This is a guest contribution from Belinda Noakes.
I don’t know what ‘awakening’ is any more. I used to think it was a process with a start and end point… a journey with a destination. I kept obsessive mental records of my progress and evaluated my success/failure compared to other people. I was constantly assessing myself against fellow spiritual seekers, teachers and masters. My spiritual explorations had become yet another aspect of life where I could decide I wasn’t good enough.
I don’t know what ‘enlightenment’ is either. For a while, I thought perhaps it was the end of the process of embodying my Soul and then when I got there, staying completely aligned with my Soul’s voice. I came to believe that meant I had to speak only the most profound truths I uncovered along the way. So I wrote mostly about that stuff – the mystical fireworks and spiritual revelations. I wasn’t going to use my blog to explore anything more mundane, like the world of work and everyday life.
And then I saw that, while universal truths are important and useful to share, a part of me still wanted to hide. That part had been using my commitment to ‘expressing my Soul’s voice authentically’ as a way to justify marginalising myself to the spiritual fringes. I’d managed to come up with (yet another) justification for not fully showing up – for not talking to a broader audience in language that might resonate for them.
I saw this subtle hiding out in the way I’d been presenting different faces on social media and my website. Using different language. Dividing myself in a way I swore I wouldn’t do again. Because I had a story about the business world not being ready for my Soul’s voice, which was based on the assumption that my Soul’s voice speaks only of the most holy things.
That assumption had begun to create pressure to seek out more, bigger revelations so that I could blog about them and create credibility for my 1:1 transformation work. I felt the beginnings of performance anxiety. I was building yet another subtle identity on ‘spiritual’ foundations. This didn’t feel like a form of enlightenment that was grounded, integrated and sustainable. It definitely didn’t feel like freedom.
And of course, that story about what my Soul’s voice sounds like and what topics She wants to talk about was bullshit. Because the minute I saw it She was all over me, saying something like this: “I never said we could only talk about that stuff. You decided to put me in a box. I just want you to love and find joy in whatever it is you’re doing. And that means really doing it, in spite of the fears you feel. No more stories. No more hiding.”
I saw the game. There was a moment of “oh shit – not again!” before I laughed. And I realised I need to integrate the corporate and spiritual versions of me. I need to bridge those worlds.
As always, I need to bridge those worlds within myself before I can help anyone else. Whatever ‘enlightenment’ is, it’s certainly not limiting myself to a narrow audience out of fear about whether a broader group might judge me. It means being honest about my skills, experience and gifts and actually using them in the service of people who might be ready for what I have to offer.
So it means I get to talk to both women and men about the world of work and the stress that competition driven by fear creates for all of us. I get to talk about new models of leadership: for example, where activities like linear, structured, goal-driven performance planning are no longer valued above all else and we can explore the value of planning in a way that is non-linear and more fluid, driven as much by a focus on intentions as by hard-and-fast targets. I get to talk about how we need to stop treating work like war and learn to lead with compassion.
And freedom starts to look like writing about whatever I want, however I want. That includes a whole commentary on modern corporate capitalism that’s been bouncing around in my brain for years. I’ve never yet shared it publicly out of fear of being judged by a mainstream audience (including my former business colleagues).
Awakening looks like considering the possibility that working with people who don’t yet have a self-administered Master’s degree in Soul Rediscovery isn’t dumbing down my message or selling short my potential or limiting my Soul’s expression. Perhaps the work I’m here to do is about being the bridge between two worlds, rather than rejecting the mainstream business domain in favour of a spiritualised comfort zone. And maybe I need to work with ‘spiritual beginners’ in order to fulfill that purpose.
So enlightenment looks like getting real about where I can have the greatest impact in the world and focusing there, even if it’s not as mystically sexy as I’d like. It probably requires me to find the mid-point on my own spiritual spectrum and make that my resting place, with the full range then available for me to play within as I want. It definitely means that, instead of exiling myself as a pre-emptive defence, I get to actually face and make peace with the fear of being rejected by a more ‘straight’ business audience.
I’m so comfortable with holding myself separate from the world, this feels like the less comfortable path for me. But it also feels more like real freedom… so that’s where I’ll go. Because freedom is the only game I want to play any more.
Belinda Noakes used to be a corporate warrior. Now she helps people find the courage to rewrite the old fearful stories that have scripted their lives. As a writer and compassion coach, she’s helping to heal the heart of the world – one story at a time. She writes regularly at www.tinybrave.com