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Jesica Hanley Vega

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sensitivity

5 Steps On The Path To Peace

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Beach grass with dew.

1) In the October, 2014 issue of “O”  The Oprah Magazine, Paulo Coelho says: If you think small, your world will be small. If you think big, your world will be big*.

The smallest things seem big to me. When I was a child, I believed that if everyone slowed down and saw things as I saw them, there would be peace. Which is why I wanted to be a filmmaker. I wanted to show my world to people and have them experience life in all its perfection and glory.  If we took this world into our hearts, I believed, there would be no war.

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Fallen feather.

2) A heart is like a flower… It can be very brave, but it can easily be hurt.

As a young adult, I began to believe this desire meant there was something wrong with me: that I was naive and idealistic, that I was not cut out for the “real world.”

I was brave for a while but, as I grew older,  it seemed impossible that my vision of peace would be realized and I forgot my dream. My world grew small and I felt hurt.

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Purple Centaurea Nigra.

3) There is a Zen proverb that says, basically, if you want something, step aside and let this thing come to you.

And yet, once my heart was broken, it could be re-opened to the beauty that had captivated me when I was young. When I reconnected with the natural world, I reconnected with the vision of peace I had once known. Inside me was an inner child who said: Hey, do you remember that dream?

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Reflecting pool in an old tree stump.

4) A Personal Legend is the reason you are here…It is the only thing that gives you enthusiasm.

The only thing that gives me enthusiasm is the experience I have when I pay close attention to the world and my mind gives way to my heart. This experience is available to all people but it’s too often forgotten.

In Paulo Coelho’s terms, it is my Legend to live this principle: to demonstrate that peace is within reach at all times, within all people and between all divisions if we can slow down, listen and connect – with each other and the world around us.

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White clover.

5) If you are honest enough, God will guide you. Even if you take some wrong steps along the way, God will recognize that you have a pure heart and put you back on track. 

I have taken many wrong steps along the way but I am still on the journey. My resolve is tested daily. I’m not the proof but I AM the experiment and I live for peace not only as if my life depends on it, but as if yours does.

*All italicized statements from the Paulo Coelho interview in the October, 2014 issue of “O” magazine.

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.

Are You Too Sensitive?

The Earth itself is both sensitive AND strong.

A number of years ago, I was seeing a therapist who would regularly bring up the fact that I was sensitive. Every time she said it, I would  squirm  because it sounded like she was insulting me and calling me weak.

Needless to say, if there was anything I didn’t want to be called, it was sensitive.

Girl poets who put their heads in ovens were sensitive. Boys who cried on the playground were sensitive. People who didn’t speak up for themselves, who wouldn’t pursue their dreams and who couldn’t succeed were sensitive. And that wasn’t me.

Over time, however, I grew to love my sensitivity and regard it as a gift rather than a liability. Along the way, I also transformed my entire notion of what it means to be a sensitive person in an insensitive world. I discovered that when we try to hide our sensitivity and function like other people (the “insensitives”?) our best results often DO end up flawed and, as our constitutions wear down from neglect, we often DO end up weak (or addicted or depressed).

But, I also learned that when we embrace sensitivity as a precious gift and the source of our greatest contributions, we can surprise ourselves with who we really are and carve out a powerful existence based on our true selves and our authentic strengths.

If you are a person who has ever been called oversensitive or has thought that about yourself, consider looking at the term differently from now on – not as an insult but as a clue to your deeper nature – and try asking yourself some questions:

  • If you spent more time alone and less time forcing yourself to be social, what would happen and how would you feel?
  • If you stopped trying to be like other people and surrendered to being exactly who you are, who would you be?
  • What if the thoughts and images of your imagination were projected outside yourself?  What if you shared your experience of the world? What would be possible? Not just for yourself but for others?
  • And lastly, what if you cherished your sensitivity and designed a life to nurture and care for it? What then?

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