Embrace Your Greatness
I’ve given a lot of thought to the idea of greatness and what it means to have it in my life. It’s a slippery slope, this idea of being great, but I want to share a story, thoughts that have recently come together for me and what the yoga tradition has to say about being great.
My Pivotal Moment
Having had a successful yoga studio for the last eight years and feeling its stability, my sights turned toward expanding my areas of expertise in the yoga discipline. I have a passion for helping students heal themselves through yoga therapeutics. They get results and have been asking for more ways to access the work.
Even though I’ve been quietly working with yoga therapeutics since 2003, in sharing my thoughts out loud with my friend Felicia about naming my work and getting it out there in multiple formats, I found myself questioning it all.
Self-doubt reared its ugly head with thoughts like: “Well, then you’d really have to know your stuff, wouldn’t you?” and “What makes you think you can create your own way of working?” Hearing the uncertainty in my voice, I wondered if I was the same person who created and manages a thriving yoga studio! How is it that the human condition presents us with such polarities in our lives? But leaving the thought process behind, my wise friend Felicia looked at me and simply said, “Own it.”
These two words resounded deep inside me with both power and truth. I saw how I was getting in my own way and all that I need do was own my skill set, years of experience and the results that I’ve gotten with my therapeutic techniques. This realization turned me 180o and my doubts evaporated.
I started to see all that I don’t doubt–that the moon moves oceans, that the sun rises each morning and that the heart beats with life force and love; and these greater acts have way more mystery behind them than my worldly endeavor.
But what is greatness and what is it not? In the yoga tradition we speak of our personal highest purpose in life, known in sanskrit as our svadharma. Sva meaning “self” and dharma meaning “right action.” It’s the work we do that rises out of a calling, a passion or what we feel compelled to do that also serves something greater than ourselves.
It’s what keeps an artist making their art even with great sacrifice at times; it’s what drives a parent to protect, love and nurture their child; it’s the offering of a great musician, or it can be through the work we do that sustains us and serves others. Typically our svadharma comes from the heart’s desire and not from the need for personal gain. There may be great gain, but it’s not driving the bus.
Think of Steve Jobs and the work he did; something deep inside inspired him to have both art and science drive Apple’s technology. At the other end of the financial gain–spectrum, Mother Teresa comes to mind with her work to serve the “poorest of the poor.” When asked why, she would reply, “To feel close to God.” But you don’t have to be recognized in the world to be in the flow of working with great purpose.
Greatness is not fame or celebrity, although people embracing their greatness have been recognized at the level of fame. Greatness is not hype or the ego gone amuck; this would be the charlatan or narcissist.
Greatness is solid in its foundation, built out of deep conviction, experience and an unwavering ability to stay steady on your path, even given obstacles to overcome. While greatness is often born out of vision, its path is one step at a time, methodical in its approach while holding true to your chosen values.
You don’t have to renounce everything nor do you have to be wildly financially successful to be in the flow of your greatness. I wonder if you would agree with me that parenting is the highest svadharma that anyone could take on? But how many times do parents recognize their greatness? Although not everyone is a parent, you will find that you will love, nurture and protect your life’s offering to the world as if it were your child.
Begin to define greatness by looking at what you do that has great purpose and passion behind it. What do you bring to the table that is uniquely you? I encourage you to reflect on the question to see what is revealed, and then look to how it manifests in what you do. Your greatness will show up as a knowing, a compelling connection or an “aha moment.” It may even empower you more once you realize it, just as I was empowered when my friend told me to own what I already do.
The Shadow Side of Greatness
One quality drives the shadow side of greatness. Fear. We are afraid of failing or we are afraid of success, and no matter which way the shadow shows up, fear is the driver. But interestingly enough, fear doesn’t show up in classical ways. Its manifestation can be elusive.
One way that I see fear rearing its ugly head is by believing that in order to be successful, we need to distance ourselves from our peers in the field. Greatness is often viewed as being independent or standing alone, so we may feel pressure to take measures to make ourselves separate in order to establish ourselves.
The elusive piece is that you may be recognized as an expert or leader this way, but a foundation built on separateness lacks support. When obstacles hit, which they surely will, you may feel like you don’t know where you stand, because there won’t be recognition or support from your peers since you have chosen to distance yourself from them. Fear and reaction is only fueled in this situation.
Fear can be recognize in exclusivity and non-compete clauses in business contracts, and in trying to own something that is universal. A recent online yoga class company is applying for a patent to own the angle at which they film their classes. They have also served cease and desist orders to other online yoga companies that have used the same camera angle. While patenting their approach would define and protect their brand, can we really patent the angle of a camera? I think it’s very small thinking and from a place of fear manifesting in having to stand alone in what they do.
It’s true that their camera angle and setting is fresh and feels inclusive to the viewer, and they have top–notch teachers teaching a variety of classes. If they would put their energy into staying progressive in their approach, they will continue to be recognized as leaders in the field, patent or no patent. It doesn’t matter if people copy you. If you’re a leader you will keep creating and leading in the industry. Think Steve Jobs. Instead this company is distancing their clientele by their actions and I think they have lost sight of yoga’s intent–yoga means union… not separateness.
How to Embrace Your Greatness
So how do we embrace greatness and not fall into the pitfalls of its shadow side? Greatness has a quality of steadfastness and an ability to stay on your path. It’s not to say that something won’t throw you off, but when it does happen, great people look back to the why of what they do. Remembering their higher purpose, their svadharma, gets them back on the path.
Embracing greatness is about responding to challenges with something positive instead of reacting with something negative. So greatness says “yes” instead of “no.” Last year when a teacher I had studied continuously with since 1999 fell from grace, I felt huge disappointment and betrayal, but there was no way I was going to stop what I was doing, even though the foundation of my studio was built upon his teachings.
With great reflection and reaching my own bottom with the implosion of a system, I found a new energy that was uniquely mine for continuing to create at the studio. Which brings me right back to expanding my personal offerings in the next era of my teaching. You can put energy into stopping what you perceive is limiting you, or you can use the downfall to reassess and create.
Have a vision, create a movement and move forward. Let the obstacles help you to reevaluate and become more creative. Get back on the path. Live your highest purpose on the planet in this lifetime. Feel the greatness of being true to who you are.
This post is a part of the Summit Blog Tour, which leads up to the Soul*Full Summit hosted by Catherine Just. I’m thrilled to be a part of an event that empowers entrepreneurs, artists and creatives to take action toward their dreams while helping create more opportunities for people with Down syndrome.