Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Walking the edge

Posted on June 30, 2007 by jimparedes

Sunday, July 1, 2007

I concluded the 32nd run of my “Tapping the Creative Universe” workshop on Monday night. What a great bunch of people I had for participants. There were students, housewives, executives, artists, engineers, a lawyer, a horse trainer — all in all a wide sampling of different types of people who gathered together for six nights to discover aspects of their own creative selves.

The reasons people join the workshop are just as diverse. Some of the participants surprise me by being there. For one, they are already functional proactive people and hardly need to be motivated. But they find themselves in some kind of slump and are looking for an “oomph” to propel their lives into higher gear. Some others are there out of plain curiosity and that is good enough. But there are those who take the workshop for bigger, deeper reasons.

There is something so challenging, beautiful and inspiring about people who join because they are confused, in pain or low in spirit in a major way. There are participants who have battle scars from bouts with life’s endless struggles. Or at least, that’s what life seems to have done to them lately. They join to find some way out, a relief from old habits and ways of thinking that have brought them to the rut that they are in. They have realized that more of the same existing mindset is not going to get them out of where they are. The old paradigms have stopped working for them. Many truths they believed about themselves and about life that used to seem right have suddenly and sadly reached their expiration date. Like old, spoiled medicine, these truths have become not only useless, some have even turned toxic. It’s time to open the window, toss them out and let the sunshine in.

Some people join the workshop because they are in between careers, dreams, relationships, or experiencing turmoil and feeling lost due to sudden downturns of fortune. It could be a loss of a job, a separation or mid-life. Many times, it’s a general “blah-ness” that won’t go away. They are looking for something to get them out of their inertia, to move to life’s next, hopefully more creative phase.

Whatever their reasons for being there, I realize that the success or failure of a workshop of this kind hinges on how much the participants are willing to take risks, to “walk the edge” and to try out new ways of engaging life.

Some like to dabble and acquire knowledge but only theoretically. They are not rigorous in doing assignments and like to take things in small doses. But there are others who perform the tasks conscientiously, and probe deep into the concepts that are presented. They question, test-run and embrace or reject them, but only after experiencing them firsthand. You can see them awaken to their own natural brilliance and it is wonderful. In my experience, these are the people who get the most out of the workshop and turn their lives around.

Giving workshops is an exceptionally rewarding experience for me. It is a journey I take with all the participants as they walk the edge of their experiences and learn new things about what they can do and what stops them from doing it. I feel like a boatman taking them aboard this little vessel across their sea of disappointments, blocks and dysfunctions to the island of dreams, awakened potentials and possibilities.

In the process, they meet and enjoy the company of fellow travelers, relish the scenery, stare in awe at the sunsets and the beautiful islands, while sometimes fearing the waves and imagined monsters that may surface and rock the boat.

Somewhere along the way, when they look back at the direction where their journey began, there are those who worry because they no longer see a familiar shore. Looking forward, they see no destination. It is both scary and exhilarating. But one must necessarily give up the comfort of the familiar to discover what lies ahead. The unknown, while it both fascinates and terrifies, beckons. In time, they realize that the solution to all the fears and anxieties about being on a journey is not to turn back but to plod on until a new shore appears.

This workshop is a stretch. It is not easy since it is scary to constantly try new things at the pace the workshop demands.

I try to emphasize that to live creatively is to necessarily move away from your comfort zone from time to time, and to live more and more in unknown territory. Why? Because you can’t learn anything new in your comfort zone. The known will not teach you anything you do not already know. Just staying there will surely lull you into complacency and apathy and will sap your energies. But the unknown will flex you, and stretch you into something bigger than what you know of yourself. It comes with a certain fear but also awakens a daring attitude.

When we face the unknown, we discover aspects of ourselves that we did not know we had. We surprise ourselves with what comes out of us. When we do conquer it, we realize that every unknown is just another aspect of ourselves that we haven’t met yet.

As has become tradition, this batch of TCU graduates each chose a name to boldly identify them – “Buddha Killers” – in reference to the Zen koan that says, “When you meet the Buddha, you must kill him.” It simply means that they are committed to challenging themselves and ditching mindsets and assumptions when these no longer contribute to greater creativity and growth.

I feel very good about many people in this group. I know they will impact the world in positive ways. And I am happy to have played a small part in their growth. Just knowing them has expanded me already.

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