On Inspiration

I need to confess something here. It’s a feeling I’ve been harboring for a long time now and I’m finally ready to get it off my chest – sometimes, I take inspiration for granted. I’m super embarrassed to admit this, especially because I’m a life coach, and (I think) I’m blabbing out inspiration from time to time to my clients and friends while simultaneously posting inspirational quotes on Instagram and Facebook. So admitting that I take it for granted while I’m dishing it out is well, quite mortifying.


What do I actually mean when I say I take inspiration for granted? What I mean is this: those moments when I feel inspired by a conversation, a play, a book, a beautiful sunset, I stop there. Don’t get me wrong; I feel the inspiration. It shows up in my body as goosebumps up and down my forearms, as an opening in my chest, a sense of awe and wonder that seems to magically appear just in that moment, just for me. But that is only half of it. What comes next (and this is where I have been absent) is what I do with that inspiration, that feeling, those goosebumps, that magical energy once it hits me. And lately, I haven’t been doing much.


There was a catalyst to this awakening. It was gifted to me by a client of mine who shared a painful story of abuse with a live audience.  On stage she was the essence of vulnerability. She allowed her message to be choreographed into dance, offering it up for the audience to feel, to be moved by her movement – and she was seen. What she did on that stage took courage, honesty, truth, and vulnerability; everyone watching could feel it. There was a level of connectedness that filled the space, one in which her story became our story and we grieved together and healed together. I sat in that theater and felt the inspiration encompass me. I felt the power and connectedness of a group of strangers seated side by side, sharing in the power of a story that was not their own, and allowing it to move them. When I walked out of the theater my heart felt like it had blasted open. I could feel the soles of my feet on the ground, and I felt moved. And as I headed home I made a promise to myself.


I no longer want to let inspiration go to waste.


I no longer want to let another human being inspire me without taking a moment to ask myself, what can I do with this feeling? Now, I’m not perfect. I’m not here to claim that I’m suddenly going to be inspired by everything that surrounds me and constantly take action in every moment. It doesn’t mean that every single Rumi quote is going to inspire me to become a Sufi poet. What it means is, I want to be more aware. I want to pause and think about how inspiration can propel me forward. I want to ask myself WHY this is inspirational, and how CAN I use this quote, this moment, this thought or idea to shift my perspective in a way that serves me. I can read all the Brene Brown books she’s written, but unless I move towards turning her research into action, all I’m doing is reading. I can listen to all of Tara Brach’s podcasts, but if I don’t close my eyes during her meditations then all I’m doing is hearing and not listening. I don’t want to be a witness to other peoples’ stories without those stories moving me.


My client’s performance moved me to challenge myself. What inspired me about that moment was recognizing the challenge and the risk she took in being seen. It was such an incredible display of courage; it forced me to stop and ask myself, how am I challenging myself daily? It inspired me to delve into “inspiration” and decipher it’s meaning for myself.  


The word inspiration comes from the Latin word inspirare – to breath into. Looking at it as a form of breath helps to change my relationship with the word. It isn’t something we are meant to feel and keep only for ourselves. It’s meant to be inhaled, and then eventually released. Inspiration is meant to radicalize “possibility,” to make it a movement. It’s a catalyst, a magical surrendering to something unknown. It’s about action that comes from the soul – a desire and a movement towards our creativity and ourselves.


It’s also a highly personal term; no one can tell you what moves you. As humans we have to be in tune with ourselves in order to sense the shift in the body. Often I feel so wrapped up in what “should” be inspiring me that I forget to check in and actually ask myself what DOES inspire me. For me, it’s connection, energy, community, and storytelling. What inspires me is a great piece of theater - the way the audience can be moved as a whole and how the energy in the space can become dense with sorrow, or light with humor. What inspires me is listening to someone share their story, witnessing vulnerability, and the connection that’s created in that moment. What inspires me is people who face adversity and continue walking.


Imagine the possibilities that open up when we consciously choose to take action from a place of inspiration. And here is the best part about it; we have the power to choose this, everyday. It doesn’t have to be hard. The sunshine can inspire me to write if I let it. That’s the bottom line; we have to let inspiration move us, otherwise, we’re breathing in and not letting go, and inspiration is meant to be shared.


So, what inspires you? What does it look like for you to turn inspiration into action? How do you allow what inspires you to inspire others? And what are you willing to do about it?