Recent progress on projects has been decent. My big challenge during the past two weeks has been self-discipline and self-control. I've collected every little bit that I've found so far; the hole is pretty deep.
Becoming a better person is a life-long process fraught with distractions and setbacks; although we find reasons or obstacles to improvement, none is ever substantial or significant unless we allow it to be so.
The other day, during a time of quiet contemplation, someone (let's call them the Questioner) asked me a question. I say 'someone' because sea-change questions seem to arise out of nowhere during meditations, just at the precise moment they're needed. It feels like a friend checking in on you over the phone -- only in your mind. In any case, the timing of these questions is always far too excellent for them to have originated within myself.
The question was: What is your fear?
The question was not “What are you afraid of?” -- I could have listed plenty of things in that category, but the Questioner cut straight to the issue of substance, of identity. Just as when we discover an antique of unknown purpose, we want to know what sort of curiosity we have found: “What does it do? Where did it come from? What is it made of? What possible use does it have? What is it?”
What is this thing you call fear?
I was stunned. “B-B-But ... Fear is that deadly thing,” stammered my conscious mind, “It's a suffocating darkness that overwhelms everything. It keeps me from creating!”
The question waited patiently while the ripples spread. That's what it does. Go on ...
What is it really?
The answer, of course, was 'nothing'. My fear was a sensation, a feeling, a reaction that comes from inside. A reaction that I, to a greater or lesser degree, allowed myself to experience.
The Questioner deftly pointed out that fear is not a valid reason to avoid failure or success. Fear, once illuminated, is revealed not as the substantial danger I imagined, but as a shadow cast on the walls of my own mind.
I know this may not sound like a revelation to you, dear reader. Everyone knows - intellectually at least – that fear is only a feeling, a biological response to stress or perceived danger. For me, however, this moment exposed the twin fetters that have been holding me back over the last months or years: fear of success and fear of failure.
To stand between these two mental stumbling blocks leads to paralysis. We think it's easier to remain motionless than to risk something that will produce unknown results. "Why create when I might fail? And if I succeed instead, what if I raise expectations beyond what I can achieve? It's safer to just do nothing." So runs the fallacy.
I mistakenly diagnosed the resulting paralysis as laziness. I'd beat myself up for not working, for not daring to move. I don't have enough discipline to be an artist. I'm too lazy to run a small business.
And those thoughts aren't true.
Now I have a new goal, one to continue working on for a lifetime: to create without fear. Create only with love. This is my hope for every artist. Thanks for letting me share an important moment of my journey with you. It's back to the desk for me. =)