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A student of mine said recently that while she’s driving around town she often asks herself, “What am I doing with my life?”
We can all relate.
But when we ask ourselves that question, we often do it out of panic and undermine how much we’ve actually accomplished. We beat ourselves up for where we are, comparing our lives to some idealized fantasy. We denigrate our real journey of being an artist just because we don’t have everything lined up exactly like we thought it would be. Our questioning almost suggests that the pursuit of acting – or any kind of art – is futile and therefore a waste.
Who you are as an artist is not the sum total of the jobs you book. The means do not support an end. The means support the means. The act of doing, the act of expressing, the act of celebrating who you are through your work – which is really your art – your life is your art – are the reasons for doing it.
Don’t denigrate yourself for going for things that make your heart feel alive even if there is struggle and rejection and the media’s portrayal of what success or achievement looks like hasn’t yet been bestowed upon you.
Many people think artists are “crazy.”
We’re considered crazy because we allow ourselves to feel. To emote. To dream. To pursue something we love that makes us feel deeply alive in spite of the odds against us. That takes bravery and a certain amount of foolhardiness. Passion and guts. Patience and play.
It’s called being human.
I think it’s how other people who call us “crazy” wish to live. They want to risk. They want to be more freely expressed. They want to feel. They want to be liberated from the burdens of living life like a “business.” But the paradigms of seeking security and living a stable, “normal” life are hard to break if you’ve been told you have to have those things to be safe.
The irony is, if you’re seeking security you’re not going to find that even when you find a “secure” job; a “safe” life.
No one is secure on this planet. The things we amass that make us feel safe – the titles, the cars, the money, the “stuff” – are all illusory.
Security implies being shielded from the things that affect humanity. But even if you have financial security – and everything else – you still won’t be immune to the inherent insecurity of simply being alive: loneliness, despair, rejection, termination, getting old, loss, heartache, desire, falling in love, conflict, death.
The poet David Whyte says “Anything or anyone that does not bring you fully alive is too small for you.”
So remember that the next time you tell yourself “What am I doing with my life?”
What you’re doing with your life is . . . living it!
I can’t believe it’s been an entire year of creating. In many respects, a year means so little in the enormity of our lives and how they unfold. The things we make huge dramas about, or the things we become consumed with or fret over, ultimately work themselves out and a year later we can hardly remember what it was that caused so much vexation.
So a year isn’t so much quantitative to me as it is qualitative.
How did you spend the year?
Were you expressed? Brave? Committed? Loving? Just a little more present? Patient? Compassionate? Dangerous? Flexible? Fearless? Joyful? In-it-to-win-it?
I read someone’s Facebook post recently that said something along the lines of “finding spirit in your life is important.” He was quoting from some televangelist, who was obviously, quite serious!
That idea made me sad.
Because spirit is always with us. Spirit is who we are. It doesn’t have to be found. It’s in everything that is alive and throbbing with intelligence and life-force. It’s pulsating through our bodies and our blood. It’s in our marrow and breath. It is in the words we speak and the dances we weave. It’s in our parents and children and lovers and ex’s. It’s in our enemies and in everyone that came before us and those who will come after. It’s in the way we express ourselves that makes each of us individually unique. That’s spirit!
And it defies labels. For some, it might be called intelligence. For others, it might simply be creativity; the way you tell a story or write a poem or play an instrument. For others, there might not be any conscious connection to it at all. It’s merely a vague term used to suggest “otherworldliness.”
But the truth is, it simply is a sort of embellishment, a stamp, or signature of how each of us does what he or she does. Different for all 7 billion of us. So do it your way. That’s connection to spirit. Not found. Expressed.
So as 2012 comes to a close, maybe we can think less on how much we’ve accomplished or created, but instead take inventory on the spirit of how these things were shared.
For it’s not really what we do or make or achieve but how we live in the world that is the only thing truly remembered.
Looking forward into 2013, perhaps we start taking stock in how much power we each can lovingly wield. How much energy to positively transform we each possess. How much possibility there truly is in the world.
So maybe it’s about shifting our awareness. From thinking we lack and therefore must find and instead, realize that it’s all inside you. As it’s always been. Just waiting more and more to come out.
In 2013 and beyond.
Trust that you’re enough.
Because you are.
But we don’t.
So we overcompensate for our ill-perceived sense of lack by working too hard. By pushing. By settling for less. By not realizing our own value. We mistreat ourselves and allow mistreatment by others because if we truly believed we were enough, we wouldn’t settle for bad behavior that supports our beliefs that we’re inadequate.
Trust comes from experience, for sure. And part of that is developed by trial and error. But sometimes we become so focused on end results and completing things perfectly that we get scared to try. But it’s only through attempting things and failing that we grow and develop insight. It’s a sort of purification process that helps us to understand that everything we need is inside of us.
Trust. Celebrate life. Make mistakes.
But it’s also a state of being. Something that is generated by a stillness within and not the self judgments from our very loud heads.
Trusting that you’re enough has nothing to do with others. (Although it’s often reflected in the relationships we cultivate and in how we attract certain people into our lives).
Trust has to do with you. It has to do with accepting yourself fully. Totally. Flaws and all. Imperfections and challenges. Not necessarily of the physical variety. (Who cares if you have a zit?) But of the mental and emotional kind that shape how we participate in the world. With ourselves and with others.
If you don’t accept that you’re a fully equipped human being with innate skills and gifts, extraordinary abilities and talents specific to you and no one else, then how are you ever going to be able to show up and share them with the world?
So first you have to start with this assumption that you do have something unique to share.
Then trust that life will find a way for you to express them. Even if you don’t know what they are yet.
C A N ’ T.
That’s a dirty 4-letter word we use more often than we realize.
Sometimes it’s subtle and shows up in the form of defensiveness, rationalization, saying “no” to things, giving up, accepting defeat.
And sometimes we simply just say it overtly: I can’t do it.
Yes, you can.
The true spirit of who each of us is – the part of us beyond our ego (which tells us we can’t) – is indestructible, powerful beyond measure, incapable of being defeated by resistance, fear and “can’t.”
Before we grew up and started listening to the limitations placed on us by our pseudo (ego) self, we believed that we could do it all.
And we could. And still can. Like children.
They commit to the reality of their imaginary micro-worlds (whether it’s exploring outer space, or playing Samurai swords on an ancient Chinese battlefield or pretending they’re trapped in the Jurassic Period hiding from dinosaurs).
They can because they think they can. Or rather, their commitment to what they think they can do is what allows them to do it.
That spirit of who you are hasn’t left you merely because you’re now approaching 30, have gained 10 pounds, have grey hair, can’t do a back-bend anymore or fit into your favorite jeans from 1988.
Our ability to change the way we see our world is – scientifically – available to us. It just requires us to change the paradigms that we have become accustomed to using to get by in the world.
Or as author, Marianne Williamson, says, “Children aren’t bored when they wake up in the morning because they don’t know what’s going to happen to them that day. Adults are bored because we think we do.”
This is a good reminder of how we often preempt the moment because we think we know the conclusion to something before we’ve actually experienced it.
Stay open. Shift your perspective. See events through the innocent eyes of the child that you still are.
(And I guess to find out how – if your vagina can, then so can you – you’ll have to watch the video!)
E = Essence.
Essence is who you are. That’s what we want to see. That’s what wants to be shared. It’s what makes you unique. It’s your life currency. And when you share it, it changes relationships, it inspires, it heals. It’s waiting for an opportunity to be expressed. Stop bottling it up. Let it out. Or rather, simply let it be.
F = “F It!”
Stop doing it for everyone but yourself. We are constantly seeking approval and support and love from out there. We expend so much energy wanting to be liked and do the right thing and give people what we think they want. We try to please our parents and our teachers and our lovers and our siblings.
What if you took a radical new approach to your life? What if you started doing things for you? What if you did the things that made you feel good? What if you stopped letting other people define you or categorize you or limit you because you feel they have some sort of power over you? You might think, “Well that’s selfish.” But to authentically listen to your Self and show up for that part of you first, you will then be much better equipped to show up for other people in a much more selfless way.
G = Grace.
Walking through life with even a modicum of grace is truly the art of letting go. It is, to me, one of the inherent, governing principles of life itself. We’re not here forever. There’s nothing we will ever be able to hold onto. Not things or money or people or even our own existence. So to understand that truth – that everything is transitory – actually helps us to cultivate grace, because without it, life is very painful.
Practice the art of letting go now. Empowerment comes from this process.
I know it’s hard because we get stuck on the “idea” of what we’re told life is supposed to look like. And when our life looks different from those pictures of what we’re told we must have to be successful or happy or liked, we start to feel badly about ourselves. We compare ourselves to an idea. They are illusions. All that we will ever have is what’s in front of us. Right now. It’s great to have mind-pictures of what we desire to work toward, but having grace also allows us to make room for what actually shows up on our plate even if it’s not exactly what we thought we ordered.
H = How.
You don’t have to worry about the details.
You just keep moving forward. As you move forward living the artist’s journey, the “how’s” will reveal themselves. You simply have to take action; take risks. Show up in your own life. That’s half the battle right there. Just showing up a little more fully in your life and thereby you’ll become aware of the information, the insight, the signs, the assistance that’s trying to aid you on your journey. What you then decide to do with it is up to you.
I = Inspire.
It comes from inside. Outside events, experiences and people are the catalysts to help you awaken something inside you, for sure. A lover. A teacher. A piece of art. Transcendental acting. But what it ignites is already inside you. It’s perhaps been lying dormant or, like a pilot light, has remained unlit, but it’s always stirring that which is inside us already. It evokes our own inner spirit.
So try and cultivate a little more time with the inner. As you do, you’ll take that into the outer and discover that you too have the innate ability to inspire.
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Life is full of challenges. That’s the way it is. It makes it interesting and builds character. But we don’t like them, do we?
We mislabel them as “problems” because we’re taught culturally to seek pleasure and avoid pain at all costs. We’re spoon-fed images that life is about having the perfect house with the picket fence or vacationing on a pristine beach sipping piña coladas.
So when something occurs in life that makes us feel uncomfortable or isn’t easy or doesn’t fulfill those perfect airbrushed images we’re inundated with, we label these challenges as “bad” or “unwanted.” We overlay our drama on top of what is a natural part of life. Challenges are normal. Our misinterpretation of these challenges and labeling them negatively is not.
Your life’s challenges hold the seeds for all of your life’s victories and without them your life would be a dull, lifeless, horizontal line. All victories are born out of your challenges and they are essential in order for us to fulfill our potential.
And they help hasten us on our vertical journey.
We’re all evolving upwards. When we aspire to become our best selves and are inspired to create from that truth – these simple and yet profound actions are forces that create alchemy in our lives. It’s alchemical – it changes us – because challenges (when we meet and overcome them) forge new qualities within us. We discover new patience and compassion. We find new resolve, new reservoirs of strength. We make more choices out of love and not fear. We become less judgmental. We “lighten” up, have more fun. These qualities are aspects of a person evolving upwards on a vertical journey. It’s vertical because you evolve. This is simply not possible without overcoming the challenges that lead to new awareness. The challenges are what create the “ah ha’s.”
As you implement new ways to face your stuff, you’ll begin to witness a transformation in your life.
So try, if you can, to start enjoying your challenges a little more. Or at the very least, learn to become a little more neutral about them. They are the yin to your life’s yang.
And save the drama for the stage!
“When acting is free, it seems uncomplicated. When acting is blocked it all seems very complicated.” — Declan Donnellan