“[M]uch of our pain in living comes from wearing a dead and useless skin, refusing to put it to rest, or from burying such things with the intent of hiding them rather than relinquishing them.”
– Mark Nepo
I took a trip to the beach with some friends recently.
Later that day, when I returned home, looked into the bathroom mirror and saw, to my dismay, that my whole back was fury red, and it was stinging.
After a few days, I also noticed that my whole back started peeling (which, for some reason, I found both gross and fascinating.) Among the lava-red skin, glowing like a giant rash, there were these Swiss-cheese-like holes.
As the days went by, I would tear off some of this dead skin, and every day, a shiny new coat of skin revealed itself to me. The shedding skin started to create a visible line cross the top of my shoulders, in such a way that it literally looked as if a new me was emerging from underneath.
On The Need To Shed Old, Dead Skin
As the days went by, my dead skin kept shedding.
I found to, my surprise, that this shedding was reflecting my inner world as well as my outer one.
You see, I have been feeling very volatile lately. I’ve been taking risks and making moves that were not characteristic of me. Things I thought I would never do, I did. Things I thought I would never admit, I admitted.
I was being more honest, I was standing up to for myself more. I was speaking up and speaking loudly.
I no longer was recognizing me. I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know where I was going, and I didn’t know what I was becoming.
Sometimes our inner evolution is far more dramatic than the shift from homo erectus to homo sapien. Who we are today is light-years ahead of who we were just yesterday. And we always seem to take that giant leap forward when we least expect it.
Why Clarity Comes With A Price
There are moments in our lives when the lens which we viewed the world suddenly adjusts its sharpness. In these moments, the earth seems to tilt off its axis, the world flips upside down, and everything gets disoriented.
With the shedding of old, dead skin comes clarity. But clarity, I am finding, often comes with a price.
Clairvoyance opens up, paradoxically, to more confusion, and inevitably, to confrontation.
We don’t want confrontation, but that’s where this shedding of old skin is headed (whether we like it or not). Life goes from “Theory” to “Practice” by way of conflict and friction. Conflict and friction are the lubrication of a deeper-lived life. Without conflict and friction there is no growth—there is nowhere to go, nowhere to be. But with a little bit of heavy scrubbing, all that old skin falls off quite easily, doesn’t it?
What is more is that when we learn to respect and love ourselves, and we pledge to finally fight for what we believe in, and stop dilly-dallying, suddenly we become the fierce warrior that we never intended to be.
We Are Not Meant To Be Spiritual “Civilians”: We Are Meant To Be Spiritual Warriors
But, the truth is, we are all called to greatness. Each and every one of us.
I am learning this, and believe it or not, it is a very hard lesson for me to learn.
It is hard to learn because the idea of being called to greatness is far less threatening when it’s just a cheesy line in a movie. But when it’s the truth, a truth in your own life, then that line is bit hard to stomach.
We might find ourselves asking: “Well, who am I to be great?”
But life will quickly beat that question out of our mouths and shove this one in its place:
“Who are you NOT to be great?”
It is hard to learn that life, from its inception, always planned for us to be warriors. That it has always conspired, from the very beginning, to not make us ordinary, but extraordinary.
This is the promise of life: that our love be made so deep and wide that it is far more fierce and powerful than hate.
And we betray ourselves if we don’t let life fulfill this promise to us.
This Is Just The Training Program: You Are Being Prepared For The Battle Ahead
Life fulfills its promise to us by putting us through “warrior training.”
Often, with loving gentleness, the first challenges we encounter in life are given to us only as a “training program.”
A training program for the battle ahead.
We may moan and groan at the training and call it unfair. But it is totally fair. Oh yes. It is for our own good. Because the battle that awaits us will require us to have strength, to not be naive, to be prepared and alert.
Leave no doubt: we are being tested—but the test is only the beginning.
Oh, it is only the beginning.
Fine-tuned, fine-tuned, fine-tuned… your soul will be chiseled into the raw beauty of a sword that will, in the final scene, thrust itself into The Enemy.
To see ourselves as spiritual warriors makes sense. When we truly sit with that notion, we sense that there was nothing else we could have ever been but spiritual warriors. We were always in the midst of this training, before we even knew it. We always sensed we were being prepared for something, we just never believed our intuition.
We are called to be great. We are called to be unique. We are called to fight. We are called to the battlefield.
You are not wallpaper, my friend. You are not floor tile. You are not background music. You are samurai, ninja, knight, Aztec warrior. You are soldier, combatant, fighter. But unlike the traditional warrior, your sword is love and your shield, compassion. Your orders are: seek the truth. Blast out the darkness. Sooth and heal hate.
Your wise captain, the spirit, guides you with the battle plan, and the battlefield he calls you to enter resides within you.
In all of this, our only choice is in whether or not we answer life’s call to be a spiritual warrior.
If we answer the call of life, we will still encounter challenges, yes, but we are freed and fulfilled.
If we do not answer the call of life, we escape the harrowing challenges ahead, but we are rendered prisoner and sufferer of life.
Therefore: moving forward with greater clarity may come with a price, but retreating out of fear comes with a death sentence.
Revising My Story
As I move on with my humble goal of finishing my first novel, I can no longer move forward without first shedding my old, dead skin. That old skin suffocates me and I’m drowning it. So I shed, I shed, I shed…
And the new me emerges.
And I vision anew.
My brief disorientation at this moment is just so that I can re-orient properly. All the confusion and entanglement and jumbling of words are just meant to help me arrive at greater clarity, disentanglement, and word preciseness.
The old me must die so that the new me can be free. The old words must crumble, so that the new words can stand. That old, unsavory passage—that one that I clung to for comfort—must be shed now (it no longer serves my story.)
Everything changes, we know that. But also, the further out we go, we learn that not only does everything change, but everything becomes better, deeper, and more refined.
We are refined, we are revised, we are rebooted.
I am refined, I am revised, I am rebooted.
I am weary and confused, but I feel more confident, more hopeful, and giddier than ever before. The light is glowing. Somewhere. I see it. The horizon.
So, I say to you, dear reader: this way. Follow me. I know the way because now I know how to trust. Now I know how to love. Now I know how to repair and heal. The first chapter was about risk, the second chapter about resilience, and as the third continues its daring and boisterous turn, it finally reveals to me that it’s about having the courage to vision the world anew.
Onwards, then. Burn your backs. Shed your old, dead skin. Clear off all that Swiss-cheese crust and make way… make way for something no one has ever seen before, but that you were, nonetheless, called to bring into being.
Here’s to the both of us having the courage to bring that new, bold vision to life.
much “ready for the battle,”
Today’s Courage Exercise:
What parts of you are no longer serving your growth? What parts of you are holding you back from continued success? Today, bring these parts of you (the parts of you that you want to shed) to the light. Burn these parts of you under your deep scrutiny. Then, as you see this old self begin to peel off of you, help it along by scrubbing it away with friction and confrontation. (For instance: maybe the old you would never stand up for herself. But you want the new you to be able to do that. So, the only way to go from the old you to new you is to finally speak up for yourself. As I said, confrontation and friction are the lubrication of deeper living.) Finally, welcome the new you as it emerges from out of the old you.
If you try this exercise, I encourage you to share your experience with the rest of us in the comments below.
>>> Blog Update: I’m back from my little blogging vacation. Now that I’m back, I’ll be cranking out new posts until the Holidays!
>>> eBook Update: During my blog break, I said I would be working on my eBook, and I did just that. The eBook is coming along nicely and I’ve sent a full draft to a few friends for feedback. Can’t wait to share it with you guys!
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