Perhaps it's something that many people are experiencing right now--as it seems like a lot of friends and clients are reflecting on similar stuff--but I've been feeling a very strange, anxiety-like sensation in the last few days.
Not unlike the anxiety that I worked through for most of my 20's, this has a very 'buzzy' and incessant quality to it, and tends to show up right when it is most wanted, of course: at 3 in the morning, or first thing after getting up when planning out the day.
At first I had a hard time figuring out where and what this anxiety was pointing at or attempting to steer me away from, but realized yesterday that it is the same feeling I get when I'm challenging myself in a creative manner, and shows up whenever 'change' is going to be happening. I've got a whack of creative challenges presenting themselves (er, rather, responding to me calling them!) in the next while, and this anxiety is that which is released by my wee little fragile ego to prevent the possibility of hurt or self consciousness that might result from those challenges.
In meditation yesterday I really felt what I have often read about creativity walking hand in hand with a kind of nervousness (as Elliot once wrote), and how has been so often suggested that the power of a creative person lays not in the original inspiration, but in how well they manage and even use this anxiety for their advantage in the expression of their creative force.
That is: the full possibility of our creativity is directly linked to our fearlessness and vulnerability; how well we can face the fear of expressing ourselves and not allow it to control us.
I have almost always encountered this feeling in the past and run away from it completely, or I've tried to drink or eat or occupy myself into a state of not noticing it. I have not seen the anxiety as a good thing--a healthy sign that I was challenging my growth and possibility as a person--but as a very clear sign that there was no more going down that road. No more singing, no more art, no more public speaking. The anxiety won. But that's really not happening anymore, and it's a beautiful thing.
Now I can't say I've mastered it, but along with the realization that this anxiety is a good thing and a sign I was moving towards greater personal freedom and creativity possibility was this inkling into what I have also read and heard about with regards to people actually learning to use their anxiety for fuel. Like singers who are getting ready to go on stage and are somehow able to 'relabel' and re-story their anxiety for themselves so that it becomes excitement, I felt that I was able to do this.
I could turn my anxiety into giddiness. A thrill. Fantastic positive stimulation.
Pure, unadulterated creative energy.
An insanely amazing feeling, to be that in control of emotional determination that you realize you can just change how you label the energy you're feeling and something that had previously prevented you from doing what you want becomes the motivating force for getting absolutely everything you want to do done. What is this crazy magic?
We are held back by our fears and our anxieties and insecurities, all the time. We are held back from being more loving, more open, more confident and more expressive as our unique selves. And yet, what if we have been understanding this energy wrong the whole time? Sure, the ego is challenged by these experiences where we seek to make ourselves more open and more available to the world, for the ego's job is to prevent just that, but what if--from a place of soulful living--anxiety and fear are actually a totally different energy? Are actually just yet another source of inspiration and drive, filling us with the excitement necessary to put our best stuff out there?
And considering that we are in charge of labeling and deciding what we're feeling, why wouldn't we think that way?
I can't say that the anxiety is gone at all, and in fact has intensified slightly as I get closer to it, but the renaming and experiencing of it for me means that the intensity of it becomes not greater obstruction but intensified desire to move into greater modes of expression. My anxiety is becoming my fuel.
Do you have the fear of expressing yourself fully? Of course you do. We all do, in some manner. Just as an experiment, I would suggest that you try this kind of two step process to perhaps encounter this anxiety differently next time it pops up:
1. Commit to the practice of seeing your anxiety as the product of your ego attempting to protect a place where greater freedom is hiding, and then:
2. Commit to changing your labeling and experience of the anxiety so it becomes the fuel for your liberation; the exciting energy that is needed to bust through those previously suppressing personal blockages.
May all beings everywhere be free, and in that big, crazy, soulful manner where we can all be ourselves fully, every day.