The Sun in St Paul

Have you ever gone on a vacation and gotten sick?
Have you ever had a BIG exciting trip waiting for you, only to experience delays, snafus, and disappointment?

It can be so frustrating!

We have so much to balance these days, and those precious vacation days or DAY are what we look forward to.

A chance to have a NEW experience, to relax, to get away from the GRIND.

Isn’t everything supposed to be perfect in these moments?
Haven’t you worked hard enough that you deserve peace and ease?

As an Artist, these moments are so crucial to recharge.

Has this ever happened to you?
How did it affect you?

 

Two weeks ago, I boarded a plane with my fiance for Anchorage, Alaska.  My bags were packed with my binoculars, and many warm layers, ready to stand in the cold winds so I could witness the bountiful birds far North.

If you didn’t know, I’m a birder:)  I geek out over feathers, migration, and wing spans.

Birding nourishes me.  It’s time in nature slows me to the present moment, and has commonly been bonding time with my family.  In the wake of my divorce, my parents bought me a pair of binoculars, and I started going to birding festivals with them.

At a time when I was in deep pain, I found birding to be a healing balm.

My family and I planned this trip over a year ago, and we’ve been talking about it for months, getting so excited and even all buying the same Eddie Bauer coat in different colors.

On every level, I was VERY ready for a break.  Planning my wedding, running my business, settling into NJ, and recovering from a shoulder injury, I could feel it was time.

We touched down in Anchorage, after two long flights, and I could feel my body relaxing.  We took a selfie with a stuffed moose in the airport and met up with my aunt who’s flight got in right after ours.

VACATION! Yay!

We met up with our family, our tour guides, and the rest of the tour group (16 in all!) and crashed right after dinner.  With travel, we had been up for 22 hours.

The next morning we all flew to St. Paul, part of the Pribilof Islands, and the farthest west you can go in the United States.

St. Paul was cold, barren, and very windy.  The sign at our hotel said, “The Galapagos of the North”, as it is a huge destination for birders.  Indeed the hotel was full, not only with another tour group, but Cornell Ornithology research teams.

At dinner I started to feel light headed and nauseous, so I turned down the night birding and went to bed early so I could be well rested for the next day.

After a long night of sleep, I woke up feeling better, but as the morning progressed, I felt like my energy level was at 20%.  At breakfast, I turned to the tour guide and said,
I’m not doing so well….

My mother held her hand to my forehead, no fever.  I looked at her and said,
I think I’m going to pass out.

The room swirled for a moment, and I knew I couldn’t go birding.  One of our guides drove me back to the hotel, and I could feel the disappointment rising.

This isn’t what I wanted.
What’s happening?
Why NOW?

Have you ever felt like this?

I went back to my room, feeling like I was walking through soup…crawled under the covers, and crashed.

 

Two hours later, I woke up.  The hotel was so quiet. The guide was going to be coming back in another hour or two to check on me.  I had time, and reached into my bag for The Sun.

The Sun is a collection of interviews, short stories and poems.  I love it.  I started reading it four years ago, and it used to be my weekly joy.

Then life became very full with launching my business, and my daily time to read was cut shorter and shorter.  I used to take it on the subway, but my commutes were soon filled with social media and catching up on emails.

I had to stop my subscription to The Sun, because I had so many issues piling up.  I would wistfully look at all the magazines, hoping time would open so I could read them.

And here, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean…..I finally had the time to read.

As I opened the page, I could feel a warmth coming over my body; almost a sigh of relief. After reading a few stories, I decided to check in with my body and do some healing.

I did Walter McKichen’s Rainbow Meditation, where I brought energy up from the earth, to each of my chakras, one at a time.  On every chakra, the color was strong and traveled up my right leg to my center line, and then down my left.

Except one…my second chakra.

This is the chakra for creativity.

The color was so light, and barely traveled up my right leg. Usually bright orange, it was almost a dull gray.

So, I went back to bed.  I slept again, and again.  I stayed in the hotel, not going out birding.

And I finished reading The Sun.

As I closed the last page, a huge smile came across my face.  I could feel my energy coming back, and the dull gray morning light had now turned into afternoon sunshine coming into my room.

I remembered coming home from college, so exhausted, and then sleeping for a day.  I remembered a Christmas where I laid on the couch opening presents because I had the flu.  I remembered so many times I had gotten sick….and I realized what they all had in common…

My body needed to rest.

I had finally given it the space to recharge, and this is what it looked like for ME.
I actually was given the space to nourish what needed the most nourishment.

I had finally stopped, gotten off the carousel of my life, and here I was…..me and the Sun; shining it’s bright lights of inspiration and stories of humanity.

Right before dinner time, I sat up and did the Rainbow Meditation again, and when I came to my second chakra, the brightest orange light climbed up my right leg, connected at my spine, and then gloriously traveled down my left.

In flow.

I opted out of evening birding again, and slept soundly for 9 hours.  And the next day, I put on my binoculars, and saw Puffins for the first time in my life.

 

It’s a fallacy that we can push forever.  We all need rest, and most of all, we REALLY need it as Artists.  Our work comes from a very deep place, and is highly personal.

We decided to become Artists because we LOVE our Art, and we love expressing it.

This is not a process to PUSH through, or create on fumes.

The body never lies.  As Creative forces, we need to stay connected to our inner life, because it is our inner life and humanity we are expressing in our work. If your body is calling for rest again and again, listen.

So, what is your Sun?
What nourishes your Creative flow?

If you were to take a moment and stop….what would happen?

Things may really slow down….AND you may be getting exactly what you need.

Open the pages.

Open to your Sun.

Abuse No More in the Arts

Do you feel like no matter how hard you try, it’s just not good enough for your teacher?

Do you feel pushed down, and small when you go to class or your lessons?

Do you feel like you can’t do anything right?
Like you are always wrong?

When was the last time you left your class or lesson and felt GOOD about yourself, and your progress with your Art?

If you can’t remember, there may be something deeper going on…and it actually has nothing to do with you.

If you have been feeling frustrated with your growth, it may be time to look at your teacher….

 

I took a year off dancing when I was 11.  I was living in England at the time, and my mother took me out of the ballet school I was attending in Bury St. Edmunds, because the teacher was holding me back.  I was the only American in the class, and even though I worked so hard, and my level was just as high as the others, I was the only one not allowed to move to the next level.

My mother was furious, and spoke with my teacher, hoping to gain understanding.  My teacher was a stone wall, and my mother deeply believed I was being discriminated against, after the conversation.

Rather than subject me and my love of dance to another year with this woman, she took me out.

We moved to Germany, and I got back to dancing once a week, and got my first pair of pointe shoes.  I was over the moon, but not really growing as much as a dancer.

Then we moved to Montgomery, Alabama and I was accepted into the Baldwin School for the Arts, and was taking dance two hours a day, five days a week at the advanced level class with a former Royal School of Ballet teacher, Leslie Caruso.

I was one of the WORST dancers in the class.  The year off from dance had affected me, as had the ho-hum teaching I had received when I was 13, once a week, at a studio on base in Heidelberg.  This was really the first time I was getting quality training on an intensive schedule…and something magical happened…I grew.  Not only my confidence, but my technique, my expression, and I started to choreograph.

I was excited to go to class!
I WANTED to go to class.

And I ended up receiving an award for Most Improved at the end of the year.  Leslie Caruso gave me a solo on pointe at the end of year recital to celebrate my journey.

I gained clarity that I was not going to be a professional ballerina, but knew I would be a performer.  I wanted dance to be a part of my life moving forward.  I was in love with it again!

From there, my father was stationed at the Pentagon, and I found a dance studio in Northern Virginia called the Russell School of Ballet.

I showed up for classes so excited to GROW, to learn, and to take everything Leslie had taught me and take my dance to the next level, especially with pointe.

And then the Russells held me back.
They told me I was only allowed to wear my pointe shoes at the bar.
And when they cast the Nutcracker my first year, I was cast as one of Clara’s friends…..not doing the gorgeous Snow number where I would have been performing on pointe.

I tried to justify it, and enjoy the performance, and just get back to working hard. But it felt horrible.

And then the following year when they cast the Nutcracker, I was cast as one of Clara’s friends…AGAIN.

I came home absolutely crestfallen.
I felt so frustrated.

My friends were doing Snow, and I felt so embarrassed.
Why wasn’t I being given the chance to shine?

And a belief was forming,
You’re not a strong dancer.
You’re just not that good.

Have you ever felt like this?
Torn down by your teacher and then believe you are hopeless?

How has this affected your Art today and your confidence?
Are you where you want to be?

 

Who is your teacher to you?
Who are they supposed to be?

I gained my education in the Arts at a time when the models of teaching were changing.  For a long time in the dance world, humiliation was the major tool.

Publicly shaming students was commonplace.  Some of the most successful choreographers and teachers were also deeply abusive to their students, yelling at them and breaking them down. Some were also deeply manipulative, using their power position to dominate over and sexually abuse.

That’s NOT right!
Did you come here today to WASTE my time?
Stop crying….no one cares.
That looks TERRIBLE…do it again.  Do it until you bleed and learn the lesson.
I will tell you when it’s acceptable.

For some students. this would work…but only for a time.  At the end of the day, the damage done was monumental to the students’ psyche, and would inevitably lead to addiction, depression, and burnout.

Humiliation is not sustainable.

And take a moment and check in,
How do these statements FEEL in your body?

Does it make you want to create?
Does it inspire you?

It didn’t for me. Not only that, it deeply stunted my growth as a dancer.  Being held back and demoralized only convinced me I deserved it.

I remember having a powerful conversation with a dear friend who is a professional opera singer, and also a master voice teacher.  He said,
The mark of a good teacher is in your results.  If you are not seeing and feeling big changes right away, so somewhere else.

I didn’t hear this until I was in my mid 30’s, but suddenly things begin to clarify.

I thought of my huge growth in dance and choreography in college, and attributed that to my amazing mentor, Spence Ford, who taught me how to be a professional dancer and choreographer.

I thought of my voice teacher in college, Dr. Susan Boardman, who opened me to the fact I was actually a soprano and had me singing high Cs, after I was convinced I was an alto.

I thought of my high school theatre teacher , Mr. Maiden, who taught me how to act, and all the roles I played in school productions, and how I decided to do musical theatre as a profession because of him.

I thought of my voice teacher I had for 12 years in the city, Linda Glick, who taught me how to belt healthfully, and all the jobs I booked because of that work.

And of course, it all comes back to Leslie Caruso.

When I examined what she did, I realized she actually created a powerful environment for me to learn, one where I was ENCOURAGED. An environment that was safe.

At the end of the year, I went to her and thanked her deeply saying,
Ms. Caruso.  I was one of the WORST dancers in your class at the beginning of the year.  Why did you put me in the advanced class instead of the intermediate?

She looked at me and smiled simply, saying,
I saw potential in you.

And there it is…..the largest difference between humiliation and abuse…..the INTENTION and what the teacher sees.

Leslie saw the BEST in me.  She believed in me, and held me high, everyday.  THAT is why I grew.

 

So, what does your teacher see in you?
Do they have your best interests at heart?

Or are they too steeped in their own frustrations and failures?

You want a teacher who KNOWS what they are teaching, and you want a teacher who is CLEAN.

Clean of misguided anger, and truly in service.

And you can FEEL it in your body.
You can feel when your teacher is truly there for you, guiding you.

And this doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges!  Of course there will be.  Learning your Art means you will come up against all your demons, doubts, and fears because it means so much and because it takes quite a bit of SKILL to be a professional artist. We have to arrive to our classes and lessons OPEN and willing to learn.  That is our work, and responsibility.

But, is your teacher SKILLFULLY holding you as you grow?
Are they encouraging you?

Or tearing you down?

Take stock of the teachers where you have had the most growth, and if you are feeling super stuck right now, it may be time to have a heart to heart with your next steps.

Thankfully, times are changing, but there are still many teachers who abuse their roles of power.

Know you always have a choice to leave.
You have the choice to CHOOSE who guides you as you become Unstoppable.

 

I see you.
I see your brilliance.

Tune in to what actually feeds sustainable growth in your Art.  Tune into what actually OPENS you and allows you to tap into your unique artistic voice.

I’m holding your vision high.  And the right teacher for you will see this too.

 

 

 

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography