🎹 Life at the Center: Chiseling a Hole for the Light 🎹 March 2015

By Renée Tillotson

I was in love with every person in the room. I felt absolutely thrilled and inspired. The air seemed to crackle with newness and I was amazed at life.

How did I come to feel this way?  Not even half an hour ago I had been dashing through a shower after Nia class to get to the concert in time. I could sense my shoulders clenching with tension as I drove to a place I had never been before, then nervously walked alone through the parking garage.  My internal clock was ticking loudly as I searched in the building for the concert hall.

The concert had already started when I arrived. As I sat down and began to relax, I realized that the audience was rapt, and that beautiful flute and piano notes were tumbling from the stage out into the room.  I felt almost instantly transported by the musical field that had been created in the room – as if I’d been picked up by a wave of music.

On stage, two musicians from very different traditions were improvising together. Peter Kater masterfully made his way up and down the keys of the grand piano, apparently trained in the classical tradition, pulling out original melodies as if by magic.  R. Carlos Nakai played an array of  Native American flutes, wafting haunting or mysterious songs through the air, sometimes chanting in a native tongue. As they swapped leads, one man giving way for the other to pick up a promising succession of notes, my excitement built.

What was going on?!? I was experiencing what we call ‘Universal Joy’ in Nia, which I often get when I teach or take a good class, coming out sweaty and exhilarated.  Now here I was just sitting on a chair in the back of a concert hall, high as a kite!

What is this energy I was feeling? How is it shared? Where does it come from?

The pianist, Peter Kater says that their improvisation happens “through the grace of being present, listening and responding wholeheartedly from within the void…the womb of all creativity.” These two musicians were wide-open, and the flow they turned on had carried me with them.

Evidently, this feeling doesn’t even require music for me to get it. Once as I was walking through a quiet museum I came upon an original Van Gogh painting, uncovered by glass. As I gazed at it, I was struck by the energy that poured out of that canvas.  It was as if Van Gogh had chiseled a hole through a wall in the universe with his paintbrush, like a window allowing the light to stream through…and it was still streaming through more than a hundred years later. I felt bathed in fresh light.

How does someone make it possible for the energy of creative inspiration to pour through?

Discipline seems to be one of the key requisites for good art to happen. People who truly master their craft are able to turn on the juice. Without years cranking away on his piano scales in minor and major keys, Peter would not have the musical dexterity to adapt to the fluid, sliding flute tones that Carlos was playing. I could imagine Peter’s musical calisthenics at home that enabled him to play the piano so athletically. His music pumped in ripples and waves through the piano out to me in the audience.

Creative energy doesn’t just pop into the human world by itself – in fact, sometimes it has to be wrestled out. The inventor of the light bulb, Thomas Alva Edison, made about 10,000 different attempts before finding the right filament for his bulb. According to Edison, genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.

There’s a ballet dancer I admire, Mikhail Baryshnikov, who defected from the Soviet Union to America to pursue his dance career. Baryshnikov is as famous for his grueling self-training regimen as he is for his soaring leaps and spins. You can watch his jump practice below.

All that sweat-equity behind Baryshnikov’s dancing allows his driving passion to transport us, his audience, with his thrilling stage performances. The force of his artistry has carved a deep channel of inspiration into the dance world. Another video below shows some of his ballet highlights and how his work has impacted dancers and audiences worldwide.

In the third video below, watch the power galloping through Mikhail dancing from deep in his guts against soviet injustice. The angst shooting through his dance taps into a universal emotion we can all relate to, but few have developed their talents to express it so eloquently.

When a creative genius breaks through into something wonderful – like digging tunnel out of the darkness into daylight – they make it available not only to themselves but to the rest of the world. It’s almost as if the light is traveling through such a person, seeking expression. Whatever our strength and passion is, through wholehearted exercise of it, we can chisel our own windows in the wall to let the light shine through.

As students of various moving arts at Still & Moving Center, we apply ourselves, increase our skill levels and share experiences with other students, teachers, international trainers and performers, until we too tune into that universal energy.  I can’t say exactly how it works, I just know that it flows through here frequently!

About the Author

Renée Tillotson, Director, founded Still & Moving Center for teaching mindful movement arts from around the globe. She is inspired by the Joy and moving meditation she experiences in the practice of Nia, and by the lifelong learning shared at the Institute of World Culture in Santa Barbara, California. She intends that Still & Moving Center always support the Earth and its creatures, and always be filled with laughter and friendship!

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