Chaos: Evansville, Indiana 1987
Have you ever felt hopeless? I mean absolute despair. The feeling of hopelessness makes you numb. When your set point is despair, there is nothing outside of yourself, and there is no one other than you. There is no imagining, and there is no beauty. There is no communion, and there is no fun. There is anxiety. The crack/cocaine epidemic swept through the ghettos of African American communities in the 1980s and ruined the lives of many families. My family was not an exception. From the age of seven to the age of ten years old, my brothers and I travelled back and forth from homeless shelters to the floors and couches of friends and family members.
One night, I was lying on some trash bags on the floor of a family member’s living room. I was looking up at the ceiling, feeling scared, unwanted, and unloved. There was glass breaking, and a woman was screaming, as a man chased her around the house and punched and slapped her when he could manage to make contact. As I lie in that room, looking up at the ceiling with this chaos all about me, something struck me about the way my brothers slept. Their bodies seemed frail and thin, and yet their skin seemed to glisten beautifully as the lamp from another room, cast rays of light over the top of us.
My mother always encouraged me to look after my brothers, and since she didn't seem to be herself, I began to understand and take on this responsibility. I was only 3 minutes older than my identical twin, a year older than my other brother, and 4 years older than the baby who I am not sure was there. I sensed their innocence, and I remember thinking of the beauty with which they seemed to sleep. I felt great love for them, and I can remember the feeling of comfort in their presence and the connection of our shared life experience. As I became more aware of our helplessness in this chaos, I began to cry as the deep love that I had for them began to overpower my despair. I looked up to the ceiling, and I prayed to God. “Dear God, please save us and help us. I miss Mama and Daddy, and I am so sad. Please! I do not want to be like this when I grow up. I do not want to live like this. Please, God, help me take care of my brothers. Help us to get out of this!” I think I was 6 years old. It was a sweltering summer. Just before I fell asleep, great calm and peace overcame me. Stillness, silence, and inspiration. I knew at the moment; I would be all right. I sensed someone or something answering my prayers, and I cried myself to sleep.
Anything is Possible: Maui, Hawaii, 2004
When I was twenty-four years old, I was working as an entertainer on a cruise ship. I felt alive. It was my first professional job after training in musical theatre, and I was grateful someone was paying me to do what I loved. It was an incredible time in my life, and I felt strong, healthy, immortal, and invincible. To add to my gratification, the itinerary schedule meant we docked in Maui, Hawaii for two days and one night before sailing to the other Hawaiian Islands. One morning, a few friends and I decided to drive to a place called Rainbow Beach. While we there, I was standing waist-deep in the water. As I glanced out over the horizon, I saw a humpback whale dive out of the water and into the air. It is an image that has never left me, captured in my mind and heart forever. What I appreciate about that moment is that everyone on that beach stood there in amazement and in awe. We collectively gasped and held our breath as this majestic and massive creature seemed to hover above the water for what now seems like an eternity. Then we exhaled together as the whale splashed back into the water again. I thought to myself, “How did I get here?” I knew at that moment that if I could make it there from the ghettos of Evansville, Indiana, to this inspiring moment on the beach, anything was possible. I thought, “Wow. We are truly the creators of our lives.” My life had not been perfect up to that point, and I was still an arrogant, lost, insecure, kid full of self-doubt, fear, and pain from my past. However, if my desire and hope for a brighter future could get me to that experience, even with all that I still loathed in myself, then how much more could I achieve and experience in my personal and professional life?
What I experienced was a hint of what underlies every endeavour as a spark of desire - a beautiful feeling of hope for the future. Inspiration in Chaos. Inspiration is transcendent. Some believe it is from God or The Divine. It gives you an inkling of what it is you need to do to progress on your soul’s path.
Sometimes the inspiration merely starts you on your way, as a spark of creation. Sometimes inspiration gives you a confirmation to let you know you are on the correct path or have made the right decision. And sometimes, you will experience inspiration and gratitude meld into one when you experience your dreams become a reality. Other times inspiration alters your destination when your path in life forks onto a different road. Inspiration is the beginning of every worthwhile endeavour, and the fruit of every meaningful end; an ever-changing cycle of growth. All beginnings lead to worthy ends because all journeys matter and every moment lived carries meaning and inspiration.
Inspiration in Chaos
Currently, there is a pandemic that swept across the globe. We are required to socially isolate, income has been eliminated, and many of us have lost loved ones. We do not know how long the mandate for social distancing and isolating will continue, but we have a right to feel anxiety in all this chaos. However, what if we could find inspiration in chaos. In other words, perhaps instead of becoming overwhelmed, unmotivated and depressed, we can use this time to grow.
My personal struggles gave birth to my calling as a performer and teacher. The resilience I've developed from my past has helped me to achieve my dreams of travelling and performing around the world to perform on stage, television, and film. In this moment of trial and tribulation, I've decided to step out of my comfort zone to finish some incomplete projects, inspire my students, and be vulnerable enough to teach others what I have learned from my past troubles. I can use my experience to encourage someone else.
I encourage you to use this time to give birth to something that you've have always been afraid to take action on. Make meaning out of this crisis and use the meaning to overcome fear and self-doubt to grow. Perhaps, you might inspire hope in others you to overcome their challenges. I pray I can inspire you to overcome your self-doubt, victimization, and fear so that you walk in your true purpose and calling. I understand the road of life gets difficult, and I wish I could take away your fear. I do not like to see people hurting. I wish I could take a wand and wipe the fear, self-doubt, and unbelief away. However, I know that would not be in our best interests, because the best lessons are learned from living through the experience. Understanding our emotions is part of the spiritual growth needed for self-mastery. Find meaning in your pain and attach purpose to your struggle, and use your experience to encourage someone else.
As Voltaire so eloquently spoke, “Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.” During this time of crisis, trouble, and tribulation, it is finding meaning that will help us to overcome. If you cannot find meaning, then you must make meaning. Inspiration is about calling and purpose. It is about serving that calling and purpose with all that you are. When you do that you will begin to see life unfold for you in beautiful ways.
My name is Brandon Lee Sears and I am an American living in London. I am an actor, singer, and dancer and I am also a teacher. I just want to I guess share my story with you. When I was 7 years old my parents began using crack cocaine. I just knew that something was wrong. I just need a Daddy stop coming around. I need that mama stop being herself. She wasn't nurturing so much anymore, and we were alone a lot. No food…I can remember being very hungry all the time. I can remember knowing something was wrong, but I can remember hoping for something more and having dreams and knowing that there was something beyond the situation that I was in. Young people have this amazing ability to be resilient because you don't know what's going on, but you know you have to do what you have to do to survive. All I can do is use my experience to encourage somebody else. Although, I was succeeding in school and responding to adversity in a way that was seen as successful to the people around me. I realize that a lot of it was just a dysfunctional response to the traumatic experiences that I had in life; overcompensating; trying to be absolutely perfect.
And I didn't know why I kept repeating this cycle self. It was perpetuating itself. You know, I’d reach a certain level of success and then crash and burn. And until I stumbled upon some amazing books by a guy named Jack Canfield called The Success Principles. Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I met some amazing people who just simply said things to me like, do you know that you're in control of your thoughts? Do you know that I can't make you feel a certain way unless you believe that you feel that way? Do you know that every emotion that you have you can control and it's only because the thought that you have about a situation that causes that emotion?
All of these different things caused me to think. After I started to read these books and practice things like visualization, meditation mindfulness… becoming aware of the way that I was feeling and the way that I was talking and how I was thinking I started to change my life. I think it starts with inspiration and starts with hope. It starts with these amazing angels that stepped into my life and show me that there was something other than what I was experiencing. By seeing that gap. By seeing something else and buy be touched by experiences that were not my own it gave me hope and it gave me a sense of knowing that there might be something else out there that wasn't the situation that I was experiencing.
The ability to take control of our mindsets and use our minds to overcome any situation or circumstance that we're in and that's not dependent upon the talent that we have are these fixed gifts and abilities that are given to us, but the amount of work that we put into a situation and the amount of effort that we give. If you can learn how to accept failure. If you can learn how to meet failure head-on. If you can learn how to jump into failure, you're always going to one step up your life. You're always going to grow. All I can do is use my experience to encourage somebody else.