.Many cultures the world over have a similar saying to the proverb warning that the nail that sticks out gets smashed with a hammer.  Most of us, no matter where we live, have at some point experienced both sticking out and being smacked down on some level.

Some of us have paid dearly for being who we fully and truly are or for what we deeply believe, while others have chosen to lie low and not even bring their most authentic self forward for fear of ridicule, rejection, or worse.

Nelson Mandela shared the following Marianne Williamson quote in his inauguration as the first president of post-apartheid South Africa:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

For a long time I hid a huge part of who I was because it felt dangerous and potentially even deadly to do anything otherwise. After Mathew Shephard’s murder in 1997 I gave up all hopes and dreams of coming out at that time, as I was living not that far culturally or geographically from Laramie, Wyoming, where this young man’s life and light was brutally snuffed out.Image

It took another seven painful years of bottling up who I was inside before I felt like I was going to explode and burst. I loved working and being in Yellowstone National Park, yet I also strongly felt that I didn’t belong and couldn’t come out and be accepted as a gay man there. I felt stuck forever in a rut of my own fearful choosing,and that it was impossible to bring my full nature to the table, even in a place that I deeply loved.

Yet embracing what was initially terrifying, uncomfortable and unknowable was the portal to freedom, and to reclaiming my natural gifts and passion for helping others connect more deeply with nature, and the meaning and purpose of their own lives.

Nature didn’t care who I was or who I loved, and that’s where I first found the courage, the strength, the tenacity and the hope that I could be who I am, no matter where my feet are.

No one can ever take this away from me again, because I refuse to stay stuck anymore, or surrender my power, freedom and choices the way I consistently did earlier in life. It continues to be (and always will be!) an exciting, dynamic process and journey, as is life and nature itself, but deep, consistent nature connection to nature no matter where I’ve been living has been crucial to staying unstuck and more fully bringing my unique natural gifts to the larger world.

If you’re tired of feeling stuck, held down or are holding yourself back somewhere in your life, there’s a glimmer and the promise of hope for all of us, no matter how dark or unchangeable things may seem.

If you’re craving to experience greater independence, freedom, wisdom and healing through consistent nature connection, it’s waiting for you to show up, rather than the other way around.

If you’re ready to learn from nature and embrace change confidently, courageously and pro-actively, there’s hope and there’s help available from those who have been traveling a similar path you’re on, and who are a little further down the road.

If you’re ready to shine your own quirky light more fully and encourage others to do the same, If you’re ready to stop playing small, then it’s never too late to start doing so, and shine and share your light, unique gifts, talent and purpose with the rest of the restless, hungry world that knows and seeks a higher purpose, a higher passion, and a brighter future.

Reach out, reach up, shine bright, you are a star.

We all are, if we only help each other remember that we were born to shine.

Have no regrets at the end of your life over the things you thought about doing but never got around to, for life is now. Right now.

Be your bad-ass independent, natural true authentic self. The world is waiting, and it is indeed a lonelier and darker world without your light shining.