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

The Zen of Art

Zen flowers

My alarm goes off and I can feel with my whole body,

I didn’t get enough sleep.

A slight panic starts to rise because I really needed to get quality sleep for today.

Somehow, everything is just taking longer, and I’m rushing around to get out the door. I’m running late, and today I can’t be late.

It’s Saturday, early morning and I even question the choice of subway.

Maybe I should Uber.

I open the app and am weighing the options, and then decide to wait.

It’s cheaper to take the subway.

Rooted in my original plan, I think it will be ok, because I’ll be able to sit and close my eyes on the subway.

And then the subway is packed.

I mean, today is historic and there’s a lot of people heading into Manhattan on this Saturday, including me. Millions will be marching world wide, the largest march in American history, and I want to contribute.

After my first transfer, I finally find a seat on the subway and have just enough time to eat the eggs and bacon I made at home, before the train is pulling into the Nevins Street stop in Brooklyn. I never got to close my eyes, and can feel my eyes heavy.

And the anxiety is mounting, as I don’t feel I have all I need.

And the dialogue is running through my head,
Why didn’t you go to bed earlier?
Why couldn’t I fall asleep last night?
Why did I wake up so much last night?

And then I look at my watch in amazement.

I actually got to Brooklyn from Queens in the fastest time yet….leaving Astoria late was made up by Gotham’s speeding silver tube.

I walk to my destination with enough time to grab a couple sipfuls of coffee, stretch and settle in.

Settle in to sit…..for four hours.

Will I be able to stay awake?

And what happened within the course of the next four hours was nothing short of a miracle.

 

In the face of the deepest loss of my adult life, my divorce, a voice came up stronger than ever,

You need meditation.

I was in such a state of shock and heartbreak, that I was willing to do whatever it took to move forward.

I wanted to survive.

So, come January of 2013, I found myself in the retail section of my yoga studio with the express intention to purchase a book on meditation.

That’s the first step, right?

I was staring at all the titles and one looked interesting, so I grabbed it and opened randomly to the opening pages.

Every word was jumping off the page, going through me, as if the writer knew exactly what I was going through.

What was ironic was that the book was actually about Buddhism.

Wait, I didn’t come here seeking Buddhism, I came seeking meditation.

But, maybe it was what was underneath the meditation that was being satisfied. Here were finally tools for the roller coaster and hopelessness I was feeling.

Here were finally tools for the rejection and loss of control, for all the frustrations I had experienced in my performance career, and the feeling that my whole life was falling apart and I was losing it all.

Have you felt this too?

That book was the beginning of my search for answers and it led me to Zen practice and led me to the Fire Lotus Temple in Brooklyn.

What I had no idea was how Zen would actually feed my Creativity and allow me to be the Artist I had always wanted to be.

That voice inside was far smarter than I knew.

What is yours saying?

 

“Somehow time had vanished for me. I slowly rose, aware that something deep inside me had shifted. The questions I had been struggling with during the workshop – all my life, for that matter – had melted away. I felt buoyant and joyful. The world was right; I was right. I didn’t even know whether I had taken a photograph of the old tree….”
-John Daido Loori

What if there was a way to unlock your Creativity and find freedom in our existence as Artists?

What if we could dissolve the barriers we’ve set up in our mind and open to the possibility of meeting life with spontaneity, grace, and peace?

Imagine your Creative process uncluttered and unlimited like a cloudless sky, fresh where everything is new, a sense of trust in your work, and a system to receive feedback from your audience that actually serves you.

 

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I may have come to my cushion last Saturday sleep deprived, and full of anxiety, but I actually woke up in the process of sitting.

The fog lifted and I became incredibly clear. My problems worked themselves out, and I rose from my cushion quiet and sure.

After the four hour sit, we gathered for lunch upstairs and I sat next to my teacher who had led the sit and inspired me so deeply with his reminder of unity, and that our collective energy today was feeding the March.

He turned to me and asked,
So, what do you do for a living?

Thrilled to share, I smiled and responded,
I’m an Empowerment Coach for Artists and Creatives.

My teacher’s eyes sparkled and he said,
You know Zen master John Daido, the founder of our order here at the Fire Lotus temple was a photographer. He actually found Zen because he was seeking more purpose in his Art.

And I thought all along that John was a Zen teacher who found photography. Seems it was the other way around.

How many other artists was this true for?

Maybe he had a similar voice in his head like I had four years ago.

What is yours saying?

I walked out of the temple almost in amazement that I had entered so frazzled. But, there was a driving force that had said
Go, your answers lie here

And I reflected on how this practice that is actually steeped in the Arts was truly the balm I had been waiting for to open to what I could really bring forth in my Creativity.

It wasn’t until I found Zen that I had the most success as an Artist, and ended up trusting an unlimited sky….trusting my voice and empowering Creatives across the globe to do the same.

What was clear to me last Saturday as I stepped back outside from the temple walls was this,

Zen led me to this moment here with you.

So, what if you could dissolve the barriers that have held you back?

What would you create if you fully trusted yourself and were limitless?

Wake up.

Your True Creative Life awaits.