ride the serpent

During a test run for our monthly WTV show DREAMS, my bud Willie and I got to talking about tapping into that nervous feeling you get when you’re doing something you’re excited about.

He called it “Riding the Serpent.” Moving towards what we’re scared of and ready to ride it through whatever is giving us these vibes. If we trust we’re doing something we love and growing, we can at least hope the anxiety will be worth it.

I immediately wrote “Ride the Serpent” on my whiteboard and it’s been so cool to apply it to more parts of life. From this show, to writing and sharing work, to my paid work in film and hosting film events and Q&As. Just did one for 350 folks (my biggest audience yet) and nailed it— my “Ride the Serpent” reminder just off-camera.

These K-Mart model kids for sure know what to do when things get real.

Our serpent isn’t in the way—it is the way. It’s showing us a path. Spotlighting our fears and inviting us to ride past them. Not saying they won’t be back again, but cruising into these fears can teach us we’re capable of so much more than we might think.

Riding the serpent meant switching up the DREAMS show format from a maté-fueled Party Boy Seminar™️ of my fav jams on blast to an herbal tea reading and conversation with friends. The idea came from nerding out hard on Tara Brach’s hundreds of talks thanks to a tip from my therapist. Tara’s website is epic. It has the vibe of a pre-YouTube archive from the early 2000’s hosting years of talks and mediations—super highly recommend!

Tara just sits and speaks to the camera. She brings decades of research, personal stories, and is always explaining cartoons about therapy and life. It’s very dry in some senses, really just her and a camera, but it works. She owns it.

I know I’m nowhere near Tara’s level but I decided to give this format a try. I was expectedly hella nervous but knew I needed to ride my serpent past at least the first episode or two to get more comfy (turns out the serpent is still lurking around 4-5 episodes in). It might seem like ndb since I’ve performed a bit of music over the years but the truth is sitting quietly, and staring into the camera saying, “Hi everyone, welcome, I’m Nick,” is so much harder!

For the first show in this new format, I prepared some notes to share and tried to holler out people who showed up in the chat. I did a few readings from current hype/art books on my shelf and it for sure felt like one of the more awkward hours of my life. I eventually ran out of things to say and asked if anyone wanted to call in to chat. My friend Tom called and spoke to what he was up to. Something about the call coming in felt good—it came up naturally and I was completely out of other ideas. After the call I wrapped things up, walking back inside thinking, “What just happened?”

I try not to be too hard on myself but definitely questioned ever doing something like that again. At the same time, I was proud. I got through one of the more awkward hours of on-camera performance of my life and I knew that if a next time were to exist it would be easier (Can’t get published without getting rejected). All props due to my crew for sitting through it with me.

A couple of minutes after the show I got a text from Willie saying he dug the show and really appreciated hearing our friend’s voice. He said it was powerful to connect with friends like this during the pandemic. To top it off he shared some art he thought we could try to add for future episodes if I was going to do it again.

I totally flipped out. Riding the serpent of supreme awkwardness lead me to this text and even an offer to join up for the next episode from a brilliant artist-friend who I wouldn’t have thought to bug about helping out in the first place. It was as if this was the goal I couldn’t see when I dove in.

Now we’re 5-6 episodes deep with Willie producing and running the video, placing me into ridiculously dope scenes no other human could dream up. And it’s getting easier! And also harder! The serpent ride chills and gets hectic on repeat.

My lesson is getting past the initial trip of WTF just happened, and landing on the other side OK. Not hurt. Not in danger. Ego bruises heal and if growth is the goal, moving on. Things I relearn pretty much every episode.

Massive thanks to this dope, nonjudgmental, forever-serpent-riding, accepting, and supportive crew.