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 Creative Thread

Gift Bag

I quickly throw down my yoga mat in the front row, having just made it in time for class. With the best intentions to arrive early, the NYC subway had other ideas.

Facing my teacher Ali, I sit elevated on my blanket, folded over so my tight hips can release and my knees rest. I sweep my hair into a ponytail grabbing the tie from my wrist, and settle just as she begins to speak.

I need this today.

“So, I cleaned out my closet, which is great, but now all the bags of clothes are in my living room…”

She recounts the story of her mother coming over and trying to find a place to sit, compassionately saying, “You will move these things all in due course.”

As Ali looked at her mother unable to fully relax in her home, her answer came clearly.

“No”

Ali knew in that moment there was one thing she could do. She could take one of the bags that was set aside for a friend and deliver it to her. Or she could take one of the bags that was set aside for Salvation Army and drop it off.

So she did.

And she felt so good about accomplishing this simple task, she went to the grocery store to buy some rice, and smiled at another shopper who was having a bad day.

What happened for that shopper?

Maybe she went home and hugged her husband, or called a friend, or sat and played with her dog. She took the kindness that was shown to her, and passed it on. Ali not only touched a stranger, she touched all who the stranger came in contact with, and a chain was begun.

All this from a bag of clothes.

 

I remember sitting in the audience for the Tony award winning play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I was with a close friend and during intermission, we turned to each other, almost too stunned to utter much more than,

“I LOVE this…”

Curious Case w Ali

I was at an artistic buffet of collaboration, ensemble work, brilliant staging, and focused storytelling. I witnessed the bare stage turning into a grid the lead could literally draw on, sitting at the edge of my seat, giddy with discovery.

I felt I was seeing not only the creativity of the original author, but what each member of this production had brought forth.

The ensemble played different roles and created the environment. They were the chairs, the doors, and even the emotional states for the protagonist as he progressed through his fears. They lifted him and turned him upside down.

I walked out inspired. I walked out with a visual playing in my head, and a desire to create.

 

Months after, I was hired to choreograph the Zarzuela El Laurel de Apolo for Repertorio Espanol, and when the director began to speak about how we were going to turn Daphne into a tree, I felt myself sitting on the edge of my seat again.

The little seed that had been growing since seeing Curious Incident was planted in the minds of my director, lighting designer, and set designer. As I began to throw out ideas, their eyes lit up, and soon we were all throwing water and fertilizer into the pot.

It began to grow and take shape.

Our first rehearsal with the ensemble on forming the tree, I shared my vision, and invited the cast to play. They accepted with glee and gratitude, and their energy was high.

Now they were a part of the process too.

Our closing night of El Laurel de Apolo, we had to turn people away. The show was sold out, and the audience stood with vigor and joy, clapping at the end.

Daphne Tree

There was a brightness in the theatre, from the stage to the seats, a thread from the bowing of the cast and creative team, to the patrons.

I stood, looking out from the stage, acknowledging the audience, but also remembered clapping with the same vigor months ago at what began this journey for me.

I wonder what the audience members did when they went home?

 

We have a great opportunity as artists, to reach an audience with our stories, our songs, our paintings, and dance. We have the opportunity to connect and create a thread.

What if we approached our art this way, with one simple step?

What if we looked at the seed in order to create the whole?

Sometimes, it won’t be linear, and in fact may be a map going out in all directions, but the effect will be the same whether it’s what we receive from a smile or from the lights lowering as we settle into our seats. And the possibilities of how many lives it will touch is endless.

You actually possess a great power. Did you know you set so much in motion with one action?

You choose the beginning.

So, what is the one thing you can do today, and what can you receive as inspiration?

IMG_9394