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“In modern Western society we have reached a point at which we try to get by without acknowledging the inner life at all. We act as though there were no unconscious, no realm of the soul, as though we could live full lives by fixating ourselves completely on the external, material world. We try to deal with all the issues of life by external means — making more money, getting more power, starting a love affair, or “accomplishing something” in the material world. But we discover to our surprise that the inner world is a reality that we ultimately have to face.”

Robert Johnson, Inner Work

“We are called to become ourselves and since each self is unique, the calling comes uniquely to us. Learning one’s true way of fitting into this world often requires becoming unfit for regular duties and common expectations. What truly calls to us would have us go beyond the usual limits. In responding to the call we join the lineage of those who are burning with an inner fire; not simply fired up with the heat of ambition, but awakened to a dream and flame that flickers in one’s heart of hearts. A genuine calling further ignites the eternal spark originally carried into life by the soul and nothing can soothe that inner flame except that we fully respond and follow it through the world.”

  • Michael Meade, “Fate and Destiny”

The year of my birth is a dragon year in Chinese astrology. Dragons are supposed to be fire breathers, tending toward an “eventful” life with radical changes, reversals and successes. So far, that’s the way it has worked out. Things haven’t gotten boring yet, although those who are close to me might wish for fewer reversals.

I’m also an extreme introvert. I keep my own counsel, confiding in my journals almost exclusively. My big splashy paintings give one of the few indications what may lie beneath my reticent surface.

I have a friend — I should call him a friendly acquaintance, maybe — who is a writer of some renown, also a dragon, It’s curious how we circle each other warily on the personal level but take great interest in each other’s ideas. I relate to ideas the way a gold miner relates to veins of gold. I’ll do a lot of digging to unearth a single nugget.

I laugh and play a lot in my understated way. That energy is front and center when I paint and write, as well as when I engage in conversation. Sometimes it’s hard for me to settle down and get serious.

My dragon spirit is forever soaring around sound, the sound of languages and the sound of music. A mysterious, moving message seems always on the verge of revealing itself there. A soulful human voice, as well as certain musical instruments can hold me tearful and transfixed for hours. This is where my most intimate self lives.

Why am I telling you this? I just want to say that knowing myself even as I approach my eightieth year on this planet, is a work in progress. In my youth I hadn’t a clue who and what I was. I only had my passionate attractions, my heroes and reactions of family and friends to me to indicate my identity. I know now that the world wanted things from me I was unable to produce, but I didn’t know I possessed valuable gifts that I was born to give.

That discovery changed everything.

It’s hard to know your truest self if you’re trying to be someone you’re not. A mask, a false identity laid on by environment has to be stripped off. Persona is a word taken from the Greek that refers to the stage actors mask, and which we use to talk about the self we show the world. To confuse the persona with the essential self is a common error.

That’s what we are encouraged to do by society, by family. They may not want to know about your soul. It may be inconvenient, or simply unimaginable to them. You have to find it on your own. That is going to be your task in life, even if it puts you at odds with your family, loved ones and society.

You will have to befriend yourself. You will have to observe and affirm what you naturally love. You will have to choose between your essence and the pressures of people who don’t really know you beyond your surface.

You hear a lot of phrases to describe this process — self respect, self love, self affirmation, self care. Use whatever words appeal to you, but listen and watch for what you truly love, how you react, what that inner core seems to be driving at. If you do this, help will show up.

The Universe needs and wants the real you.

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