A couple of years ago, I found myself in a place where I knew that I needed to grow, but hurt and exhaustion from years of suffering had created isolation and fear that made it feel almost impossible to change. However, to quote Anais Nin, “The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Faced with only one choice to make, ‘grow or die’, I turned to music to help me take conscious and healthy risks and it has lead to an incredible transformation and a fulfilling and joyful life.
Fortunately, there is a great open mic on Wednesday nights in Effingham and the invitation to attend provided me the perfect opportunity for conscious risk taking. I took the risk to leave the house, meet new friends, challenge myself to get out of my head and actually express the voice that was wanting to be heard. Each time I took the stage it was a risk for me, but the risk produced something new. Connection.
After a few weeks, I made a friend at Open Mic who is a really cool person and a great musician. Jim can make a Strat sing the blues like nobody’s business and off stage he carries a vibe of ‘great male role model’ meets ‘Grateful Dead concert companion’. You would want to ask his advice on life, love and business but also hang out with him and groove to extended jam sessions. He’s a classic edition to the Human Race and just one of the many amazing people I’ve connected with through the Effingham Open Mic music scene.
When I started to get to know Jim I found out that while he is a rockin’ musician by night, he works in ‘Risk Management’ by day. I found it very interesting that there was a career like this and as I learned a little more I realized it is an important role and something maybe we all need a little bit of.
Risk. We know that if we want to grow anything, from a portfolio to a garden, we have to risk something in hopes of finding greater abundance. Sometimes we need help discriminating how much of a risk we can take. Sometimes we need encouragement and mentoring to build the confidence that is necessary to take the risk. We might even need a community of like minded people to help us believe that there is something more to grow into.
Steven Covey says that “The greatest risk is the risk of risk-less living’. But sometimes taking a risk can be incredibly frightening, especially if you are in the midst of personal crisis, loss or transition. If you are one of the 40 million American adults suffering from an anxiety disorder, you know how risky everyday things like going out of the house or staying connected to friends and family can be, let alone trying something new that encourages growth. Or what if you are someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one? Psychology tells us that allowing yourself to process emotions like anger and sadness are necessary to heal from grief, but sometimes it can seem like we might risk our own life if we feel emotions this strong. We end up repressing our thoughts and feelings and they manifest as the dull ache of unhappiness or even more troubling, as physical or mental disease.
Today mental health disorders such as PTSD, depression and anxiety are on the rise, and we are seeing more and more people trapped in their internal world. This makes it difficult for people to respond to the world around them. As a result, people are unable to find enjoyment in the human experience. Growth and connection in their brain and in their relationships start to shrink. You begin to see a culture of people who stop having the ability to take a risk. Individual suffering influences the collective and so we continue to fuel a world that perpetuates violence and separation, threatening our survival as a human race.
The positive side to all of this is that we are on the verge of a growth spurt. This anxiety epidemic that we are seeing could be our wake up call and a chance to explore what it means to be vulnerable and change in a way we have never seen before. Brene Brown, whose Ted Talk in 2010 on ‘the power of vulnerability’ has been viewed over 6 million times, shares that people are more satisfied, successful and ‘wholehearted’ when they are vulnerable. She defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. A quote that I love from her is ‘Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection’. And at the most basic level, it is connection that gives us the Human Experience and it is connection that sustains Human Life.
So, how do we take this theory that conscious and healthy risk taking can lead to a more healthy and thriving Human experience and apply it to our own lives when we are feeling trapped by anxiety or grief? Well, we can start by bringing more music into our lives.
The great thing about music is that it weaves a safety net around you and can create an optimal environment for growth. Music is an Experience that produces more connections than any other modality. Listening alone can produce neural connections that may have gone dormant. Playing an instrument or singing connects your brain to your physical body and to your emotional system. Participating in a musical experience in a group connects you to the collective. All of these connections, built on the fabric of rhythm, harmony and melody create some sort of magical force field that radiates enjoyment, relaxation and inspiration. Something to catch you, when you take the biggest risk of all, Experiencing Human Life.