If you have ever felt a void in life or an emptiness of self, it is probably because you haven’t quite figured out your mission, purpose or Dharma yet. It is not an easy thing to do and requires courage and faith, something I feel is not encouraged enough in our modern western society. There are some of us who have figured it out but find it difficult to motivate ourselves to be productive. I know because I have been in this place plenty of times myself. I am a singer/songwriter with a new found passion for creative writing. I am fortunate because I have learned how to channel negative feelings, depression and frustration into work from these feelings. It has not been easy, but I have been able to make this transformation and gain great joy and hope from this process. I have recently completed my second solo album entitled Fire Inside of Me. This album was a journey of self discovery where I was able to turn blocks of sadness and suffering into hope and happiness.
I have often thought of quitting music, my chosen career, because the path of the artist is not an easy one. But there has always been that little fire inside of me that could not be extinguished. I was able to conquer feelings of disillusion and disconnectedness, first through my spiritual practice of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, Bikram Yoga and reading inspirational words focused on finding one’s Dharma and breaking through. A book that helped me the most was The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. In this book the author gives practical steps for artists to turn occasional bursts of creativity into a daily practice of work. This wonderful book helps the artist increase productivity with their art, find fulfillment, success and happiness in life. A combination of these practices,The War of Art and one of my bff’s, artist Xaviera Simmons’ guidance, has helped me to understand how one creates a 9 to 5 (or more like a 9 to 9) job out of making art. The practice has also helped me to transform an easily distracted struggling artist into a focused, driven, successful and prepared artist. It is also important to understand that these practices do not only apply to the artist, but to anyone looking for a purpose to fill an empty void in life.
First, I think that a person has to find what they enjoy doing in life that brings them happiness. Maybe what brings you joy is human rights, animal rights, art, creativity, children, politics or meta physics? The list goes on and on. And as we have witnessed with many successful people, you can make a career out of whatever you love to do.
Second, you have to create a practice out of it. There might be an overwhelming feeling of, “How do I start this? Where do I even begin?” My answer is research, information and knowledge. Learn as much as you can about what it is you love to do. Maybe it’s not about going back to school right away, but there are other ways to learn about your passion. You can take a class, buy books on the subject, go to the library (it’s free) or search the Internet on everything related to what you love. Soak up all the knowledge you can possibly obtain and let this knowledge inspire you toward the direction you want to go in. Maybe there is someone’s career you admire. Read about this person, see how he or she built their career. Let their ambition and motivation inspire you. Then it’s time to get busy.
Third, find a quiet space to work in where there are no distractions. Building a practice means taking time each day to work on your craft or idea, making it into a routine and staying committed to it like you would if you were getting paid for this job, like a 9 to 5. In my case I rented a small studio space and moved all of my instruments and computer into this space. It was a big effort to motivate myself to work at the time because I was suffering a lot from an intimate relationship that went very wrong. Someone had broken my heart and I was finding it difficult to recover from. But the need to be happy outweighed the desire to bury myself under my covers and lock myself in the house particularly in my bed, feeding myself large doses of bad reality TV, which would only increase my depression. Following your passion is vitality and not caring about a passion in life is misery. So I rented a studio and got to work. Everyday I went into my studio, sometimes dragging myself there, but each day it got easier and easier until it became an effortless routine and my daily practice. My void began to transform into my voice. I wrote 16 songs in that studio and picked 11 for my album. I expressed all of my anger, sadness and despair. I also expressed how I was still hopeful even after being betrayed deeply. I named this song “A Hopeful Heart”. From this routine sprouted a new energetic motivation to get up everyday and create work. From that motivation, a need to write down words also emerged, and suddenly stories started pouring out of me onto my computer screen like sweet lullabies off a nurturing mother’s tongue. Words of love, humor and traumas of life were dramas compelling the language to be expressed. I started to write everyday for at least one to two hours and this was not even in the plan. The plan was to simply be able to get motivated to do music consistently. But once you open the faucet of creative energy, out pours an ocean of ideas, drive, vitality and purpose. And that purpose is immense, ever expanding and has no boundaries or limits. Lethargy disappears and a feeling of connectedness to purpose and life reappears. This realization brings happiness and joy.
Finally, put your work out there in the world in anyway and all ways you can. Don’t be afraid what anyone thinks because guess what, I guarantee you everyone is feeling to some degree what you are feeling, unsure, doubtful and afraid. The more you put your work and yourself out there, the more you begin to care less what anymore thinks. You are simply compelled to create and share as often as you can. With a daily practice of fulfilling your purpose with what you love to do, happiness emerges.
What is your daily practice? Do you have anything holding you back? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Ife Sanchez Mora (stage name: IFE) is a NYC-based singer/songwriter. Her new album Fire Inside of Me will be released on February 5 and was recently spotlighted by American Songwriter. Additional info on IFE can be found on her official website: http://ifesanchezmora.com/