Rising From the Fall

I fell down the stairs….

All the way from the top to the bottom.  I was rushing coming down the stairs and had an empty laundry basket in one hand, and my laptop in the other.

A scream cried from my throat, the laundry basket smashed into my skull, and at the bottom of the stairs, my laptop went flying out of my hands into the entryway.

My socks had met the carpet and created a long slide where I couldn’t stop myself or the fall, until my body was at the bottom in a heap.

My fiance came running from the kitchen immediately and crouched at my side, his face contorted in concern,
Are you OK??

I heard the water still running in the kitchen from my fiance doing dishes……and then just went still.

Quiet, I asked the most important question to myself,
Am I ok?

 

The summer after I graduated Penn State, I was hired to be the dance captain and play one of the supporting roles in Stephen Schwartz’s musical Children of Eden for Centre Stage Theatre.

I loved this musical!

Our director was the brilliant Jack Parkhurst, who returned for the professional production after helping us with the workshop two years prior.

There was a lot of dancing in the show, and we were rehearsing one of the largest numbers, where I was wearing heels.

I had a history of weak ankles, and sure enough…..rolled over my ankle, twisting it horribly.

I went down immediately, started crying from the pain, and could feel all the fears coming up,
Did I break it?
Will I be able to dance?
Can I still do the show?
What is everyone thinking of me??

Have you ever felt this when you fall?

The director came rushing over, and took off my shoe, saying he actually knew Reiki.  I had never heard of Reiki before, and he placed his hand on my ankle and said,
I want you to let all your pain flow into my hand

I looked at his hand, and did as he requested.
And something magical happened…..I felt the area loosen, I felt the pain dissipating.

How was this happening?

He had me sit on the side for a bit with ice, but by the afternoon, I was back on my feet again.  The swelling went down, and I was able to dance.

 

What happens to you when you fall?
What’s the first thing that pops into your head?

And falling can look many ways in our Creativity.

It can be rejection.
It can be something going wrong and ruining your work.
It can be set backs, and cancellations.

At the root of a fall, is the feeling of fear.

When we fall, we have lost control.  Things aren’t going the way we want, and most of all, we are dealing with surprise.

At the core, we are dealing with SHOCK.

One minute you are up and the next you are down.
It can be deeply unsettling.

Wouldn’t it be nice if when we are up, and everything is going our way, that is STAYS that way?

Yet, this does not seem to be the case, and as we grow in our careers and take more risks, we find ourselves falling.

So, what can you do?
How can you deal with the SHOCK and the FEAR and be able to get back up and dance again?

How do you go from the crumpled heap at the bottom of the stairs to walking again?

 

My fiance’s face was looking down at me with deep concern, and I didn’t move.  I stayed still and checked in asking,
Am I ok?

After checking in, I knew I hadn’t broken anything, but my body was in shock from the fall.

So, I said yes to the Shock, and remembered Jack Parkhurst holding my ankle.

I let the shock roll through me, and began to shake.

All the fear and energy that had gathered in my body as I slid down the stairs started to dissipate.

I let it go. I let it move through me, and once I was done shaking, I moved to the floor and lay on my back, and then the tears came.

I cried.  I expressed my fear to my fiance, the fear of falling down the stairs, and my deep desire to feel safe in this home I’ve only lived in for five months.  I let all my fears and desires come to the surface.

And then, once the tears stopped.….my fiance lifted me, and I took my first steps.

So often in the moment of shock, we want to jump to something CERTAIN. We’re scared, and don’t like being in this place of not knowing. And trust me, I get that!

What if you just FELT the SHOCK?
What if you let the shock move through your body and let your body shake it out naturally?

Shock is usually the first response, and then comes the emotion.  What commonly occurs is we ATTACH to the emotion that arises OUT of the shock and believe that’s the answer. We believe the emotion is fixed and will be there forever.

This hurts, therefore it will always hurt.
I’m in pain, therefore I will always be in pain.

I’ve been rejected, therefore I will always be rejected.

But I have a gift for you today.

Change is the constant.  You are not a fixed being, you are a creative force.  That means that in every moment you are changing, you are shifting.  Your cells are realigning.

Your body WANTS to be whole.
And in this wholeness, comes your most powerful expression.

So, next time you experience shock from a fall, try this instead,
* go quiet and give yourself space
* check in with yourself and ask, Am I ok?
* let the shock roll through you
* allow yourself to shake and process
* say yes to the powerful emotions and express them in a skillful way to a loved one or using journaling.
* Slowly rise, and take a new step

 

The way is always through.

When you take that first step, you get to begin anew. The fall is now is the past, and here you are.
How will you use this moment?

I’ll meet you at the bottom of the steps, holding out my hand.

Tap into your limitless resources, creativity, and flow.

Slowly rise, and take a new step.

Overcoming Criticism and Rejection

Have you ever had a horrible performance and just wanted to hide?
Have you ever gone out on a limb with your work and had it completely rejected?

It can feel awful, right?

Maybe you spent a lot of time on your art, and were SO excited to share it with your audience, only to either hear crickets, or even worse, be shredded in criticism.

From the criticism comes a flooding of doubt, and I imagine you feel like your confidence is nonexistent.

As you are working on your next project or performance, you can feel that voice coming up saying,
I don’t know what I’m doing
They’re just going to hate it…

And you begin to question everything you’re doing, and your creative process goes from a place of joy to one filled with stress and anxiety.

You may even stop your work, paralyzed in place for fear of being booed, judged, and rejected,

How do you get past this block?
How do you regain confidence and feel amazing again?

 

This past weekend I went for marriage counseling with my fiance up at Zen Mountain Monastery.  We met with the Abbott, Shugen, who has been a guiding light for me since my divorce.

To have counseling, we had to meet in the Abbott’s room, and as I walked in, a huge realization came over me.

I had only been in this room once before, and it was five years ago. 

When I walked into this room five years ago, it was to have my first ever face to face teaching with a Zen teacher.  I was participating in the Intro to Zen Training weekend, and my heart was in my throat.  I was barely able to choke out my burning question of ‘how do I let go??’…..I wept that whole weekend and I was coming to grips with losing my home, marriage, and possible motherhood.

I felt shaky, unsure, and fragile. I was dealing with the largest rejection of my life.….hearing I was no longer loved or wanted.

Same room……

Now I was walking in hand in hand with my fiance, planning my actual ceremony in this Monastery.

Same room…..

I could barely conceive this was possible five years ago.  I though the rejection would destroy me. And the whole energy of the room was different for me.  There was more space, the room felt larger, and I felt so at ease.

Space and ease.

Maybe it wasn’t the room.

 

So, how do you find this in those heartbreaking moments of rejection?
How do you return to the same “room” and have different results?

 

As I sat in the chair facing Shugen, and looking at my life partner, one word came into my head,
CHANGE

Change is constant.

When I was facing the most devastating rejection of my life, this was my mantra. I learned I had been wrong for years…I thought things would always be the same.  I thought things were permanent….like my marriage, my home, and my performance fears.

I thought I would always suffer in the same places, choke on the big auditions, and not get picked for the roles I really wanted.

And yet…..I watched it all change.

My marriage I thought I would have forever….end.
My apartment I thought I would have children in…be sold and bought by a new couple.

And as I accepted this change, I found it freed me to take larger risks in my art, and a thought occurred…
What if I DID get picked for the roles I wanted?
What if I could give my best performance regardless of outside pressure?

What IF I could return to audition rooms and stages where I had been rejected before and now shine?

At first it was a sliver of an opening….a simple energy I took into my performance, and with each new song and dance, I would try it out….one day at a time.

And then I watched my whole performance career return, and directors and choreographers offering jobs and roles I was excited about!

I went in for a big Broadway audition where the pianist played the music horribly….and I wasn’t phased.  This was a HUGE difference from before when I would have been derailed and left feeling dejected.

 

So, when was the last time you felt criticized and rejected in your Art?

Take a moment and allow yourself to feel the disappointment.
Close your eyes, and place your hand on your heart or belly.
Connect to your breath, and allow the feeling to rise, and then fall.

So often, the strong emotion just wants to be acknowledged.  Often times, once we accept it and offer love, the feeling disappears.

Change.  It’s there and then it’s gone.

Turns out, it’s not permanent. It doesn’t last.

If this can happen with a feeling, it can happen in your Art.

It can happen in your performance, and how you are received by your audience. That criticism can change and WILL change when you return again and again with the intention of making great work.

You are becoming and changing in every moment, and what a miracle!
You feeling stuck is only a bump in the road.

Come back to your inspiration and your vision of what you want to SAY as an Artist.

Same room…..filled with space and ease.

 

 

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography