The Zen of Art

You Need Meditation

The voice was pretty clear and distinct.

I was in tech for a production of A Christmas Carol out in Salt Lake City, and my life was falling apart.  My husband had just flown out and told me he didn’t want to be married anymore. I thought we were going to spend the holiday trying to have a baby, not end our 19 year relationship.

You can imagine, I was in a LITTLE bit of shock.

I had been practicing yoga for a while, and it was at the end of my practice, that the voice came in.

I had never had a meditation practice, and honestly, wasn’t even sure what it really meant.

All I knew was I was in a ton of pain, and I needed something new.  Something was missing.

Clearly, something needed to change.  I felt like my whole world was spinning out of control.

Have you felt this?
What do you do when life seems to cut you off from your Art?

Somehow I was getting through my performances, but felt like I was moving through a terrible nightmare.  I didn’t feel connected to my art.

All I felt was fear.

You can imagine, my performance career came to a grinding halt.

 

Two months later, once I had returned to NYC, and the divorce was under way, I went and took my first yoga class.

The holidays had been the worst time of my life, opening presents with a man who didn’t love me anymore, and I hadn’t been on the mat in weeks.  Today, I was starting to take the reins back on my life and what I wanted moving forward.

I went to the library with the intention to buy a book on Meditation.  Here we go!

A title caught my eye, and I pulled it out and opened to randomly read.

It was as if every word was jumping off the page, saying,
YES!

The biggest surprise was I actually had picked up a book on Tibetan Buddhism, not meditation.

Wait….I came here today looking for meditation…

This simple book (which I devoured in days, underlining and dog earring) opened the door to a whole new search, and I began to explore different Buddhist centers in the city.

Who knew I was actually seeking Buddhism?  Apparently I did…I just hadn’t heard it until NOW.

I tried many of them, and while all were helpful in some way, none seemed to feel like HOME.

Something was still missing.

Until I took an intro to Zen Training weekend up at Zen Mountain Monastery. I woke before the sun to meditate with many others in this beautiful monastery, the ceiling rising high above me.

In the stillness and dark of the early morning, as I counted my breath, tears began to fall. Tears of recognition, and tears of sweet relief.  This is what my body had been calling for.  THIS is what was missing.

A way to work with my mind.
An experience of true space.
The ability to actually HEAR what is rising and falling.

And the tools to let go.

I had gone through a career of holding on for dear LIFE my expectations, my perfectionism, and comparing myself constantly to other performers. And now, as I had NO control of the immense loss of my marriage, I was being given the tools I needed to face it.

And actually they were the tools I needed all along.

I just wasn’t listening to my body’s messages.

 

What are you holding on to?

What is your body calling for to help you become the Artist you truly want to be?

Can you even hear it?

In that moment of absolute pain, there was NO denying what I needed. I certainly didn’t think it was going to turn into becoming a Zen practitioner, but once I found the practice, my whole life fell into place.

I had a complete resurgence in my performance career.
I found the work I REALLY wanted to be doing as an Artist, and launched ZenRedNYC.
I built a business from scratch, doing work I love that makes more money than ever before.

I now could HEAR what I needed.

In having a practice that connected me to my breath and the present moment, my whole outlook changed.

We can so often get caught in the static,

No one wants your work
Artists have to starve
Making money is selling out
Claiming the spotlight is selfish

There is so much JUNK out there that we take in, on a daily basis not only from fellow colleagues who want you to join their pity party, but from parents, society, and the news.

What’s the answer?

SILENCE.

All that junk?  It’s just noise.  And it’s not helping you move forward and step into your full creative power. The junk is keeping you stuck and filling your airwaves with confusion.

If you are feeling something’s missing, then you haven’t had the clear open space to really hear what you need.

Today, you can begin to incorporate one of the most important tools as an Artist,
CURIOSITY.

So, take a moment today, and sit down for 5 minutes. Close your eyes, and come into your body.

Place your attention on your breath.

And from this experience of SPACE, simply ask,

What is it I most need?

It’s all inside.

Create the space, so you can hear.

 

 

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography

Weathering the Storm

I think we can all admit, it’s been a DOOZY lately.

Hurricanes, Forest Fires, and the anniversary of 9/11.

I stared up at the sky to see twin lights over Manhattan this week and was reminded of the sirens and smoke, and so many lives lost on that day.

I had one client show me a picture of raging flames outside her property, and two others re-building in the wake of Harvey and Irma.

How are you doing?
How is your heart?

In the face of these disasters and devastation, it can be so easy to feel heavy-hearted.

So often in these moments we feel out of control. The devastation can feel like waves crashing over and over. How do we weather the storm?

Today, I want to offer a healing balm.

Take a moment, wherever you are reading this, and place your hand on your belly.  Bring your attention back to the rise and fall of your breath.

You are ALLOWED to feel.

I’m here to remind you.

Disaster can be overwhelming, and it’s so easy to just disconnect and shut down.

In this uncertainty, where is your Art?
Where is your expression?

When you look at your brushes, your camera, your pencils, the stage or blank page…how do you feel?

The real question is, how do you create in the storm?

 

In 1982, sculptor Seward Johnson completed work on a piece called Double Check.

Double Check is the life size bronze of a business man sitting on a bench as he sifts through his briefcase, seeming to make final preparations for an upcoming business meeting in a nearby office building.

Installed in Liberty Plaza Park in downtown Manhattan, the sculpture soon became a fixture in the downtown landscape, a symbol in honor of the thousands of people who work every day in the financial district.

For 20 years, this art brought enjoyment, inspiration, and joy to all who witnessed it’s life-like form.

All in the shadows of the World Trade Center.

Until September 11, 2001.

The destruction of that day covered the figure in ash, and though all the moorings were loosened, the figure endured as a still object in a world of chaos.

Afterward, it became a memorial, with mourners leaving notes, photographs, candles, and flowers on and near it.

Seward left all visible damage the piece had sustained in the attacks, and the sculpture was re-installed on a granite bench in the plaza it had occupied before 9/11.

To remind us all.

This is the power of Art.

It endures.

It inspires, and it gives you AND your audience the reminder of something far more powerful than any storm, fire or attack.

Our humanity.

Having that sculpture gave great comfort to every person who visited the site, offering a safe place to mourn and remember.  The art allowed each witness to cry, and ultimately heal.

The sculpture helped people to come back to a core need that had felt torn apart in the face of deep despair,

Belonging.

Think of the immense joy you have felt reading your favorite book, or seeing your favorite singer in concert.

You have been captivated.

Something comes alive in you at that moment. You feel like you are a part of the experience.  You feel connected, and a sense of belonging emerges bringing the sweet flow of inspiration.

And when we are inspired, we can do great things.

This is the same for your audience.  They connect to their humanity through your work.

Seward Johnson didn’t “tidy” things up!  It was messy, it was real, it was exactly what people needed at that moment, and it struck a chord.

His art was honest.

So, translate today INTO your Art.

This is the gift we have as Artists.  We can take our experience and allow it to speak through the medium of song, dance, words and pictures.

And when we do translate, it actually heals us.  We feel connected to our humanity, to our gifts, and to what lights us up from within.

Pick up your brush, pick up your journal, go to your instrument, and ALLOW.

I’m here to remind you.

It’s all there inside, enduring in the fire and storm.

 

 

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography