Jesica Hanley Vega

Sing Your Song


June 2014

What’s In Your Closet?

Even the smallest things can leave me in awe.
Even the smallest things can leave me in awe.

My first-ever Mastermind Call has been going for almost two months and, despite a few anxiety attacks along the way, I’m thrilled with it.

Before each weekly call, I do a reading to get a sense of where everyone is at and where we need to focus our conversation. This week the theme was honesty, so I posed the questions: What are you hiding from yourself or others? and What would be possible if you came clean?

What I heard inspired me; I am regularly in awe of the courage and depth demonstrated by our little tribe and today was no different.

But then it was my turn. What had I been hiding  – and would I be willing to share it with people who look to me for leadership and wisdom? I wanted to share, but I hesitated: Would it make me look bad to admit I’m as susceptible to concealment and fear as they are? Would it diminish my role as facilitator and guide?

Brene Brown writes that vulnerability is the soul of leadership, so I stepped into the arena.

I am in love with God, I said, and I want God’s light to shine so brightly through me that other people fall in love with God as well.

Not the “God” that’s “out there,” mind you.  Not the  Human-Like God of punitive laws, damning judgments and religious wars. But the energy and light inside each one of us, that some don’t even call “God” but which they may call Source, Spirit, Purpose, Creativity, Unity, Unconditional Love  or, as Yoda put it, the The Force.

I love this —- that I call “God” and I have created a life around my devotion to it. But I hesitate to call myself – or my work – “spiritual.” Where there are words, there are prior associations, and nothing “God” has ever touched on earth has gone untainted by humanity’s tragic limitations on understanding and imagination. I haven’t wanted to be misunderstood, criticized or invalidated so I have kept my experiences to myself and remained in the closet.

But whether I call it something as lofty as God-the-Beloved or as secular and humanist as awe, I see and feel it everywhere and speak about it almost nowhere.

A friend reading a recent post asked me to describe a dimension of my sensitivity that I have re-framed from weakness into strength. This would be it.

Falling into trance-like states of awe doesn’t work in the dog-eat-dog world of busyness, competition and deadlines. And no matter how I tried, in my previous career I could never stop myself from becoming transfixed by a blade of grass, the nap on a shag carpet or the soul of another human being. I even cursed my “distractability” and untameable adoration of creation as the “thing” that stopped me from succeeding in life.

But now I celebrate it as one of my greatest gifts.

And, through my work as a guide and teacher, I seek to foster environments in which others have access and permission to experience such wonder in their own lives as well. By coming clean, risking being misunderstood and stepping into the arena with courage and depth, perhaps something entirely new is now possible for me and my world.  I can’t say, but it sure beats hiding my light.

What are you hiding?

And what would happen if you let the cat out of the bag?

Find Your Creative Tribe

IMG_3272As I’ve mentioned before, prior to my life as an intuitive guide and teacher, I worked in the entertainment industry. In 1997, I drove my Toyota Corolla from Chicago to Los Angeles with dreams of turning my first ever screenplay into an independent film. Though I never made that film, I did meet many kindred spirits in LA’s independent film scene and developed friendships that have lasted to this day.

Sean Hood is one of those friends. Unlikely as it may seem for someone with writing credits on films such as 2011’s remake of Conan The Barbarian and this year’s The Legend of Hercules, Sean is a person of rare intelligence and insight. In addition to working on Hollywood blockbusters, he also teaches writing and shares his views on film and the film industry on his blog GenreHacks.

“We all need a different model of success” he recently wrote, “one that requires creatively minded people to build circles of 30-100 people who are deeply engaged in their work.  Whether or not one “hits it big,” this circle becomes the center-of-gravity for creative growth, psychological health, and spiritual meaning.” He calls this model “Creative Tribalism.”

Creative Tribalism doesn’t apply only to artists, however. It can benefit anyone who seeks a life of growth, health and meaning. We ALL need communities that support our efforts, help us grow and – most importantly – benefit from our gifts. From firsthand experience, I know how demoralizing it can be to live the winner-take-all paradigm of creative success – in which either everyone knows your work (because you “hit it big”) or no one does.

I also know how wonderful it’s been, in the last few years, to develop a small but vital following of clients, colleagues and Path community members who inspire me to dig more deeply into myself, expand my leadership and strengthen my work. I wouldn’t be where I am – or who I am – without them. My creative tribe has been my greatest teacher and has inspired me to support others in the discovery of their own tribes.

Sean Hood was there 15 years ago, inspiring and challenging me when I was struggling to make films out of a cramped and dark West Hollywood office space. He’s still there – only now out in the blogosphere – throwing out ideas that inspire and challenge me when the medium for my ideas has changed but not the passions behind them. He’s a member of my tribe.

Do you have a gift, a story or a song that you’ve yet to share? Is there someone – or some group of someones – you could share it with? What journey could you begin by daring to be imperfect? To not yet be “great” but to simply be courageous? And what relationships could you nurture that would see you through your own years of failure and success and help keep your fire alive?

Reconsidering Sensitivity: How I Made The Shift From “Success” to “Well-Being”

This is a revised version of an earlier post about sensitivity and part of an on-going effort to define the journey I’ve taken in the last nine years and explore how it can impact others in their own struggles to re-create their lives based on their innate gifts and natural wisdom. Enjoy

Years ago, I used to tell a boyfriend "I'm NOT a sensitive flower!" Turns out I am.
Years ago, I used to tell a boyfriend “I’m NOT a sensitive flower!” Turns out I am.

Several years ago, I had a therapist who regularly brought up the fact that I was sensitive. She’d say things like “You’re sensitive, you feel things deeply” or “You’re sensitive, you need to take care of yourself. She was trying to help, but every time she said the word, I squirmed.

Hypochondriacs, poets who stuck their heads in ovens and people who lacked grit were sensitive. As far as I was concerned, when my therapist called me sensitive she was just too polite to call me a “thin-skinned weakling who’d never get anywhere. ”

At first, I was determined to prove her wrong. I’d show her I was strong, that I was nobody’s victim.  I’d been doing it for years.

I’d worked in the entertainment industry for almost a decade. Though a certain degree of sensitivity may go hand-in-hand with creativity, it had been no help when it came to withstanding the repeated rejections, crazy hours and personal politics of Hollywood. My innate sensitivity may have initially inspired me to be an artist, but once I was in the movie industry I felt the need to eradicate – or at least hide – it. After all, didn’t everyone say I needed to grow a “thick skin” and “not take things personally”? Be a “professional” and not “feel” things so much?

Despite my best efforts, however, all those years relentlessly trying to toughen myself up hadn’t made me better or more “successful” at my work. Instead, they had left me increasingly depressed and unable to remember why I’d wanted to make movies in the first place.

When my therapist first suggested I embrace my sensitivity, it felt like stepping into an upside-down, Bizarro version of my life. Sensitivity had felt like a liability and an embarrassment for so long, that embracing it required letting go of assumptions I’d held for as long as I could remember. And yet I was desperate.

Not long afterward, I was sitting on a beach with my daughter, watching pelicans fly in formation. On the one hand, it felt good – as if I’d found my natural state and could sit there watching birds and waves for the rest of my days. On the other hand, I still held long-standing beliefs about the importance of “success” and what was necessary to “make it” in the world. My bliss intermingled with anxiety. Though inner peace surged through me at the moment, this was surely not the way to “make it.” And hadn’t that been what I’d always wanted?

It wasn’t an immediate transition, but eventually – with the unwavering support of my former husband – I traded my high-pressure life for one designed to nurture my even deeper drive for peace and sustainability. I did it without having “proved myself” in my industry, without the privilege of being able to “cash out,” without a retirement account and without any certainty about what would come next. I just did it – one painful, scary, delirious step at a time.

In doing so, I discovered that anyone who denies their true nature and pushes themselves to live according to others’ expectations ends up with unsatisfying results or, even worse, physically ill, suffering from addiction or depressed. But I also discovered that embracing my sensitive nature, as well as other long-hidden gifts, led me to experiences of wonder and well-being that had long been missing from my life and that, ultimately,  made my life worth living – whether “successful” or not.

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