After a year full of death, a ‘lost’ voice, and no sense of how to live, I had a holy fuck moment last summer.
The shores of a lake in a Portuguese valley, swarming with cyber-fairies, 21st Century flower-children, gigantic totemic sculptures, tripped-out mega-tents pulsing light and sound like a psychedelic alien invasion. Boom. Boom is a festival where activism, art and altered states come together and get sexy.
Intensely alive music dragged me to a stage with a single man in a mandala of instruments, loop pedals and mics, arms multiplying in mosaic like Neo in the Matrix. A Latina priestess to his left in an emerald dress incanting praise. A wild robed warrior looking dude dancing pure ceremony over and back across the stage.
A cable at the base of my spine was plugged in again. Holy fuck. "This is all I want to be, need to do. That seed-cracking edge where ritual and entertainment blend. The sexiest crowd of half-naked half-wild humans dancing in the dust around me. Holy fuck, I want the sexiest crowds ever; my art-medicine re-plugging their spines into the mosaic."
Transfixed, I imprinted the moment on my bones. In my imagination at least.
My ‘Life-Changing’ Vow That Didn’t Change Anything
I made a vow then.
To always honour the poetry in the base of my throat. Even if my voice never recovers, I’ll let it flow in silence through me, at the back of the room in darkness, the street, the forest, by the waters, on the bus. Even if no one ever knows. So much energy I wanted to chew the horizon.
I sat on a rock and wrote…..
I spoke these words in broken churches
holding hurt and hope in verse
In flow the soul’s the oldest verb
reverberated heard in ancient sermon’s cadence
once learned that faith/must curve the rain
so I shapeshift, taste this waking grace as our face lifts
and come the flame/our stunned tongues/must/
one day/shun shame/lung’s shape/one name/
one birth/people/one grave/one seed called/
breaks clay/takes place/milks sunlight/spilt haze/
Canopy-tsunami can we stand breathe and pray?
Can these hands be the change?
Can the spirit when we feel it
ever stay self-contained?
People were beaming at me. Why wouldn't they? Everyone shines when we do our thing.
And we all have a thing, or many things I remembered. For the thousandth time. Then my mind began bouncing, like a stone skipping across water; across all the moments I made such vows before.
The Breakthrough Delusion
….The week I quit my PhD, I competed against ballerinas, breakdancers and a juggling troupe for a Bursary Award. All of them gifted. I deliberately breathed in their energy to amplify myself. Moved my body in ways I never had onstage. I won. The judge said it was like witnessing the birth of a new art-form; spoken word and modern dance fused. I cycled to the beach at midnight, vowed to the waves to never spend a day slaving at work I didn’t believe in again…..
…..I forgot that vow. Forgot that dance-poetry…..
…..coaching, talking circles, mountain peaks, dreams, retreats; I’ve had so many breakthroughs the movie of my life could be a pure collage of climaxes, with a song by Xavier Rudd maybe. It’s been epic.….
…..And I’ve forgotten.…
Breakthrough moments help us touch infinity and re-member
But don’t necessarily change anything. I know you know this. Bear with me. My thousands of workshop participants have thrown the same stories at me….“I just want to explode through my fears…..get naked and cover myself in paint every day….live in a forest for six months and do nothing but write….dissolve all doubts….go on long retreats, go here, go there, make a radical break…..”
Naked painting, awesome. Living in a forest, beautiful.
But they’re really saying: ‘I Want to Give My Power Away.’
The unconscious story is that a dramatic experience will wash away all doubts and fears. They’ll magically be ‘on my path,’ always inspired and aligned and ‘living my purpose.’ We’re sold this story by most teachers too: ‘Just buy my thing. All your struggles will melt away.’
If you practice, it gets MUCH easier, lighter, more fun. You trust it more, stay longer, deeper.
But Nothing is All Or Nothing. After the epic experience, you’ll fluctuate. Life will invade like the schizophrenic zoo it is. Most days will not offer a magic glade. You have to keep choosing. It’s always vulnerable. No epic moment will take away your power to choose, or your vulnerability. NO ONE is always aligned and doubt free.
How to Have Life-Changing Breakthroughs Every Day
Spending five minutes writing, dancing, speaking your truth when you feel resistance, is a breakthrough moment.
Doing it again the next day is a breakthrough moment.
Practicing when you have no idea what to do or why, is a breakthrough moment.
String enough of those together, you’ll change your life more than any retreats.
When I got home, my life had not changed. I went down to the same ocean and prayed. Asked the ocean to show me how to live my poetry with my voice in constant pain, exhausted with money worries from a year of voice loss stopping work.
Day by day offering precious things to the waves, shaping freestyle prayers.
Making smaller, more real vows every day is a breakthrough.
Months later walking home, voice ragged and burning, I was pulled sideways to the waters, the infinite foaming of motion and sound. Holy fuck, I want to be that, I said to myself.
I came to a dead bird, body composed as a monk. Gave freestyle prayers of thanks to its spirit, wished wings for onward flight, laid a chunk of clear quartz at the nape of its neck and walked on.
The waves grew fiercer in the almost dark. I held a rose quartz aloft, ready for offering. In the moment before throwing I wondered how to give fresh shapes to the same prayers.
I had nothing to ask for. I lacked nothing.
Months of prayers washed back over me. I’d asked how to live my poetry. But that daily prayer itself had been a living poem. All I need to do, to be. This is how I live, and for a while I forgot. I gave thanks, threw the stone, walked home. I can die happy, whole. It’s more than enough.
My voice is still in recovery. I’m still finding that daily poetry-prayer.
Bigger and bigger crowds may well come, many days when glittering visions take body in front of me. I’ve already had plenty. But life is mostly woven of moments like these. Speaking to the rocks, the trees, the scattering of beings who are with me now.
Out beyond our stories of what our dreams are supposed to be, is a place where we’re already living them, if we dare to drop in. If you made a time-lapse of your life, the split-second finish line moments, the roaring crowd podium moments, the peaks, would barely show as a flicker, compared to the tapestry of every day embodying, embracing and expressing your gifts, in the extraordinary magic of the ordinary moment.
The choice is always now.
PS - my posts have had thousands of comments on FB, but I've been oddly slow to get them up on my site. So my words may be a bit lonely, would you like to add yours? Share ways in which you restrict or free yourself to live your gifts in the comments. Let's help each other remember what matters most.
With a dear friend in my late thirties; still basically the same idiot, but having more fun with it. And somehow getting paid to share my idiocy : )
Dave Rock is a prize-winning spoken word artist and storyteller, and a conscious writing, speaking and performing arts teacher. He's worked with thousands of people, including award-winning comedians, actors and inspirational figures.