Old tales reveal that we each have been given a gift, an energy which makes us unique and is the source of our earthly power, and that the gift (I call it genius) was forgotten before we were born.
Plato wrote that the gift was bestowed by the Goddesses of Fate as a power to protect and guide us during the mission we must accomplish in our lifetime. St. Jerome described the gift as an angel commissioned to guard the soul. Plato also wrote that, after receiving the gift, the soul is brought to the River of Forgetting, which it must cross in order to gain mortal existence. The river washes away all memory of the gift. In Buddhist legend, Old Lady Meng doles out the Broth of Oblivion to souls returning to earth.
Why all this forgetting? It sure seems as though we would all be better off if our gift was obvious to us. That would save a lot of work and grief, wouldn’t it? There would be no need for personal growth books, tapes, and workshops. I wouldn’t have written Is Your Genius at Work? I wouldn’t even be writing this! Why not save us the time, angst, and money? Why all this irritating secrecy?
I find an answer to the question of forgetfulness in other old tales. The gift is not given unconditionally, but as a prize that must be won by overcoming a challenge. Lancelot must meet the terrors of the Chapel Perilous in order to gain knighthood and pursue the Holy Grail. Theseus must slay the Minotaur in order to become King of Athens and save Greece. These old tales are echoed today in the stories of Luke Skywalker and Frodo Baggins.
So there it is: you have a gift, a natural power and a source of protection. But you have to earn it. You have to prove yourself worthy of your gift by facing the terrors of your own Chapel Perilous or by slaying your own Minotaur.
The notion that we must earn our gift is a problem for those of us who are told daily how quickly and easily things ought to come to us: fast-food restaurants, lose all that weight in no time at all, instant messenger, instant oil-change, instant photos, learn a foreign language in ten days, guaranteed. Look how easy it is! Look how quick!
It is a problem also for those of us who are told daily how we can purchase a self: drive the right car, live in the best neighborhood, buy the most up-to-date technology, use pharmaceuticals to create the mood that a person like you deserves, and send puffs of scent into your living room to show that you are a conscientious and caring person. You are what you buy.
To sum up, the old tales say that you have a gift that has been forgotten, and that you must exert yourself in order to recall it and prove yourself worthy of it. So ignore any promises that the work can be quick or easy: you can’t buy a self at a drive-in window.
Debbie has given us good advice in her posts about "The Illusion of Instant Success," Part 1 and Part 2: don’t fall for hype, know that some things take a long time and that you and I each must do these things in our own way, and don’t be beholden to ego-based fears (she also suggests ordering the Gethsemani Monks’ bourbon fudge and home made cheese, and I can vouch for that too).
To her advice I will add—have courage, be patient, and treat yourself gently.