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Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Cultivating Fearlessness
Sorry for the absence. The semester has been particularly brutal the last few weeks. In our Yoga for Musicians class we've been talking about mantras. I identify more and more with the Buddhist religious tradition (with a little bit of Sufi mysticism thrown in there), so the concept of mantra isn't as foreign to me as it is to some of my devout Christian classmates. I've been looking for one to live with for a little while, and came across, "What would I do if I weren't afraid?"

Fear isn't something I deal with very well. Usually I just ignore it, and do what I'm expected to do anyway. So whenever I'm not as able to shove down my fear and move on, it really bothers me.

As artists we deal with fear on a daily basis. We make ourselves vulnerable so that we can be tools for great expression and change. We open ourselves up so that others don't have to. No matter what anyone says, every artist is afraid of what will happen after the performance, the exhibit, the reading. Our greatest fear, at least from my perspective, is that we will give everything we have and it will not be enough. And since as an artist your emotions and sense of self are tied directly to how you communicate and express yourself, the idea that those thoughts and expressions could be judged lacking, inadequate, and worthless is a thought frightening enough to keep most people off of the stage.

As human beings we deal with very similar types of fear. There's definitely the fear of being physically harmed or killed, but usually this type of fear doesn't control people as much as psychological and emotional fear does. We all want to live life on our own terms with a sense of authenticity and honesty, surrounded by love. Society tries to bully those of us who don't fit in nice little boxes. We're told by people we trust and admire that we can't have what we want; we're not good enough, we don't deserve it, it's wrong to want that, there's no value in it, you won't be loved, you'll be alone forever. And so we push aside our own dreams as being childish, unattainable, and tainted; so much so, that it becomes difficult to admit what we want, even to ourselves. Career, love, greater purpose.....we come to accept that we are small and need to find something to just get by. To survive, not to thrive. And because we've been told the lies for so long, we don't question them anymore.

But what would we do if we weren't afraid? Better yet, what could we do if we weren't afraid?

For me, fear is like a downward spiral that rapidly spins out of control. It possesses all of my thoughts (the prospect of losing someone, the thought of living my life alone and unloved, the belief that I'll never be the kind of musician I want to be) until it's just one big panic attack. Fear makes me shut down personally and professionally because I'm afraid of being hurt emotionally and of having to live my life in survival mode. But how rational are these thoughts?

The practice of mantra gives me a focal point. It's there to buy me time, until I can redirect my thoughts in a useful direction and take steps to create change in myself, my relationships, and my life. It helps to make me realize that fear, for the most part, is irrational and worthless. That the ability to live life on my own terms, outside of society's suffocating box, is within my own grasp; if only I can admit to myself what I want, and then take that knowledge and accept that my dreams are valid, and then create my own path and live my life with honesty.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.”

Peace, Love, and Tunes,


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