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.

Sweet Farewell

I wanted to tell you, I’m leaving.

Looking around my apartment, I’m envisioning packing up.  I’m thinking of everything that is coming with me, as I plan to move in with my man,  and begin a new life.

The decision has been made.  After 4 years in my special sanctuary in Astoria, I’m beginning the process to re-locate.

And the question that is arising is,
What am I bringing WITH me?

And what about you?

Have you ever gone through a big move, and packed up your things?
Have you ever gone through a big change and found yourself asking the same question?

I imagine as you are looking at all the items, and boxes, and lists, it can get really overwhelming.

If there was a way to strap everything to you,  maybe then you would have it all.

But, I imagine that would be really heavy, and cumbersome, and weigh you down.

Change can be hard enough, right?

How do we make it easy to navigate change and have everything we need as Artists?
How do we move forward without all the cumbersome weight?

 

Four years ago, I woke up in my hide-a-bed.  My brother was sleeping next to me, and I felt a sense of hope.

Today, I was leaving my married home for good. 

The new owners were taking it over, and my family was here to help me move my things to a friend’s for a month while I waited for my new apartment to open up.

I had barely slept, and had spent the last day breaking down every hour or so as I packed up my life.  Two of my closest friends had come to help me, hold me in between each wave of emotion, and physically help me to place tape on each box.

Today, we were taking all these boxes to a storage facility.  I had gone through and taken what I needed, and stayed true to the agreement.  I had survived each trigger, and now was going to walk out of this space of pain and loss.

I felt an extra bounce in my step, and hopped into the shower, smiling at my parents and brother, so grateful they were here.

When I came out of the shower, my mother looked at me, white in the face, and said,

Someone broke into your car. Your car door is open, and everything is gone.

I literally dropped to the floor in my towel, and had a nervous breakdown.  What had been in my car, was all the things I was taking to my friends house,

shoes
my audition book
my checkbook
my belts
clothes
legal documents
my meditation altar
my dance shoes

Even my underwear…..

All gone, just like that.

In the face of my divorce, losing my marriage, and now I had been robbed.  All of those things I had cherished were gone.

We called the cops, and somehow I made it through that day, and tried to wrap my head around the magnitude of change and loss that was occurring all at the same time.

This was my lowest moment.

The next day, at my friend’s, I sat in meditation, and saw a black lake in front of me.  I walked to the edge, and thought,
I could just dive in
I could lose myself forever in here

But, something held me back.  And I walked away from the edge.  I didn’t dive in, and instead turned back towards my life.

The strongest words I said in the face of my divorce came ringing back true and strong,
I want to survive.

What I never imagined was the GIFT of losing so much that day.  I was forced to provide for myself and go shopping that following week for very basic things, and the simple process of doing this brought to light the most empowering evidence,

I am capable.

Even more so, I was showered with gifts from friends and family who knew about my robbery.  One friend sent me a bag of clothes, and my aunt mailed me a box full of belts.

I rebuilt my altar, made a new audition book with songs that I actually wanted to sing, and found new shoes to fit my feet now.

The most amazing part was, my insurance reimbursed me completely for the $4K worth of goods stolen.

And I realized, I am provided for.

And there were things that didn’t need to come WITH me to my new life, post divorce.  Certainly not my underwear…..

 

So, take stock.

Grab a piece of paper, and write in the middle of the page,
MY CREATIVE CAREER

Now, create a Mindmap, drawing out from the center all the things you are working on right now.

All the things you think you need to have WITH you to succeed and receive the acclaim you desire.

Come back to center and ask this question,
What lives beneath all that I do as an Artist?

1) Are all the things you are doing and holding on to in SERVICE to that vision?

2) Or are you weighed down with boxes and items that are from your past and keeping you stuck?

Sometimes, it the action of releasing that ALLOWS for the new to enter in.

We create from our hearts.  This was never meant to be heavy work. But it does require courage, and inspired action.

 

This week I was on the phone with my mother, and talking about the upcoming move and starting to plan.  She suggested the most brilliant idea, and this woke me back up,

Make a list of what you are leaving BEHIND.

Oh yes…that’s right.

That moment on the floor was one of the most horrible for me and for my family to witness, and yet it opened a well of strength and reserve I had never accessed before.

The strength to let go.

And the belief that I actually had everything I needed.

This was a huge turning point for me, and allowed me to start building a creative life that was far more aligned than the one I was living before.

So, what lives beneath all you do?

Get intimate with this, and place it somewhere you can SEE everyday.  Come back to center.

Come back to your vision, and place your energy towards what will actually bring you the success you desire.

Make a list of what you are leaving behind, and release sweetly.

You create the life you want.

 

 

Photography by: Caitlin Cannon