What if you're a painter and I only gave you one color, say yellow, to paint with?
What if you're a photographer and I only gave you one subject, say buildings, to shoot?
What if you're a writer and I only gave you one topic, say Gorgonzola cheese, to write about?
What if you're a musician and I only gave you one note, say a G#, to play on your sax or piano?
What if you're a dancer and I only gave you one dance move, say Enchufla (common in Salsa)?
Play this scenario out in a myriad of ways with our fellow sculptors, poets, filmmakers, actors, designers, printmakers and artists of all kinds.
If you were only given one narrow option, one single lane to drive in, one way to create or perform your art, the result would be very limited creative expression.
And so, in a similar way, ask most people what they want out of their lives and you'll hear the common response, "I want to be happy."
Don't understand me: I'm happy people want to be happy. Happiness is good. I'm "Pro-Happy."
Happiness is such a good thing that bookstores and Amazon are filled with happy-slappy book titles promising you: The Secret to Happiness, 7 Steps to Happiness, and yes, The Art of Happiness.
Can you believe it? I even found a title named 10% Happier, which made me think the author had extremely low expectations for becoming happier...why not really go for it and be 99% Happier?
You and I understand what people mean when they say they want to be happy, but in many people's search for happiness, what they really miss is cultivating a rich emotional landscape for their lives that greatly increases their capacity for understanding all of their God-given emotions.
So let's get personal: Do you want to be happy or do you want to cultivate a rich emotional landscape?
Cultivating a rich emotional landscape for your life includes happiness, but it embraces all the good emotions like JOY, PEACE, CONTENTMENT, SATISFACTION, TRUST, ADMIRATION, GRATITUDE, & SURPRISE.
A rich emotional landscape also means embracing all the difficult (not bad) emotions like FEAR, ANGER, SADNESS, FRUSTRATION, SHAME, DISGUST, WORRY, CONFUSION, DISAPPOINTMENT, & LONELINESS.
All of these emotions are the colors on your palette. They are the keys on your piano. They are the scenes in your stories. They are the moves to your dance. They are the subjects of your shoot. They are the front, the back, the top and the bottom of the sculpture you are creating with your life. Unfortunately, too many people want to cast a show that only allows their good emotions on stage while the rest of the cast is left in the dark backstage, making for a very incomplete show.
If you want a meaningful and satisfying life, you need to make a deep commitment to cultivating a rich emotional landscape. Believe me, paying attention to all of you will make you a better person.
Our emotions shape our character and our resiliency to handle every obstacle and challenge we encounter in this life. But like cutting our finger with a really sharp Ginzu knife while slicing a cherry tomato, we are naturally pain-avoiders. Who wants to feel pain? Who wants to struggle with difficult emotions?
Nobody does, but the very things we do to try to distract and deny, medicate and numb, avoid and deflect, intellectualize and defend against our difficult feelings are the very things that end up causing more problems, making us feel worse!
Three emotions I've struggled with throughout my adult life have been the ugly, triplet step-sisters of fear, worry and anxiety. Maybe it's because I really grew up with 5 sisters (I have the fingernail scars on my arms to prove it!), but a number of years ago, I told myself that I'm no longer going to make these emotional sisters my sinister enemies.
Instead, I enlisted fear, worry and anxiety to "my team" and allowed them to be my guides by simply asking a few questions, "God, help me understand what I'm feeling right now. Okay, it's fear. Now, what's really going on in my heart? What is this really all about? Maybe I'm on the verge of a new breakthrough? What do I need to pay attention to here?"
How you and I welcome, cultivate and care for our emotions plays a huge role in our journey to wholeness. Our emotions are the heart's way of getting our attention to let us know how we're doing throughout the day. Like any seed or sapling, they need to be carefully cultivated, watered, pruned and nurtured so that we eventually yield a great harvest of abundant, good fruit... yes, all those good emotions that make us feel H-A-P-P-Y!
We welcome and cultivate all of our emotions so that we can cooperate with God's Spirit to enter those hidden places that need healing on our journey to wholeness. As we grow in wholeness, we creatively and eagerly become more authentic people able to enjoy, appreciate and endure all this life has to offer.
Be good to your heart.
PS: If you'd like to join a dynamic group of artists on a one-year Journey to Wholeness, we are now accepting applications for our 2017 Cultivated Artist Experience. Click the link to learn more.
I'd love your comments, stories and questions below...