Knowing When You’re Ready

Do you feel ready for incredible success with your career?
Do you feel stuck on how to get there?

Do you look at where you want to be and feel you are doing everything you can, but are just not making your way up the ladder to the success you want fast enough?

Sometimes, it can feel like you are staring up an endless flight of steps that seem to go on forever.  I imagine that can be overwhelming!

And there is so much TO DO to actually “get there”, right? There are all these steps you know you have to take, all these things that have to be in place BEFORE you can stand confident and truly claim your dream!

It’s that place you see in your mind where you’ve MADE IT!

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just leap ahead and just get there already?

I get it.  When I first moved to NYC and started auditioning, I wanted to book my Broadway show right away!  And when I didn’t, then I knew it meant I wasn’t “ready”.  So, I took classes, and lessons, and kept working at my craft, believing that if I worked hard enough, then I would be ready.

Sound familiar?

With each rejection, a deep belief started to form, as I watched my peers book their Broadway show, which was,
I’m not ready.

So, I held myself back, and went back to what I knew…doing the same hard work and just HOPING it would change.  Staring at the endless steps, I just kept going.  What I didn’t realize was that I was stuck on the same step again and again.

When everything did change, it certainly wasn’t the way I thought, and I realized there had been a HUGE piece missing.

When I went through my divorce and lost everything, I found myself meditating for the first time in my life.  In the midst of such chaos and grief, it truly saved me.

The beginning instruction for Zazen, the Zen form of meditation, is to count your breath.  When a thought comes in, you see it, release it, and then go back to 1, counting up to 10.  When I first began, I cried almost every time I would sit, and the counting was a lifeline.  It gave me a structure to come back to, and a way to deal with the constant panic and heartbreak I was feeling.

I found comfort in the counting, and my mind started to calm.  While I watched other practitioners and formal students drop the counting, I just kept with it.  I wasn’t ready for that!

My life was changing, I found my true voice as an Artist, found full time work I loved, and then met my now life partner.

And every day, I sat to meditate, and counted my breath.  1, 2, 3……..some days I went back to 1 many times, and others I made it to 10 easily.  I stayed on the step of counting my breath, because I believed that was where I needed to be.

Last weekend, I went to a Half Day meditation sit.

We had the opportunity to have face to face teaching, and I jumped up right away.

What typically happens is you enter the small room, and sit in front of the teacher and say your name and what your practice is, so I entered and said,
My name is Nikol and my practice is counting my breath.

And before I could then ask the question that was burning in my heart, my teacher looked right at me, and said,
How’s that going for you?

Caught a little off guard, I stammered,
Oh! It’s going well!

And then he asked,
Do you have a daily practice?

I answered quickly,
Yes!

My teacher smiled and said,
You’d be surprised how long it takes some people to make this a daily practice.

I was about to reply when he dropped the smile and said,
I want you to drop the counting.  Don’t try to control it.

My eyes widened, and I was a bit in shock.  This was NOT what I expected was going to happen today.  I didn’t think I was ready to do that! 

So, after the teaching was complete, I grabbed my cushion and returned to the Zendo, where everyone was sitting and meditating.

I could feel a panic rising in me.
No more counting.
Wait….that means that I’m JUST with my breath?
I was terrified.

I started to cry, and sat back down.  I saw the thought, let it go, and then something magical happened.

In the place of the counting was just SPACE.

SPACE.

And I realized I was relaxing on a level I hadn’t before.
Because there was NO counting. There was no structure.

Just my breath.

And I realized how the counting had become a crutch.  It was actually holding me back.  I had been on the same step again and again for the single reason,
I didn’t think I was ready.

Thank goodness my teacher knew I was. Because without his guidance, I would STILL be on that step, and probably wondering why I was having so much trouble relaxing.

Growth doesn’t happen in comfort.

Much like the minute we take off the training wheels, or take off the floaties and swim without help, it allows us to see we are actually CAPABLE.

I remember Broadway choreographer Patti Wilcox saying to me in class one day,
I want you to always take class standing in front from here out.

She saw something in me, and she knew I was ready.  Without her guidance, I would have stayed in the back for years.

I’ve heard so many people say to me,
I’m not ready.

But the truth is, confidence comes from the new action you take.

You can only see to your limitation, so the vital ingredient here is a guide, someone who knows your dreams, who is tracking your efforts, and is skilled in what is necessary for you to grow.

Growth doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and it definitely doesn’t happen alone.

The largest lesson I learned in my face of my divorce was to ask for help.  But not just ANY help, help from specific guides who got me,  and who could really help me. I would never have decided to launch my business and successfully go full time without a coach.

And I would never have dropped the counting.

The part that is the largest miracle is I’ve been struggling lately with how to release more control.  This was actually what I wanted to ask my teacher about.  And even before I could share that, he offered me the action that would give me exactly what I needed.

Turns out I was ready.

And what about you?
What step have you felt you’ve been in for years?
Do you have a guide?

What if you are ready to go to the next level?
Is someone seeing you as capable and offering guidance?

We don’t grow alone.

Your success will unfold when get out of your own way, and you come back to being a student. 

We do this together.
You are far stronger than you think.

Surround yourself with guides that see this in you.

And then take the next step.
You’re ready.

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography

Care Taking

Do you feel frustrated that you are doing everything you CAN for your career and you are just not where you want to be?

Do you feel like your To Do’s to be a successful Artist have taken over your life?

I mean, what is the deal?

You are posting on social media.
You are putting yourself and your work out there.
You are doing ALL the things you are supposed to….and yet, you feel stuck, spinning in circles.

I imagine that is incredibly frustrating!

Watching your peers step into their success can be difficult when you know your talent is just as good.

So, what is the difference?
Why are you stuck and they are moving?

This was a question I had running on a LOOP in my head for years when I was a performer, and what stopped it really surprised me.

I’ve always been highly disciplined.  Growing up in a military household definitely set the bar high, and I was determined to meet it.

So, I practiced my violin every morning, did my classwork, was valedictorian, and placed very high value on
completing tasks, and having order in my life.

After all, that was what I was taught to do.

I remember when I was in my career, and had a running To Do list.  As I’ve always enjoyed cursing like a sailor, I decided to call it the F***ing To Do List.  It made me laugh, and also motivated me.

Get it DONE!
That was the mantra.

So, I did, and I did…..and I did, but I hit a ceiling in my career and couldn’t figure out why all my hard work was not landing me my Broadway show.

I was at first annoyed, and then angry, and eventually devastated.  I started to believe it wouldn’t happen, and even worse, that something was wrong with me.

And then my whole life fell apart, and for the first time in my life, I actually LOOKED at my life, and instead of it being through a lens of judgement and “what is WRONG with you?” it was through a lens of compassion and curiosity.

There was wisdom to be had here…..and I was ready to truly learn.

When I first found Zen and did their Intro to Zen Training weekend, part of the weekend was called Care Taking Practice.  During this 90 minutes, we were put in a group, and given a task.  This task was to be done in silence so you could just be present to it, and was some form of “taking care” of the monastery and their programs.

Taking Care.

I was assigned to helping with the Prison program and organizing correspondence to the inmates who were mailing back and forth with the monastics.

Tasks completed with care. 

I dived into training with Non Violent Communication,  a process for supporting partnership and resolving conflict within people, relationships and society. The teacher, Thom Bond was telling the story of recognizing the reason he kept his home so clean and neat was it actually met needs for self care.

As soon as I heard this, it went through me.

I looked around my little apartment in Queens and saw the order I had created.  For so much of my life, I had labeled myself as OCD, or been called that by others, or called myself controlling. But what if this was actually self care?

What if how I was in my life with discipline was actually care taking?

That day, I went into my F***ing To Do list and changed the name. 
I changed it to Care Taking.

And from there, I was able to create this successful business and rebuild my life. I was able to go Full Time, because I wasn’t being so hard on myself, and was actually clear WHY this work mattered to me.

Nothing was wrong with me….I was actually coming into contact with my heart and my desires.

And now I could actually take CARE of them, not punish myself.

Does this sound familiar?

How do you speak to yourself?
What have you labeled yourself?

True sustainable growth happens through support and love.

I imagine you can think of a teacher who really tore you down.  While there may have been some short term growth out of anger or fear, ultimately I imagine you stopped using them, because it just felt awful to be belittled so much.

Tearing someone down just damages them, and the same is true for self talk.

We all have different processes for our work, and really it is about finding what works for  YOU.

And then taking CARE of this process.
Taking CARE of you so that you can show up FOR the process, for your Art, and for your beautiful life.

Practice is essential for development of our craft AND we can approach this practice and building the business of our passions from a place of care.

Energy is everything.  I can look back at my younger self with so much love, and know she was doing the best she could, but truthfully, she was being waaayyyy too hard on herself and the taskmaster was running the show.

Now, it’s the care-taker, and what a difference.

So, what needs CARE in your career?
What needs CARE In your heart so that you can show up for your career?

Create systems that work in your career not because you should but because it will take CARE of the work that matters most.

Whenever you are in doubt, love is the answer.  Every time. You are a shining light and deserve your own love and affection. 

Care for your life, and watch it grow.

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography