Why waste time on vacuous pursuits when you could be making a positive change in this crazy world? Do whatever it is that allows you to act in accordance with your conscience, take steps toward being the force you want to be. It’s so hard to turn away from the infrastructure of distractions around us but if you are awake then don’t lie with the sleepers. Make art, make something, grow your brain, dance, talk about and listen to soul-feeding topics, investigate your assumptions, break a sweat, eat good food, and think about what really matters.
Lately I have been feeling the constant pangs of stress that just doesn’t let up, no matter how much I get done. Sometimes when I feel stressed but I can’t identify why, I think of a refrigerator magnet I saw at the LA Times Festival of Books, at the booth of some religious sect that I can’t remember, but the saying stuck with me. Paraphrased, it read:
“Stress is the result of not acting in accordance with your conscience.”
I have found this to be true. Anytime I behave in a way that doesn’t line up with my vision for the kind of person I want to be, I feel a nagging, unrelenting, and thought-consuming stress. The solution sounds easy: do what you know is right. But sometimes the stress is a result of a much more complex set of issues in my life. My conscience doesn’t just tell me the way I know I should behave task by task, it tries to help direct me in my journey toward realizing my full potential as a human being. When I feel this stress and it doesn’t go away, I sit down and ask myself, “what kind of force do I want to be in this world? Am I taking steps toward achieving that or am I going off course?”
The longer you have been off course the more infrastructure there is around you to keep you going in the same path you’ve been: mortgage, career, family, car payments, years spent working toward the place you are now. I can only imagine the gravity of the stress people feel when they realize the life they have built actively keeps them from doing their life’s work. I don’t think it is ever too late to adjust your life in a way that feeds your soul. Maybe I am an idealist. Growing up, my mom worked in the dental industry her entire working life. She gradually took on more responsibility over time, became more deeply ingrained in her job, pushed further away from the education she had wanted to pursue, and she got more stressed and more angry in her overall disposition and everyday life. What you don’t know about my mom, is she is a bright light of spiritual energy with inhuman wisdom and the ability to softly and angelically guide others, just one of those special magnetic people. (Ofcourse, as a Leo and a wine-lover, she is also quite riotously, charmingly human). When I went away to college, she quit her job, took out a business loan, and started a yoga studio. A long time yoga practitioner and teacher, she took the scary and risky plunge toward following her conscience. Now the people she works with can see her through the rosy idealist eyes that I see her through. Every time someone looks at her and sees that magnetic angel, she becomes more and more empowered to let that potential inside her shine. That is half the battle, maybe, surrounding yourself with people that see your potential and believe in it.
I have been many things already in my short life, and an idealist with a political agenda has been one identity I kept for a long time. As a vegan who didn’t shave her armpits, I was constantly casting my vote for my vision of how the world should be, just in my everyday mundane actions. As I have matured I have made more compromises with this identity. Some of the compromises have been toward my sanity. Traveling and participating in more commercial ventures means I have to embrace a more functional and adaptive attitude. This is the first time in a long time that I don’t have a label for how I eat and I flip flop between shaving and not shaving, depending on the jobs I have. In some aspects of my job as a dancer/choreographer/teacher I get to further my agenda for a well-educated, spiritually fed, community-driven, empowered populace -and that feeds my soul. In other aspects of my job I get to take a break from that grandiose agenda and just wear gorgeous things and dance. I think I am very aware at this time of my need for balance between these two aspects of my job as an artist: the need to say something that matters, and that brings people together with my art and the need to just enjoy and be taken over by the desire to move, feel beautiful, and perform. I am learning what ratio of the two allows me to act in accordance with my conscience and in accordance with my vision for the force I want to be in this world.
If you are feeling stressed from some unidentifiable source, perhaps, like me, you just need to reaffirm your commitment to not being a part of the distractions from what really matters. Sometimes I need to remind myself that I only invite stress into my life when I become concerned with “having the latest” “doing the best” etc. because those concerns are instruments of the machine that is designed to distract us from our true, individual, and unique potential. Mainstream life makes it so easy to surround ourselves with accoutrement of distraction, be it makeup, gadgets, TV, gossip rags, cars, clothes or what have you. Art so easily fades into entertainment fades into propping up unimportant standards. Ask yourself who you want to be and see if you are actively building a life that encourages you to do so.
Two caveats to this above screed: I also remind myself that some vacuous pursuits are necessary to maintain sanity, to take a break, to be able to relate to pop culture at all -it is finding a balance that matters. And, even when I am actively working toward my full potential and life’s work, that shit is stressful! -Detecting the difference between these two types of stress is a task of its own. I wrote a blog about the other stress a while back: “Still Waiting on My Second Wind”