[ guest post // creativity and the mind-body connection // emma frank ]
Thich Nhat Hanh wrote that before peace comes suffering, that one must go deeply into their suffering before peace is possible. I’m no Thich Nhat Hanh and I hesitate even to write a blog post that begins with his name but on a difficult day, I walked into a bookstore and found a friendly yellow cover entitled You Are Here. I started reading it and the simplicity of his voice spoke to me.
The difficulty of my day was simple. It was also complex. On the surface, there were complicated dramas, all the reasons that people are who they are and do what they do. All of the sadness attached to those dramas and to the individuality of my suffering. That difficult day, however, I was trying my best to let go of those dramas and to experience the difficulty within my body. From inside myself, those difficult emotions were no longer difficult, they simply were.
You Are Here, by Thich Nhat Hanh, is a wonderful book and if you have the time, maybe you’d like to read it.
It used to be that when I suffered, I was afraid of actually feeling. Listening to recordings from that period, I can hear the negative effects of an overly dominant mind. My voice sounds so cut off from my body as my mind tries to override my body’s needs and instincts.
For me, the practice of songwriting, like yoga, or meditation, or many other kinds of spiritual and artistic practices, thrives on a strong mind-body connection. When I write a song, I tune in to the connection between my emotions and my mind, and the language that I choose to narrate my emotions with. By connecting to my voice, I bring myself into my body. I am neither all body or all mind but a fluid interaction of both. This process of drawing the body in to the mind and the mind in to the body – this mindfulness practice – has helped to draw me away from harmful thinking habits and obsessive analysis and into a practice of love and compassion for myself and others. I feel more able to write songs that express what I feel, not what I wish I felt or how I wish I sounded.
Now, when something hard comes up, I try to actually feel it. I try to be compassionate with myself, to accept the feeling, to welcome it. Coming from a culture of academia and psycho-analysis, my brain is often swarming with thoughts, some more helpful than others and some downright harmful. But, knowing that I am not my thoughts, I feel more in control when something negative comes up. Where so much had once felt hostile and cold, now most everything feels infused with warmth and love. Not to say that I don’t go through difficult periods. Life is always presenting challenges. But now, when I go in to whatever feeling comes up, whether joy or sadness, my creativity unlocks. I don’t worry about whether a lyric or melody is good or bad because I am fully connected to it and it is fully connected to me.
I often feel lucky to write songs. I know there are billions of awesome practices in the world that allow people to explore the meaning of being here and to become more truly themselves. In my little world, how beautiful to feel a hard thing and explore it with music and words until it unlocks and blooms into a song that you can keep with you, like a deep realization, whenever the next hard, beautiful challenge presents itself.
[ Emma Frank is a singer/songwriter living in Montreal. She will be playing at Le Verre Bouteille on February 16. More details at emmafrankmusic.com ]