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.

Two Years, Two Lights, One Plate

white-plate

I was there when the second plane hit, I saw it with my own eyes. It was such a sunny September day in New York City.

This week, walking into Union Square in New York City, I looked skyward and saw them, two shining beams piercing the sky, a memorial that blazes the skyline every year the week before September 11.  And it all came back.

The day, and my journey.

While there were many ways I processed the grief and senseless hatred of this act, where I found my truest voice was in dance and writing.

These are my creative HOMES.

What’s yours?

Three years ago, on September 11, 2013, I danced in the Table of Silence Project, choreographed by Jacqulyn Buglisi at Lincoln Center in New York City.  It was so powerful, I agreed to perform two years in a row, returning again in 2014.

This is the gift we have as Creatives.  It’s what we express and the change we inspire.  The Table of Silence has been performed every year since 2011, and is broadcast across the world.  The audience has reached the millions, offering a message of peace.

What I didn’t expect was how dancing in the Table of Silence would actually heal me on a much deeper level.  I began with one intention, and was gifted something far more powerful.

The belief that I could do more. The realization that I had something to give, and I wasn’t alone.

It was after dancing in the Table of Silence that I decided to launch my own business.

Here is my original entry from September of 2014. At that time, this was just a blog with no inkling of a business. My audience has grown 26x since then……I have grown in ways I never thought possible.

What waits for you?

 

My White Plate

(edited)

 

“Repeat after me, I am a miracle.”

I am a miracle.

“Hand over your heart, I am a miracle!”

I AM A MIRACLE.
 
We stand in rows of ten, twelve deep, dressed in white, and all eyes and ears on the woman up front, our director and guru, Jacqulyn Buglisi.  She is leading us in rehearsal for The Table of Silence Project.  Her company members from Buglisi Dance Theatre walk throughout to help with the movements, give correction, and answer questions.

We beat our sternums, singing out, and let the vibration ring through the cavernous studio space.  We clap our hands in front of our mouths, only fingers touching, and then bring our hands out, palms offering the sound, forearms perpendicular with our bodies.  Our bare feet stand firmly on the floor where we add our intention to share our message through dance with our audience.

We offer our expression, we offer our silence.

 

I was on the N train in Astoria heading towards Queens Plaza to transfer to the express train.  I had only lived in NYC for three years and had my second day of jury duty.  As I was a Queens resident, I had to report to the courthouse pretty far out.

I had spent my first day trying to look as dour and pissed as possible so I wouldn’t be picked.  So far, the strategy was working.

The N line is an elevated train out in Queens, and I stared out the window at the smoke billowing from the one of the towers of the World Trade Center.  It was churning out in large black puffs and I got out of my seat to try to understand.  I heard a woman on her cell phone say something about an airplane, but all my brain could process was there had to be an explosion.

Suddenly the second tower was engulfed in fire and smoke. From my vantage point, I only saw the impact, and couldn’t comprehend what was happening.

When I arrived at the courthouse, every TV was on and people were standing, staring blindly at the images.  My eyes widened as I took in the reality of the attack.

We were excused pretty quickly and the subways had already shut down, so everyone was bee-lining for buses.  They were all packed, and I lined up with others to get on whatever came next.  This was my only way home.  As I walked out of the courthouse, I got the word,

The First Tower is Down

I felt my stomach drop into my heels, and my legs stopped working.  I stood on the concrete outside the courthouse, and for a moment everyone rushed by me, running for the buses.  There was a horrible smell in the air, and black was streaming across the blue sky.

One question arose,

“What is going to happen?”

I got on the first bus I could, and everyone had the same frantic look in their eyes.  People were trying to call friends and family and the lines were getting jammed.  I was trying to call one of my closest friends to make sure she hadn’t gone into Manhattan, and I was just getting a busy signal.

I turned to the stranger next to me and saw myself in her.  I asked her where the bus was going and she asked me where I needed to go.

We were all lost in the confusion of this attack, a community formed out of survival.

Through their help, I got off and followed the subway tracks home.  I sat on my couch, watching the one station still broadcasting, and wept for the lives lost, for the fear, and for the destruction.  Ash filled the New York sky, and I curled into a ball, mourning the loss.

These two towers held some beautiful memories, and now they were a massive graveyard of twisted steel and burning death.
 
The following day, my neighbors held a candlelight vigil on the sidewalk outside our apartment.  We came together to comfort, as the city did the same.  People streamed into the island to help, and to search.

As I witnessed this community, I felt for the first time this was my home.  We were leaning on each other for strength, and holding each other in grief.

 

This is my second year dancing in the Table of Silence Project.  Last year I placed white powder on my face to signify ash, and walked on Lincoln Plaza with over a hundred dancers. In the face of divorce , robbery, and the sudden death of a dear friend, I felt I had burned over and again in my loss.

In the first year I performed, I cried deeply, feeling my heart so broken.

Jacqulyn’s words were a beacon to me, reminding me of my inner peace, and the power of our collective hands raising.

Now, after removing white plates from each other’s mantels, we all sat in the sunshine, crossed legged, in silence, eyes lowered, listening to the flutes echoing across the plaza. We formed three concentric circles around the main fountain, a sacred geometry.

As I sat, I realized there was a change.

I was not sad, and suddenly the tears flowed. 

This was the Miracle.

My tears caught the white powder on my cheeks, and fell into the plate in my lap, held carefully between my hands.  At the sound of the bell, I raised my plate heavenward, offering in silence my story and journey.

A plane flew overhead and instead of smoke, I saw blue sky.

I had worried my bare feet would bleed and tear dancing outside at Lincoln Plaza, but the granite was smooth and cool beneath my feet.  My soles had calloused and strengthened over the three weeks of practice, and they carried me out of the plaza, in a line, following this community in white, all of us holding our plates at our heart centers, as the drums beat on and on.

Today I walk, and I offer peace.  I dance in peace.

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