There’s a quote I’ve encountered in curious frequency, in a curious number of settings. It seems to keep coming back to me. It’s from Marianne Williamson. Maybe you’ve heard it, too.
“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's not just in some of us; it's 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.”
The first time I heard it was somewhere in Dartmouth College’s wonderful theater world. I didn’t do theater myself; a good friend did, though, which immersed me somewhat in the world, and I loved reading plays and watching theater. I also stage-managed a few shows (including one my friend wrote), and I took one very amusing acting class, which confirmed for me that I wasn’t meant for straightforward acting-as-such. I think I first encountered the quote in Cliff’s play that I stage-managed. At any rate, as 20-year old, student Liz encountered it, I appreciated its confidence, its logic and its leaps of faith, its mystical assurance, and certainly the individual jewels of its diction: liberate, shine, gorgeous, talented, deep, fear, powerful (beyond measure). All of these things sounded good, and if I didn’t understand and believe it completely, I was glad someone did, and that it existed, the way I’m glad religions exist, even if I don’t personally believe in or follow them.
The next encounter worth mentioning was in yoga teacher training, flashing forward 10 years. A teacher trainer was presenting some of his favorite quotes to us, and this flashed across the screen. I felt a confusing surge of irritated disquiet upon seeing it. It was like something I meant to finish or figure out, and hadn’t, and seeing it reminded me that I still hadn’t developed the faith in it that 20-year old me had vaguely entrusted to my future self. I asked some sort of question about it, hoping for this individual to explain it to me in that moment, demanding immediate proof. He seemed (reasonably) a bit taken aback by my intensity, and nothing was resolved in that moment. (It couldn’t have been.)
Every now and then, recently, individual parts of the quote have been floating across my consciousness, unbidden, and I’ve noticed that I’m making my peace with it, finding my belief in it. Particularly the line, “We are all meant to shine, as children do,” strikes me as deeply true, axiomatic. I wrote last week about my niece and my dog and their simple, unquestionable beauty and synchronicity. Of course we are all meant to shine, and yoga reminds us, over and over again of this, that “[We] are [children] of God,” or whatever bigger force we believe God to be.
That’s about enough for today. It’s a meaty quote, and each of its lines deserves consideration and meditation. And the lesson that encountering it at different stages over the years has taught me, that faith, belief, and comprehension are lifelong journeys, is one of the greatest gifts of all.