“A Personal Legend is the reason you are here…You can fill your hours and days with things that are meaningless. But you know you have a reason to be here….It is the only thing that gives you enthusiasm….”~Paulo Coelho
These wise words came blaring back to me as a friend lamented not being able to discern what she is supposed to be doing with her life. I had just read a compelling interview of writer Paulo Coelho (“O, The Oprah Magazine,” October 2014, p. 142 ) and decided to test his views with my friend.
Not surprisingly, D exhibited clearly what Mr. Coelho asserts: that we do know what our reason for being here is. And that our enthusiasm, our sense of aliveness, is an accurate barometer.
Sure, D resisted delving at first, just as so many of us have: “I just don’t know. I just can’t tell.” But when I started questioning about specific interests that D has mentioned in the past, presto! D became unmistakably animated. Eyes alight, energy effusing, torso leaning in….
D’s language mirrored the energy shift from confused and frustrated (“There’s something wrong with me, I just can’t seem to find anything to be enthusiastic about”) to excited and affirming (“Of course, I have always wanted to do something artistic, like sculpting in stone”). YES!
Then the hurdles we often build for ourselves manifested. First, the old standby obstacles for those of us who have waited on the edge, afraid to take the plunge: “Well, no one is ever going to pay me to do that!” and “In my 20s and 30s, I would have dived in, but now I may be too old….”
Ah, yes. My very words when I ached to leave lawyering and follow my lifelong passion for dancing, but feared doing so. Mr. Coelho aptly notes that it’s very difficult “…to accept that you know what you’re supposed to do when you are not doing it. Because from the moment that you know, you have to either leave a lot of things behind or live aware that you are not fully treasuring the miracle of being alive.”
Will my friend follow her heart and pursue her calling of being an artist or something similarly vitalizing? I don’t know. I hope so.
What I do know from my dancing life is that it can feel very risky to follow one’s heart. (“Isn’t that irresponsible/selfish/unrealistic/ridiculous?”) Mr. Coelho explains that “…[y]ou buy into the world’s greatest lie the moment you agree to obey rules that are not your rules. When you say ‘I have to.’ So many people say, in that moment, ‘Am I going to be different? Am I going to make people upset? No.'”
What I know even more deeply is that there is nothing, nothing like living the lives we were meant to live. And the heart and the body are eager to tell us the way, if we will only still our fears and listen. The reason I could recognize my friend coming alive? I sensed the same excitement, the quickening that I feel every time I dance. Reminiscent of the artist’s “elevated sense of being” that Yo-Yo Ma speaks of.
It is home.
Need more justification? When we follow our hearts not only do we benefit individually from “fully treasuring the miracle of being alive,” but also we pour forth our positive vibe, benefiting the universe. Woot! Just imagine: a world full of people living out their legends, breathtakingly ALIVE.
“Follow your bliss.
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living…
If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.”~Joseph Campbell
*Since I wrote the original post for this, edited here, I have had countless, similar conversations with friends, colleagues, family, people I barely know. “Why am I here” and “what path should I forge” are questions that just keep on giving :).
Still, and always, seeking answers, I find Coelho’s sage message resonates ever more insistently: When we cultivate what brings us alive, we treasure most brilliantly the miracle of another day of life. Avanti! (Photo credits: Second from bottom-Linalynn Schmelzer; Bottom: Arthur Fink)