"Surviving" Success

"Quiet on the set! One..two...go..." The camera is rolling. I look straight into it, imagining that I am looking into the eyes of a dear friend. Every fiber of my being is alive, lit up, concentrating on connecting with my imaginary friend so that I may communicate purely and effectively. I become focused, efficient, and engaging. The process goes smoothly. We only have to record each clip once or twice before the director is satisfied. We finish before the owner of the yoga studio comes to kick us out, and everyone is relieved and pleased. The camera and sound equipment are then put away. I notice that when the lights and camera turn off, so does my brief interlude with joy and a sense of competence that I rarely feel.

My "regular" life closes in on me like a dark cloud. I reflect on this dichotomous phenomenon in my life - brief periods of brilliantly blinding happiness, connection, ease and grace where I feel at last like the "real me," followed by everything else which in comparison seems like a struggle in the dark. Nearly all those highest moments of self-actualization and expression have to do with performing. I can understand why so many performers and musicians battle with substance abuse, and I am deeply grateful for my spiritual practice. My years of meditation and training have given me some realization that all things must pass, including darkness. Still I feel sad and wonder why is it that I spend such a small fraction of my life doing those things which bring me the highest joy?

The "onion" of this answer has many layers. Any time we don't live to our full potential, we can trace the cause back to limiting beliefs. I suppose in my case it has to do with an ex who was so unsupportive of my creative endeavors that I learned to lie about and hide them. It has to do with an immature and natural confusion regarding renunciation of personal desires. So often a spiritual aspirant will, in a fervor to become free from the Ego, renounce everything from his or her past, as if giving up all familiar activity will keep the material Ego from regaining control. Gradually I am learning that all things can and should be done well for the glory of God. Even the arts, which in the secular world can be so very ego-driven, are a powerful medium for healing, uplifting, and inspiring people.

For the most part I have come to peace with being able to sing passionately for God, without feeling the disturbing need to attract attention to myself separately. And yet I struggle so much with my desire to re-enter the world of acting. Who would have guessed that filming a little old three minute promo video could unleash such a flood of questioning and introspection. Is performing my "core competency"? Why is the feeling of I get from it so extraordinary? Why do I do so little of it? Can I restructure my life so that I allow myself the pleasure of doing it more often? Are my performances of value to others around me? Can I be of service in this way? What am I so afraid of? Since I don't have anything to lose at this time, I can't possibly be afraid of failure. Is it that, like so many others, I am terrified of success?

In what I can only see as a Divine answer to my questions, the other day I received this text out of the blue from one of my catering customers: "It sounds like you had enough Faith to know you would survive grief. Perhaps the next step is to have Faith that you will "survive" success. Joy and happiness are ok too, yes?..." Well, didn't my jaw drop open when I read that! Never underestimate the power of sincerely asking God for clarity and guidance. That is exactly what I have been fighting - the fear that I, the spiritual seeker, would not survive in the face of success. With success comes public attention and admiration, money, power - all things that a humble servant of the Lord would run from ... or would he?

I am reminded how my grandfather guru, Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was once shown a photo of a well-known yogi pushing away money that one of his admirers was offering to him. Srila Prabhupada, opening his arms wide as if to show he was accepting large quantities of money, said "Give it to me; I will use it for Krishna." Because Srila Prabhupada was firmly convinced that everything belongs to God, he never became confused about how to react or what to do with anything offered to him, including adoration and praise.

I am not on that same elevated level of being devoid of personal ambition. And yet, after being away from the stage for nearly 22 years, perhaps it is now time to stop hiding, to step back out into the limelight, in faith that with all your good wishes and prayers I, the aspiring spiritualist, can also "survive" success if it comes knocking on my door.

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