Last week I told a story in class about how I took my dad to the heart center at NYHospital/Weill for a consult about an aortic aneurism. His cardiologist knew enough to know that it wasn’t his area of expertise, so he sent us to a very well-known heart surgeon at an area hospital…who also wouldn’t touch it. So, we went to a surgeon at Weill that I’ll call “The King of Aneurisms”. The procedure my dad will eventually need is performed about 5 times per year in most heart centers, but this guy does about 300 annually. If someone is going to open up my dad’s physical heart (energetically, his is already pretty darn open, I have to tell you) wouldn’t I want the guy who does 300 of these a year as opposed to five? (The fact that he mentioned God several times in the consult to drive the point home that he didn’t think he was God was an extra added bonus!) Why tell the story? To shine a light on the importance of expertise, to underline the value of mastery, and refresh the need for humility- remembering that our gifts, whatever they may be, are Divinely given. And, mostly, the importance of staying in our own lane (The King of Aneurisms didn’t get his crown by dabbling in kidneys on the side).
There is a concept in the Yoga Sutras called Asmita: defined by Nischala Joy Devi as “undue trust placed on the small self, which leads us to confusing ourselves with the Divine Self.” Basically, it's not knowing who we really are, and conversely thinking we are something that we're not. The recent emphasis on trying to build confidence and self-esteem from unsupported, unpracticed experience has created confusion between our true nature, which really is Divine, and our earthly one, which isn’t.
It is important that we know who we really are. I consider myself a marginally bright person, but I am not a financial planner nor would I be one if I went to a weekend seminar. Truth be told, I should not be playacting at financial planning (an earthbound example of Asmita)...the result could be disastrous for my future. Instead, I will stick to being a spiritual teacher, keep honing my craft (a much better use of my time and hopefully a benefit to my students), and I will call a financial planner who is seasoned, knowledgeable, and because of their experience has wisdom to impart. We are not supposed to be versed in, let alone experts at, everything, and we don’t reach mastery in our own calling without application, effort, steadfastness, and study…not coincidentally all parts of the Yogic path.
Now, to be fair, I know that everyone has to start somewhere, and everyone, myself included, was new at one time. But when I was new, I didn’t teach teachers, as I do now. I was simply not ready, not qualified, not experienced enough…and I knew it. I worked at it, devoted myself to it, and stayed in my lane. These times are confusing, where singers are preaching policy, newscasters are writing books about meditation and NY Times columnists claiming themselves to be experts on mindfulness (only to admit later that he isn't really meditating consistently anymore--probably because he is a really columnist, not an authentic mouthpiece for mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn is a better option for that). We live in a time of the instant expert- confusing celebrity and charisma with competency—but perhaps it bears repeating that no one can be great at everything, no one can be an authority on anything in a year or so, and if we try to be all things, we only succeed in digging lots of shallow wells.
There is great reward in identifying our gifts (and acknowledging Who bestowed them upon us), honing them, studying or practicing to really elevate them ( to honor that Bestower), and after patience, time, and application, amass a depth of knowledge. It's much more than just gathering factoids. The reward comes when, by accumulating experience and cultivating a maturity and wisdom, we can offer ourselves in service, with humility and love, not ego, to the world. Don't you love watching someone who is really good at what they do, and they love it, and it is part of them, and they are almost lit from within when sharing it? Beautiful and inspiring, right?
So…stay in your lane. Do what you are called to do, whatever that is for you--not what everyone else is doing. Dive in deep. Be someone of depth. Do the due diligence, earn your stripes, and own it. Then, share it. The world needs mastery. Wisdom. Authenticity. Gravitas. If you aren’t the King of Aneurisms, great. I’m not either. But we can be the expert in our domain, if we apply ourselves and stay focused. In that way, even if we don’t repair aortic valves, we can be like the Heart guy, by being the best and all the while giving the credit, as he does, to the “Big Guy”. Namaste.