These words struck a chord of deep resonance in my heart. I gasped. I felt such divine relief. Oh my goodness—nobody is watching! In truth there is only one of us here.
In this image-fixated culture, where almost everything is made to seem like some kind of performance or display, I find these true words tremendously comforting. Nobody is watching!
But it seems so much of what goes on is based on the premise that everyone is watching, and so whatever you say or do, it had better be good! Or at least cute or catchy or smart or sexy. Right?
Something I’ve been sitting deeply with—as I’m poised in the prayer of greater use, and offering my voice to the mix in a deeper, wider way—is what I’m seeing as the seduction of significance.
It’s the crushing egoic weight that comes alongside any striving to be valuable; to have an impact; to be relevant and useful in these times.
This can be such a trap for most minds. It’s an intricately interwoven aspect of our greater culture, definitely permeates our spiritual sub-culture, and perhaps especially rules our social media culture.
In this social-media-driven age, where how many likes and comments and shares one gets is what signifies one’s public value, it can be a very sticky place for offering one’s earnest heart.
On the other hand, a relevant offering can simply and clearly light the way towards meaningful contribution, right? Yes, of course.
I mean it’s one thing if the underlying intention is to sell or appeal or seduce. But if the intention is to sincerely share our selves, our honest voices, our heart’s medicine—then this world can be a volatile realm in which to stand nakedly.
It can require so much vigilance to mind our own business around this issue of being perceived as valuable. And if what we share, or do, or provide is somehow publicly perceived as valuable, what do we then take that to mean about us?
How has being perceived as impactful come to equal our sense of love-ability, or given us some sense of “being on track” or of “having made it”? Or even confirm for us our ultimate worthiness as human beings?
And if we somehow feel that what we are offering or how we are living is lacking in public value, or contribution, or significance to the whole, how does that then make us feel about ourselves and our lives?
Public relevance seems to have become the newest popular version of “being OK”, a way for the personal self to feel special, seen, accepted and celebrated in the world.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this of course, unless it’s subtly feeding the insatiable hole of “somebody needing to be seen” in order to feel OK in ourselves, or whole in ourselves, or even alive.
And if we aren’t extremely careful, in weaker moments even the most disciplined minds can fall down the rabbit holes of comparison and competition, suddenly perceiving ourselves through some imagined external measurement of “media value.”
We might find ourselves ensnared by the insecurity that accompanies “somebody who needs to be perceived as valuable/relevant/inspiring, in order to be…” (fill in the blank: accepted, loved, successful, happy, beautiful, worthy etc…) Oh my goodness.
When I’ve fallen prey to this phenomenon myself, I then notice the part of me that just wants permission to be quiet, to rest, to not do another thing, to not write or say another thing ever again.
To not participate in the grand parade and charade of significance and contribution.
To just lay it all upon the altar of surrender. All of it—insecurity, self-doubt, comparison, significance, relevance, impact and value. Offer it all up once again to Holy Mother.
When I then give myself that permission—to have no perceived value at all, no relevance, no impact, no significance in this lifetime? Ahhh, thank God! I’m free.
And then from the ashes of my surrender, from my egoic deathbed, once again I’m authentically compelled to give all that I can give. Most of us are.
Because I do want my life to be of true use, yes.
Not because I then matter in specialness, relevance and significance.
But simply to be in right relationship with all I’ve been given.
To give back. To be a light. To bring medicine in these troubled times.
It’s natural. When I’m useful to the world it is one of my greatest joys. One and the same with the joy of being useful to my own heart, or to a cherished student, or to my precious children.
But there is a quieter usefulness and significance in our sacred lives that goes publicly unseen.
There is an inherent value that needs nobody else’s witness, in order to be.
For the most part, our greatest moments of grace, love, wisdom and service occur in the innermost private corners of our days.
Like that casual inner glance of self-compassion.
That sweetest resting place where our hearts meet humility.
That quiet gush of vulnerable love for humanity.
That utterly ordinary moment of carrying the wood or washing the dishes or folding the socks, when nothing else is needed.
The moment when our open gaze meets the eyes of a stranger.
That kind voice extended towards some place of inner shame.
The sun or rain or snow on our purely grateful face.
The fingers of our beloved clasped in our own.
In my own private conversation with God, the deepest value I receive comes from the courage of my own surrender.
The most exquisite significance I experience is the stillness of my own mind.
Truly, nothing in this world compares to the bliss of essential silence; this unspeakably wondrous truth that doesn’t come and go.
What’s most impactful to my own evolution is the simplicity of self-love.
What inspires me most is when my heart unburdens itself of needing to be anybody at all.
The most profound teachings of my life arrive innocently, as love.
So, my friends, as we willingly participate in the game of public exposure and putting ourselves out there as voices in service, let us not lose sight of where the truest value is to be found, of what holds the deepest significance for our own hearts, and what is most relevant and inspiring to our own becoming.
After all, nobody is watching.