(Original talk at Unity of Fayetteville 2/1/12)
Today’s Message was going to be called, “Creating Your New Life.”
In it, I was going to share some of the tools, thoughts, and lessons I’ve learned getting to where I am today, and moving to where I want to be tomorrow.
But that all changed Friday morning after Christi walked into our bedroom to find me dead on the couch. There I was, sitting straight up, pale, eyes wide open, not breathing, and not responding to shaking, yelling or slapping. No flinching. No breathing. She thought I was dead. And so did Brett, the oldest boy who called 911.
As you can see, I’m okay now. And I didn’t die.
A half day in the ER with all sorts of tests said it was simply a Vasovagal Syncope. In other words I passed out from a combination of stress, pain, and fear.
All of that was from a few minutes earlier, in a house still dark from everyone getting ready for the day, our pet cat started an awful howl. Soon, I heard Avery screaming, I rushed in to see the cat with her leg trapped between two slats of wood twisting and clawing to get away. I reached down to try to stabilize her and get her loose, but she turned on me and bit…hard. I yanked back just as Christi stepped forward and the cat bit into her foot and wrapped her claws around Christi’s legs. As Christi tried to pull back, the cat went nuts, and Christi began screaming. I tried to grab the cat to get her to let go, and she did. We all backed up, everyone was screaming holding their bleeding hands and legs in the dark.
Poor Brett woke to the screaming and howling just as the cat freed herself and we all dashed or hobbled to the nearest sinks to rinse our bleeding wounds.
At the sink, I discovered the cat had bit clean through my finger and split my finger nail, and ripped a deep gash in one of my other fingers.
I checked on everyone else, and as the incident died down, I felt my blood pressure drop and so I sat down and tried to put my head between my knees, but I felt nauseous and sat up and leaned back.
The doctor said, the Vagus Nerve conveys sensory information about the state of our organs to the central nervous system. Your heart beating too fast? It reports that and if your system says you’re just watching a scary movie, it will slow your heart down. But if you’re being chased by a lion, it will continue to let it race and find other ways to optimize your system for the fight or flight reaction.
In the cases of stress, sudden fear, severe pain, overexertion, overheating, hunger, nausea, or standing after sitting or laying down for a long time, the vagal reaction is a reflex response that causes the pulse to slow down or the blood vessels to dilate. This causes the blood pressure to fall, reducing the blood flow to the brain. Lying down, or falling to the ground, usually stops the reaction within 60 seconds.
But I didn’t hit the ground. And I can’t imagine how I would have reacted seeing Christi in the same state.
It was interesting to discover, that something I was unconscious of was watching out for me.
While laying in the ER, I couldn’t help but think about the talk I was giving today. “How can I talk about Creating your new life, when I, somehow, created THIS part of my life?”
In a blog post by our own Brad Volz, he reminded me that there is a message in everything. We just have to be willing to listen.
So I listened. And after rereading all the material I had gathered for today, the potential meditations or exercises, I finally decided to simply twist the title. I felt the message today was a continuation of my last message that was titled “The Hero’s Spiritual Journey” which you can listen to at http://www.unity-fay.org/ October 16th recording.
Today’s Message is now titled:
“Writing Your Own Hero’s Journey”
Shouldn’t we all be the hero of our own life story?
How many in here feel like they aren’t where you thought you would be? Not saying bad or good!
How many of you here would like to write a new script for your life?
How many of you feel that someone else is writing the story of your life and you’re simply reacting to each new obstacle?
In the hero’s journey, based on Joseph Campbells’ writings, which identified a repeating plot of all myths, many movies, and stories throughout history follow, after a decision has been made to cross the first threshold and commit to path that will eventually change them, everything appears to line up and ‘supernatural aide’ appears. But soon, the “Road of Trials” begin that shape you into what you desire to become.
If you attended our introductory class of The Artist’s Way this past Wednesday, you were privy to the fact that I almost had to cancel the evening as I was experiencing a cold and my was having trouble with coughing and even speaking.
But I realized that I was trying to protect myself from utter failure, ridicule, and laughter I was about to experience. Seth Godin says our ancient Lizard Brains try to keep us safe. There’s a TIGER! RUN! The Artist’s Way says your inner censor tries to get us to give up. And just as we feel that rush of excitement of trying something new, it changes to fear.
Kate reminded me that Fear and Excitement have the same vibrational level, it’s how we choose to embrace it. Yes…falling out of an airplane sounds terrifying, but if you’ve got a plane, an instructor and a parachute, it turns into excitement.
In creating MY new life—Writing MY Hero’s Journey, I have decided that I want to be surrounded by creative, spiritual, and loving people who want to share their gifts, who want to help others succeed, and who have dreams they are finally ready to share and ask for help in achieving. I want to show people through entertainment and education that they are more alike than different.
But how am I writing this script? What plot elements do I have at play for action and character development?
- First, I have an amazing loving partner who is capable and, more importantly, WILLING to bring me back to life.
- I have a business that I run with a partner from our homes and we’re getting ready to add staff. SCARY!
- I’m on the board of the New Design School.
- I’m hoping to start a new non-profit organization for commercial creatives like graphic designers, photographers, illustrators, and that ilk.
- I’m Facilitating AND TAKING an Artist’s Way Class.
- I’m doing speeches.
- I’m doing person design projects.
- I spend time cultivating my relationships starting at home.
- Oh…and I’m writing.
Is this what I meant to write for my life? And how does it get me to the conclusion of this story? Where I am showing people through entertainment and education that they are more alike than different
Well, I KNOW I did not write the part about sitting in the ER waiting for a CAT scan after the Cataclysmic Catastrophe that morning with the … pet.
Or was it?
Maybe it was a ‘Pause’ to reflect on the direction I was going. Maybe a chance to make sure I am doing the things I want. Creating the things I want to create. Be with the people I want to create with. Maybe the ER was the “Belly of the Whale” where I was beginning my transition from my old life into the new.
I can tell you, there are many changes afoot already.
But this isn’t just about me. It’s about how YOU can write your own journey
Now, normally here at Unity, we have a nice relaxing meditation. But I want to engage you a little more directly today. I want you to be an active participant in what you are creating.
Grab a sheet of paper and pencil or pen in front of you and get ready for the first of these exercises.
Some of you may feel like something is holding you back. I want you to jot down a short sentence of some recurring negative thoughts you have going on in your head.
It may be, ‘I don’t have the connections to make a movie.’ or ‘I’m too old to start learning to play the piano,’ or even, ‘I’m too broke to go on a trip.’ Just the meanest nastiest thing you’ve been beating yourself up about. If you never do that, congrats! You are amazing, cause I still do it.
Next, I want you to turn that phrase around. “I don’t have the connections to make a movie,” becomes, “I am surrounded by people who help me make movies.” “I’m too old to learn the piano,” becomes, “I play the piano daily and get better all the time.” And “I’m too broke to go on a trip,” becomes “I enjoy my trips at home and abroad with friends and family.”
“But Eric, that’s a lie. I am not a millionaire. I can’t play the guitar. I don’t even have a video camera, let alone a script to shoot!” I’ve heard this before.
“It’s not a lie, if you believe it.” George Costanza from the show Seinfeld said that, I think.
And, you’re right. It’s not the truth….as it’s held today. But this powerful little exercise can help you set a course for what will become true in the future. Especially if you repeat it regularly to yourself every day.
How many saw The Secret?
How many of you have ever in your lives, just once, thought about something you wanted, and through seeming coincidence, got it?
In The Secret, the Genie as the Universe says, “Your wish is my command.” The Bible says, “Ask and you shall receive.”
What you focus on expands. It can’t help but expand. Because each moment you focus on it, you learn more and experience more.
If you start of the day, from the second you awake you say, “Today is the happiest day of my life, and I write stories of action, humor and connection that I share with everyone across the globe.” Guess what? Each day you say that, you begin making changes in the things you do and the people you surround yourself with. Until, finally, one day, you wake up as a published author, signing books, and what you say to yourself is now… truth. In fact, it may be that you have a whole NEW mantra for the next book in your Hero’s Journey.
Even those mornings, when it’s cold out, and you’ve got a ton of mundane tasks to do and you feel like crap, setting your intention for the day can make all the difference.
But there’s another trick to this.
Nature abhors a vacuum. And Barbara Sher, author of Wishcraft: How to Get What you Really Want says, “Isolation is a dream killer.” And even Psalm 68:6a “Only the rebellious dwell in a parched land.”
Right now, I’m going to think about what I really want. (Stare at audience. Look quizzical. Look around. Look up.)
Why aren’t I getting what I want? I really really want it.
Alright, right now, I’m going to TELL you what I really want.
I want something to keep my head warm. (Someone tosses my hat to me).
I was going to say something to write with, but I didn’t want to get pelted with pens!
The point is, don’t be afraid of sharing your dreams. If your friends laugh, get new friends! It’s YOUR life, after all. They’ll come around. Or not. But you’ll be living the life you were dreaming, creating, and writing about.
Now, turn to the person next to you and bravely state your NEW mantra. What you want to become.
When I was about 6 years old, my parents bought me a Dr. Seuss book called, “My Book About Me by Me, Myself.” There are fun little facts I noted about my age, eye color, how many doorknobs were in the house, and..what I wanted to be when I grew up.
While there were dozens and dozens of example lives, I chose “Cartoonist.”
I remember reading Archie, Peanuts, Lil Abner and a bunch of others and loved how images could tell a story. I still love that today. Movies tell stories. And in Graphic Design, I get to communicate messages visually. I didn’t become a cartoonist, but the essence of what I wanted to accomplish is the same. Of course, the book also says my favorite foods were corn on the cob, chicken, and SPAM….which…as you all know WAS true even up until a year ago when my eating habits drastically changed for the better.
Wait…I need to remember SPAM for a moment. (take off my hat, place over heart, set hat down)
In the Artist’s Way class (and book, in general), the goal is to free that inner child, that inner artist and creative spirit that is still hidden away. It’s not just about art, but music, writing, dance, connection to who are and how to let them out.
Let’s do one exercise from the Artist’s Way.
On your sheet of paper in front of you, I want you to quickly write down five answers to this question:
- If you had five other lives to lead, what would you do in each of them?
Mine would be a special effects designer, a parkour acrobat, a game designer, an actor, and a movie director. Have fun with these. Don’t overthink.
- Now, pick the one that calls out to you the most.
From here, I want you to think about some small way you can do something that is an aspect of that life. If it’s being a country singer, what about taking a guitar lesson? If it’s movie director, grab an iPhone, or even a digital camera and record a three minute movie.
And, yes, I recognize the irony of me saying this in front of everyone.
This is an actual assignment in The Artist’s Way. If you’re interested, it’s not too late, but you’ll have some catch up to do. See me after service OR, can everyone taking the class raise their hands? Catch one of these people!
So here’s the thing about writing this part of the journey. Many people are Shadow Artists. They have surrounded themselves with people doing what they wish they could do. These people have not crossed the first threshold of the Hero’s Journey.
But…you’re about to!
A few years back, I got involved with film festivals and ended up running three of them. I met filmmakers, writers, and actors. And then after three years of this I noticed, I wasn’t getting to see the movies anymore, or spending time with the people creating them. I had gotten to a level of orchestration, which, while gratifying, I had completely moved away from what I desired most. Connections to help me achieve my dreams.
And yet, even today, the universe keeps putting me in connection with those who could still help. Recently, I’ve met and worked with a screenwriter, a filmmaker, and done design work for a movie producer, film distributor, and the director Joel Schumacher. And still, I haven’t started my films.
Like at least ONE other person in the room, I’ve got stories to tell. The Hero’s Journey for me is ongoing, and I feel that the third act is about to begin in which the hero learns a new truth.
You can write your own story. You don’t have to have just one dream. They can intertwine in a complex dance. Some journey’s are straight forward, others have many plot twists and turns.
Repeat your mantras, share your dreams, and above all, unless you’ve got canvas gloves, thick pants, and boots, never reach down to help a howling stuck cat.