The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Witching Hour: Risk-Taking and the Authentic Self @ Merge 10/21/17

How often do you hear the cliche that personal growth comes into play once you get out of your comfort zone? No matter how many times you hear this, the importance of the phrase doesn’t depreciate.

In this workshop,which took place at Merge in Downtown Iowa City, I saw this philosophy in action. Every activity that was conducted for the hour and a half long event incrementally pushed me more and more out of my comfort zone.

From picking up a complete stranger as I guided him through a visualization routine to telling a group of strangers a story where I overcame a personal obstacle, I constantly found myself in a position I’m typically reluctant to enter.

I literally had to tell a complete stranger to envision a ball of gold in his stomach, and shift it to a visualized halo above his head. After he did so, I was told to pick him up and see if he got lighter.

As weird and voodoo as it sounds, my doubtful notions diminished when I picked this nice man Trevor up and he seemed to be twenty pounds lighter. Probably sounds insane from an outside perspective, but I guess you can say it was a you had to be there moment.

As for knowledge, we discussed what it means to take risks, particularly in the creative process. We practiced mechanisms to help cope with risk taking, particularly breathing exercises. A big lesson I brought out of this workshop was how breathing plays such a pivotal role in calming the body in mind when in the face of taking risk.

Typically when you are at the risk of something, breathing becomes choppy, leading to your heart rate increasing and your body kicking into its fear instincts. As a result, we find ourselves extremely uncomfortable when in a position where we are working with the unknown.


To help cope with this anxiety, the workshop stresses to control your breathing. Instead of letting your fear control it, take deep belly breathes. For such a simple process, deep breathing has a profound effect.

As the workshop attendees each took their personal time to focus on lengthening their breaths and directing it to the stomach, it felt as if the air in the room got calmer.

The faces of the people around me got less tense, and an explicit paradigm shift occurred. Some voodoo mechanisms were practiced in this workshop, but there is no denying the magic they entail to the practitioner.

The pivotal lesson ingrained in this workshop is to always stay grounded in authenticity when taking risks, to sit with the emotion, and trust the process. I believe everyone has some sort of creative boundary they can push by taking risks, and this workshop instilled some knowledge as to how to make this happen in reality through personal experience.