Meet Shoshanna Silverberg…Artist, Advocate, & Entrepreneur

Shoshanna Silverberg

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.

Wyatt Andrews

 

Wyatt Andrews

Wildly Creative: In your own words, what do you do Wyatt?

Wyatt: I play with things, I tinker. Music, food, crafts, like creating and building.

I just play with the world.

Wildly Creative: When did you start nurturing your creative life and why?

Wyatt: Always. I think all children are creative. It is something you have and do instinctually

Nurturing it is whether or not your have cool parents.

Wildly Creative: Fill in the blank, Creativity is…..

Wyatt: Seeing what is not there and making it so.

Wildly Creative: What is your first memory of connecting with your creative self?

Wyatt: I grew up in the middle of nowhere more or less by myself. When I was very young my best friends were the ghosts in the house and they were my playmates. To engage with them, I had to engage the creative part of my mind, create who they were, and I was creating a whole world and the games for us (me and these ghosts) to engage.

Wyatt Andrews

 

Wildly Creative: What was your world like with these ghosts?

Wyatt: We talked about the difference between being a ghost and being a person.

I remember pretending I was the ghost and that I was back playing with legos at the house when I was on my way to pre-school. We spent a lot of time in my backyard of my house.

My house was built in the 1700s and I spent a lot of time in these very old spaces. Interacting with all of this history that was there.

Wildly Creative: What is your advice that you would offer to anyone wishing to design their own creative life?

Wyatt: The turning point for me was realizing that you don’t have to be a great artist to be really creative. You can find ways to be creative in whatever you do. It is cliché but I stopped creating art or be creative for other people. I did it for my own enjoyment. When I started creating for myself it is when I have felt the most joy with it. I did not tell myself “no I can’t do that” nor did I tell myself “I am not good enough.” I just did it regardless of how much I sucked.

I just sucked at things and did not care and I did because it was fun and I wanted to do it.

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?

Wyatt: First I learn the rules because it only counts if you now them to begin with. I stick with the ones that are going to work and I leave the rest or I change them. In regards to rules, this sums it up best: you gave me this thing and I don’t like what you have given me, so I decided to do something else

If a rule is not going to serve you then it is not worth following and there is a difference between rules and limitations. Knowing your limitations is useful. I am also aware there are repercussions for breaking the rules and I am ready for those consequences at any given time. But you have to know when breaking the rules is worth the on consequences.”

Rumpelstilkskin OUR Inner Selves Encouraging Us To Spin Gold

While we know him to be a devil who tricks the Miller’s daughter into promising her first born child and then becoming enraged when she discovers his name, there is a different piece to Rumpelstiltskin we should consider. Rumpelstiltskin as the piece of ourselves who forces us to believe that we can in fact turn anything into gold. As you recall from the story, the Millers daughter finds herself in this mess when her father brags about her ability to spin anything into gold. Calling his bluff, the King invites the Miller’s daughter (more like imprison’s her) to prove that she can in fact turn rooms of straw (hay) into gold. In despair, she wonders how she is going to do it until the trickster, Rumpelstiltskin appears to complete the task ultimately winning her a position as a royal and saving her live.

There are many ways in which this tale can be interpreted but I want to shed light on the possibility as Rumple as our other self encouraging us to spin gold, even if it sounds crazy. Have you ever been in a situation when you thought your idea was crazy? Perhaps you did not pursue something because it was too bold, or something that just would be unbelievable to others? Rumpelstiltskin is the part of ourselves that summons that bold, the incredible and even the daring parts in order to “spin gold.”

How are you going to go forward and dare to spin gold in your life?

When is the Last Time You Played? Play as Vital to Creativity

Last week I was walking home through one of my usual routes which included a short cut through a playground of a school.  The playground was empty because it was late in the day, but I noticed a father and his young daughter playing.  As I approached, she gently pulled away from her father and walked toward the path I was approaching with a big smile on her face. “Hi” she exclaimed loudly still smiling as she continued to engage “Want to play with us?”   I came to a complete stop and met the little girl at eye level responding back with a smile “I am sorry I can’t play with you both right now but I hope you enjoy.”  As I bid her and her father a good-bye I smiled for the rest of the time home.

 

This was not just an adorable incident but something about it that struck me for many reasons.  As we get older, that simple invitation to play or even extend such a thing to each other diminishes or disappears altogether.    Play is well documented as key in the child’s development especially in regards to creativity.  As we transition into adulthood, the concept of play is easily forgotten but it still has a high value in nurturing our creative inclinations.

 

Giving yourself permission to play with the same ease and openness that was extended to me that day by that little girl adds value in creating new ideas, helping to solve problems or de-stress from busy days or work weeks.  Maybe you are not ready or perhaps feel foolish engaging in some of your previous childhood games (for example, one of my favorite involved rolling down a grassy hill).   On the other hand, there are other ways to think about play and how it can work in your life.  I had a friend who made sure to add time each week to play his video games because they ultimately helped to encourage him to see more than one way of solving some of his other challenges in life.  I knew another individual who always had a favorite outdoor game that he included into his busy schedule, it was non-negotiable to miss his weekly connection or play.  I personally like to indulge in playing innocent pranks or practical jokes that leave me and my friends erupting into laughter.  Other times, it is as simple as swinging on the swings on a summer day just like I did when I was a little girl just to feel the rise and drop of my stomach.

 

When is the last time you allowed yourself to play and what did it contribute to your creativity?   When was the last time the world became your sandbox or scheduled a playdate for yourself?  Perhaps reconnecting and inviting yourself to play will also be a way that you can invite yourself to tap into creating something new whether it is an idea, solving a challenging problem, or attempting to create art.

 

We will leave you some suggestions from The Importance of Play for Adults article written by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

 

  • Take a play history. What did you do as a child that excited you? Did you engage in those activities alone or with others? Or both? How can you recreate that today?

 

  • Surround yourself with playful people. Select friends who are playful – and engage in playing with your loved ones.

 

  • Play with little ones. Playing with kids helps us experience the magic of play through their perspective.

Using Letters As A Bridge

A few years ago I noticed that letters were surfacing that  were being used as a way to create dialogue.  There were open letters supposedly written by fathers or mothers to their daughters, open letters between faceless (and sometimes famous) lovers, and the list goes on.

For my creative flow I have often used letters as a bridge to the intimate as well as the creative.  When I was a teenager I had a couple of pen pals.  One who lived in the states who was a former classmate and the other who was a classmate who traveled between the U.S. and India often.  There was something special about receiving a letter that was addressed to me and waiting  for the right time to read it.

There was also something special about crafting the response or return letter.  Including nuggets of what was happening in my life, sharing news and asking questions while anticipating the responses.  For my writing, I’ve returned to the concept of the letter as an art form, but this time, I notice that I use them as ways of having a conversation while building the bridge to the mysterious.  My most recent project was an open letter that I wrote to my younger former self sprinkled with wisdom, tips, and all sorts of other goodies of what could or might be.

If you were to craft a letter, either open or otherwise, who would you write to?  Would you write a letter to yourself and bury it away?  Would you write a letter to a lover or loved one?  Is the letter to someone who has passed on?  Or perhaps your letter might be to a beloved place or thing, like the city you wish to see or to the car that you reluctantly had to abandon.

Here is what we want to assign to you, write a letter, not the letter you send, but the one you use as your bridge to a conversation, a dialogue, or just to have connection.  Think about what you want to say and perhaps this will be one of many letters.  Be as creative as you want, use imagery in the place where words just won’t do.

Allow the letter to be everything from your liberation to your bridge to your time capsule.  With this letter that you craft either with visuals, drawings or words, allow it to take you to the impossible.

He For She India

Some time ago, I stumbled on the video of Emma Watson’s speech at the UN. By the time the video was over, I was in tears. Not out of sadness but out of immense JOY. “Why?”, you might ask. “There is nothing joyful about gender inequality!”. That’s true. But the thing that filled me with joy wasn’t the “what”, it was the HOW. It’s about time that someone like Emma stood up to talk about gender inequality with COMPASSION. No issue has ever been resolved by holding a one-sided perspective. One-sided perspectives are what divide us as human beings. These kinds of attitudes are what create judgement and intolerance which in turn can lead to conflicts, violence, racism and wars.

Emma Watson, thank you. Thank you 100 000 times. Because of your sensitivity, courage and compassion you have opened the door to honest communication between men and women around the globe.

No one is perfect, we all know that. Man or woman, the truth is, we are all at fault. Have you ever been in an endless argument with a loved one feeling that the other person is so defensive that there is no room for a constructive exchange? Sometimes for the argument to end the only thing to do is to let go and accept our imperfections. But that only works if both people do the same, both sides have to decide to let their guards down and meet in a space of acceptance.

This is what Emma gave us. As a representative of women around the globe, she stood in front of the world and opened the door to acceptance, understanding and tolerance. In the name of women she apologized for mistakes made in the past, admitting our imperfections. And more importantly, she gave a break to men. She acknowledged how difficult it must be to be a man today and live up to all that it implies. She looked up to the men in the audience saying that she wasn’t there to judge but to understand and help them too. Living with an open heart is not an easy thing. It’s scary and it hurts. But Emma did the hardest part for us already. All we have to do now is follow her example, let our guards down, and allow each other to meet in this virtual space of peace and acceptance. I leave you with this important question: “Are we brave enough to dig deep into our personal heritage as a human being (personal story, gender, culture, education, etc…), and examine ourselves in order to understand what brought us apart? ” It’s all wonderful to say that we are against gender inequality but the truth is, if we really want to change something, it means WE have to change. And that means looking at stuff about OURSELVES that are really not pretty. It’s the 21st century, we live in the science- fiction movies that we used to watch as kids thinking that there was no way that one day we would achieve the same things as the heroes on our screens. Yet we did it, a lot of those impossible things are now reality. No one can convince me that something as natural and beautiful as Love is impossible to achieve when in the meantime we are talking about populating the moon or modifying DNA. It doesn’t make sense. The good news is, if we see that it doesn’t make sense then we can change it. And all the great things human kind has achieved are testimonials of our inner power. I choose to believe this. So I’m asking again, are we willing to go down the rabbit hole together, no matter how deep or challenging, for the benefit of positive change? I know I am.

To Boldly Go….What We Can Learn from Leonard Nimoy

Leading a creative live is fulfilling but there is a small price to pay.  The reality is that everyone around you may not understand all of the creative lives you currently lead or will ever lead.  Actually, I can promise you that this will be the case.

 

“Being known in one area of the arts and wanting to move into another is complicated. In a certain way, you get attention because of who you are, but you also get a certain amount of resistance.”

 

Leonard Nimoy, famously known as Dr. Spock on the original series Star Trek is a perfect example.  Shortly after his death, there were many quotes, articles and commentary that exploded all over the internet and of course on social media.  Many posts with the comments, “I did not know Nimoy was a photographer.”

Nimoy wasn’t just any photographer, but one with great depth adding another dimension to our perception of the human form through his artistic endeavors.  As I saw some of the comments I even recalled out loud to myself,  “Oh yes, that’s right, he was a photographer, I missed his exhibit that was held in Northampton.  What a life!”  Yet images of my childhood filled with remembrances of Dr. Spock easily flooded my brain.  Nimoy commented on the complications of moving from one art form to another and some of the constraints within that, especially from the public who may place you in one role.

Some of us may never be a character such as Dr. Spock or be bold enough to explore various fields of talent like Nimoy did.  However, his existence is encouragement to not only explore and adventure, but to be different creative and artistic selves regardless of the box that many may create for you.  Think about all of the different imaginings that family, friends, partners, lovers, and most around you may envision your creative life different than what you see or live?  Or can you recall a time when you shared information about a favorite hobby or a passion, and someone who thought they “knew” you was surprised and/or continued to only remember you within the narrow space that they carved crafted for you?

Here is my point and what I want all of us to draw from how Leonard Nimoy lived–be audacious and and don’t feel compelled to just be or choose one thing in your professional or creative life.  Cultivate many selves in our life as opposed to forcing the premature death of your other selves (creative, professional or otherwise).

Approach your creative life and passions with a wild adventurous spirit regardless of whether or not others around you will understand it.  And if you decide to place that creative exploratory upon a shelf in the mythical land of someday, just make sure it is not because the life of that passion imposes upon someone else’s vision for you.

 

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