Jan 5, 2016


There’s a powerful quote by Marianne Williamson (often misquoted as Nelson Mandela, who was quoting her):

"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, and 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 will not 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 others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles"

The first time I heard this was in a yoga class in Los Angeles. Perhaps a new-age cliché moment, but also immensely touching one. It was the first time I really heard this kind of message inside. It touched a part of me that began to unlock the cave I was hiding in, waiting to come into my Self. In a lot of ways, I had taught myself to play it small, to hide behind my worries, as women often are taught. 

A rabbi I studied with at the time I heard this quote was already helping me to begin to step into my inner strengths. She taught me that what I thought was being humble was actually reverse-narcissism. I was “playing small” because I felt so self-involved that my negative traits became an overarching aspect of my identity. I had trained myself to enjoy the attention I received from explaining why I wasn’t enough. Woah.

I remember having another conversation with her about a woman who embodied her strength in a way that intimidated me. She was beautiful and lived in her joy, and I felt inadequate in her presence. In that insecurity, Rabbi Karen encouraged me to understand the difference between jealousy and covetousness. Jealousy, she explained, was perfectly healthy as a sign pointing to that which we strive to develop in ourselves. When we feel that jealous tinge, it’s because we know there is an undeveloped part of us we see in another that we yearn to embody as well. Used in a healthy way, jealousy moves us to action, inciting inner growth. I could look at this woman who brought up an insecurity and realize that her joy reflected my innate nature of joyful self expression. It was time to develop this aspect of my being, and permit myself to be me, freely.

Covetousness, on the other hand, is wanting something that isn’t ours and was never meant to be ours. She explained how its energy stifles and negates what’s right, what’s aligned at the expense of both yourself and others. The danger of this miserly desire can do much harm. Rabbi Karen reflected that the covetous part of my perception of this woman was that her essence was never something I was meant to be. The metaphor she used was that this woman was “rainbow” energy whereas I was “crystal, white light”. The degree to which I thought I had to mold myself to the colorfulness I saw in her was a covetous tendency, because it wasn’t who I was in essence. Instead I had to accept the nature of my simple, clear spirit and wield it with grace and beauty. This explanation struck a chord with me, and has radically shifted the way I perceive others and myself.

As I begin to attune into the essence and beauty I was given to evolve this lifetime, a new sense of joy slowly pervades my life. It’s a gentle dance, stepping forward and sometimes back, as I learn to balance both the strengths I have been gifted and stay humble to my character flaws.

As I shine more, I owe most of the lightness to meditation. I remember my first meditation teacher, Chariji, explained how shyness was a sign of strong ego. I was a bit taken aback at this comment, realizing how much ego that would mean I had and examining the places where the shyness came from. As I’ve continued to meditate the past four years, slowly the places I’ve been hiding under have cleared as I become more centered and relaxed. The inner glow slowly expands in my experience of life and outlook towards the world.

Recently my teacher Kamlesh D. Patel has spoken about how in meditation we learn to excel in everything we do:

"Whatever we do, we must excel and that has nothing to do with ego. When we paint, are we excelling in that? When we study, are we excelling in our studies? People say, 'I will not excel. I want to be humble and non-egotistical.' Don't have ego, but not at the cost of excelling. The purpose of life is this: we must excel in everything that we do. Excel! People say, 'Oh, but my ego will go up.' Ego will go up only when I repeatedly say, 'Look at my work. It's so wonderful. I did it. You can't do it.' Ego is not to be used to hurt others. It is to keep pointing the finger back towards myself saying, 'Okay, I can do it better than I did it last time. People say, 'I want to annihilate it completely and remain ego-free.' It's not going to happen.

"With a true ego, I am not comparing myself with others. I am comparing myself with my previous performance. Then, the utilization of the ego can be productive. Otherwise it can be disastrous."

Designing Destiny, Ego and Excellence

I’m slowly accepting that this trend of embetterment is a service. We are given so much as humans to actualize. We have so many gifts gently tucked inside of us. It is in living these gifts that we express our gratitude for what we’ve received. Chariji would often talk about how non-use was misuse – like if we had a pen that we kept in a drawer. Though it was a beautiful pen and we wanted to keep it, the ink dried up and it was useless as a pen.

Let us learn to master these beautiful tools we have inside, use them while they're fresh. Let’s commit to the Universe to flourish in our unique environments, inspiring others to do the same. Let us put down our misguided reservations and stand, beautiful, ourselves. Our Selves.

Light up, brave heart.

Photo: Ines Perković


  1. Awesome sister...you have opened my eyes and my heart to flourish..just what I needed..loved it

  2. "I was “playing small” because I felt so self-involved that my negative traits became an overarching aspect of my identity. I had trained myself to enjoy the attention I received from explaining why I wasn’t enough. Woah."

    Woah is right. Emma, please keep writing. It keeps getting better and better. Amazing work. -t

  3. Great post. Reminded me of this quote:
    "The word 'ego' is said to have been abused by all the present and past writers. The ego gives you strength for all the work. It points out to you that you have got the power to do a certain thing"
    Taken from the book "Complete Works of Ram Chandra Vol. 3", pg 35

  4. Awesome. I liked the thought flow and depth of thoughts. Write more blogs like this.

  5. Very good post... I have always felt that it's much better to improve on strengths rather than fighting off weakness.... One is playing to win and the other playing not to lose...

  6. This is my favorite quote! This post really strikes a chord with me. We all must utilize the gifts we have and aspire to excel in whatever we do!