The Zen of Art

You Need Meditation

The voice was pretty clear and distinct.

I was in tech for a production of A Christmas Carol out in Salt Lake City, and my life was falling apart.  My husband had just flown out and told me he didn’t want to be married anymore. I thought we were going to spend the holiday trying to have a baby, not end our 19 year relationship.

You can imagine, I was in a LITTLE bit of shock.

I had been practicing yoga for a while, and it was at the end of my practice, that the voice came in.

I had never had a meditation practice, and honestly, wasn’t even sure what it really meant.

All I knew was I was in a ton of pain, and I needed something new.  Something was missing.

Clearly, something needed to change.  I felt like my whole world was spinning out of control.

Have you felt this?
What do you do when life seems to cut you off from your Art?

Somehow I was getting through my performances, but felt like I was moving through a terrible nightmare.  I didn’t feel connected to my art.

All I felt was fear.

You can imagine, my performance career came to a grinding halt.

 

Two months later, once I had returned to NYC, and the divorce was under way, I went and took my first yoga class.

The holidays had been the worst time of my life, opening presents with a man who didn’t love me anymore, and I hadn’t been on the mat in weeks.  Today, I was starting to take the reins back on my life and what I wanted moving forward.

I went to the library with the intention to buy a book on Meditation.  Here we go!

A title caught my eye, and I pulled it out and opened to randomly read.

It was as if every word was jumping off the page, saying,
YES!

The biggest surprise was I actually had picked up a book on Tibetan Buddhism, not meditation.

Wait….I came here today looking for meditation…

This simple book (which I devoured in days, underlining and dog earring) opened the door to a whole new search, and I began to explore different Buddhist centers in the city.

Who knew I was actually seeking Buddhism?  Apparently I did…I just hadn’t heard it until NOW.

I tried many of them, and while all were helpful in some way, none seemed to feel like HOME.

Something was still missing.

Until I took an intro to Zen Training weekend up at Zen Mountain Monastery. I woke before the sun to meditate with many others in this beautiful monastery, the ceiling rising high above me.

In the stillness and dark of the early morning, as I counted my breath, tears began to fall. Tears of recognition, and tears of sweet relief.  This is what my body had been calling for.  THIS is what was missing.

A way to work with my mind.
An experience of true space.
The ability to actually HEAR what is rising and falling.

And the tools to let go.

I had gone through a career of holding on for dear LIFE my expectations, my perfectionism, and comparing myself constantly to other performers. And now, as I had NO control of the immense loss of my marriage, I was being given the tools I needed to face it.

And actually they were the tools I needed all along.

I just wasn’t listening to my body’s messages.

 

What are you holding on to?

What is your body calling for to help you become the Artist you truly want to be?

Can you even hear it?

In that moment of absolute pain, there was NO denying what I needed. I certainly didn’t think it was going to turn into becoming a Zen practitioner, but once I found the practice, my whole life fell into place.

I had a complete resurgence in my performance career.
I found the work I REALLY wanted to be doing as an Artist, and launched ZenRedNYC.
I built a business from scratch, doing work I love that makes more money than ever before.

I now could HEAR what I needed.

In having a practice that connected me to my breath and the present moment, my whole outlook changed.

We can so often get caught in the static,

No one wants your work
Artists have to starve
Making money is selling out
Claiming the spotlight is selfish

There is so much JUNK out there that we take in, on a daily basis not only from fellow colleagues who want you to join their pity party, but from parents, society, and the news.

What’s the answer?

SILENCE.

All that junk?  It’s just noise.  And it’s not helping you move forward and step into your full creative power. The junk is keeping you stuck and filling your airwaves with confusion.

If you are feeling something’s missing, then you haven’t had the clear open space to really hear what you need.

Today, you can begin to incorporate one of the most important tools as an Artist,
CURIOSITY.

So, take a moment today, and sit down for 5 minutes. Close your eyes, and come into your body.

Place your attention on your breath.

And from this experience of SPACE, simply ask,

What is it I most need?

It’s all inside.

Create the space, so you can hear.

 

 

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography

Creature Comforts

Oh Dear GOD…

There it is.

My skin is crawling.  I’m not even sure if I’m breathing.  My hair is literally standing up on end.  There’s this sickening feeling in my stomach. I’m frozen in time, helpless.

In front of me, my deepest fear.

A spider.

Spindly, large, gross….a million words coming out, all to say,
AHHHHHHHHHH!!

What is it for you?

Snakes
Heights
Public speaking
Rats
Cockroaches

I mean, YUCK!

What makes your skin crawl and you do EVERYTHING in your power to avoid?

I get it, I ran from spiders for most of my adult life, convinced they were pure evil and would kill me.

I mean, HOW could a spider help me?

This was my fear.  This was something to AVOID, not walk towards.

Right?

 

In 2012, I was the dance captain for a production of the musical A Christmas Carol out at the Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City, Utah.  I loved this musical, and I loved the cast.

But my life was falling apart.

On Thanksgiving, my husband flew out to tell me he didn’t want to be married anymore and was in love with another woman.

I felt as if the world had opened wide, and swallowed me whole. I was in shock, and utterly devastated.

I wanted to scream to the world,
STOP!

I wanted to control the immense change that was happening.

This wasn’t what I planned.

I planned we would go old together.
I planned we would work through any issues.
And most of all, I planned we would have a family together.

In one conversation, I saw all of that disappear.

And I found myself facing my deepest fear,
losing my marriage.

Because, WHO was I if I wasn’t married and trying to have a child?

In December, we had a cast Christmas party, and the company manager brought in a company called.
Creature Comforts

I walked into the party room to large turtles crawling around, and walked over to my fellow dancers who had a giant boa wrapped around them.  I got out my phone to take a picture, as I think snakes are SO cool, and then out of nowhere, a man came up from behind and placed a spider on my friend’s head.

Not just any spider, A TARANTULA.

My whole body froze.  I stopped breathing.  This wasn’t just any spider, it was the mother of all spiders..the largest.

And then I looked behind this man to see a table with FOUR tarantulas in cages.

My worst nightmare.

I was just about to bolt from the room, when a small voice arose,
I always thought spiders were my largest fear, but facing divorce is far deeper.  Since I’m facing that and still breathing, maybe I can finally face this fear of spiders.

I saw an opportunity.

So I walked over to the handler, and asked him to place the tarantula in my hand.

When he first did, the spider started to scratch and crawl in my hand. It was freaking out!  I realized I needed to probably calm down because the spider was feeling my fear.

So, I took a breath.

The spider stopped moving, and was standing in my palm, it’s abdomen shaking, and I realized,
It’s just as scared as I am.

And then a wave of realization came over me.  The spider was NOTHING like I thought it would be.  It was actually soft, light, and fuzzy.

A huge smile came over me, as my fear dissipated, and my friend took a picture.

That picture became my profile picture for months on Facebook, because every time I looked at it, I was reminded,
If you can hold a tarantula, you can do anything.

And anything included,
surviving and healing from a divorce
launching my own successful arts business

Who knew the key was in my biggest fear?

In that moment, my arachnophobia vanished.  It literally disappeared when I realized what I had in common with the spider, and that I was still breathing and ok.  My fear vanished when I LET GO of the woman who ran from spiders.

Who was she anyway?  She was really just made up in my mind.  She wasn’t permanent.

So, what is your biggest fear?

WHO would you become if you no longer had it?
What would be possible for you in your Creative Life?

So often, we isolate and avoid our fears, but the real lesson lies in facing them.  We may have formed a massive belief the fear will harm us, but what we are really avoiding is the FEELING.

If your fear of heights or snakes was faced, and you found yourself still breathing as you skydive or pet a snake, then what other assumptions could be blown apart in your Art?

Perhaps,
No one wants my work
I’m a fraud
My work needs to be perfect to be shown
No one will pay that price for my work
I’m not ready

If these are no longer holding you back, perhaps you would find your fears are actually not harmful, but soft and fuzzy.

You just made them far larger than they actually were.

Maybe even as large as a tarantula.

 

Over the holiday weekend, I was staying at my boyfriend’s house in NJ.  I went into the downstairs bathroom, and caught my breath when I looked in the shower stall to see,

A giant spider.

Instead of running from the room, as I would have done five years ago, I sat down and looked at it. I could feel some of the hairs on my arm rising, the old pattern and memory of fear.

The spider was pretty huge, and I knew I needed to get it outside.

I grabbed a glass from the kitchen, and a piece of mail, and placed the glass over the spider.  As I lifted the spider closer to me, I became surprised at how small the spider looked up close.

It had looked SO large from a distance.

And I found the closer I was to it, the less scary it appeared.  I became curious, looking at it’s markings, as I carried the glass to the backyard.

As I watched the spider crawl in the grass, I marveled at the journey.  I could NOT do this five years ago.  I would have screamed, and ran from the room, shutting the door, and pleading my man to kill it for me.

And I thought of that woman five years ago, who really thought she was keeping herself safe.  And I gave her a hug.  I loved her.  She was doing the best she could.

And I looked at the yard of this house that will be my home, that will house my children, and I remembered that moment holding the tarantula.

Thank goodness for the tarantula.  My biggest fear actually set me free.

The way is always through.
You have everything you need.

 

Get curious around your fears, and turn towards them.  Hold them in your hand, and LOOK at them.

You can’t change what you can’t see.

WHO would you be without them?

WHAT could you create?

 

 

Top Photograph: Caitlin Cannon Photography