Inspire means to fill with enlivening energy. I never really thought about it until last year, but ‘inspire’ is linked to ‘spirit’ – to put spirit in someone, is how I see it. The latin origin of spirit points to soul, courage, vigor, or breath. I like to think of spirit as life force. This means, when someone asks you ‘What inspires you?’ it is the same as asking ‘What makes you come alive?’ or ‘What wakes up your Spirit – your courage, your soul, your vigor?’
Well, what does inspire you?
I think this is a question we don’t ask ourselves and each other enough. This question is important because we are at are at our best as creatives, contributors and collaborators when we are inspired – being and doing from Spirit. Yes, I capitalise the word. Because I believe it is an important part of our humanity. I believe when we connect with Spirit – the energy that is us, that created the universe – we expand – just like the universe did billions of years ago. We also break down the distinctions between you and me.
Perhaps I’m not explaining myself very well – in which case, I encourage you to have listen to Jeff Lieberman. He’s gets what I mean and articulates it beautifully: Jeff Lieberman talks about Science and Spirit. Note how his voice sometimes quivers. I like that – to me it is a sign of him being inspired, spirited. It is a sign he is expanding so much, filled with passion, creativity, wonder, and possibility that he feels emotional, a bit overwhelmed and perhaps even in awe. Do you know that feeling?
When we are moved by Spirit – when we are inspired – we have lots of energy, we have a lightness about us, we believe deeply in what we we are saying and doing. And what perhaps is most important – we are creating from our hearts and expect nothing in return. The act of creating is what counts because it sustains us, it is like breath itself.
In this world of ours, we easily step into the rhythms around us. We might take a first step down a path driven by inspiration – by Spirit – but we soon start to focus on all the demands and behaviours around us. We get caught up in the rules, on the protocols, on the conventions. Then we start to feel agitated, restless, frustrated, angry even. We maybe even feel sad. What do I think is going on when this happens? I think our Spirits feel trapped and constrained when all they want to do is to expand. We feel suffocated, like we cannot breathe.
I recently caught up with an old friend Jane (not her real name) who is in her fifites and all her life has been a social justice activist. She looked me in the eye, and said ‘You know what Veena, I don’t care anymore about fighting for XXXX – i’m done with all this.’ Wow. This was a shocker. As the conversation went on, I heard how she was tired from the battle that never really seemed to shift over the decades. The focus of her work had come to drain her. We quickly realised what had happened – she was totally disconnected from her Spirit – from what inspired her, breathed life into her, when it comes to the particular social issue that had been her lifelong passion. The day-to-day drudge of campaigning and trying influence policy makers was dis-Spiriting.
This is why we need to keep asking ourselves and each other, ‘What inspires you?’ We need to constantly bring ourselves back to what makes comes alive, to the Spirit within us. As I write, that oft-quoted Howard Thurman quote keeps popping up: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Dr Thurman was effectively saying – I think – we need more people who are inspired.
What inspires you? What makes you come alive? And can you feel it? Are you expanding? Or do you feel like you are shrinking or suffocating? If the latter, what can you do to unleash your Spirit and become inspired again?