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Spilling The Sap Final Reflections: Dave

Here we go. The final week.

It’s Dave Norville checking in once again for my final blog as a Dunamis AMA. It has been several weeks of deep introspection. Throughout this process, we’ve had multiple one-on-one sessions with the Dunamis staff. Meeting with them is as complicated or simple as you want it to be. They open up a space of comfort, support, and transparency where you can bring your worries, find solutions, find your problems and find yourself. What’s been interesting in my case was finding the latter two to be most typically in the same location. It’s amazing to undergo a shift of consciousness to see that your gifts, solutions, and resources have been throughout the entire time and that your biggest issue resided within. I’ve found several internal issues over the last few weeks that I now recognize to stem from really one place.

Nothing is ever enough. I want to do everything myself. I’m not satisfied no matter how many accolades, how much praise, the number of benchmarks I hit. I’m impatient.

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. The question is what is the common denominator through all of these? For me at least, I found fear to be at the root of all of these. Beneath the tough guy facade is a hotbed of fears and insecurities. Fear that if everything is not done right now, I’ll never reach the heights I aspire to reach. Fear that if I don’t do everything myself it won’t be done and it won’t be done correctly - the way I intend it to be done. Fear that if I don’t receive all of these accolades and all the praise, then people will begin to think that I’m not worth much or that I’m not that talented or smart or brave or courageous. I fear that people will begin to think the things that I already believe about myself deep down. My ultimate fear is the things I believe about myself becoming true.

Right, so we understand that? Let’s go deeper now. Who begins to show their grimaced face when deep-rooted fear paralyzes one’s spirit? Who can answer? Maybe Freudians? Buddhists, do you have the answer? The ego. The image of self that presents as the end-all-be-all of the universe. The image of self that distorts the world around you to assuage your insecurities and fears. It’s that part of you that whispers, “you’re better… your needs matter more… the rules don’t apply to you… everyone is watching you… you need this success because you are special and you need to prove it…” This kind of unhealthy belief in one’s importance separates one from the world of what is and places them in a world of “what needs to be.”

It has become clear to me once again that my ego is out of control and needs to be exorcised from my spirit if I’m looking to be “in a different and more completed state.” I’ve found myself paralyzed and shackled by my fears, ruminating endlessly, stuck in what one of my mentors coins as “paralysis by analysis” and I’m now seeing the extent to which I’m stuck is also the extent to which my actions have brought me there. Too afraid to make the wrong decision because “the world is watching and one bad move could be my doom,” too prideful to ask for enough help and assistance because I don’t want anyone to claim that they’re the reason I am where I am. Which, from this perspective is ridiculousness because no man is an island. Difficulty working under/ with people because my feelings are too sensitive to have someone look down upon me and “say the wrong thing.” Whatever that means at the given time… I’ve been planning and conceptualizing an organization that I want to build one day and I’ve spent all of 5 minutes thinking about a team and groups of people who could help me get there. I’ve just been thinking about me. In my mind, it’s all going to be me. Because for some reason it has to be? I can’t come up with a viable explanation for my reasoning other than I place myself at the centre of the universe and believe that I’ll be the defining factor for the change I’m going to make in the world.

I was in an important conversation with my dear older brother J. Cottle the other day when he said something that resonated deeply within me. Upon canting my fears upon him he said something along the lines of, “It is a mark of arrogance and ego to think that one can bring along that level of [destruction] change discounting the people that are in your life to help and support you.” I am quick to challenge what many people have to say but I know deep in my soul that what he has to say is always coming from a loving place. A place of support, care, and objectivity.

What I am learning is this level of ego, this level of self-importance, places an enormous amount of pressure on someone because it places you at the centre of all that is living and breathing. You fool yourself into believing you are the ultimate authority. Whether or not you have religious beliefs, it is the curse of man to believe he alone is akin to God. I’ve worked myself into a corner time and again believing and feeling like I am supposed to have all the answers and be the thing that the universe needs when in reality, none of us is, and it’s completely okay to submit to the will of the world… to allow chance to occur and potentiality to do what it does.

I was talking to a mentor this morning, who, upon saying our morning greetings he asked me: How many times have you died since the last time we talked? I replied and said about 4 or 5. He was referring to another conversation we had about a month ago about ego deaths and how they can be interpreted as a type of baptism. A place in time where you look at yourself, your iniquities, and take an account of yourself and let go of the assumptions and fears that you’ve held so dearly - anointing yourself into a new state of consciousness. It feels as though I’ve been going head to head with the universe and getting knocked out in every round, learning a new important lesson each time I get up.

I’m so grateful to have undergone this journey in part with the Dunamis team. The journey through the Arts world is so deeply troubling and confusing because you’re constantly battling with self. It feels as though that same sense of ego you’re tapping into to create the art and step into the limelight, you’re trying to come to terms with and beat down when your hubris toots louder than your french horn. When your pride mirrors Othello in performance and predestination. I thank J, Jasmine, and Neo so deeply for allowing me to step into self and battle my ego within the space they’ve created for artists and arts managers of colour. It many times feels like our white counterparts can “wild out” any way they want to and go through any battles they need to go to and it’s okay. Growing up it felt like the black musicians I came up around needed to stay on a straight and narrow path and take the right steps at the right time or else they were thrown off the boat.

I thank you all dearly for allowing me the grace to undergo this transformation. I anticipate I’ll be killing my ego time and again for the rest of my life. Fortunately, I’m learning the ways to sharpen my blade and keep the ego at bay. What a better time than now, to learn our true position in the grander scheme of things, to suppress the ego and commit ourselves to something larger.

Until the next death, I bid you all adieu.


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