Monday, April 20, 2009

Darkness is Your Candle

But what shadow has been serving you!
What hurts you, blesses you.
Darkness is your candle.
Your boundaries are your quest.
- Rumi from Enough Words

A couple of weeks ago, I learned an extremely powerful technique that has helped me deal with one of my most debilitating fears. It's applicable to any situation, but for the sake of an example, I'll use it with my fear of Open Mic Nights. (Lately, I've been writing music for grownups, so I've been showcasing these new songs at bars and other places that host these "cattle calls".) The technique can be applied to any situation, however, that you may find full of terror.

It's really quite simple:

STEP ONE (Creating Darkness) I imagine that I'm walking into the venue where the Open Mic is taking place. Next, I try to fully feel all of the fear. In my case, I name things like "I feel out of place and uncomfortable". Then I picture myself waiting to go onstage and becoming progressively more anxious about what I'm going to play, how I'll be received and what I'll sound like. Lastly, I'll see myself onstage and try to create in my heart and in my mind all of the worst feelings that I can muster up.

STEP TWO (Creating Light) I imagine the same scenario with a contrary set of emotions. In my case, I use the word "comfort". I imagine that I'm walking into the venue and it looks and feels like a place where I want to be. I feel very at home and say things to myself like, "It's great to be here!" Then, I imagine the anticipation of going onstage with a feeling of inner joy and harmony with my surroundings. As I step onstage and look at the audience, I drink in the moment and smile because I am where I want to be - singing my wonderful songs as best as I can to an audience who wants to feel passionately connected to great music, too.

STEP THREE (Alternating Darkness and Light). Immediately after step two, I return to step one by creating the fear in my belly, again. Once I'm fully feeling the fear, I return to the same scenario with the comfort. Back and forth I go, shortening the time between fear and comfort but always fully feeling it before moving on.

STEP FOUR (Simultaneous Darkness and Light). The final part is to feel both emotions at the same time. Absolute terror and joyful comfort coexisting in the same moment in time.

The important thing here is to FEEL as if the situation were occurring during this exercise. If you usually get moist palms, then try to create that feeling. The way it was explained to me is this: if we really want to explore, understand and deal with our fear, then we first learn to deal with them in a comfortable place like our own living room. Oftentimes, it does no good to repeatedly put oneself into the real situation because we haven't learned the way to control our emotions, yet.

Over time, I hope to apply this technique out in the "real world" and find that the fear I imagined and felt is no longer perceived as strange and unwelcome. Instead, it will become a known entity, an emotion I understand. I haven't tried it, yet, but I hope that I will be able to move as seamlessly between emotions at my next Open Mic Night as I would in the quiet of my own home.

I hope this technique brings you the courage to walk towards what you are afraid of - not with an absence of fear but a fuller acceptance of that emotion AND the belief that you can feel cleansed by it, too.

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