This blog post is inspired by a recent blog post by Dr. Alice Chan: Be Real, Not Positive. Dr. Alice Chan and I connected through Twitter, and I have found her to be an authentic and inspiring voice who is passionate about the work she does as an author, a speaker, and a coach. Dr. Chan’s words in her most recent blog post resonated with me, as I read and agreed with the thoughts she shared regarding the treasures in negative emotions and how we might allow them to “have their air time” as any and all other emotions.
I believe that all emotions are valid and welcome, if they are honest. I think of Rumi’s poem “The Guest House” when I reflect on this. (This is a favorite poem of mine. I encourage you to read it and take in the message if you are not familiar with this piece.)
In my blog writing, I typically focus on my experiences as a creative artist. As I relate Dr. Chan’s blog post to my art, I know that, as a musician, it is important to bring my real self to the stage and to the practice room every time. I need to stand in honesty and in vulnerability before my audience and in the presence of fellow musicians. I believe that acknowledging one’s humanity evokes beautiful music.
When we appear as our whole selves – not denying those pieces that we judge as “ugly” or “messy,” we allow for a sincere connection between those offering the music and those receiving the music. It takes courage to do this. It might seem easier to slip into Dressing Room A to find a mask to put on & then go out and pick up our instrument and exude an air of confidence. We might reach for a script that includes the lines, “I have it all together.” But those performances, while they might be technically flawless…don’t move us. And making music that moves others is what it’s all about – that vulnerable sharing of ourselves with others through our art.
As a choral conductor, I could appear before a group of singers at an evening rehearsal, plaster a smile on my face, and say in a peppy, perky voice, “It’s so great to be here! We’re going to have so much fun singing. Let’s hear your pretty voices starting on page 1 of the score,” …or I could say… “I’ve had a tough day, but it’s great to be with you to make music. Let’s begin.” Which conductor would you connect with? Which conductor would you want to sing for? I believe that people are craving authenticity. I find it refreshing to be in the presence of someone who’s not afraid to be himself/herself.
Dr. Alice Chan provides steps to guide us in the journey toward authenticity of emotions: acknowledging our feelings, allowing our emotions to be felt fully, learning from our negative experiences, and releasing our traumas and pain. I believe that these steps allow for a person to progress through a healthy emotional cycle. It’s when we deny our “shadow” that it becomes bigger than life and eats away at us. My study of Debbie Ford’s transformational work has affirmed my intentions to invite myself and those who surround me to fully allow and embrace those darker shadow emotions.
While it might, at first, make us uncomfortable to witness others in their pain…it becomes easier and more natural. We stop judging emotions as “good” and as “bad” and come to realize that we all experience highs and lows and in-betweens. I desire to walk with my family and friends and fellow human beings through all of these. I want to see the real you, and I want the real me to be witnessed.
I believe that whatever degree to which we allow ourselves to experience these difficult and painful emotions…to that same degree, we allow ourselves to feel joy. If we resist feeling the “negative emotions” to their full extent, we also put a limit on our joy. I want to experience the full spectrum of emotions, and I want to have the capacity to express all of these emotions in my musical performances and in my daily interactions with others. I honor you and all you are feeling in this moment. I invite your reflections and comments.