This post is dedicated to all the amazing jazz musicians I have played or sang with over the years. Thank you for helping me discover my soul.
If you didn’t catch the first part of this post, read it here, Seeking Wellness: Tapping Art to Inspire Creativity & Freedom
Why do you need to read this post?
Because, you have a creative genius. It may be recognized, stifled, hidden, or late to the party, but “it” is there.
“It” is in you, pure authenticity. Real genius. Waiting to be discovered.
If each of us discovered our latent (or hidden or buried) genius, what kind of freedom could we create for ourself? Our society?
That is a big dream, but I believe it could come true.
The reality though, is I can’t change anyone else, so I must follow Gandhi’s advice and “be the change I want to see in the world.”
That’s why each and every year, I ask myself the following:
Am I holding myself back from achieving great things, because of fear?
Fear of failing?
Fear of expectation?
Fear of what others will say?
Fear of what others won’t say?
I also ask myself:
What would I do, who could I be, what could I accomplish, if I could tame my ego?
The truth is: I can change. We can change. We can all be better versions of our 2014 self.
How can we be more creative in 2015?
We can start simply.
Express more joy. Spontaneously.
Respond to joy with a huge smile and a deep, belly laugh.
Each time I allow myself to do these things, it is liberating.
Taming the Ego
- Sing (or dance or speak your mind) Out Loud.
The first change I can make is to lay down my ego (read: shyness) for singing out loud. In public. In unexpected places, like the elevator, grocery store, or even when I am teaching. It took me until 2013 to realize that the happiest people are always singing, or humming a little tune while they work and go about their day. Since I love to sing and sometimes even make money doing it – why am I not using my God-given voice to express joy in the little things too? And so, I sang. And became a little more free.
For you in may be dancing, or speaking your mind. But try it – good things will happen.
- Let “Things” Go.
My second change is letting “things” freely come in and out of my life. Feeling the freedom to give away a nice closet full of clothes that are no longer me, for example. I feel free to just pass them along to someone else. As easily as “things” flow into my life, I am learning to let them pass right on through if it no longer is “me.”
- Be Courageously Decisive.
The third change I’ve always done, but it took till I was 31 years old to act with true courage in doing it. What is it? I seek out new experiences or a new path with gusto. Now you may need a support network to do this (as in “It takes a village to…”), so also don’t be afraid to ask for help. But if you ask my husband if I’m standing by this mantra, he’ll tell you straight away just how fearless I’ve become in seeking new career and life landscapes.
As a result, I consider myself “living the dream,” and it has nothing to do with making money. I am a writer, therapist, and newly published author working on my doctorate, all while mothering my three amazing sons. Anything is possible. You can do it.
- Spontaneously Express Joy.
The fourth change I made was allowing myself spontaneous expressions of joy.
Here’s my story, and just telling it is a practice in laying down my ego.
I once heard Terrell Stafford (an amazing jazz trumpeter) play at Dizzy’s in Lincoln center, a small jazz club. I was just a few feet away from him at a table for two, pregnant with my third child. The moment he began to play, tears filled my eyes and overflowed, spilling down my cheeks, and puddling on the table. My response shocked me. But I just sat there in silence, allowing myself to fully feel the trumpet solo. I wasn’t sobbing or getting choked up – the tears just freely flowed and literally puddled right there on the table at Dizzy’s.
Truth be told, I’d never felt a cry like that – especially not to a hot, hopping, scatting trumpet!
Once before, way back in 2004 at St. Martin’s (in London again as I mentioned in part 1 of this post) it happened, but that was expected – it was a classical, nostalgic-type piece of music.
But this, this response to Stafford’s music was involuntary and amazing. I’ve never been the same since. I was liberated.
I definitely credit (re)learning how to spontaneously express joy from my African-American jazz buddies, but also from the wisdom of my middle son, William, and my mother-in-law, Jo. They are both spontaneous dancing rays of light.
- Embrace Your Weirdness.
My final seismic change was allowing myself to embrace my weirdness…for serious solitude and a love of all things nonfiction. I finally allowed myself to embrace my inner scientist and musician in a society that expects women to be something very different. It has helped me to pick up a new hobby but also lay down social ingraining that compels me to work 8-10 hours days every day and fit my square peg self into the round hole of cultural conditioning.
What’s best of all?
The Real Value of Taming the Ego
These changes allow us to better understand what the great artists and inventors of our time already knew – and what the scholars of creativity preach on a regular basis –
To be creative, the mind must have the time:
To be bored.
To be curious.
To be courageous.
To be inquisitive.
To be exuberantly passionate about what you believe.
To express itself without fear of judgment or failure.
All of these things, seem small and minor, but in the bigger picture they afford us enormous power. That power comes in the freedom to ask questions, to admit our limitations, to appreciate joy by expressing it at the moment you feel it, and to discover your own creative genius.
At the same time, I have also found another BONUS in working to ditch my ego and cite my weaknesses. I can express sadness and less “wanted” emotions more easily too. Grieving comes more readily, and so does healing.
Take a little time to consider how you can be more free – allow yourself some “bored time.” Schedule it into your day if you have to. The point is to seek out things of beauty – and allow yourself to inhabit them fully.
You may just find yourself in the process.