You Have What You Need…

The poem Invictus by W. E. Henley is a well-known and often cited work because of its last two lines: I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. 

A central theme of the poem is the notion of choice and self-responsibility over one’s life path. Therefore, this poem was an important piece of the curriculum during my work as a counselor for the Prep for Prep program (https://www.prepforprep.org). Prep is a program created to provide at-risk minority youth with opportunities for acceptance into and completion of studies at various prestigious institutions, of higher education, throughout the country. The curriculum developers understood that in order to “beat the odds”, these students would need to be intellectually and emotionally strong!

Although, it has been several years since I have worked with the Prep for Prep organization, the Invictus poem has never left my memory, particularly the first two lines which read:

Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole. I thank whatever Gods may be for my unconquerable soul. 

An unconquerable soul… an unconquerable soul… that means – no matter the circumstance, no matter the obstacle, no matter the challenge – that soul cannot be defeated.

These first two lines resonate with me because no longer are they merely two abstract sentences from a poem. Instead, they now describe a journey that I can personally identify with… you see I have had to face many difficult and downright overwhelming circumstances. Yet, here I still stand. Unconquerable, not defeated, unstoppable.

In the book, the Untethered Soul, Michael Singer explains that “through the ongoing journey of self-realization, you will develop a tremendous sense of respect for who you really are.” This discovery of self-respect and self-appreciation came as a result of realizing just how capable and strong I could be, in the midst of adversity. I wasn’t strong because I avoided trials and mistakes – instead I was strong because I challenged, faced, and overcame the trials – head on.

However, I will admit there were many days that I thought about quitting, but in each of those moments I found the resolve to keep going because of my renewed faith in the power of God. Psalm 138:3 states that “in the day when I cried thou answerdst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in soul”. In other words, when we cry out for help, God will answer; so cry out I did! And guess what I discovered… not only would God accompany me for the journey – but I was already equipped with EVERYTHING I needed to endure, to survive, to recover, and to thrive. How could I already have all that I would need?

Glenda the Good Witch, from the Wizard of Oz, would explain it this way: “You’ve always had the power, my dear. You’ve had it all along”

Michael Singer, in the Untethered Soul, would explain it this way: “once refocused, you will realize that you not only have the ability to find yourself, you have the ability to free yourself.”

Either way – the answer was still the same… we are each equipped to be strong, we just need to be reminded of it from time to time.

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I challenge YOU. Are you up for the challenge?

As an 80’s child I recall being inundated with slogans like RIF: reading is fundamental and Knowledge is Power. I reflect on these phrases now because they remind me about the liberating power of reading.

You may wonder what has me in this contemplative mode about reading…

I sit here, traveling, and working my way through the first few chapters of a book called the Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. Thus far, the book is exploring the notion of “awakening one’s consciousness” to the realization that we are not our thoughts – just as we are not defined by, objects that are outside of ourselves. It is a very interesting point and it definitely serves as confirmation for the process of self-discovery that I decided to begin several years ago.

As I read and took notes in the margins, a thought popped into my head… it was my mother who purchased my copy of the Untethered Soul and it was that same woman who nurtured my initial love for reading. It seems my mother, from the start, was an unconscious or intuitive supporter of my emotional and spiritual growth!

During my preschool years, I recall her reading to me and then listening to me as I read books such as Goose Goofs Off and Little Miss Bossy. These two books tickled me to death, as a young girl, because the characters reflected what I had come to understand about the Donna that I was at that time: a procrastinator, who was DEMANDING. LOL!

However, gone are the days of books about demanding-ness and procrastination. Nowadays my mother is buying me books such as Why You’re Not Married Yet and the Untethered Soul.

Thank goodness my mother’s book selections have expanded – I guess to fit the ‘me’ that I have grown into. Isn’t it interesting how life, and our experience of it, will often be a reflection of what is occurring within! As if life is merely just a mirror image of our inner world. So if you want your external environment to change, I guess you should begin by changing your internal world.

We are often told to work on ourselves, but that work is often the hardest thing we’ll ever have to do! Isn’t it so much easier to complain, or to whine, or even to blame others? It is… but that route only leads to heartache, headache, and misery! We can’t change others and often (most times) we can’t change the things happening around us. So what can we change? Ultimately, the answer returns to the idea that the only thing we are ever in control of is OUR SELF.

I challenge YOU to go within… examine your heart, challenge your mind, change your thoughts, acknowledge your feelings – and watch your reality transform and expand! You may even surprise yourself and find that in the process of changing yourself – everything around you mirrors what you’ve always desired… You could wake up one day and find that you landed yourself in a place called peace and happiness.

Choose Consciously… What will you choose?

Relationships are a great way to learn about … your SELF! Does that sound counterintuitive to you? Did you think that I was going to say that you choose relationships to learn about the other person? Well that is actually not the case. We choose relationships to learn more about who we have been and to explore the potential of who we could be! Dr. Margaret Paul discusses this notion throughout her website (www.innerbonding.com). You can also find similar ideas in a book by Cheri Huber called ‘Be The Person You Want To Find’.

Based on this understanding that we engage with others to develop a better relationship with self, I have been reflecting on the course of my past relationships. This increased thinking about my dating patterns was sparked by a recent situation that occurred in my current relationship. I began this interaction feeling very enthusiastic and excited by our future. However, there came a day when we “bumped heads” and momentarily did not see things “eye to eye”. We maintained differing opinions and appeared at a standstill. Conflict is inevitable in any relationship, whether that relationship be an intimate one, a friendship, or familial. However, that conflict, our conflict, had me questioning the future of the relationship. I even began wondering was the person I now disagreeing with, the same individual that I was so mesmerized by? It was all quite perplexing… And then… I read the following quote:

“[Your inner voice can pull] you right out of whatever you’re doing, no matter how enjoyable, and suddenly you’re paying attention to whatever it has to say”

This quote, from the book The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer, reminded me that when we are conscious (paying attention) we are able to experience the fullness of life. However, when we fail to pay attention, we can slip into old habits, habits that may be destructive and leftover residue from past experiences. Just think about Erykah Badu’s song Bag Lady. Mz. Badu sang “Girl I know sometimes it’s hard. And we can’t let go; Oh when someone hurts you oh so bad inside”. If we don’t learn to put down (i.e., let go) of our (emotional) bags, then we are destined to carry them around – weighing down our present and future hopes, dreams, aspirations!

So how does this relate to my relationship? Well, there I was allowing my old baggage to impact my current interaction. Somewhere in the past, I learned and adopted the mantra that conflict = bad, conflict = destruction. As a result, whenever I even sensed conflict, I would “run for the hills!” However, thanks to all of the emotional and spiritual growth that has been occurring, I no longer have a need to run. I have learned to “relax in the face of melodrama” as Michael Singer would say. Yes, I must admit that I can be quite dramatic! J I have also learned that letting go is a matter of choice. I can choose to “take the risk to let go, rather than go with the [negative] energy” (Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul).

Two take away points for you:

  • Remember we always have a choice! Nowadays I am choosing happiness. What will you choose? What will you focus upon?
  • Even when you make a mistake (and mistakes will happen), by slipping into old patterns, at ANY moment you can choose a new path and start anew.