Shoshanna is an artist, advocate and entrepreneur. She attended Hampshire College (F’01) in Amherst, Massachusetts. While there she combined her studies in political philosophy and dance. Her “div iii” as it’s called at Hampshire, was an installation art/performance piece integrating theory from multiple disciplines. She now holds a Master of Arts in Holistic Thinking from The Graduate Institute in Bethany, CT and will graduate in May ’15 with her J.D. from Elon University School of Law in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Wildly Creative: When did you start nurturing your creative life and why?
Shoshanna: What a great question. The key word of course being “nurturing”… I have always been very creative, so creative that teachers often didn’t know what to do with me growing up. They always thought I was “off-topic” or too talkative or daydreaming. In response to that, when I was a teenager, I would rebel. Or shut down. And in the process, repress everything I had to offer. Everything that, if I could find an outlet for, might make me really successful – success here being defined as happy…
What changed for me was being done with high school and seeking out educational opportunities that were off the beaten path. Attending nontraditional university, having all kinds of jobs, working and living in intentional communities (aka retreat centers), anything that expanded my horizons and allowed me to explore who I was I moved towards.
Having alternative pedagogy around me, or alternative models for how people live, was super important. It gave me the opportunity to live and learn in environments where what I brought personality wise and intellectually – aspects of consciousness that (if there is such a thing as an ‘I’) I could own. And then I felt safe sharing. This was the key to opening up my creative channels, and understanding that living in a way that is committed to being open, to feeling safe enough to share what dwells within, is part of my value system. It’s what enables me to be me, which is a creative endeavor all of its own. Then the practice – the real creativity – became that. Figuring out how to live my values, ‘stay true’ as they say, every day. But for me it started with feeling safe enough to share who I was and maybe even having to work a little bit in order to find that safety… That has been my process of growing down, as the psychologist James Hillman puts it, as well as growing up!!
Wildly Creative: What do you envision in regards to pursuing your creative passions?
Shoshanna: I envision using my degrees – a bachelor’s, master’s and now J.D. — in ways that people have never even thought of before. I envision taking a creative approach to the study and practice of law so that all of the internal stuff that artists rely on to see their work through can be applied to a career in the field of law.
This may sound a little vague but that’s because it’s an organic process. That’s not what the career services folks at my school want to hear and it’s certainly not what is drilled into us from an early age, but it’s what I’ve found makes sense whether I’m employed full-time as a yoga teacher (as I have been) or as a lobbyist (which I have also been). And it’s how I’m moving forward in my life right now, at age 32. There simply can’t be an arc of development that fits everyone equally. We are all our own animals and if we forget that, our passions tend to languish. So my advice is to allow for some organic flow – it’s the only way I’ve found to really keep the fountain of creativity bubbling and, at the same time, stay focused on my goals.
Wildly Creative: What is the advice you wish someone shared with you about pursuing your passions and feeding your creative self?
I think it goes back to nurturing your creativity, which is really nurturing the aspects of consciousness that make you YOU. For me this means being aware of my body from an holistic perspective. This means “listening” to my body, being aware of my breath, noticing changes in my moods and honoring wherever it is that my feelings are coming from. That requires setting out time and space for practicing mindfulness – for practicing yoga or meditating, rubbing my feet and being really quiet, giving attention to what I put into my body, and being really kind to the various “parts” that make up my whole.
Above all else, or in service to all of that, is finding a sense of kindness and compassion for myself. Checking in to make sure that I’m giving as much respect and care to myself as I tend to give others. I’m not saying I’m extremely successful at this all of the time, but being aware that this is what I need to do has really helped. It’s boosted my creativity over the years like crazy.
Wildly Creative: Creatives are usually the ones breaking the rules and little bits of misfits. How are you making sure to hold true to breaking the rules?
Shoshanna: Well, as a final semester law school student, I can say that ‘rules’ occupy a painfully strong presence in my life. But, we sign up for things, yes? I chose law school, however unconventional my “legal” career will be. And so I have to adapt to where I’m at, which means fitting into boxes and finding love and appreciation for rules…
Although I guess the truthful answer to this question is that I still break rules because it’s hard for me not to. I don’t even understand rules as others do. I always see larger contexts for things that make holding fast to history and tradition a tough pill to swallow. I always tend to have questions in my mind that buck whatever assumptions underlie a given rule. So in that way it’s inevitable that I will ‘break’ rules just by being me. At the least, I question rules and am very vocal about that, which is part of being me.
What I have learned though is that sometimes what feels like a straightjacket can teach you how to move in all kinds of creative ways. It’s like a Merce Cunningham performance piece, for all you modern dancers out there. You have a structure, maybe a whole choreographed piece has to happen on top of a tiny box and there are ten dancers who have to play a part on top of that one small box. Or dancers’ ankles are bound together. Or one is blindfolded. There are challenges you have in life that feel like rules in the sense that they themselves cannot, or cannot easily, be changed. So you have to adapt. And in that adaptation, in which you are totally pushing the boundaries of a rule, you are breaking it. But this happens as a result of you changing your relationship to a rule, not because the rule itself is actually changing. And there is peace in that. There is also power. The destruction is actually re-construction.
When you live this way for awhile, you keep ‘breaking rules’ because that is in line with who you are. But there’s a balance to be found in this paradigm, where the breaking actually allows you to live more fully. And what’s more, your ‘rule-breaking’ actually empowers others to change their relationships to rules. This is scary for many people – uh oh, anarchy! – but what that fear of changing relationships to rules is about is a fear of people being themselves. They are afraid of who that is and of who everyone else is. There is an assumption that we as humans can’t be trusted to really ‘be ourselves’ and/or define our relationship to rules. Again, I challenge that assumption. I believe creativity lights a path to another form of reasoning.
Because ultimately it’s like this – real creativity — authenticity — is like love; its effects create more wholeness and less tearing down or apart. And at the same time, it changes the way we live. It allows us to reveal ourselves to one another. And that’s its beauty. That’s why it’s a gift.
Want to see more of Shoshanna?
Check out Shoshanna’s blog at http://holistictoolkit.com or find her on Twitter @holistictoolkit. Especially if you’re down with the idea that the wellness of a community is related to the quality of and access to justice for everyone within a community. If you’re just a fan of cutting edge takes on mindfulness and social change. Or if you just love variety and appreciate yoga, meditation and conversations about creativity and authenticity. And of course, if you’re a law student.