As is likely the case for many of us, my upbringing included a strong emphasis on the notion of limitations. For much of my early life I accepted the “truth” that there was a finite amount of such commodities as love, recognition and happiness without ever challenging it. Such a belief system, based on scarcity, necessarily dictates that not only will there be “haves” and “have nots,” but also that the “haves” can win only at the expense of the “have nots.” After all, if there is only so much pie to go around, one more piece for me means one less piece for someone else. Likewise, an extra piece for someone else means I will go without. This construct is the perfect breeding ground for fear, competition and guilt, and for a long time I swung wildly between blind ambition—desperate to grab one of the limited opportunities—and crippling guilt—for having taken someone else’s chance in the process.
That was certainly not a satisfying way to live, and I am thankful that my eyes and heart eventually opened to a much different view of life, one of much greater spiritual ease and fulfillment, based on faith, gratitude and unlimited possibilities for all. For the past several years I have consciously tried to live my life from this perspective and have found support everywhere from orthodox religions that proclaim a loving God of infinite miracles to metaphysical teachings of an abundant, giving “universe.” And yet, those old beliefs die hard. From time to time, they rear their ugly head and I find myself panicking over different situations in my life, variously berating myself for missing the boat on some opportunity or apologizing for having caught it while others were left standing on the shore. My mind was wrestling with these old issues the other night just before I fell asleep. That’s when I had an amazing little dream, one I view as a gracious gift from my subconscious.
I dreamed about the little fishing booth at the old-fashioned amusement park in my hometown. The booth is set up so that there is a constant stream of plastic fish “swimming” by. You have only to dip your rod in the water and you are guaranteed a catch which you can then exchange for a prize on the shelf. It’s impossible to lose at the fishing booth; the supply of fish is endless, ever-flowing and available to all. There are only “haves,” only winners.
What if it really is that simple? What if we have only to do our part—put our rod in the water—to open up an abundant and generous world of possibilities? What if the prevailing notion of taking what we can, while we can before someone beats us to it is wrong? What if giving to others doesn’t leave us with less, but maybe even more? What if—and this is one I still struggle with—letting our light shine doesn’t diminish anyone else’s light? What if we can all shine? What if being our true, authentic selves in all our glorious imperfection is the best gift we can present to the world, to God and to ourselves?
This is what I believe despite my occasional late-night slip ups. The next time I find myself awake at 2 a.m., full of self-doubt and recrimination, I’m going to take a deep breath, close my eyes and let my mind float off to the little fishing pond and find my truth again. And who knows, I could even score a really cool prize like a plastic spider ring or a genuine fake gold ankle bracelet!