Do your feel like your emotions and strong feelings get in the way of your success and career?
One day you may be flying high, so excited for something going well, only to find yourself the next day overwrought with anxiety because everything turned?
You sell your artwork, but then it gets lost in the mail to the new customer.
You get a yes from an agent, only to have them send back your manuscript dripping with edits and changes.
You get the venue you want for your event, only to hear crickets when you start promoting.
You finally get the band together only to be dealing with constant scheduling issues and conflict among the members.
Ups and down, ups and down…..
It can feel so chaotic! Like waves crashing on the shore.
You came into your work because you love it, but I imagine it’s exhausting to deal with the disappointment, anxiety, sadness, and heavy-heartedness that is so common in our industry.
I imagine you may wish you could just shut these emotions off, because when they arise, it can feel overwhelming and next thing you know you have either said something you regret, binge watched Netflix, or found yourself at the end of the day with nothing done.
It’s a vicious cycle.
So, what can you do?
How can you do the work you love without dealing with all the craziness?
Is it possible to find peace in the storm?
Early 2013 was absolute chaos for me. I was in divorce mediation, putting my home on the market, and living at several friend’s places because being in my own place was literally making me sick. My whole life was falling apart, and the waves of shock came over me 15-20 times a day. It was a constant stress on my system, that moment of,
Everything is changing, NOW.
I was losing so much I held dear and every day was struggling. At this time, I wasn’t auditioning because I was in such despair, and was doing a lot of temping.
For the first time in my life I was asking for help, and was receiving beautiful support from teachers, my therapist, and devouring books recommended to me.
I was introduced to Tara Brach’s work with her powerful book,
And she spoke of something radical, indeed for me. It was something I had never tried before, which was to say “yes” to what I was feeling.
I had become pretty good at either making myself wrong for whatever strong emotion I was feeling, or taking my anger and throwing it other people around me, especially those closest to me.
But making it ok? Actually feeling it? This was new.
My inner perfectionist had a running tape for years that anger that not acceptable, that I needed to have it all together, that if I showed vulnerability I would be rejected.
Does this sound familiar to you?
I remember when I was working at this one office, I would get waves of shock throughout the day, and tears would just start to flow. In my best efforts to get though my day, I would take “bathroom breaks”. I would close the stall, and let the tears flow.
My heart would feel like a tight ball, and physically hurt in my chest, and then I would practice saying to myself what Tara taught,
And as soon as I was accepting what was arising, and allow, the tight ball loosened. It was a miracle. I had thought nothing would stop the pain, and yet, actually allowing not only physically changed the sensation in my body, but began to grow something far more powerful,
At a time when I was losing so much and dealing with the strongest emotions I had ever felt, here was a tool that was showing me I actually COULD feel them and be ok.
I was ok.
And if I allowed the feeling to MOVE and flow THROUGH me, instead of fighting it or attaching on to it, it changed. The strong emotion would change.
Much like water. Sometimes it’s a wave, and other times, it’s calm. There is nothing to control here. Water is water, not good or bad, but just water.
Much like your feelings.
And as time went on, and I began to rebuild my life, the phrase changed a little to,
Even though I feel scared, I deeply love and accept myself.
Love and self acceptance.
Maybe I could feel my feelings and not beat myself up about them….maybe my feelings were leading me to cultivating something far more powerful in my life,
It wasn’t more fighting I needed to find my confidence…it was compassion.
After reading Tara Brach’s book, I found myself drawn to the powerful poetry of the 13th century poet, Rumi. I would ride the NYC subway and lose myself in his beautiful words, dog-earring the poems that spoke most to my heart.
This one, not only was read several times to me, but has read to me by many yoga teachers, and just last week by one of my most inspiring Zen teachers, Hojin Kimmel.
Now, today, I offer it to you;
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
As teacher Coleman Banks says,The poem’s core message is to be with whatever life brings to us. Whether it comes in the form of a a joy or a great difficulty Rumi encourages us to open ourselves to whatever life brings us – internally or externally.But whatever life throws at us, our attitude and commitment to greet it without fear or loathing, and with whatever subtle faith we can muster, allows us to become wiser, kind and more compassionate to self and others.
When compassion comes forth, you can weather any storm, and stand in the waves, clear and strong.
Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography