Spreading my wings and facing up to responsibility helped me to see that loneliness had become an idea I held on to to isolate myself, keep myself safe. In my life, up to this point, I had seen myself living in a dangerous world, one that was not there to look after me. I needed to look after myself and keep the world at bay, hence I created loneliness.
Last week I talked about giving a presentation at a lighting conference in which I appealed to a higher power, the power of our inner light. Although that was an amazing high for me that was not the greatest development of this period.
When I say that this period is not about loneliness, I mean that this was when I realised that my personal, internal feelings became irrelevant to me. This was when I realised there was more to life that my obsession with myself. My understanding and appreciation of the world moved outside of me and my immediate sphere and started to acknowledge the wider world. It would be some time before my view of my world completely changed and my seeking would come to an end. However, this period was when I came out of isolation by the sheer number of people I related to and was involved with.
My family were growing up and they struggled with understanding why they did not see me that much. I had fallen into the trap that afflicts many fathers who are successful, spending more time at work than at home. I sought a way to explain to my family why this was. The only explanation I could articulate was that I had another family at work, and I had to spend time with them as well. I am sure that if they understood what I was saying, it did not impress them. I avoided explaining why I spent time with them rather than at home, it was just how it was. I realise that saying that is ducking the issue, but for now it will have to suffice.
What it did for me, though, was help me to see how many areas of life I was involved in and how separate they were. Home and office were two worlds that rarely interacted, despite my attempts to facilitate this. I saw that there were other worlds around as well, such as my professional association, my church, my university studies, and others. They all whirled around me but rarely interacted. It was not until much later that I found a way to integrate them all into an amazing whole. To do this I had to come to understand myself better and come to understand loneliness.
The last time I looked at my relationship with loneliness, I said,
My loneliness had a purpose and was part of the big picture of my life. My loneliness ensured my isolation from influences that could have overwhelmed me.
At that stage I was scared of being overwhelmed because I saw life ganging up on me and pulling me in different directions. What shifted, for me, was my realisation that the influence now went the other way. I had different groups of people around me that I was influencing and inspiring. I was becoming the focus for these people, I was becoming the strong one.
Looking back it is easy for me to see that this started a long way back, in fact soon after I left school, but I was unable to see that at the time. Having come to this epiphany I saw that I was no longer in danger of being overwhelmed, the truth was that I was usually the one doing the overwhelming.
Giving the presentation on Inner Light to the Lighting Conference was just one example of how my inspiration was spreading to many, many people.
Around this time I became the leading lighting designer in the UK creating the lighting for cathedrals. This started as a voyage of discovery and ended up, some years later, as a period of domination that was unparalleled, either before or since. My designs for cathedrals became so ubiquitous that the UK national body overseeing all work in cathedrals became concerned that too many buildings would be lit in a similar fashion. They became concerned that I was taking over.
My life moved beyond me and what it did for me into what I did for the world.
In 1961, when I was only 13, John F Kennedy ended his inauguration speech with the following,
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.
I do not claim to have followed his dictum but I do claim that my striving towards answers about my life and my time here on earth had taken me towards a point where my true purpose could be revealed to me. Like the bee focused on gathering nectar to make honey, I focused on doing what I was good at and what brought me kudos. Behind this activity the bee spread pollen to enable plants to multiply and I spread inspiration to enable others to grow.
I had come to believe that dominating and seeking glory was bad. I read that humility was the way to spiritual glory. Despite this I could not shake the will to dominate I had learned as a child. This led to frustration and anger in me. Yet here I was influencing and inspiring others because of my need to be on top, because of my desire to be praised and recognised. The very trait that I saw as negative was the one that gave me the greatest power to help other people.
In the next chapter I will move on to talk about how everything started to change from now one, about how I started to find more answers and how I took control of my life, physically, emotional and spiritually. This shift became clear to me when I was encouraged to read a famous Marianne Williamson quote to the attendees at a personal development week I attended. I was helped to understand, later, that though this created an enormous shift in me, it did far more for other people. Helping myself was helping others, without actually trying. The quote reads,
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. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
I no longer played small in the world, I allowed my presence to liberate others.
Photo Credit: Flickr/Michael D Beckwith