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Where is the light switch?

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

One of the ways of expression in which I feel most at home, is music. I've been playing and singing for as long as I can remember - on my own and together - but I've never been someone who loves to practice. I do it when I have to, but I'd prefer to just know the piece right away. When I was younger I had a music teacher who, without a doubt, had spent many hours of his own life practicing. He was a very skilled musician and performer of his instrument. And I? I played my music homework once or twice a day and then usually got a new one at the next lesson. It was fun and at a comfortable level. But one day that changed when my music teacher pointed out that if I was willing to really take my music seriously, then one day I "could stand on the big stages". This teacher saw a potential in me and described a vision and a possibility that up until then hadn't even occurred to me, but - and this was something I became aware of right there and then - which scared me. He wasn't pushy in any way, but eleven-year-old me got so scared that I asked for another teacher. What he said did not at all match where I was in life, what I saw or even dared to see for myself. As an adult, I have often wondered what life would have been like if I had continued to play for this teacher and practiced all the hours every day that he suggested. As an adult, I can see the compliment and the gift in what he said. And as an adult, I too have seen opportunities, potential and capacity in many other people in my life. But I have also learned that if what we see, address, invite or encourage in another person does not match what they can, want or have the courage to see in themselves, then we need to meet them where they are.

That doesn't mean we cannot continue to see and address the maturity, the wisdom and the greatness we see in other people. On the contrary; what a gift it can be to be held in that light! We can refrain from agreeing with and believing in the personal limitations expressed by others, but we do need to acknowledge that these are their experience. We can listen for openings in the way they talk and offer a different vision, but it needs to be divided into smaller, more manageable pieces. We also need - and herein lies our own growth - to see where we are coming from when we invite someone else to grow and embrace parts of themselves. Are we coming from a place where we secretly want to change them (do we try to write someone else's New Year's resolution?) or do we do it because we feel called to do so, but at the same time we can respect and accept if they express that it is going too fast or if they choose to stay where they are? When this someone is a person we love or care about, this can be as difficult as it is frustrating, especially if we desire or long for some kind of change in our relationship. I'll be the first to admit that I've had my fair share of coming from a place inside me where I'd rather try to change someone else ("if only you would...") than to look at what was triggered in me in relation to them right there and then. And many times I think that it is our light, our greatness, and our possibilities that scare us more than our humanity, our darkness, and our flaws.

Ten years ago, I attended an online course, created and facilitated by the author and life coach Debbie Ford and the Ford Institute in the States. Halfway through the year-long-course, there was an onsite training, and the whole group traveled from all over the world to meet up in San Diego, California. What we did in this training, apart from practicing what we had learned, was to meet ourselves at a deeper level. In small steps and exercises, we were invited to accept and start to embrace characteristics and qualities in ourselves that we for various reasons felt resistance toward. For a full day we were sitting with shame and guilt and qualities we didn't like in ourselves. Two whole days were set aside for us to look at and step into our light. One of the exercises they invited us to do was to complete the sentence "My light is... and I cover it up by..." and then read out loud what we had written in front of the group. When it was my turn, I stepped onto the stage (and hah! - it was actually a stage) and said: “My light is that I have a voice with a message worth listening to, and I cover it up by withholding my words out of fear of how they will be received.” I didn't become a solo violinist and that's okay. But the light I now stand in with joy and gratitude is a deep knowledge that we all have a voice with a message that is well worth listening to and that if we are afraid to put it into words, we can always help each other. Warmly,


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