My Birthday Present

Before me, a volcano.

The picture jumping out of the poster, with the words,
Yoga Retreat

As I stand rooted in NYC holding my yoga mat, I see the dates for the retreat are over my birthday.  And that’s in a a little over a month.

I’ve just moved out of my married home, been robbed, and am in deep mourning.  Seeing the lush greens of Guatemala pictured so beautifully in the poster, I turn to the front desk, and ask,

Who do I give my money to?

I’ve never done something like this before.  Given myself a huge gift.

But the message is so clear. And something is drawing me, something new inside.

 

Have you ever felt this?
What have you gifted yourself?
How do you celebrate your birthday?

Arriving at Villa Sumaya on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala back in July of 2013 was out of a dream.  I had never been to Central America before, and I had never been on a yoga retreat.  These were two things I had always wanted to experience, but had told myself they were not possible.

And now, both were made real with one decision.

I was one of 13 yogis that came from my yoga studio, including our two teachers.

We were all there for various reasons, and I knew clearly why I was here…

To heal.

Or at least, that is what I thought.

As part of our week, we had a Fire Protection Ceremony with a Mayan Shaman named Thomas.  Again, something I had never experienced before. Thomas spoke of the Mayan calendar and how this year was a good opportunity for change.

The ceremony was right beside the huge lake, and as Thomas built the fire,  I stared out at the lapping waters.

This lake was unlike any other, and all of us had the same experience when we swam in its deep, churning waters.

It exhausted us.

I was in really good shape, and on our first day there, put on my bathing suit, and treaded water for about two minutes.  When I got out, I felt as if I had swam for miles.

I felt as if the lake had taken something from me.

I emerged from the water breathless, shocked and surprised, and the other yogis all felt the same. I could barely catch my breath and sat on the pier with my eyes wide, holding my chest.

What had happened in the water?

As Thomas was setting up the fire, he spoke of the lake and how it held memories, and it began to click.

This was no ordinary body of water, and clearly part of my journey here was letting go, releasing the past.

During the ceremony, Thomas had us all pick a flower or plant by the water and whisper our past into its leaves and petals.

I picked a purple thistle, asked it to remember, and then threw it into the lake. As tears streamed down my face, I could feel space inside, and a relief.

A huge birthday present indeed.

 

What are you holding on to?

If you jumped into this lake, what would be washed away from your past?

What could this mean for your Art?

This week I celebrated my 42nd Birthday.  I woke to the loving arms of my man, and his energetic exclamation,
It’s your BIRTHDAY!

I was awash with gratitude, and wonder, and something even deeper..

AWE.

Our morning was left open to do whatever we wanted, and a visual came up within, a visual of water, and making an offering.

We took quick showers, and drove to Gantry Plaza State Park in LIC, Queens.

Instead of a volcano, I faced the majesty of the NYC skyline, rising from the East River.

I picked a single yellow daisy, bright in the morning light, and walked to the railing.

Holding the flower close to my lips, I whispered,

From Guatemala to NYC
From Lake Atitlan to the East River
thank you for this journey
From grief and loss to love
From letting go to receiving
I make this offering today to the water,
to the future,
and the journey that lies ahead

And then I let it go.

A huge birthday present, indeed.

 

What gifts are you giving to yourself?
How are you celebrating?

ARE you celebrating?

We can get caught in believing that a gift is something we acquire, but it may actually just be the willingness to do something very radical as an artist,

RECEIVE

Take stock today, and think of what is holding you back.  Look at what you feel you are “struggling with” and see where there are opportunities to make a change.

It may come as a retreat poster
It may come as a lake
It may come as a purple thistle
It may come as a giant loss

You’ve been crying out for help, and the answers are right in front of you. Are you seeing the signs?

Can you open and receive what it ALLOWS in you?  Giving up the fight can be exhausting. I’m grateful the lake took it FROM me.

Give yourself a birthday gift today.  Celebrate your natural Creative gifts, releasing the past and opening to the present.

Give to the water, the flow of life, and release the control.  Change is constant, and it’s time to return to your natural state.

The state of sweet Artistic Flow.

The Restoration

hawaii-shore

There once was a goddess made of fire. She towered high, enormous in her rage.

Her eyes burned in endless flames and she hurled balls of death and destruction to anyone who came near.

Anyone who threatened her.

Any contact with water would send her screaming as her fingers turned to smoke, her skin to ash. She guarded her black mountain range, ready to attack, just on the edge of the water.

The Fire regenerated her wounds, and without it she was pure darkness.

On her chest, a single black spiral, ending with a hole, a single space where something was missing.

Something she had forgotten.

So her Fire burned on, raging day in and day out, her eyes and mouth gaping holes, blazing yellow, hot, and endless.

Until one day, a young girl appeared who held the key to what was missing. In her small human hands, she held a tiny green stone, with a spiral on it.

And she reminded the goddess of who she was, and placed the stone back where it belonged, in the middle of the spiral, in the hole that had been forgotten.

Her heart.

Within moments the Goddess was restored, erupting in living life, flowers, creation, and glowing green. Her Fire went out, her body filled with lush tropical growth, and a smile returned.  She was restored to who she truly was.  A creative being.

 

This past week I sat with a smile wide, watching Disney’s newest animated feature, Moana. Written by the same team who brought us The Little Mermaid, and with music by Hamilton’s Lin Manuel, the movie was a throw back, traditional in form.

And of course, it was a musical, so I was in heaven.

Moana, the heroine, sang soaring notes, as she sailed the sea. And she sailed with one mission:

To restore the heart, and lift darkness from the land so her island would grow again.

And not only grow, but her people would remember who they truly are. To embrace their ancestry, and return to exploring.

But in order to restore, there had to be a moment before.

Remembrance.

 

95% of second graders say they are Creative.

50% of 5th Graders say they are Creative.

By high school, only 5% of the students say they are Creative.

What happens in that stage from the 7 year old mind to the teenage years?  How do we go from hands clutching colorful crayons to cutting off 90%?

I remember filling my pages in Creative Writing class in third grade, my pencil racing across the lined paper.  I loved writing with all my heart.  As I grew up, I got the very strong message that there was no career or money in writing, and my writing became more and more private.  I would write poems for friends and loved ones as gifts, but my energy started to shift to my performance.

My journal entries became less and less frequent, my poetry only emerging for the holidays.

I forgot.

And a fire was building in me…one fueled by frustration, exhaustion, rejection, and comparison.  I wasn’t where I wanted to be in my Performance Career and life.  And I began to lash out, blame others, and believe I wasn’t worthy. 

I began to believe I deserved to suffer, and I drew into isolation, too scared to share with anyone how much I was hurting.

And then my heart broke in a million pieces, as my life shattered.  And in one giant flame, I burned to the ground.

And then something extraordinary happened……

I remembered.

 

It was when I began to write again that my Career took off.  It was when I began to write again, I found my voice.  It was when I began to write again, I discovered my deeper purpose, and stepped into the Creative I really wanted to be, launching my own company and empowering artists across the globe to success and acclaim.

In this creation, I wasn’t bound by the roller coaster of rejection and elation, feast and famine.

I was ready to explore again, and grow.

I was restored to the third grader who knew all along where her heart was at, and sang it loud and clear for all to hear, like Moana on the sea, with the stone in her hand.

 

So, what have you forgotten?

Which box of crayons do you want, in all their color and glory, and are you ready to pick them back up as an adult?

What is the 90% you have cut off to keep you safe in your blazing fire?

It’s so common to believe we are alone in our struggles, to believe we are Creative islands and must isolate and suffer.  And we can build enormous black walls, stoking our fear, but this is not who you are.

No, you are something far more powerful.

Take a moment and remember.  Restore your heart,  by opening to your Creative beginnings, and exploring again.  

In the 95% you knew, and it’s a memory away.