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.

The Zen of Art

Zen flowers

My alarm goes off and I can feel with my whole body,

I didn’t get enough sleep.

A slight panic starts to rise because I really needed to get quality sleep for today.

Somehow, everything is just taking longer, and I’m rushing around to get out the door. I’m running late, and today I can’t be late.

It’s Saturday, early morning and I even question the choice of subway.

Maybe I should Uber.

I open the app and am weighing the options, and then decide to wait.

It’s cheaper to take the subway.

Rooted in my original plan, I think it will be ok, because I’ll be able to sit and close my eyes on the subway.

And then the subway is packed.

I mean, today is historic and there’s a lot of people heading into Manhattan on this Saturday, including me. Millions will be marching world wide, the largest march in American history, and I want to contribute.

After my first transfer, I finally find a seat on the subway and have just enough time to eat the eggs and bacon I made at home, before the train is pulling into the Nevins Street stop in Brooklyn. I never got to close my eyes, and can feel my eyes heavy.

And the anxiety is mounting, as I don’t feel I have all I need.

And the dialogue is running through my head,
Why didn’t you go to bed earlier?
Why couldn’t I fall asleep last night?
Why did I wake up so much last night?

And then I look at my watch in amazement.

I actually got to Brooklyn from Queens in the fastest time yet….leaving Astoria late was made up by Gotham’s speeding silver tube.

I walk to my destination with enough time to grab a couple sipfuls of coffee, stretch and settle in.

Settle in to sit…..for four hours.

Will I be able to stay awake?

And what happened within the course of the next four hours was nothing short of a miracle.

 

In the face of the deepest loss of my adult life, my divorce, a voice came up stronger than ever,

You need meditation.

I was in such a state of shock and heartbreak, that I was willing to do whatever it took to move forward.

I wanted to survive.

So, come January of 2013, I found myself in the retail section of my yoga studio with the express intention to purchase a book on meditation.

That’s the first step, right?

I was staring at all the titles and one looked interesting, so I grabbed it and opened randomly to the opening pages.

Every word was jumping off the page, going through me, as if the writer knew exactly what I was going through.

What was ironic was that the book was actually about Buddhism.

Wait, I didn’t come here seeking Buddhism, I came seeking meditation.

But, maybe it was what was underneath the meditation that was being satisfied. Here were finally tools for the roller coaster and hopelessness I was feeling.

Here were finally tools for the rejection and loss of control, for all the frustrations I had experienced in my performance career, and the feeling that my whole life was falling apart and I was losing it all.

Have you felt this too?

That book was the beginning of my search for answers and it led me to Zen practice and led me to the Fire Lotus Temple in Brooklyn.

What I had no idea was how Zen would actually feed my Creativity and allow me to be the Artist I had always wanted to be.

That voice inside was far smarter than I knew.

What is yours saying?

 

“Somehow time had vanished for me. I slowly rose, aware that something deep inside me had shifted. The questions I had been struggling with during the workshop – all my life, for that matter – had melted away. I felt buoyant and joyful. The world was right; I was right. I didn’t even know whether I had taken a photograph of the old tree….”
-John Daido Loori

What if there was a way to unlock your Creativity and find freedom in our existence as Artists?

What if we could dissolve the barriers we’ve set up in our mind and open to the possibility of meeting life with spontaneity, grace, and peace?

Imagine your Creative process uncluttered and unlimited like a cloudless sky, fresh where everything is new, a sense of trust in your work, and a system to receive feedback from your audience that actually serves you.

 

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I may have come to my cushion last Saturday sleep deprived, and full of anxiety, but I actually woke up in the process of sitting.

The fog lifted and I became incredibly clear. My problems worked themselves out, and I rose from my cushion quiet and sure.

After the four hour sit, we gathered for lunch upstairs and I sat next to my teacher who had led the sit and inspired me so deeply with his reminder of unity, and that our collective energy today was feeding the March.

He turned to me and asked,
So, what do you do for a living?

Thrilled to share, I smiled and responded,
I’m an Empowerment Coach for Artists and Creatives.

My teacher’s eyes sparkled and he said,
You know Zen master John Daido, the founder of our order here at the Fire Lotus temple was a photographer. He actually found Zen because he was seeking more purpose in his Art.

And I thought all along that John was a Zen teacher who found photography. Seems it was the other way around.

How many other artists was this true for?

Maybe he had a similar voice in his head like I had four years ago.

What is yours saying?

I walked out of the temple almost in amazement that I had entered so frazzled. But, there was a driving force that had said
Go, your answers lie here

And I reflected on how this practice that is actually steeped in the Arts was truly the balm I had been waiting for to open to what I could really bring forth in my Creativity.

It wasn’t until I found Zen that I had the most success as an Artist, and ended up trusting an unlimited sky….trusting my voice and empowering Creatives across the globe to do the same.

What was clear to me last Saturday as I stepped back outside from the temple walls was this,

Zen led me to this moment here with you.

So, what if you could dissolve the barriers that have held you back?

What would you create if you fully trusted yourself and were limitless?

Wake up.

Your True Creative Life awaits.