“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”   Melody Beattie

wizard of oz unveiled

Fear makes us do some drastic things that appear on the surface to be reasonable.   For the past two years, for instance, I’ve been heavy into personal development, trying to be the best me that I can be.  My iPod is filled with inspirational and motivational speakers like Eckhart Tolle, Wayne Dyer, and Joel Osteen, and with positive-thinking textbooks like Wallace Wattle’s The Science of Being Rich, Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, Jerry and Esther Hick’s Abraham series, and The Secret.  I play that stuff constantly, sometimes letting them play all through the night when I should really be sleeping.  My iPod is so filled with inspirational tracks that I don’t even have room to keep music on it any more.  That really should have been my first clue that something was out of balance here.  I mean, I’m a musician.  Shouldn’t I be listening to music?

Two weeks ago I reached the saturation point in my quest for personal development.  I had signed up for a high-powered six-day event presented by an internationally acclaimed peak performance specialist who promised to make me into the most powerful me possible.  He promised to remove the internal conflicts that had been holding me back from reaching my true potential.  He promised he could integrate all the parts of me so that they were all working together rather than at cross-purposes with each other.   As a personal development addict how could I resist?  So I dragged my brother along with me and off we went to see the wizard.

The first two days were tolerable.  Oh, the music was unnecessarily loud, and there was way too much perky jumping around and shouting for my liking, but the material was useful so we endured the discomfort and stuck it out.  By day three we were exhausted by the continual assault on our senses combined with sleep deprivation, food deprivation and the frigid cold of the room.  We started to notice that although we were in the meeting room for about 15 hours every day, the actual content we were receiving was pretty much all delivered in the first two days.  Then it dawned on us:  we were being brainwashed.   As the group was whipped into an enthusiastic mass-hysteria and shouting their power incantations, we were shouting, “We will not be assimilated!”  We didn’t last the whole six days.

I felt like Dorothy and her friends in the Wizard of Oz.  Like them, my brother and I had undertaken the dangerous journey all the way to the Emerald City.  Once there, the Wizard put us through trials of physical, mental, and emotional endurance with the promise that we would receive our heart’s desire if we persevered.  Like them, we withstood the trials only to find out in the end that the wizard was all smoke and mirrors after all.  What a let down.

Once Toto reveals that the so-called Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz is actually just an old guy from Kansas with no more powers than you or I have, the travelling foursome discover the truth about themselves.  You might say they reached enlightenment.  They realized that everything they had been searching for had always existed within them.  All they ever had to do was believe in their own power.  The Scarecrow, who always felt inferior because he believed he didn’t have a brain, turned out to be the smartest one of them all.  The Tin Man, who cried because he believed he had no heart, actually had the greatest capacity for love.  And the poor Cowardly Lion turned out to be the most courageous of them all, precisely because he was the most afraid.

But what Dorothy learned was the most powerful lesson of all.  Dorothy learned the lesson of gratitude and appreciation for her grey and normal life back in Kansas.  She learned that if she ever goes searching for her heart’s desire again, she’ll know that if it isn’t in her own back yard she never really lost it to begin with.  In the end, Dorothy learned to see her life in a more positive light.   She learned that her relationships with her aunt and uncle, the farm hands, the local drifter and her brave little dog, Toto, were the most valuable treasure she possessed.  She learned that the way to access her greatest personal power was to fill her heart with as much love and appreciation as she could muster for her life as it is.  She learned to see beauty where before she had seen only grey.  She learned to see love and connectedness where before she had only seen conflict.  She learned to be grateful for her life just as it is right now in this very moment.

I’ve been watching The Wizard of Oz my whole life.  When my daughter was three we watched it two or three times a day for a year.  You’d think I would have learned Dorothy’s lesson right along with her.  But, as Glinda explains, “She had to learn it for herself.”  You see, for the past two years I’ve been frantically following one personal development guru after another because I’ve been reacting to the fear that I’m not enough:  I’m not smart enough, not loving enough, not courageous enough.  I’ve believed that if I learn enough and if I push myself hard enough, and if I think thoughts that are positive enough, that someday I will be enough.  I’ve believed that I just need to get to the Wizard and he’ll make everything ok.

Well, it turns out the Wizard wasn’t all that, so I’ve decided to finally embrace Dorothy’s lesson and to be completely grateful for my life just as it is.  I’ve learned to truly appreciate the people in my life, and to cherish the love that we share between us.  I’ve learned to be grateful for all that I am, do, and have, and to believe that my life is perfect and whole just as it is.

So I’m putting music back into my iPod.  Instead of being hungry to soak in other people’s wisdom, I’m going to reverse the flow and begin to give back.  Instead of learning, I’ll write.  Instead of listening, I’ll make music.  Instead of being afraid and dissatisfied, I’ll be consciously grateful for every part of my life just as it is.  Because as Dorothy discovered, there really is no place like home.