Creature Comforts

Oh Dear GOD…

There it is.

My skin is crawling.  I’m not even sure if I’m breathing.  My hair is literally standing up on end.  There’s this sickening feeling in my stomach. I’m frozen in time, helpless.

In front of me, my deepest fear.

A spider.

Spindly, large, gross….a million words coming out, all to say,
AHHHHHHHHHH!!

What is it for you?

Snakes
Heights
Public speaking
Rats
Cockroaches

I mean, YUCK!

What makes your skin crawl and you do EVERYTHING in your power to avoid?

I get it, I ran from spiders for most of my adult life, convinced they were pure evil and would kill me.

I mean, HOW could a spider help me?

This was my fear.  This was something to AVOID, not walk towards.

Right?

 

In 2012, I was the dance captain for a production of the musical A Christmas Carol out at the Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City, Utah.  I loved this musical, and I loved the cast.

But my life was falling apart.

On Thanksgiving, my husband flew out to tell me he didn’t want to be married anymore and was in love with another woman.

I felt as if the world had opened wide, and swallowed me whole. I was in shock, and utterly devastated.

I wanted to scream to the world,
STOP!

I wanted to control the immense change that was happening.

This wasn’t what I planned.

I planned we would go old together.
I planned we would work through any issues.
And most of all, I planned we would have a family together.

In one conversation, I saw all of that disappear.

And I found myself facing my deepest fear,
losing my marriage.

Because, WHO was I if I wasn’t married and trying to have a child?

In December, we had a cast Christmas party, and the company manager brought in a company called.
Creature Comforts

I walked into the party room to large turtles crawling around, and walked over to my fellow dancers who had a giant boa wrapped around them.  I got out my phone to take a picture, as I think snakes are SO cool, and then out of nowhere, a man came up from behind and placed a spider on my friend’s head.

Not just any spider, A TARANTULA.

My whole body froze.  I stopped breathing.  This wasn’t just any spider, it was the mother of all spiders..the largest.

And then I looked behind this man to see a table with FOUR tarantulas in cages.

My worst nightmare.

I was just about to bolt from the room, when a small voice arose,
I always thought spiders were my largest fear, but facing divorce is far deeper.  Since I’m facing that and still breathing, maybe I can finally face this fear of spiders.

I saw an opportunity.

So I walked over to the handler, and asked him to place the tarantula in my hand.

When he first did, the spider started to scratch and crawl in my hand. It was freaking out!  I realized I needed to probably calm down because the spider was feeling my fear.

So, I took a breath.

The spider stopped moving, and was standing in my palm, it’s abdomen shaking, and I realized,
It’s just as scared as I am.

And then a wave of realization came over me.  The spider was NOTHING like I thought it would be.  It was actually soft, light, and fuzzy.

A huge smile came over me, as my fear dissipated, and my friend took a picture.

That picture became my profile picture for months on Facebook, because every time I looked at it, I was reminded,
If you can hold a tarantula, you can do anything.

And anything included,
surviving and healing from a divorce
launching my own successful arts business

Who knew the key was in my biggest fear?

In that moment, my arachnophobia vanished.  It literally disappeared when I realized what I had in common with the spider, and that I was still breathing and ok.  My fear vanished when I LET GO of the woman who ran from spiders.

Who was she anyway?  She was really just made up in my mind.  She wasn’t permanent.

So, what is your biggest fear?

WHO would you become if you no longer had it?
What would be possible for you in your Creative Life?

So often, we isolate and avoid our fears, but the real lesson lies in facing them.  We may have formed a massive belief the fear will harm us, but what we are really avoiding is the FEELING.

If your fear of heights or snakes was faced, and you found yourself still breathing as you skydive or pet a snake, then what other assumptions could be blown apart in your Art?

Perhaps,
No one wants my work
I’m a fraud
My work needs to be perfect to be shown
No one will pay that price for my work
I’m not ready

If these are no longer holding you back, perhaps you would find your fears are actually not harmful, but soft and fuzzy.

You just made them far larger than they actually were.

Maybe even as large as a tarantula.

 

Over the holiday weekend, I was staying at my boyfriend’s house in NJ.  I went into the downstairs bathroom, and caught my breath when I looked in the shower stall to see,

A giant spider.

Instead of running from the room, as I would have done five years ago, I sat down and looked at it. I could feel some of the hairs on my arm rising, the old pattern and memory of fear.

The spider was pretty huge, and I knew I needed to get it outside.

I grabbed a glass from the kitchen, and a piece of mail, and placed the glass over the spider.  As I lifted the spider closer to me, I became surprised at how small the spider looked up close.

It had looked SO large from a distance.

And I found the closer I was to it, the less scary it appeared.  I became curious, looking at it’s markings, as I carried the glass to the backyard.

As I watched the spider crawl in the grass, I marveled at the journey.  I could NOT do this five years ago.  I would have screamed, and ran from the room, shutting the door, and pleading my man to kill it for me.

And I thought of that woman five years ago, who really thought she was keeping herself safe.  And I gave her a hug.  I loved her.  She was doing the best she could.

And I looked at the yard of this house that will be my home, that will house my children, and I remembered that moment holding the tarantula.

Thank goodness for the tarantula.  My biggest fear actually set me free.

The way is always through.
You have everything you need.

 

Get curious around your fears, and turn towards them.  Hold them in your hand, and LOOK at them.

You can’t change what you can’t see.

WHO would you be without them?

WHAT could you create?

 

 

Top Photograph: Caitlin Cannon Photography

The Inspiration of Awe

I’m covered in crescent moons.

Sitting in the shade, they cover my skin and body as the moon moves over the sun.
I can’t stop smiling!
The light starts to shift, and I can feel it coming. Everyone can. The moment we have been waiting for.
I make my way to the blanket and lay down next to my aunt and stare straight up.
The birds go silent, and the crowd gasps.

Totality

Day into night, night into day. I take off my special glasses, lay them on my chest, exclaiming,
Oh my gosh
Oh my gosh
Oh my GOSH!
I start to giggle, my whole body and mind  engaged in this moment, this incredible miracle,
A total eclipse of the sun.
I’ve never seen one before. And the main feeling?
Awe.
By definition:
an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like.
Have you ever felt this?
What were you doing and what did you see?
What did it inspire you to create?
Carolyn Gregoire of the HuffPost writes:
“Psychologists have only recently begun to pay attention to the complicated and varied emotion of awe. In a foundational 2003 paper, psychologists Dacher Keltner of UC Berkeley and Jonathan Haidt of New York University outlined how exactly awe works and what effect it has on us. Awe consists of two qualities, Keltner and Haidt say: perceived vastness (something we think to be greater than ourselves), and accommodation, a need to assimilate the experience of vastness into one’s current mental structure.
 
It’s an emotion that can have a tremendous impact. “Fleeting and rare, experiences of awe can change the course of a life in profound and permanent ways,” they write.”
It took days for me to fully process the experience of seeing the eclipse. We had no cloud cover, and I just kept feeling as though I had witnessed something very special.
Laying on the grass in Santee, South Carolina, with a whole crowd, with a whole campsite, heck…with the whole country…I felt I was indeed part of something much larger.
Turns out, this is exactly what we need as Artists. 
Awe actually brings great emotional benefits. Here’s three main ones:
1) Awe improves our relationship with time.
A 2012 Stanford study found that when people experience awe, they are more likely to feel they are “rich” with time. They have plenty of it! The researchers heard statements like,
I have lots of time to get things done!
Time is expanded.
Imagine what you could get done on your Creative projects with THAT mindset!
Imagine kicking Overwhelm to the curb and feeling calm in your day, as you do the work you love so much and see the results you desire.
In another study, the researchers asked people to write about an awe inspiring experience and another group to write about a happy experience. Those writing about the awe-inspiring experience reported an expanded sense of time, while the other group did not.
Place your attention on Awe. Get out in nature, watch an incredible video, go see that work of art or watch that performer that leaves you speechless.
2) Awe can boost your Creativity
We have all stood witness to works of art that were inspired by Awe. Think of Ansel Adams breathtaking landscape photography, or a moving memoir from a life-changing event.
As Artists we have the ability to TRANSLATE our experiences into art for our audience. It’s when our audience goes on this journey with us, that the true magic happens. They bond with you, and want to return again and again, forming a relationship all based on the fact you took that awe-inspiring experience and brought it to life through words, paint, song, or dance.

“A 2012 study from Tel Aviv University found that “expansive thinking” could lead to boosts in creativity. According to the study’s lead researcher, “outward” rather than “inward”-focused thinking helped children to consider different perspectives and see beyond their present situation.

In the study, one group of children was asked to look at a series of photos, beginning with local objects such as a pencil sitting on the desk in front of them, and progressing to vast or faraway things, like the Milky Way galaxy. The other group of children was showed the images in the opposite order, from expansive to immediate. The children in the group that progressed from local to expansive images performed significantly better on a test of creativity directly after looking at the images than the children who looked at nearby images last.”

3) Awe can literally transform you

“1964, psychologist Abraham Maslow formulated his famous theory of “peak experiences” — instances of near-mystical rapture and wonder in the everyday. His description clearly involves an element of awe, and he suggests that “peak” experiences of awe can be transformative, and indeed, life-changing. By Maslow’s description, peak experiences involve “disorientation in space and time, ego transcendence and self-forgetfulness; a perception that the world is good, beautiful and desirable.” He believed that this change in perception — a sort of epiphany — could have transformational effects.”

Remember that your Art is an expression of you. Your art expresses what you believe, your perceptions, and your experience. If you ultimately believe in goodness, that is translated not only to your art, but to your audience.

Your audience wants to feel good.

It’s this bond that makes your audience return again and again. This is what creates raving fans.

If you’re shut down and have no hope or belief in humanity, that will translate into your art and cut off any chance of connection. The seats will be empty, and you will only feel isolated.

Isolation shuts us down as Artists. We need to expand.

Want to cultivate that belief in yourself and transform into the most powerful Artist you can be?

Expose yourself to Awe.

You may find yourself covered in magical crescent moons, smiling for the world to see.