Interdependence Day

Happy Interdependence day!

Here in the U.S., we celebrated July 4th yesterday, which is normally marked by fireworks, barbecue, and outdoor concerts.

It’s also commonly referred to as Independence Day, marking our country’s Independence with red white and blue plastered everywhere.

Many words are passed along during this time such as

And while there is great benefit to these, our country’s history and the path to this celebration has in fact been incredibly bloody, including claiming rights to lands that actually never belonged to us.

What is really going on there and is it really serving us as a whole?

Something I value about you, as a part of this global community IS the fact you are all over the world.  The ZenRedNYC community is represented by about 20-25 different countries.

I grew up mostly in Europe as a child, as my father was a fighter pilot in the Air Force.  This introduction to diversity from day one really led me to living and falling in love with NYC.

Somehow in NYC we have learned how to live together.  All shapes, sizes, colors, and ethnicities ride the subway standing shoulder to shoulder.  There is a section of Queens that is actually has the most diversity in the world within a mile radius.

All together in a relatively small space.

When I lost everything in 2013, the most radical change I made was to ask for help.  I had actually wanted help for about four years, but the belief that held me back again and again was I would be rejected.  I thought it was far more important to “have it all together” than to admit I was actually really struggling.

In other words, I didn’t think anyone would understand.

Have you ever felt that?
I have to do it on my own.
I can only do it on my own.
I am alone.

And yet, when I stepped forward and asked for help, it came in more ways than I could have ever imagined.  When I shared my shame and vulnerability, I found not only did it bring people closer to me, it opened up a magical space for them to share their vulnerability as well.

I actually had been wrong all this time.

I realized I have far more in common with those around me than differences.
Shared humanity.
We are in this together.

And all those who came to help me at my darkest hour helped me to build a whole new life.  One where I woke up to how much more connected I am to the world around me.

Last week I was down at the beach to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.

My family is small and very spread out, so it’s rare for us all to be together. In fact, it’s been 10 years since we all gathered in the same place.

For my parents’ anniversary, I really wanted to create something special. I wanted to create something that would honor our family, and all the beautiful things my parents’ union has created in my life and the life of my immediate family.

So, I asked for help.

I reached out to my Aunt Bonnie, who owns her own design company in San Diego.  We put our creative brains together and came up with a glorious idea.

A custom engraved wooden box that would house a set of 50 cards.  On each card would be a single thing I was grateful for.

My aunt designed beautiful cards.
I found an amazing artist on Etsy who created the personalized box.
I went to Michaels, Staples, and AC Moore for ribbons, accessories, flowers, and a glue gun.
My sister in law glued the moss and wooden dowels to keep the cards in place.

This gift was a collaboration.
It didn’t happen alone.

And when I stood in front of my parents to present the gift and express my gratitude, tears welled in their eyes.

The gift would never have been possible without the 43 years of memories I have FROM my parents.

between; among; mutually; reciprocally.

On the giant table we all sat at was a golden sign reading,
Love is sweet.

What if this is what we all share?
What if this is what truly connects us all?

The moment of standing in front of my parents to present this gift wasn’t about me, it was about what we have all created together.

It can be so easy to isolate with our art.  Each of our processes are so unique, and we are creating work that is personal and deeply expressed.

But where we cut ourselves off is by thinking we have to do it alone.

For years I would cry in the shower, beating myself up and so afraid to be seen.  I was convinced I had to isolate and put on a “brave face”.  Makeup perfect, lines exact, I actually was practicing independence in the most destructive way……self hatred.

Waking up to interdependence radically changed my life. It changed my art, and it allowed me to create a team that nurtures and promotes my work.

I know many of you have incredible visions, and they include,
Becoming a best seller
Playing in large sold out venues
Having a raving fan base who buys all your original work

Your career doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

And most importantly, your art doesn’t either.

Your art is an expression OF your experience. 
OF your humanity.
OF the people, places, and influences that have shaped you into the incredible light you are today.

So, Happy Interdependence Day.Today, I am grateful for you in my life.
I am grateful for this connection you and I have.

Know you are not alone.
And know it what we create together that brings us most alive.

Love is sweet, indeed.

Preserving The Moss

Do you find yourself stuck in the same patterns again and again?

There you are again….
procrastinating on completing your projects…
Getting to the end of the day exhausted with NOTHING done on your To Do List

Or even worse,
The gig you wanted falling through
The person who was supposed to hook you up going AWOL
Opening another rejection letter or email

It can be so disheartening!

And I imagine, you may be thinking,
This will NEVER change.  I will be STUCK in this pattern forever!

This can feel so discouraging and really take a toll on our inspiration, and our motivation.

You may be thinking,
There must be something wrong with me.
I’ll never make it.

I get it.  I remember bawling my eyes out when I blew a callback for Sister Act on Broadway.  I had wanted it SO bad, and at this point it was another in a looooong line of disappointments where at the final moment when I needed to deliver, I would choke. It was as if I couldn’t sing….I literally froze and when they went to test my range, all I heard in my head was,
“You can’t do this”

I was really believing I would always do this.
I was really believing I didn’t have what it takes to sing at that level.

And indeed, this belief kept me stuck.

Can you relate?

I would marvel at my friends who were booking their Broadway gigs, and just ask, from my absolute depths,
What am I missing?
What are they doing that I’m not?
And why the HECK can I not deliver when it matters most?
What is holding me back?

Have you ever asked yourself these questions?

I thought of you last weekend.

I was at a three day intensive up at Zen Mountain Monastery in the Catskills, the place where my whole Zen journey began six years ago, and where I was married last September.

The theme of the intensive?
Wholesome Action.

As part of the daily schedule, we do what is called Care Taking, which is typically an hour to 90 minutes of taking care of the monastery and grounds, doing various chores like
Kitchen prep

All of these activities are done as a way of taking care of the space that is taking care of US.  This is our giving back.  What’s most important about this process is, we do it in silence.  It becomes a meditation, so when we get distracted, we come back to the task at hand; back to what we are doing in the moment, and cultivating not only the single focus, but the appreciation for this very special and sacred place.

I was chosen to help out with Cemetery Duty and headed up the hill in the woods with five others, bringing buckets and pads for our knees.

Our care taking?
To preserve the moss.

I had never been to the Cemetery before, and was taken by the beautiful enormous altar, and the peaceful setting.  There were stone pathways, gravestones, and lots of moss…..except the moss was covered.

My job was to pick up the sticks and the pine needles that had fallen and were choking off the moss.  And there was a LOT…in fact the needles seemed to be everywhere.  So, I got down on the ground, and began to gather the needles.

According to Basic
“Mosses play a vital role in being among the first colonizers of disturbed sites. They stabilize the soil surface, thereby reducing erosion, while at the same time reducing the evaporation of water, making more available for succeeding plants.”

They come to disturbed sites, stabilize, and make space for new growth.

Stabilize and make space for growth.

In the face of my divorce, my whole body felt like a disturbed site.  My heart was breaking deeper than I had ever experienced and I felt like my whole life was burning to the ground.  In this space, I asked for help, and it came.

I learned tools around my mind.
I learned how to let go.
I learned tools around self compassion.

I was able to look at each “needle”, each “stick” that had fallen over time, over years of these pattern; these needles and sticks that were essentially my beliefs.

And what I came to realize was that underneath all I had labeled as “bad” about myself was actually something good.  And it was innate.  This goodness wasn’t affected by my heartbreak, by my divorce, by all the rejections I had endured in my career….it wasn’t affected by all the times I choked when I wanted so desperately to sing my best, or wanted to hear YES.

It was my moss.
And it needed to be preserved.

In fact, at that point, I was 37 and realized I had never placed my attention there.

Perhaps this was why I felt stuck….

And when I placed my attention on my moss, I had a radical shift in my career, a complete resurgence and ended up building a global fan base.

I was doing care taking…for the first time.

What are your sticks?
What are you needles?

What have you allowed to fall and cover up your beautiful moss?

What have you believed is real and will always be the same?
Is this helping you to go Full Time with your passion?

What if you are whole and complete?
What if the answers are actually all there, you just need help uncovering them?

There at your disturbed site, is actually an ecosystem waiting to bring you back to life in the face of disappointment and rejection. It’s there to stabilize you and create new growth.

You are actually far more powerful than you know.

Take care.
Preserve your moss.