Relaxing into Revelation

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When we’re making a shift – any shift, really, but especially when it comes to finding our way and navigating our path at work and in life – things never seem to happen fast enough. ‘I’m ready for a change!,’ we declare... but rarely does that change follow immediately after. Instead, we recognize a change is needed, and much like righting a huge tanker ship, we turn slowly, slowly, slowly to put ourselves on a new course.

I carry a notebook (ok, three notebooks) wherever I go: it’s a wonderful thing to have by my side when inspiration strikes, or when my nervous energy needs an outlet. At a friend’s house the other day, my friend said something that I immediately wrote down: “Relax into Revelation.” Truthfully I don’t remember where she heard the quote or developed the idea, but you can be sure I wrote it down in my notebook.

What does it mean to relax into revelation? To slow down, get quiet in the space we’re in, and see how the universe unfolds with time? For many of us, it means getting very comfortable with being uncomfortable. After all, who among us loves sitting in that awkward, ambiguous space of not knowing where you’re going, of not seeing how “this” will get resolved. How will I find a new job? What will it be? Or, I’m not happy in my current path – but how will I know that the career change I want to make will be ‘right’?

And yet, this moment of lag time (the gap between knowing we want to make a change and actually seeing the change happen) is guaranteed. Making matters worse, how long this moment lasts is often beyond our control. How might we make sense of this waiting period, and might we be able to make it work for us?

A recent post by The Heretic got me thinking about this. In it, the author Pascal Finette quotes Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: “There is no other or better place for you right now. What you do, where you do it and how you do it is what is meant to be. Do your best.” As Pascal says, so often we’re so focused on what’s next – the next promotion, the next bigger job, the next life milestone – that we often forget to consider making the most of the moment we’re in. Or, as another wise friend recently reminded me, “Ride the horse in the direction it’s going.”

Inspiring, sure – but also easier said than done. So what happens if we’re not able to sit quietly, relax and make the most of the current moment we’re in? One potential side effect is anxiety. Questions spin in our heads, we feel irritable and cranky, and a sense of anxious worry comes over us. 

In the end, though, what is anxiety? Jerry Colonna has said: “Anxiety is energy with emotion attached to it.” I think that’s actually a lovely way of thinking about this often scary pit that forms in our stomach. In fact, if you think of anxiety simply as energy that has emotional meaning embedded in it, does it somehow feel less frightening, perhaps even a bit empowering? “Sometimes we use the habit of anxiety to actually create forward momentum,” says Jerry. Much like fidgeting with our hands when we’re onstage and then finding a pocket to hold onto, perhaps there’s a way to channel our anxiety into movement?

In her book, The Creative Habit, choreographer Twyla Tharp talks about something she calls ‘Scratching.’ Much like pulling on the end of a thread to see what unravels, scratching is the inquisitive, inspiration-seeking practice of exploring the world around you and letting ideas move in and through you. She explains:

“Scratching is not about control and repose. It’s about unleashing furious mindless energy and watching it bounce off everything in your path. The hope is that a spark will fly from all that contact and combustion – and it usually does.”

Furious, mindless energy that leads to sparks flying. What might it look like to channel our anxious energy into ideas and inspiration swirling around us – little balls of red, hot light flying high above our heads and then landing around our feet? What might it feel like?

Relaxing into revelation is by no means easy. But when we start to believe that there’s a purpose to this uncomfortable waiting period, it starts to become a manageable – even beautiful – part of the creative process. 

On a recent episode of the podcast Song Exploder, Lorde explained her experience writing and producing the song Sober. After years of scratching at a basic melody and drum line in her head, Lorde teamed up with a new producer who took her vision and combusted it using sparks of his own. The result? “It instantly felt like we were in the vignette we’d been chasing for a long time.”

In the end, wayfinders are all chasing a vignette of something new: the future we can see for ourselves. Yet this process of scratching, of relaxing into the space where our future is slowly revealed, takes time, dedication, trust and openness to where the path might lead. It’s not easy nor is it straightforward. But for me, at least, being able to recognize when I’m in this moment helps me relax into it even more. Trust in the universe, as they say. And so we do.