Stop the Scream

The Scream.

I walk through the open doorway, from the hot bursting sun, into a small room.  The cool air from the air conditioning is a welcome change from the mid 90’s sticky heat, and I feel my breath come more easily.

Then I see it.

To my right, the familiar image takes up the entire wall. This recreation is even 3D and sticks out in all directions, begging me to feel every emotion.

Shock
Pain
Surprise
Horror

And then I turn around and within an instant, the Scream fades away as I stand in front of another piece of art, one I’ve never seen before. A face, looking at me….no THROUGH me, as if to say,

Take a breath.
You are ok.

The tension washes free, as I smile in a deeper knowing. I walk back out into the sunshine, and look back at the sign above the entrance, reading:

The Chamber of Internal Dialogue.

That seems about right.

 

What is your inner dialogue?

What do you tell yourself in your Creative Process?
Do you find yourself wanting to just Scream?

And when the voices get so loud you can only clamp your hands over your ears, do you just stop or persevere?

Many times, the voices in our head are our own worst enemy, especially if they are constantly holding you back and saying,

Nobody cares about your Art
This isn’t good enough to show
No one will pay for your work
You’re a fraud, not a real Artist

That’s enough to make ANYONE scream!  And ultimately, cause you to stop doing what you love, or just find yourself starting a LOT of projects but never complete.

Sound familiar?

Thankfully, there is an answer. And it’s something you can access at any time, at any moment, and never leaves you.  It’s with you right now, as you are reading this.

 

Last weekend, I experienced the magic of Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ.

“Grounds For Sculpture is a 42-acre sculpture park, museum, and arboretum founded on the site of the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds. Opened to the public in 1992, it has rapidly become one of the premier cultural destinations in New Jersey, welcoming and enchanting nearly 2.1 million visitors since then. Founded by artist and philanthropist Seward Johnson, the nonprofit Grounds For Sculpture presents and conserves an exceptional collection of contemporary sculpture, offers outstanding programming for all ages, and provides seasonally rotating exhibitions in six indoor galleries.”

I was like a kid on the most amazing playground, taking in each artwork, posing for fun pictures, and loving the variety and scope.  I was in heaven.

My curiosity was especially peaked when I saw a small white hut with a huge recreation of The Scream on the outside wall. But it was the title of the work that really brought me through the open door, The Chamber of Internal Dialogue.

Inside the Scream rose on the right, and I found myself remembering so many moments I wanted to just open my mouth and cry out.

Being cut from a Broadway audition
Falling in dance class
Forgetting my lines in a performance

And then, in 2013,

Losing my home
Going through a divorce
Getting in two car accidents in one day…..

In those moments, I felt like I was failing, and the voices in my head felt like they were pulling me even further down.  I wanted to curl up in a ball and just yell to the world,

STOP!!

But, the thing that had been missing in my life, came into clear focus in 2013.  In the past, I would have just Screamed, thrown my anger and spiraled even more in blame…but now, I had access to what would turn my whole life and Art around.

My breath.

For the first time in my life, I had tools around grounding, around how to come within in the face of disappointment and pain.  And the vehicle for that was always there….it was my breath.

Take a moment, and check in. We can so easily rush through our day and forget this simple tool.  When we get upset, anxiety rises and our breathing becomes shallow.  Then our heart rate raises, and everything goes straight up into our heads.

We are trying to THINK our way out of our experience, and this just creates more anxiety and frustration.  The answer and antidote to this elevated state is to take a moment to ground back in.

How do you do that?

By connecting to your breath.

Close your eyes, place your hand on your belly, and place your attention on your breath.  Allow your belly to soften and fill your hand with your inhale.  Count to ten.

With each breath, allow the space between your breaths to lengthen.

By doing this, you are dropping from your thinking mind which has high-jacked your sense of safety, and come back home.  Home to who you are, not what is happening to you.

Yes, we will all have challenges in our Creative Lives, but the real spiral comes when we identify with the challenge, instead of creating some perspective.

You are not your challenges.

The biggest gift your breath gives you?
SPACE.

It’s in the space, you can take a moment and actually question whether that inner dialogue is true.  In most cases, it’s really just your fear talking.

And when we can ground back down, the urge to Scream leaves us, we remember who we are, and can get back to the work we WANT to be doing, living through our passion, and creating Art that has an impact.

So, place your hand on your belly, close your eyes, and breathe……

How do you feel now? 

 

Having a daily practice to connect with my breath allowed me to move through the worst year of my life, transform my performance, and give me the courage to launch my own business.

And most importantly, it’s brought love back into my life.  You see, going to the Grounds for Sculpture wasn’t my idea…it was my partner’s, and sharing the day with him was a dream come true…..one that I have been looking forward to for four years.

 

Inside the Chamber of Inner Dialogue, on the opposite wall was a open and peaceful face, with fingers raised in a mudra. Like the Scream, it also was 3D, emerging forward and begging me to feel every emotion.

When I viewed this, I remembered my breath.
I remembered who I am.
And I stopped screaming…..

You can too, right now, and at any moment.

How to Find Calm in the Chaos

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Calm is possible in the Chaos.

And the way there is probably the opposite of what you would expect.

In our Creative lives, chaos can come in so many forms, and often feels like we have no control.  We pour our hearts into our work, and rejection can feel so personal.

I hear so many artists desire:
consistency
security
stability

So, it’s no wonder we begin to grasp tightly to the familiar, to what is known, and start to hold our work closer to our chest.

If putting ourselves out there time and time again was only bringing disappointment and rejection, why would we continue? We’ve been traumatized by the waves of rejection, so better to take a back seat.

But, are you truly getting what you want?
Are you where you want to be in your Creative Life?

Maybe there is a better way…..

I recently sat wide-eyed in a dark movie theatre, fingers reaching eagerly into my popcorn bag as I awaited Pixar’s new movie, Finding Dory.

Before every feature presentation, Pixar always shows a animated short.  Though short in length, these usually hold enormous depth. There is a reason they win the Oscar almost every year, and a reason billions of theatergoers globally support their work.

It’s humanity at it’s best.

As the opening scene began on the new short, Piper, my whole body filled with glee.  The film was about a sandpiper.  I’m an avid bird watcher, and I turned to my friends besides me and whispered excitedly,

This is made for ME!

What I didn’t expect was how TRUE that was.

Little Piper was afraid to come to the ocean’s edge. His mother coaxed from the shore, and finally Piper joined his mother to learn how to forage clams on his own.

Unfortunately, a giant wave knocked Piper over, and soon he was ruffled, frozen, and petrified back in the safe grass.  He had been taken by surprise and he didn’t know what to do in the chaos of the waves.  He didn’t know how to swim.

His answer? To stay on the shore.

But, Piper’s food source was at the ocean’s edge.  He couldn’t survive or grow in the grass.  The clams were in the ocean.  So, now he had a choice.

Gingerly stepping towards his fear, Piper was bowled over by a minute crab, running directly into the waves. Shock and disbelief widened Piper’s eyes, as he watched the small crab dive head first into the abyss.

How did he do that and survive? Well, the crab had a secret.

When the waves approached, he would just burrow himself in the sand.  He would ground himself, so the waves didn’t take over.

Piper tried this, and as the waves crashed over him, he opened his eyes in the midst of the chaos….and you know what he saw?

Beauty.

It was gorgeous beneath the waves. It was actually calm and peaceful.  And food was everywhere. What he thought waves were, was replaced by a new experience, one he felt free and empowered in.

Piper began to grab every clam in sight, gleefully pulling them up on shore.  He filled not only his belly, but the bellies of his whole Sandpiper family.

And his former fear? Washed away.
His chaotic mind telling him he had to stay in the grass? Calm and clear.

So, where are you hiding in the grass?  
Where have you decided the waves are too much in your Creative Life?
When your mind begins to spiral, do you know how to ground and find your floor?

It took a tsunami for me to learn this lesson.  As I stared up at the movie screen, I remembered myself, gasping for air in the midst of complete chaos.

I remembered feeling like I was drowning in the face of my divorce, my heartbreak, and losing the life I had built for 19 years.  But, like little Piper, I too had a teacher who gave me the most powerful visual during that time.

Imagine yourself on the bottom of the ocean floor, looking up at the waves, and simply repeat,

This does not reflect on me.

This visual and mantra saved me.  It offered the beginning tools to silence, to stillness, and ultimately to my Zen practice, which grounded me. And you know what I saw from my ocean floor?

Beauty
Calm
Peace

I knew the only way was THROUGH.  The answer was actually IN the waves, not on the shore. I was not the chaos.  I was only observing it.

So, I ventured again and again….and I was fed, I grew, and so did my Creative Life.  Not only did I create a whole new life for myself, my performing transformed, and I took the risk of becoming a CEO.

I would have NEVER found that on the shore.

I would have never found you.

As Creatives, we are alive in that moment we are willing to try something new.  But we don’t leap headfirst with eyes closed and no awareness, we dive in with tools.

And it is in that moment of waves crashing over our heads, that we can ground and truly find what we have been wanting all along.  Look for the teacher, and open to the beauty of what you are really capable of.

Come take a swim…the water’s amazing. Piper and I can’t wait to see you there.

 

Now I want to hear from you!  How can you ground in the waves, and create a new experience? Share in the comment section below.