Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What Does Transparency Really Mean?

Last week when I launched this blog, I invited you into community. It has been my dream for a while now, since the days when I operated a women's center in the late 90's, to be involved in a day-to-day community of "women on the path." I also invited you to take a Vow of Transparency.

Within a few hours, I received a soulful e-mail from a dear, blogging friend who expressed some hesitancy about taking such a Vow. Here's a snippet of what she said:

"I'd love to join you over there. I just have one question before I do. How are you planning to keep it "girls only"? I ask only because if I'm invited to be transparent, I'll be 'all in', no holds-barred, capital "T" transparent. There are things I'll be comfortable sharing with a room full of female strangers, but less so if I know men may be sitting just on the other side of the curtain, if you know what I mean. If it's a public site that's open to men as well as women, I'll visit and share, but perhaps be less open to being completely transparent.

I guess I felt that, in order to participate fully and, yes, be transparent, I first had to share my concern. The internet is a big place with little in the way of secrets."

I am soooo happy she told me this. Because, you know what? By her sharing her heart in this way, she was being—Ta-Da!—transparent! Open, honest, real.

She did so tenderly, very aware of how I might perceive her concern as criticism, or put a damper on my enthusiasm about this new blog. In fact, it did the opposite. It bowled me over with excitement about our possibilities here. Thank you, C, for your transparency!

C's comment also made me realize that I must be very clear what I mean by "transparency."

Transparency, to me, does NOT mean spilling our guts to anyone who will listen. It does not mean filleting ourselves open in front of others—just because. It does not mean opening ourselves up to the extent that we risk being hurt or criticized.

I struggled with transparency while I was writing Your Truest Self. I did not know how much to say, how honest to be, what to share of my journey because I am a sensitive sort, and I really did not want to be bashed or shunned. I asked my dear mentor, Sue Patton Thoele, about this. (Sue represents Truth #5, "I Cultivate Compassion for Myself.") This is what she said:

"Don't cast your pearls before swine."

Then she added, "Of course, people are not swine, don't get me wrong. What this means is be open and honest with YOURSELF, but don't put yourself out there if it's going to cause damage to your soul."

I loved that!

In my writing, I chose not to cast all my pearls, just a few. Just enough to make my point. There are some things that are just too sacred, too tender or raw to be shared. It is absolutely fine to hold them close to our hearts and nurture them, savor them, in private.

The Vow of Transparency, as I speak of it in my book is this:
Take off your mask. Look in your own mirror, in the privacy of your sacred space.
Take a good long look at you.
Your wounds, your patterns, your compulsions & addictions.
Also look lovingly at your gifts, talents, your wonderful heart.
Your honesty will heal you.

Truly, without taking this Vow, we may never embrace our truest selves.

So here is the deal. I cannot keep lurkers away, peeping Toms and Thomasina's who want to read about our "stuff," so share wisely. I do believe with all my heart that we are creating a safe, sacred space here. And this is what I will do to safeguard it:

~I will monitor all comments and edit out those that may be harmful.

~Right now, comments are open. If I have to change this to foster safe sharing, I will.

~Each morning I intentionally create a sacred space for us here. I light a candle, say a prayer, put on healing music. I hold you in my heart and thought and then I write ...

~You can e-mail me personally about anything at all using the Contact button and I will answer you. Your correspondence will be held in strict confidence. As a certified spiritual director/mentor, I am bound by code of ethics, just like a therapist or clergy member. 

Is there anything else, in your opinion,  I can do to support our Vows?

So, now if you feel up to it, and you still haven't chosen a new "name" for yourself, and wish to formally join in, please do.  Click here to learn how. Once you do, your name will be logged in (in the right hand column on this home page) as "Voices in the Circle." This list is in place of a Blog Roll.

If you do not wish to do this, that is absolutely fine. No worries. Read on, make a comment, enjoy good company. And you can still take a Vow of Transparency, on your own if you'd like! We will support you—1000%.

I welcome your thoughts ....  and your presence here. 

Love and blessings,


Spring Tender said...

Thank you for this beautiful and reassuring definition and suggestion for transparency. I've often thought of how to write anonymously- as some wisdom is hard earned and there are others involved. But I love the guidance not to write anything that would harm or scar your own soul. This is very useful. Very useful indeed! Joy to you, Ingrid...Spring Tender

mari said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I guess when I read about the Vow of Transparency (in my head it is said slowly and with a deep throaty voice, ha!), anyway, My thinking was a vow, like you said, to be honest with myself. That I would look, openly and truthfully, at what it was that needed tending within my and then act accordingly. Whether that meant sharing it in a open forum such as this, or just taking note to myself or in a journal is my call on a day to day basis. Thanks for putting a tangible definition out there. I look forward to each new post.

Still Water (Dawn)

Jan said...

Spring Tender,
I am happy to hear that this post brought reassurance—and validation— that it is certainly alright to protect our self from unkindness or vulnerability. We share and grow in our own time....

Still Water,
So glad to know that the Vow resonated deep understanding within you. This way, self revelation becomes a gentle act of discernment. An impt process, and key to our own self-acceptance, too!

Lisa (Mommy Mystic) said...

Just wanted to say I love the linked name thing in place of a blog roll, beautiful idea. And I think you have defined transparency well, I will do my best! She-Who-Seeks-Truth

Cheryl Wright said...

Beautiful words of assurance Jan. Really, transparency begins with me.

Like Still Water (Dawn), writing in my journal on a regular basis, helps me to stay true to myself first which translates into transparency in my relationships (being careful to speak and act appropriately and not shame, anger or hurt others intentionally).

wilma said...

For me being in integrity, taking ownership, responsibility and accountability seriously, is safe guarding me.
And when one is love in action, one has no fear.
Good thing to bring up though and to become open and not be afraid.
Hugs to all from 'She who looks beyond' and I love seeing the other names.

Anonymous said...

It's good to straighten out this issue. The way I understand it is that to be transparent means not playing games; it means speaking our truths. And this does not mean dumping on each other. It means sharing our wisdom and experience as far as we are comfortable doing so. I think it also means not saying something is wonderful for the sake of it (you get a lot of that in blogland). It means having the space to disagree - but again, not for the sake of disagreeing. I hope this turns out to be a great place for discussion and wisdom.

Anonymous said...

Oh I should have signed it True Heart! ;o)

Jan said...

I am glad this format resonated with you. It did me too, came about 5 in the a.m., one of those muse-filled moments. Felt divinely inspired. May we all dip a little deeper to access the wisdom within...

Cheryl (serenity Woman),
Iyanla Vanzant, one of the women in my book, talks about journaling as being the VERY best way to remain transparent. (She is in my book, represents Truth # 3). In fact, she told me that she doesn't know how anyone can really do their spiritual journey justice w/o journaling. I tend to agree. So glad you do!

She Who Looks Beyond,
I am loving what you are saying here. It is fear that keeps us from being open and honest with ourselves. I just read (Shambhala Sun, I think) that this may be the primary reason people do not lean toward meditation or periods of silence--they are literally afraid of what they might hear or learn about themselves. There may be truth in this. Your statement: "And when one is love in action, one has no fear" is powerful! May we all be so...

True Heart.
Beautifully said! You make some important points. This is not about dumping, venting or playing games. Oh, I dislike games! (My husband and I vowed never to do that with one another.) Nor is it saying nice things in blogland to be liked. I only pay compliments when I really mean them.

This is a wonderful discussion. Thank you all for being so transparent!

Rose - The Center of My Self said...

The Vow of Transparency is beautiful ... and challenging. To look at our damaged places, our bad thoughts ... to realize the potential for evil that lies within can be deeply frightening. I continue working on my personal challenges, trying to be less judgemental, more accepting (of myself and others), more patient, less egotistic. Progress is slow but sure. It is a gift to also look at the goodness within, the love that is always ready to be shared, the joy and good wishes that are always in my heart.

Rose/Turtle Dancer

Jan said...

Turtle Dancer,
I am a firm believe that as we focus on our innate goodness, the areas we are challenged with begin to fall away. As we accept ourselves and love ourselves, the wounded parts of us (which some might say result in "bad" choices or behavior) become illuminated. When we can embrace ourselves with compassion, the journey is more uplifting than dark. Kudos for you for staying faithful to yours!