The Magic of the Pause

Do you ever feel like there are just NOT enough hours in the day to get everything done?

So much is involved in being an Artist today, and it can feel overwhelming keeping up with social media, promotions, your friends and family, and then there’s the actual CREATION part…

You have this finite amount of time to
write the chapter
paint the canvas
choreograph the dance
plan out the show
edit your footage

So, what happens when you go to sit and actually DO your Art, and nothing comes?

Your mind is racing a million miles a minute going through a laundry list of To Do’s. You find yourself literally listing out groceries instead of being able to create.
Inspiration has gone OUT the window…

It can be so frustrating, right?

This is the FUN part!  This is the part we live for as Artists….so why does it dry up?

And more importantly, what can we do in that moment so we can actually create our best work and actually deliver to our audience?

How can we connect back with our Muse and feel that glorious flow again when we are so stressed OUT?

 

Last weekend I went to one of the most delicious and affirming workshops.  Led by master writing teacher, Christian McEwen, she led us in a one day retreat titled,
Learning to Pause.

In front of us, she offered a thick pad of drawing paper surrounded by colored pencils, pastels, and wax crayons.  One by one, we each tore a crisp sheet from the wire binder and were instructed to fold it in half.

On the left side, she wanted us to draw what a Frenzied State looked like to us.  Then on the right side, she wanted us to draw our state of flow and ease.

I had picked many colored pencils for the right side, but when I thought of the Frenzy, there was only one pencil that made sense…..
black.

The left side of my paper was colorless, marked by strong black circular shapes forming a huge exhausted eye, the lack of sleep and wrinkles in hard lines. I found myself drawing arrows pointing down, and black tear drops.  This was frenzy to me.  Black, colorless, heavy……a giant dragon eye drooping under the pressure.

Then, I picked up the colors and drew my place of inspiration.  Waves of water, rays of sunlight and energy, pulsing over smiling lips, and spirals in vibrant blues and purples.  Nature in all her glory, opening me.

I was struck by the stark contrast, and then Christian spoke about what happens in between.

Because this is the REAL question, right?

We all experience the tired black dragon, the darkness and hard lines in our life.  How do go from the frenzy to the flow?

The answer lies in the fold of the sheet we were drawing on, the crease we had formed from one to the next….

The answer is in the Pause.

It’s when we can stop all the insanity, and just connect back with the world around us.

Take a moment right now, and connect to your five senses.
What is the environment around you? Take in the details around you.
What do you smell right now?
Whirl your tongue around your teeth. What do you taste in your mouth?
What do you feel on your skin?
Close your eyes, and open your ears.  What sounds are around you?

And what happens in that moment when you place your attention on your single sense?

You come present.
The whirlwind in your mind takes a break.

And it’s in this break, this magical pause, that you re-set.

And in the re-set, the Muse comes in.

“Art is the means we have of undoing the damage of haste.  It’s what everything else isn’t.”
-Theodore Roethke

 

We can so easily forget how important a moment of pause is to our livelihood as an Artist.  This class was a huge reminder for me. I literally walked in 10 minutes late, breathless from booking as fast as I could to the workshop doors.  I felt self conscious, embarrassed, and frustrated.  This workshop was about Learning to Pause, and I was in a frenzy to get here!

Clearly I needed this……

Christian gave us 30 minutes to go outside on the Brooklyn street and noticed up to 8 things, writing a free form poem or short writing.

This felt like a huge gift.  I walked out, and found myself falling in love with so much on the street….a plastic cup, a worn out Toyota, a house sparrow chirping noisily in the tree….I realized inspiration was ALL around me.

And 8 poems emerged….in only 30  minutes.

Why?

I was taking the pause.  I was coming present.  There was no rush, AND I was open to take in my environment. All the other To Do’s fell away, and the Muse came in.  In fact, she had never left.  Now I was actually open to see her, walking alongside me on the concrete of Brooklyn.

J.K. Rowling conceived Harry Potter on a stalled train.  She was forced into a pause, and one of the most popular characters of our time was born.

And the beauty is, we all possess this ability.

And I want to be clear, this is not about disconnection or distraction. I’m not talking about binge watching or playing candy crush.

The pause is coming back to your actual experience NOW. It’s bringing your senses back on line; getting out of the monkey mind of your past and future fears, and actually taking IN your reality.

So what is that for you?
What is your moment of pause?

When you think of a sheet of paper with Frenzy on the left and flow on the right, what nourishes you?

Take out a piece of paper, and write these down.  Place them somewhere you can see them, and re-visit.  Place them by your instrument, or in your studio, or on an inspiration wall.

And now, give yourself permission to take a pause, today, and for this next week.

We need to return to the basics.

 

The Muse enters in when we take a pause.

So look up.
Smell.
Taste.
Touch.
Feel.

Your life is a miracle.

Take in the wonder around you…..then express what is most alive in you.

 

 

Photography by: Caitlin Cannon

The Gift That Changed My Life

It was the worst Christmas of my life.

I remember getting out of the cab with my luggage and seeing my husband.  I had just flown back from a six week contract doing A Christmas Carol out at the Pioneer Theatre in Salt Lake City, Utah, and was still reeling from his Thanksgiving proclamation he no longer loved me anymore.

He had basically refused to go into it over the phone, so here I was back home….praying this could be saved.

He greeted me at the cab, and every muscle in my body tensed.  As he helped me with my bags, I thought…could there be a miracle?

When I walked into our home and saw he had actually decorated, a surge of hope came up in me, but underneath was something far darker.

This may look like Christmas from the outside, but it was not reflective of our truth. Yes, there were lights and a tree….but they were covering up immense pain.

Actually, this was the real reflection……pretty lights covering up something that was, and had been broken for years.

I went into the bedroom, and curled up into a ball and began to cry.

 

With everything falling apart, we didn’t travel to see family, so on Christmas morning, we woke to each other, from separate beds.

Christmas day had always been a day of great celebration.

As a child, my parents would have my brother and I wait while the lights were turned on, and we would rush down the stairs to see what Santa brought.

There would be music playing, my parents standing by the tree with arms open, and Santa hats on their heads.

Christmas morning was always filled with LOVE.

This Christmas I woke up in great fear, anxiety and pain.  I prayed for a miracle.  I prayed that the day would end this nightmare, and we would have a happy home again.

Everything felt upside down.  We were exchanging gifts and all I wanted to scream out was,
Why are you giving me this if you don’t love me anymore??

My stomach turned with confusion and anger with everything he gave me.

Thankfully, there were other gifts there.

I opened one from my parents, and soon was holding in my hands beautiful black binoculars.

For years, I had gone on hikes with my parents and borrowed theirs when we were bird watching, so they had finally bought me my own pair.

So that I could see on my own.

I held them for a moment, feeling something very different building in me. A different view.  Turning them over in my hands and bringing them to my eyes, I realized I could see farther.

Farther than my small living room in Queens, and my immense pain.

 

Have you ever been in a really challenging situation in your Art?

Have you felt the dark cold of rejection, and loss?

What’s more, has this happened during a time when everything and everyone around you is celebrating?

It can be so difficult to put on a “show” or a happy face when inside everything is falling apart.

And we feel this deeply as Artists.

In fact, it affects our art directly, and our ability to attract our audience.

The holidays can be especially challenging as there is a pressure to be celebratory ALL the time.  So, what tends to occur is two extremes….
Extreme Jingle Bell Cheer
Silent Night Shut Down

Neither one is sustainable.  It’s the roller coaster. 

So, what do we do in these moments when our hearts are breaking? How do we continue in our work that is so personal and means so much?

 

This past week, I led my clients through a powerful Native American Medicine Wheel.

We began with our Successes, then made our way around the wheel to our Surprises, our Failures, and finally our Wisdom.

The wisdom was crucial, because it gave all of my clients the deep a-ha as to their next steps.  They left the call feeling empowered and excited for 2018.

What was most fascinating, was on the wheel, the wisdom comes OUT of the Failures.

We can only SEE the wisdom, when we take the time and space to see what didn’t work.

What is most key to this process, is a space free of judgement.

A space of love.

Do you have this?
Do you know how to create this for your Art?
Is anyone helping you with this?

That Christmas day, I had asked for a miracle, and it came.  It didn’t come in the form I expected, but as I turned over the binoculars in my hand, I was being given a new gift…one that had been sorely missing in my life.

The gift of sight.

Maybe there was a way to view this devastation and gain wisdom.  Wisdom that could lead me to action.  Lead me to a VERY different life…..one that wasn’t covering up pain.

In this life, the lights would illuminate everything.

 

OH MY GOSH!!!  He’s SO Beautiful!!

Staring in disbelief at a stunning Cooper’s Hawk just sitting in the tree above my head, I raise my binoculars to my eyes.

Taking in his long feathers, and golden stripes, I smile ear to ear.

Here, honey, take a look!

I hand my binoculars off to my man, watching his mouth open in wonder. I take in his beauty and form, and am overcome with gratitude for his presence and the love he has brought to my life.  Love I prayed for.  And my heart bursts with gratitude for this journey.

From failure to wisdom to action.

Five years later.

As my Zen teacher said to me back in 2013,
You are in the same room you were always in, but now the lights are on.

For this Holiday, I wish you the gift of sight .

Raise your binoculars.

What do you see?