There can be no great accomplishment without risk. — Neil Armstrong


Think of something that you want or want to do that seems just out of reach for you at this moment, an idea that sends butterflies rushing through your belly.

For me, it is standing in front of a group of people reciting my poetry by heart. To stand in front of a crowd reciting poetry from a sheet of paper? That’s doable. By heart? No way.

“I could never do that!”

This thought shot through me and sent butterflies in a spiral throughout my body the first time I imagined reciting my poetry by heart in front of an audience.

“I could never do that! Just hand me the sheet of paper, please, and I will be fine.”

A few days ago, I attended a poetry slam. I watched many poets recite pages long verse. I saw how they became their experience, lived the moment in real time. I noticed the deep connection that they made when spoken word came out of a mouth on the stage, hit the air, and showered down on the audience. I could almost see the goosebumps form on the arms of audience members as I felt those pop up from my skin. At that moment we were all one, with the same urgent need to connect with each other and have a communal experience. To understand and be understood together.

That’s when I knew it was time for a change. I needed to embrace the art of taking risks.



We live in a dichotomy. Our brains register all change, positive or negative, as a threat. We tend to go about our day-to-day business without taking note of what’s happening in our bodies. Meanwhile, our bodies are processing our experiences and sending us alerts such as physical aches and pains, uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, mental images and phrases. These signals alert us to possible danger. Because of our auto-pilot nature, we often miss opportunities for positive change.

This dichotomy means it is crucial to stay alert to the body, the breath, the thoughts and feelings that are happening in each experience. Positive change requires awareness of and attention to what’s going on at many levels or planes: physically in the body, mentally in thoughts, emotionally in neurological pathways, and spiritually as an opportunity to open your heart and connect to others.


When our deepest desires do not match our actions, negative rumblings under the surface show up in our lives. We feel irritable, insecure, and we can even become physically sick. Our minds play tug-of-war between our basic instincts, which are ruled by emotion in the ancient part of the brain and what we think is reasonable, located in the more modern part of the brain. This heave and ho causes procrastination, indecision, and even stasis.

Focusing awareness on each of the four planes of experience can help to alleviate the stress that causes procrastination or stasis. To flow or to surf with our deepest desires we have to tune into the what we want above all, with laser focus.


Physical level – the breath is the key to regulating the physical level. Find it and follow it through your body. Guide your breath to places that seem stuck – your lungs or diaphragm, the back of the lungs, even your feet may need some. The stress of taking risks tends to get us in our heads. Connecting the breath throughout the body can balance out this feeling, much like you would spread butter evenly over a piece of toast.

Mental level – our thinking patterns can make or break us in an instant. Notice your thought. The best brain training for this experience was created by Byron Katie who asks,

  1. “Is this thought true?”
  2. “Is it absolutely true?” After a couple of tries, your thought process will begin to question its thinking and release the vice grip on what it thinks it knows.
  3. Then you can ask, “How do you react when you believe that thought?”
  4. And finally, my favorite question, “Who would you be without the thought?”

Mind games keep the mental level on its toes.

Emotional level – We have to give kudos to this level, the level of our instincts, because this reactionary level has kept us safe as a species, until now. We are living in a time when we are beginning to understand that the body is not separate from the mind. The body is the mind. Emotions are brain chemicals that communicate information throughout the body and the brain. They help us make informed decisions based on we are feeling.

Spiritual level – What does the heart want? It wants a compassionate connection to others from a place of love and gratitude.


The question, “What are you willing to risk?” is not synonymous with “What are you willing to give up?” Instead, think of it as, “What are you willing to gain?”

I used to think that I was being asked to give something up when I heard the above phrase. I hadn’t been ready to give anything up until I remembered how much I loved being on stage as a child, unencumbered by holding white pages in front of my face so that my hands would be free.

At that moment, I realized that it is my thin sheet of paper full of carefully crafted words that ultimately separates me from the audience. The only thing I would be giving up by memorizing my lines is playing small by hiding behind my paper. It’s not stage- fright I’m risking, it’s messing up.

When I check in on my four planes of existence, I acknowledge the particular thought on the mental plane that’s got me stuck.

I’m not even on stage yet, and my thoughts are judging my experience, judging my performance. Judgment, masked as a protector keeping me safe from harm, is in truth keeping me in hiding.

“I could never do that!”, Has a message, it is an excellent indicator that positive change is afoot, an opportunity for positive change came when I took the time to notice what unacknowledged feelings lurked beneath.

The real message is, “Shit! I want this. I desire this! Wait…how do I get there?”

That’s when I focus on my desire: to create work that connects with an audience. Let the experience be what it will let the performance be imperfect. I want to bask in the joy of the creative flow.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s