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Meditating on Success


“Success isn’t about what you get. It’s about who you become.” – Steven Barnes

This quote floated across my feed this morning. Steven Barnes means it.

The thing that most struck me about this statement wasn’t just the truth of it, but the realization that though most of us will nod our heads in agreement, I also know how many of us don’t believe this, deep down.

We may not equate success with stuff, but still equate success with becoming a person who: has the right job, or is some amount of famous, or has this amount of credibility, or lives a life filled with exciting stories or a life that feels big, somehow. Life feels big if we shift ourselves to allow it to feel big. Life can also feel small, quiet, ordinary. Bigness or smallness doesn’t equal success or failure – success or failure can occur at any level of that spectrum. What equals success or failure for me, exists in answering yes to the following questions: am I learning? Are there at least one or two people I can share deeper thoughts and experiences with? Do my heart and soul feel nourished by my life? Do I have food and shelter? Do I wake up each day curious about the tasks at hand? Am I able to engage, and to be present? Am I of service?

I felt just as successful when working for room and board and $200 a month as I do now, with my current small amount of relative fame and the lovely home I am privileged to share. I also recall the times when everything felt like a struggle, and I didn’t feel successful at all, even though there were several things in my life that looked like success. I felt lonely. I wasn’t at ease within myself. I felt confusion – there was dissonance between the inside and outside of myself. My life, words, actions, and relationships weren’t reflecting the person my soul wanted to be.

What does your soul want to be? What activities in your life help you to answer this question? For me, the key was not even in the spiritual practices I was already doing, some of which still help support my life today. For me, the key to changing my life toward one that felt successful was finally sitting down on the meditation cushion. Once I sat down, I realized I’d been running from parts of myself for years. There were parts of my soul and personality that I’d been trying to control, suppress, deny, or just avoid. They all sat with me. I suffered with this. I hated it. These parts squirmed and shouted and complained. Then my relationship to myself began to change.

This practice steered me toward a life that built my being from the inside out, so that everything began to emanate from my core, and consistency became easy, rather than the struggle it had been. The practice of sitting with myself allowed me to become who I was meant to be. Slowly, success became a way of life. No matter what hardships, irritations, or challenges occur, there is now a sense of success, because I know who I am, and also know I am still in the process of becoming.

What is your relationship to success?

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