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  • Writer's pictureEthan Chia

Creating Survival (Part 1)

Since the pandemic began, I've seen more and more artists move in the direction of the digital. I've seen it build more connections over geographical distance, expose audiences to a more diverse range of work, forge communities around specific ideas and/or practices and more. With the digital space gaining more and more momentum over the past few months, I started to feel a particular sense of certainty about this direction. "Of course." The digital space has been perhaps the most convenient evolutionary path for the arts in the wake of a pandemic. And while there are as many naysayers as there are supporters of this move, the fact remains that it will be a part of our cultural advancement for the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if I chose to avoid that direction entirely.

This led me on an inward journey. I spent a good deal more time meditating, researching the self, reading, taking up courses in things that seemingly had nothing to do with art, and all-in-all took a well-deserved break from the art world. And by far, the most rewarding discovery has been the work of Dr. Joe Dispenza, a neuroscientist who has dedicated the better quarter of a century to demystifying the mystical and putting the science in spiritual science.

He has conducted evidence-based studies on the nature of energy, the mechanics of thoughts and emotion on the brain and how it affects the body; identifying the potentials of wellness from every conceivable angle: neuroplasticity, epigenetics, psychoneuroimmunology and even quantum physics.

Perhaps the most revolutionary of his discoveries has been his articulation of the Survival and Creation paradigms. You can find this in his book Becoming Supernatural, but I will paraphrase it as simply as I can here. This is also how I articulate it to my coaching clients and meditation students: A gazelle grazes in the savannah. Out of the corner of his eye, it spots grass shifting and realizes there is a lion around. The gazelle registers this as a threat and immediately, the body releases a cocktail of stress hormones in response. They dilate blood vessels to allow more oxygen for the upcoming run. It shuts down pain receptors. Diverts energy from the digestive system. The body- chemically speaking, optimizes itself to do nothing else but survive the encounter by either fighting, hiding, or in this case, fleeing. We call this the fight-or-flight response.

After the encounter, within fifteen to thirty minutes the body returns to homeostasis. The mind has already recorded that encounter as a memory, priming the body to react faster and more efficiently the next time a similar threat is recognized. This is survival.

The perception of a threat triggers a frequency in the brain, followed by an elevated emotion, resulting in a chemical release of stress hormones in the body. Unfortunately, as 21st Century human beings, we face a few roadblocks in relation to survival. Suppose you're at work, and your boss is giving you a hard time. The same hormones fire, the same chemical process kicks in. But we don't have to option to punch our boss in the face because we'll lose the job; run away from the encounter because there's work to be done; or hide because open-concept offices are a thing. Suspended in limbo, the body remains at this heightened state, bolting further and further away from the possibility of resolution. Sooner or later, the encounter subsides. Now there is time for a reaction; but borne from this heightened, stressful state.

That reaction in the moment, separate from the threat, is, unsurprisingly, unsatisfactory. The mind has taken a mental picture of the moment, locking it in as a memory, a stressor, a cause. And the reaction is not enough to return to homeostasis. So what happen

"I should have..."

And we play that memory over and over again. And every time we do, the body relives that heightened state, undergoing the same chemical process, triggering a reaction from the same heightened state.

A reaction, a reaction, a reaction over a few days becomes a mood.

A mood, a mood, a mood, over a few weeks becomes a temperament.

A temperament, a temperament, a temperament, over a few months becomes an attitude.

An attitude, an attitude, an attitude, over years becomes a belief.

A belief, a belief, a belief becomes a personality trait.

Now we're in trouble.

Now we start to hear "I am an anxious person.", "I have a short temper.", "I'm a depressive." At this point, the mind is validating the existence and necessity of the survival state. We have become addicted to the chemical process we unknowingly allowed to get out of hand. Now, the body starts to crave those hormones, the adrenaline, the cortisol; and the rush of being in survival has become... the new normal. When we see someone like that, we are looking at a time-traveler. We are looking at someone who is living in the physical embodiment of their past experience. The person is under the influence of their own chemical addictions and so starts to generate experiences in their life which pull in similar experiences to satisfy the chemical addiction.

They are creating a time bubble of their own past to be lived in.

So if that's survival, what is creation?

Simply put: Survival exists in the known. It is the finite, the experienced. Creation is the unknown, the infinite, and we can choose to experience one of any of those possibilities. We do this by exploiting a neurological loophole which Dr. Dispenza phrases really beautifully: The body cannot differentiate between an actual experience and an experience that we create by thought alone.

So what we do is create a clear intention to generate a desired elevated emotion, thereby causing the body to undergo the resultant chemical process. If we can trigger it to create cortisol, we can trigger it to create oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine; the mind is the greatest pharmaceutical factory in the world and it is cheaper than the NHS. When this created experience is of greater magnitude than the event of the past, the chemicals dispensed by the body as a result of that means we are literally walking, talking, running, drinking, thinking, feeling, hugging, crawling, sprawling, rolling, living in our body of the future.

Because as far as your body is concerned, it has already undergone that experience. Inversely to the survival state, by being in this new state of being, we start becoming more attuned to and thereby pulling in the experiences that perpetuate this new state of being.

Now that we have this contextual information, in the next post, we'll take a look at these two paradigms in the context of artists in general and actors in particular. This work has formed the foundation of our artist coaching program, Even More You ( ), particularly when combined with psychophysical actor-training and mindfulness practice.

Dr. Joe Dispenza and his work can be found at and you can also watch his documentary series Rewired on Gaia for more information.

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