When I lived in Greenville, South Carolina a few years ago, serendipity brought me to the gallery of a pair of artists; August and Susanne Vernon worked from their studio along the Reedy River. We struck up a continuing relationship through a mutual love of art.
One day I was talking to August. He was curious about my coaching and mentoring practices, which we discussed at length. At some point I found myself telling him some of the nicknames I had acquired from clients: the bulldog, Ronbo, Guru Ron and Ronald the Wise. All of which provided for laughter since they are all interesting characterizations of me. Frankly, they are like funhouse mirrors that offer up distorted, incomplete reflections.
Then I told August something I had rarely shared: one client who had experienced profound transformation called me the Ronnie Lama.
August’s laugh was huge, but the spew of his ideas about what a cool painting that could make was remarkable. I was so enthused by his enthusiasm that I jumped right in with him in brainstorming ideas. The result is the image included with this blog.
As is so often the case, in retrospect I had much inner work to do about this painting of me. It was beautiful, and I do love it, but I also felt a sense of embarrassment, the source of which I could not identify. The best I can say is that it is a reflection of two things of great importance to me. The first is my sustaining desire to be an exceptional spiritual student, and thus to become an excellent teacher. The second is a deep mix of humility and humor that I can feel deep in my core. Just to keep it simple, I’ll call it honest holy ground, a genuine mix of right-sized-ness paired with an ability to not take myself too seriously.
I had prints made for both my daughters, but this image did not find its way into the world for quite some time.
There are a number of ways to explain the delay. There was a lucid dream about opening myself outward that was clearly the Soul speaking to me. And a conversation with a therapist that helped me to better see how deeply runs my fear of being seen. And a dialogue with my long-time mentor that was so disturbing it threw me off balance for several months. And reflections from clients of all kinds hammering at me, not with critique, but with a great deal of praise and acknowledgment.
Then, it became clear I would be launching two novels, an audio set, and a whole web platform taking me fully into the delivery of forgiveness and innocence practices. That culminated in feedback from a marketer who said, “Ron, it’s wonderful you care more about the success of your work rather than your reputation. But people want you to be real. They need to know that you aspire, and that you fail, and that you can be wonderful and awful.” Finally, a dear friend reminded me of the scriptures that urge us to not hide our light under a bushel.
To be honest, the degree of this disclosure makes me feel uncomfortable. There is always fear that in being seen, there will be rejection or attack. And there is a built in tension with a desire to not allow ego inflation. There is a great deal of evidence that one can fall quite deeply into a spiritual abyss in becoming too enamored with oneself.
Or perhaps the greater fear is exactly as Marianne Williamson described it. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”
What a curious space: desiring to be seen, and simultaneously fearing it. Wanting to welcome whatever magnificent attributes are part of me, while not indulging in either delusion or grandiosity. Claiming that which is legitimately a contribution, and owning where I have erred. Anxiety because it is so easy to overlook our weaknesses, and even easier to reject our strengths. Wanting to be fully revealed, to be authentic in my relationships with the world, and to myself, and shirking from what surely feels like great exposure. Wishing more than anything for the way of the Soul to be expressed in and through me. Yet all the while, feeling my way in a darkness of unfathomable forces, strangely blind to much within me that cannot be seen or understood.
Life, and our role in it is just plain messy.
The design of Life ensures each of us must face a crux, inner challenge that is essential to the Soul’s development. Masters tell us we must engage it in order to learn from it. Nothing great can emerge through us without some significant disruption within us. Somehow we must get over our selves.
The path is made with every step.
One breath, one moment, one step at a time.