Unleashing your Creative Genius: Letting Numbness Thaw

Welcome to my first post in a new monthly blog series, Unleash Your Creative Genius! Each month I’ll explore a different part of the creative process, inspired by the seasons (earthly or astrological), or by whatever I am working through in my own process. I’ll offer tips, insights and stories on how to navigate difficult, surprising, and sometimes unwanted things that show up in our artistic endeavours or life in general. I believe the creative process is not only relevant to artists, but to everyone, as active creators of the best people we want to be, and of the best lives we want to live. The creative process shows up not only in our art projects, but also in our healing and growth cycles, in our goals, dreams and the pathways we forge to reach them.

Today I am thinking about numbness. When it shows up in our bodies, our emotional landscape, our creativity, in the earth itself. When it’s winter and we are winter. When we’re frozen. Our shoulders are hunched, our hands and feet are stiff. Our bodies or emotions are filled with the stillness and stagnation of ice.

January, like Capricorn Season, like Saturn, is a hard place to be. Saturn’s numbness is like: put the feelings away, meet the deadlines, it’s actually too cold to feel. Get through the day, pay the bills, life is too hard to fall apart.

Astrologer Samuel F Reynolds reminds us that with Capricorn, like winter, there’s a very big difference between what appears on the surface and what is actually happening underneath. At first glance it looks like nothing is moving, and nothing is happening. But in reality the earth is involved in a nuanced, complex and beautiful process of cultivating and nurturing life underground, in places that are invisible and unknowable to our conscious realm. The earth is busy making life ready – so when the time is right, it can once again burst forth into seeds, blossoms, and spring.

I have sometimes gone for months without writing or creating anything I thought was useful. During these times I feel blocked, frustrated, I am hard on myself for not being productive enough. If I can’t see tangible results in front of me, it’s hard to believe anything is happening at all.

But I have come to understand this as a a necessary part of my flow of creativity. I need time to let things stir underground. I need time to sort things out internally, unconsciously. Then one day I’ll hear a song, read a line of poetry, or come across something seemingly random that triggers a burst of energy, visions, ideas, or communication out into the open. From my gut to my pen to my paper – whatever needed to be said, is finally ready to make itself known.

Holding numbness within us is uncomfortable, confusing and most of the time unwelcome. We long for summer days when it’s hot. When our flow is explosive, fast and easy. When passion erupts and sparks fly.

But numbness has a season. Numbness plays a necessary role. Numbness requires our patience.

Because we can’t run on high all the time. One of my dance teachers often says when she teaches us choreography:

“I don’t want you dancing up here all the time,” she points above her head. “I want to see the levels. The ups and downs, the quicks and slows, the tension and release. Otherwise it’s not real and I don’t want to watch you.”

So how to make the best of this peculiar feeling of not-feeling? How to deal when you know there’s something underneath the surface but you can’t get at it through a layer of ice?

What if numbness was a child you cared about. And say this child is really angry, sad, or upset. But they are not in an environment where they feel safe or welcome to express themselves freely. Maybe they are dealing with racist teachers or schoolyard bullies. Maybe their family is going through times of extreme hardship, transition or loss. Maybe they are stressed and don’t have the support to fall apart and be held. That child might cope by creating a shield of armour around how they feel.

And when you say to them, “hey kid, tell me what’s wrong!”

They won’t budge. You may be annoyed and frustrated because you know this little one is going through something but they won’t tell you what it is. The more you insist they tell you, the more they zip their lips and clench their jaw.

Our inner survivor knows when we are safe and when we’re not. Our inner survivor has developed genius strategies to protect ourselves when we’re under attack. Numbness within us is smart. Numbness is an amour, a protector of what is sacred. It shows up when we have something within us that is really important, but we’re unsure of what will happen if we let it out – is it safe enough to be seen, heard, valued?

What if, instead, you said to that child: “It’s okay if you don’t want to tell me. Take your time. I’m here when and if you need me.”

That child might begin to melt. They might feel validated and start trusting you. We can build this kind of trust in our hearts and bodies as well. It’s okay if you can’t feel right now. It’s okay if you don’t know how to access or understand what it is you feel. Take your time. I’m here.

Every now and again we go through extreme life events, shock, grief, devastation. For many of us, extreme circumstances is even the norm. Sometimes what we go through is too huge to process all at once.

We need much more time than we think we need, more time than we want to need, more time than others want us to need.

And we have to live our lives at the same time. We have to meet the deadlines, pay the bills, take care of the responsibilities, deal with the street harassers, move about in unsafe environments, and on and on.

Numbness can be our heart’s way of saying: “I know mama has things to do. I can wait for a better time to reveal myself.”

In the meantime, make friends with your numbness. Talk to it. Thank it for doing its best to protect you. Ask it what it’s afraid of. Get to know its fears. Tell it it’s okay if it doesn’t want to go there right now, but that you’re listening anyway. Promise your numbness you will cultivate time and space where you can relax, feel accepted and just be yourself. Do your best to keep that promise, even if that’s 5 minutes before bed where you just let yourself breathe to the rhythm of your beating heart.

Then you remember, everything has a season. And in its own time, winter eventually thaws.

Credit for Featured Photo on this Post: Zaheen Karim 

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