam Keen’s father died, so did his quest. He had been obsessed with the question:
“What can I do to give my life meaning, dignity, density?…What can I do to be saved? Be healed”
But now, in the face of the uncertainties of life and the certainty of death, that question suddenly felt hollow.
He awoke one morning in Manhattan with the words, “Nothing, nothing” on his lips.
He realized there was absolutely nothing he could do to finally protect himself against the uncertainties and insecurities and tragedies of life.
And then he started laughing!
In his book, “To A Dancing God,” Keen tried to describe what provoked that laughter. He saw that…
“Either dignity and meaningfulness come with the territory or they must be forever absent…I had been riding on an ox looking for an ox.”
It’s a funny image. But it also raises an important question: what is it that “comes with the territory” of our lives? What is the meaning and dignity already built in?
Well, just for starters…
You’re alive—and what an amazing, miraculous, mysterious thing that is.
You’re a human being—also amazing and incredible.
You’re a unique person, one of a kind—also incredible and amazing.
Our greatest challenge may still be to think a little more deeply about what it means to be human, to be alive, and to fulfill our uniqueness.
Maybe what we most need is to find life in the “near” rather than wearing ourselves out chasing it in the “far.”
Maybe we need to realize that we’re riding on an ox looking for an ox.
And maybe we’ll know we’re beginning to grasp that when we start laughing…at ourselves.
In 1902 in Vienna, a young aspiring poet named Franz Kappus wrote to the then-famous German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, asking for advice. The two carried on correspondence for the next eight years. In 1992, Rilke’s letters to Kappus were published under the title Letters To A Young Poet.
In this wonderful slim volume, Rilke provides keen insights not only for someone who wishes to write truly, but also for anyone who struggles to live truly. I’d like to share just two quotations.
“My dear friend, I know of no other advice than this: Go within and scale the depths of your being from which your very life springs forth.”
That’s a searching question, worth spending time with: what are the springs from which my life springs forth? What accounts for me being me? What is the fuel of my life?
We live in a shallow time—all the more reason to take time to go a little deeper.
This quotation actually raises more problems and questions than it answers, which leads me to one of my favorite quotations in the book. This one deserves to be read slowly, quietly, again and again. Listen with your heart.
“I would like to beg of you, dear friend, as well as I can, to have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them…At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer some distant day.”
Go deeper. Have patience. Love the questions. Live the questions. In a time when many claim to answer every life problem with three easy steps, this advice is priceless.
Pour your whole heart into your business—no matter how large or small your ‘business’ is. So goes an old maxim.
To illustrate, Edward Bleier relates an old story about crusty James Gordon Bennett, owner of the New York Herald. Bennett stalked into the office…
“…at the same moment that a young copy boy dashed around a corner. The collision sent Bennett sprawling on the floor. ‘Young man,’ he roared, ‘what in blazes do you think you’re doing!’ The kid stammered: ‘I was just running an errand, sir.’ Bennett put his hand in his pocket, flipped him a quarter and snapped: ‘Well, that’s the way to run ‘em!’
Maybe an apple a day will help keep the doctor away.
But a task a day done with our whole heart and mind couldn’t hurt—especially when we consider the boost to our sense of energy, enthusiasm, achievement and fulfillment that such experiences can bring.
To put it another way: stretching and exercising your metaphorical heart might actually be good for your physical heart. Not to mention your emotional and psychological and spiritual heart.
And, as a bonus, you’re more apt to end up with good stories to tell—even if you crash along the way!