I used to think that doing great things in the outside world mattered. And so I misused myself physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally in order to bring about significant change in rural Ethiopia, and elsewhere. I somehow trusted the opinions of other people more than myself. And, on the outside, the work that I offered created change for millions of people. As much as I contributed to the world, though - and it was everything I had - it never healed me, and I ultimately became so empty and depleted on the inside that I could no longer work on the outside.
This is backwards. There is no act on the outside that is worth depleting myself on the inside. There just isn’t. That is not an act of integrity, to do something from a unhealed or broken place inside. There must be integrity on the inside before there can be integrity on the outside.
This is what I have learned through the experience: we reap what we sow. Acts that come from an unhealed place on the inside carry the energy of that unhealed, dis-integrity into the world. They carry that energy deep inside, and plant that seed in the world alongside the offering. And because of this, they cannot have their full healing impact.
Because of this, I have not yet done anything that is great in the world, because the place that my actions came from inside were tainted by my need for external approval. The need, the hole, was as big, or bigger, than the offering.
Wholeness on the inside precedes every act of wholeness on the outside. Our ‘jobs’ on this earth are to love each other. We can only do that in integrity when we love ourselves. Without self-love we have an agenda for others - that they must be a certain way or do a certain thing in order for us to feel safe. They have to approve of us, or give us love in trade. But when we love ourselves completely we are free to love others just as they are. This enables us to break free of the childish need for approval and love that marks a victim, and to delight in ourselves.
This is not about ‘raising my vibration’ or being overly positive. This is about growing up, and taking complete responsibility for my emotional integrity. It is about living in a state of contained love for myself, of approval for myself, of truth with myself. Every act that comes from a place of wholeness, of integrity, of love, of truth, creates more wholeness, integrity, love and truth in the world. Every act that comes from a place of need, of pain, of separation, no matter how beneficial, brings that energy to the act.
Living this way requires slowing down. We cannot do this at warp speed. We have to listen first, and take complete responsibility for any pain or unmet emotional needs before we can act in integrity in the world. And so, this is a manifesto to slow down, so that we can take complete responsibility for our creations in the world. To be intentional. And to take complete responsibility for healing ourselves.
This is the process:
It doesn’t matter what you do, it matters why you do it. Whatever my unmet emotional, physical, spiritual or mental need is, it is my job to see it, honor it, and fulfill it within myself. It is the act of a child to splash it out into the world and demand others to fulfill it. It is the act of a grown up to see it, honor it, contain it, and tend to it in collaboration with the Divine.
As Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” My needs and wounds cannot be met on this plane, they are deeper and more ancient than that. They can only be handed over to the Divine to be healed together.
In truth, I thought that my greatness came from the outside, from an external recognition of my contribution - from my boss, from our partners, from people of influence. It doesn’t. What I learned from the rural poor in Ethiopia is the difference between dignity and deference. Human dignity is available to all of us - because it is the internal knowledge that we are worthy of love. Deference does come from the outside, but it is not a foundation on which to build. My greatness is unrelated to the size of my contribution on the outside. It comes from the truth in my heart, the love in my cells, the integrity in my body. It comes from how I do things, not specifically what I do. And I have the ability to heal and love everywhere I go, in everything I do.
What do I want for others to give to me that I am unwilling to give to myself?
What I believe right here, right now, is that the point of life is to simply know and love myself as thoroughly as possible. When I feel filled with that love within and for myself, I take right action in the world. It also takes the hooks out of my relationships. When I take complete responsibility for my unmet emotional needs I are free and clean in my interactions with others.
You missed the point - just love me.
Our truth is holy. Our deepest truth is the holiest thing about us, because it is the closest to the Divine. This means that everyone is an expression of the Divine. Loving ourselves completely and fully, and trusting the truth in our hearts, enables us to delight in the truth of others. Especially our children. And that is the point - to simply love them.
And now, I see that my deepest truth has a larger home to fill. The home of the earth, of all creatures, all beings. And that my love matters greatly to this greater home. And it is expressed in every interaction I have: I can live in greatness simply by being in integrity with myself with everyone I meet.
And now, I am free. Free to create as only I can create. Free to put my creations into the world freely, that they may swirl around the planet, in and around, freely moving. And to speak my truth simply because it is true, and as such, important. It matters, because it's mine. It is the product of my experiences, my perspective, my culture, my truth. To paraphrase Martha Graham, if I do not bring it to the world, if I do not share it, the world will not have it.
I have not yet begun to tap into my deepest truth, and bring that healing to the world.
As James Baldwin says, it is our job to find our own north star and to live by it.
And so, today it is my intention to do the very best that I can, in every area of my life, using all of my skills and abilities, for the highest good of everyone, including myself. That is it.
This is my simple commitment - to connect intentionally with myself, and to listen, so that I may take complete responsibility for my unmet needs. To turn the unmet needs over to the Divine for healing. And to bring my more contained, more whole, and more integrated self into the world. To give to myself everything that I desire and need on this plane, to live in that joy and fullness and peace, that I may allow others the same. And in doing so, create Heaven on Earth.
The more I love myself, the more I bring that love into the world. And that is my legacy.
Norma Van Horn