Being and staying open to the full gamut of experience that life has to offer isn’t something that has come naturally to me. I still talk a good game, and tell myself I’ve evolved. Yet, at times, I feel a physical sensation in my solar plexus and in my chest that feels as though some kind of internal resistance or “brake” is saying “NO!” to experiences that don’t fit with my preconceived ideas of how things should be. Then, I sense my world becoming narrow and constricted. When this happens, I believe I have cut myself off from the wise, inner creative muse. My authentic voice temporarily becomes mute.
I’m learning to watch and allow even this rift in my psyche, when it happens, rather than trying to oust it. Attempting to strong-arm or wrestle it into submission only ensures resistance unpacks its bags and hangs around. Funny how steering into, rather than running from, the less desirable experiences in life can be the path to regaining one’s equilibrium.
So, in this fourth and last installment in my post series on finding your voice, I’d like to speak to something that has become a daily lesson for me – staying open. Staying open has meant not allowing myself to be trapped in my left brain, where I can’t readily access the rich resources in the expansive creative world of my right brain.
When your brain, and your thoughts try to convince you that “it” has the answers, and is the best boss of your life, don’t fall for it!
At times I believe I could benefit from having this tattooed on my forearm. That’s how easily my internal control freak tries to seize the reins, especially when I experience something that runs counter to my expectations. Face it, most of us don’t want to experience anything that feels bad and most us have been taught to pursue only happiness and “positive” emotions. Paradoxically, when we allow all experiences, even the darker ones, we often begin to experience more balance and wholeness. The energy of life is allowed to move, giving us the spaciousness where creativity can flourish. Carl Jung, was a master, in my opinion, in speaking to the struggle we encounter in finding wholeness.
Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of Western theosophy, but not the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.
Carl Jung – “The Philosophical Tree”
I remember how much my mother-teacher-artist liked Edvard Munch’s The Scream. In her art classes she used this as example of how powerfully art embraces and expresses the full experience of living. She cautioned against sanitizing the creative voice, and encouraged her students to allow art to be an outlet for fully expressing themselves.
On the journey to finding your voice don’t let the bumps in the road deter you. Oh, how we’d love for things to all be smooth sailing. If you stand at the beginning of a project or exploration that speaks to your particular passion, and you decide only to proceed when everything feels right, you might not move past “go”. Many of my painting and creative endeavors have unfolded only after moving through initial uncertainty and discomfort – and, after I’ve released the need for assurance of success.
Every morning, I rise, and go to the window, and I open the shutters. For me, this is a wonderful metaphor for opening my mind, and making the choice to welcome whatever greets me and to work with it. Especially in fall and winter, the outside world can be socked in completely with fog, drenched in unrelenting rain, or bathed in spectacular sunshine and brilliance. I would prefer the latter, since the former conditions tempt me to run back to bed, and to bury myself in the safety of my down comforter. This is like retreating to a world of thoughts of what I think “should be” vs. living with “what is”. I’m learning that the wiser and more productive choice, is embracing whatever the world is presenting and asking what it has to teach me.
Finding your voice can be an impossible journey if you attempt to manufacture and control your experiences. Trusting the flow of life, and staying open, may seem scary. Often times it is, to me. Daily life is asking me to relax my grip. As an artist, I believe this is essential for my growth. As a person who has made a wholesale life change by moving my life to Italy, this is essential for my sanity. Believe me, while the change has been enormously gratifying, it has also been a rollercoaster ride at times.
In closing, I’d like to thank my friend A.Z. who inspired this post series. And, I recommend a YouTube video, called Navigating the Flow of Life, a narrative by Adyashanti, who has become one of several sources of inspiration for me. For every person, you’ll be presented with experiences and mentors that guide you along the way. Just as your voice is unique, so will be your journey.