Issue 44, Maya Angelou 'On the Pulse of Morning'
A Grammy-winning poem by Maya Angelou and three rituals to overcome fear
I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life - and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.
If you’ve been reading this newsletter for the last few months, you know I am in the process of redesigning my own life. Peeling through the layers of shoulds to get to the wants over the last few months has given me deep insights into how much of my life has been spent doing what I think I ought to do, or what will keep me safe, convincing myself that this is the same as what I want.
I’m learning to reframe this fear, not as something that controls me, but as a hard-wired pattern in my mind that I can work to disengage from, to ignore. Moving past fear is something I have been trying to master pretty much all of my life.
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A few months ago when I left my job, I was deep in a state of severe anxiety - anxiety built up from years and years of not filling my own well, of not having the time or space to manage my own mind and creativity. There was always a meeting or two waiting that were more important and urgent to attend.
This is why I want to share an excerpt from the iconic poem “On the Pulse of the Morning” by Grammy and Pulitzer Award winner Maya Angelou. How we spend our mornings, and the structure we give to our day, can end up dictating the rhythms of our mindset and restricting our ability to engage in different kinds of thinking – locked into work, fear and worry until dusk.
In today’s issue
• An excerpt from a Grammy Award-winning poem by Maya Angelou.
• Three habits that have quickly become non-negotiable, in my quest for keeping my mind out of the cage of fear.
On the Pulse of Morning
An excerpt from the poem by Maya Angelou
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
This day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.
Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands,
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For a new beginning.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out and upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here, on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, and into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
In Hindi the word for artist is “Kalaakar”, which can be translated to shaper of arts, or shaper of tomorrow. I love this ambiguity, because shaping tomorrow has everything to do with dreaming and envisioning, and nothing to do with fear. Some days it feels like societal collapse is upon us, and artists need every trick and tool they can get to conjure up a new kind of world.
Speaking of which, I’ve put together the three main tools, or rituals, that I’ve found helpful for building and maintaining my creative practice and the mindset needed for that.
Rituals for grounding your inner artist
Start the day for yourself - I’ve spent a lot of my life running out the door first thing to go to a meeting, a class, gym or to run an errand or some other responsibility. I’ve learnt over time that for me, setting up the day in a way that allows me even 15 min for myself before I start my day goes a long way in feeling calm the rest of the day. Listening to grounding music (whatever that might be for you) takes these few minutes as signal for your nervous system that you are safe. Lately I have been starting my morning with the above piece of drumming made by the artist for the birth of their child, as it helps me get into a generative and creative space instantly.
Connect to your gut - I am someone who is always in my head, and guilty of engaging in numbing activities to cope, scrolling on my phone and blanking out in front of the television to a point where I have been seriously disconnected from my senses and instincts. I’ve found, after a lot of resistance, that writing in a journal in the morning, even for half a page, gives me an intentional way to connect with how I am really feeling. I also try asking myself ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ questions and seeing what the gut response it before my mind has a chance to kick in.
Set some time aside for worrying - Committing to a creative life comes with its own challenges, and a common theme for me is worrying about all the ‘shoulds’ - financial scarcity, distrust in opportunities, or doubt in my artistic practice are all a few of constant worries. Instead of letting myself make decisions from a state of anxiety, I now write these down to address at a specific time in my day (usually the evening). When that time comes, I am able to address each one as either hypothetical (can’t do anything about it) or practical (can do something about it) and free up the rest of my day for just being in my body.
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