The Artist’s Practice

Can I get real ?  Overwhelm really sucks, doesn’t it?

Wouldn’t it be nice if Overwhelm was like a one shot deal where you experience it, and then it never returns?

Because when Overwhelm sets in, everything pretty much STOPS.

That feeling of joy in your process? STOPS
Creative Flow? STOPS
Inspiration? STOPS
Receiving the reward you desire? STOPS

Your whole head swells in mass confusion to a point where the ONLY type of input seems to be solitaire on your smart phone or binge watching the latest Netflix original.

And in the aftermath, you hear that voice in your head saying,
You did it again…
You’ll never succeed
No one wants your Art anyway
You can’t handle the spotlight

And there we are right up against a HUGE wall with flashing lights saying,
YOU ARE NOT ENOUGH

And how does this feel?
Is this helpful?
How is this working for you?

As my Zen teacher said to me,
Overwhelm is a kind of insanity.

So, how do we get sane and get off the crazy merry-go-round?

 

I’ll share with you, I have been feeling Overwhelm very deeply lately.

In the past four weeks, I’ve moved out of my apartment, moved out of the city where I’ve lived for over 19 years, set up a home, gotten engaged, and went through buying a car for the first time in my life.

Just a FEW life changes at once!

To say I needed some quiet time is a massive understatement.

Why? Because I could feel myself shutting down……..

So, I spent last weekend completely unplugged at a retreat on Manifesting Compassion at Zen Mountain Monastery.

When my teacher looked at me and a whole room and said,
Overwhelm is a kind of insanity

I felt it.
Intimately.

I thought of all I had on my plate, all that was important to me right now,
My relationship with my man
My clients
My tribe
My new home
Planning my wedding
Starting to try for a family
Learning how to be a car owner and take care of it
My health
Yoga and dance
Finding a new network of friends in NJ

SO much…..have you ever looked at all that is on your plate and wanted to go running for the hills?
So, what’s the answer?
What do we do when it’s all there and ALL important?

Sitting there intently listening to my teacher, he summed it up beautifully,
Let things stand in their place, one step at a time.

Practice the ground you’re walking on.

I frantically wrote these words down in my journal, my pen moving as fast as it could to fill the page.

What did this mean for me?

 

After the teaching session, we had dinner and an hour of silence.  My fiance was helping out in the kitchen, so I decided to go for a walk outside.

There was a light snow on the ground, and a path of stone steps leading up into the trees.I felt restless, and started to climb.  When I reached the top of the path, I felt torn.  I wanted to sit down, but didn’t see a place, so I descended again to a bench at the foot of the path.

I felt like a world was swirling inside me…dark and unknown.
I stared at the rising mountain in front of me, and watched birds land in the trees, their evening calls floating across the grounds.

And I checked in, asking
What am I feeling?

And what arose was,
I feel detached.

Instantly, I felt relief.
I felt something loosen.  The overwhelm started to lessen.

I heard my teacher’s voice saying,
Suffering can only arise in the GAP.  Get inside it.  Let things stand in their place, one step at a time. Practice the ground you are walking on.

I had detached in the overwhelm because I didn’t know how to move forward. I had stopped.

I’ve been given everything I asked for; an incredible man, a home, a car…..but what was not fitting was ME. It was my overwhelm, my frustration. In truth, it was me actually LIVING it.

It was hearing everyone’s congratulations and feeling ashamed at my overwhelm.  Why wasn’t I happy and at ease??

There was NO way I could know WHAT I would feel at this point in my life with all these changes UNTIL I was IN it.

Practice the ground you are walking on.

The answer lies in where you are now.
The ground you are on NOW, not before.

The former me, the single New Yorker isn’t helpful here. I’m changing, and the WAY I move forward, and end the Overwhelm is to practice where I am NOW:

Practice being engaged
Practice being a new homeowner
Practice being a car owner
Practice being a NJ resident

Not from OUTSIDE, but INSIDE, in the now.

One step at a time, with each standing in its place.

I was detaching because I was trying to approach these changes from who I WAS.
What I forgot is that change is constant, and who I was yesterday is not who I am today. I am becoming with every new experience.

And I can take a moment, take a breath now, and relax the perfectionist that wants everything neat and tidy. I can just practice…that’s ALL. Just practice…..what a relief.

And this is where Compassion comes in.

Because we are all human. We all do this.  Welcome to the party!

Compassion is your answer to Overwhelm.
There’s a reason you are shutting down.  Most likely you are trying to do way too many things at once, and you probably believe it all has to be perfect.  It all has to look a certain way.

But as you grow, as you receive acclaim, you are changing.  You won’t know what it’s like until you get there. ALLOW for this.

Practice the ground you are walking on.

Because this is where you create.
Not yesterday.
Not tomorrow.

Here.

 

So, check in.
What are you feeling?
What are you detaching from?

And let each thing stand in it’s place, ONE step at a time.
Release the perfection and what you felt it was supposed to look like. Come back to a beginner’s mind. All you have to do is practice.

Allow for the miracle, and watch your Art soar.

In the Flow

I’m sitting on the bed, my heart pounding, and the crew guy looks at me to ask,

Are you ready?

I nod, exhale, and then am wheeled out onto a bright stage and a packed audience of over 2,000 people. The orchestra begins, and there’s no going back.

I pick up my suitcase, awash in the spotlight, and sing my solo. It’s really happening…..and all I can feel is the glory of the moment, Andrew Lloyd Weber’s score soaring as I sing, Another Suitcase in Another Hall.

The notes pour out of me, my nerves disappear, and I feel that magic of the stage, the magic of the moment, and the acknowledgement that I have made it.

I’m in the flow.

So, THIS is what it feels like…..

 

In 2005/2006 I was on the 25th Anniversary National Tour of Evita.  It was a dream come true, and my first National Tour.  The tour was overseen by Broadway icon Hal Prince and directed by the original Broadway choreographer, Larry Fuller. I understudied the mistress, and went through the tour with a smile plastered on my face.

This was a whole new level for me, and my favorite show. 

When I had the opportunity to go on for the mistress for the first time, I was very nervous.

And yet, when the bed was wheeled out at the beginning of the scene, something happened.

It’s almost as if time stood still, and I just delivered.  I sang from my heart, and stared into the lights and that huge audience.  Everything else just fell away.

I walked off the stage almost in a daze….not even fully understanding.

I was in the Flow.

 

Have you experienced this in your Creativity?

Hours go by with a new melody
Endless pages written on your latest story
A canvas coming to life
The photo shoot that you just keep seeing a new angle
The dance class where you are doing triple pirouettes with ease

It’s as if the muse just keeps whispering in your ear, and you are  saying,
YES!

All the other nonsense just falls away and you feel invincible, unstoppable, and free. What’s more, you are productive beyond your wildest dreams and getting things done!

Would you call this Creative Flow?
And what the heck would you call that moment when it all feels SO hard?

 

This week I had a really amazing conversation with a videographer who described Flow in these terms,

It’s the moment of challenge meeting repetition.

I felt like a light-bulb went off in my head when I thought of the combination of challenge and repetition.  In the case of understudying the mistress, it wasn’t just that I was performing a song I had sung TONS of times, and practiced for hours…it was the growth I was experiencing by playing a supporting role in a National Tour.  At that point in my career. this was a first.

And to do it in front of Hal Prince and Larry Fuller was an opportunity I had been waiting for.

The experience of singing was BOTH energizing and calming.  I went into Flow because I was growing and also singing a song I had been singing every day for weeks.

Now, what’s interesting, is my conversation with the videographer about Flow actually began with a whole other topic,

Focus.

And this is where the light bulb really went off.

The truth is, so many of us as Creatives are using a repetitive practice and really have no idea. The repetition comes in our practice of our art form.

The dance
The writing
The song
The brushstroke

But, here’s WHY it works….

It provides us with FULL INVOLVEMENT in what we are doing.  This doesn’t mean we are hyper-focused, but instead something far more powerful,

Single focused.

And what happens when we are single focused?  We are able to sing to a packed audience of 2,000 people and not miss a beat and actually ENJOY it.  We feel fulfilled.  We feel comfort, we feel joy and confidence.

The single focus ALLOWS us to go into Flow, and once we are there,that’s when the magic occurs.

Once in flow,  you can
1) Take risks
2) Release judgement on yourself and not worry what the audience thinks
3) Trust yourself in the moment

And when you are in flow, everyone else can FEEL it to.  You become in demand for your genius.

I can think of so many instances in my performing career where my voice was caught in my throat, or I tripped over my shoes. And now I can go back and ask,

Where was my focus?
How was I distracting myself?

I can look up at that list above and know quite clearly I wasn’t trusting myself and I was most likely in judgement of my ability. I was completely in my head worrying instead of being in my body and being FULLY INVOLVED in my performance.

It seem we can so easily distract ourselves in the process of putting our work out and trying to connect with our audience.  We so often can get off track and pulled in a million other directions, instead of staying in the repetitive practice that is actually going to get us where we want to BE.

If you are not seeing the results you want right now, ask yourself where your focus is.

Trust you don’t need the distractions, and come back to your task at hand.

Find those opportunities that allow you to bring your repetitive practice AND growth. Those opportunities that allow for your flow.

Then step into the spotlight, and sing.

Your audience is waiting to applaud.