End The Fighting

Do your feel like your emotions and strong feelings get in the way of your success and career?

One day you may be flying high, so excited for something going well, only to find yourself the next day overwrought with anxiety because everything turned?

You sell your artwork, but then it gets lost in the mail to the new customer.
You get a yes from an agent, only to have them send back your manuscript dripping with edits and changes.
You get the venue you want for your event, only to hear crickets when you start promoting.
You finally get the band together only to be dealing with constant scheduling issues and conflict among the members.

Ups and down, ups and down…..

It can feel so chaotic!  Like waves crashing on the shore.

You came into your work because you love it, but I imagine it’s exhausting to deal with the disappointment, anxiety, sadness, and heavy-heartedness that is so common in our industry.

I imagine you may wish you could just shut these emotions off, because when they arise, it can feel overwhelming and next thing you know you have either said something you regret, binge watched Netflix, or found yourself at the end of the day with nothing done.

It’s a vicious cycle.

So, what can you do?
How can you do the work you love without dealing with all the craziness?

Is it possible to find peace in the storm?

Early 2013 was absolute chaos for me.  I was in divorce mediation, putting my home on the market, and living at several friend’s places because being in my own place was literally making me sick.  My whole life was falling apart, and the waves of shock came over me 15-20 times a day.  It was a constant stress on my system, that moment of,
Everything is changing, NOW.

I was losing so much I held dear and every day was struggling.  At this time, I wasn’t auditioning because I was in such despair, and was doing a lot of temping.

For the first time in my life I was asking for help, and was receiving beautiful support from teachers, my therapist, and devouring books recommended to me.

I was introduced to Tara Brach’s work with her powerful book,
Radical Acceptance

And she spoke of something radical, indeed for me.  It was something I had never tried before, which was to say “yes” to what I was feeling.

I had become pretty good at either making myself wrong for whatever strong emotion I was feeling, or taking my anger and throwing it other people around me, especially those closest to me. 

But making it ok?  Actually feeling it?  This was new.

My inner perfectionist had a running tape for years that anger that not acceptable, that I needed to have it all together, that if I showed vulnerability I would be rejected.

Does this sound familiar to you?

I remember when I was working at this one office, I would get waves of shock throughout the day, and tears would just start to flow.  In my best efforts to get though my day, I would take “bathroom breaks”.  I would close the stall, and let the tears flow.

My heart would feel like a tight ball, and physically hurt in my chest, and then I would practice saying to myself what Tara taught,
This too.

And as soon as I was accepting what was arising, and allow, the tight ball loosened.  It was a miracle.  I had thought nothing would stop the pain, and yet, actually allowing not only physically changed the sensation in my body, but began to grow something far more powerful,
Self trust

At a time when I was losing so much and dealing with the strongest emotions I had ever felt, here was a tool that was showing me I actually COULD feel them and be ok.

I was ok.

And if I allowed the feeling to MOVE and flow THROUGH me, instead of fighting it or attaching on to it, it changed.  The strong emotion would change.

Much like water.  Sometimes it’s a wave, and other times, it’s calm.  There is nothing to control here. Water is water, not good or bad, but just water.

Much like your feelings.

And as time went on, and I began to rebuild my life, the phrase changed a little to,
Even though I feel scared, I deeply love and accept myself.

Love and self acceptance.

Maybe I could feel my feelings and not beat myself up about them….maybe my feelings were leading me to cultivating something far more powerful in my life,
Compassion.

It wasn’t more fighting I needed to find my confidence…it was compassion.

Radical indeed.

After reading Tara Brach’s book, I found myself drawn to the powerful poetry of the 13th century poet, Rumi.  I would ride the NYC subway and lose myself in his beautiful words, dog-earring the poems that spoke most to my heart.

This one, not only was read several times to me, but has read to me by many yoga teachers, and just last week by one of my most inspiring Zen teachers, Hojin Kimmel.

Now, today, I offer it to you;

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-Rumi

As teacher Coleman Banks says,The poem’s core message is to be with whatever life brings to us. Whether it comes in the form of a a joy or a great difficulty Rumi encourages us to open ourselves to whatever life brings us – internally or externally.But whatever life throws at us, our attitude and commitment to greet it without fear or loathing, and with whatever subtle faith we can muster, allows us to become wiser, kind and more compassionate to self and others.

Allow.

When compassion comes forth, you can weather any storm, and stand in the waves, clear and strong.

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography

Homecoming

“What I really want to do is be a representative of my race, of the human race. I have a chance to show how kind we can be, how intelligent and generous we can be. I have a chance to teach and to love and to laugh. I know that when I finish doing what I’m sent here to do, I will be called home. And I will go home without any fear, or trepidations, wondering what’s gonna happen.”
– Maya Angelou

I have to tell you, last weekend my world was blown wide open. I saw Beyoncé’s Homecoming on Netflix.

Written, directed, and produced by the Queen Bey, the film documents the making of and live performance of her 2018 Coachella Show.

The first black woman to headline the infamous festival, she spent 8 months conceiving an original piece that was not only a love letter to her heritage, but an explosive night of empowerment.

Steppers, dancers, full orchestra, breakers, a baton twirler, back up singers, full drum line…..all on a massive bleacher.

Beyoncé created her own black university up on that stage; alive, proud, unapologetic, and celebratory.

And the film was rich with quotes from prominent black voices like Nina Simone, Toni Morrison, and one of the greatest female writers of our time, Maya Angelou.

I was SO inspired.

And did I mention she created this show after Jay Z cheated on her, a very difficult pregnancy, gaining a ton of weight, and birthing twins?

And none of it was sugar coated. Beyoncé was very open about her fears and doubts. She was raw, free of makeup, and struggling to learn choreography after a long hiatus.

So, we saw this juxtaposition of her dressed as Nefertiti, standing in her power AND sharing the road to this moment.
“I studied my history, I studied my past, and I put every mistake, all of my triumphs–my 22-year career–into my 2-hour Homecoming performance.”

Standing strong, standing confident and saying to the world,
Here I am.

What has stuck with me since seeing the film was when she said,
I wanted to make an environment where no one felt marginalized.

That last word went through me.
Marginalized.
Verb meaning – to place in a position of marginal importance, influence, or power.

Have you ever felt that?

Do you have something important to say?
Do you want to say this with your Art?
Have you struggled with HOW to do this?

I remember for years secretly wanting to be the lead, to create my own show. It had started young, starring in and directing my own version of the musical Annie when I was eight.

Then, choreographing an original ballet to Hans Andersen’s The Little Match Girl in high school.

And when I entered the professional world out of college, I started with guns a blazing. I was on fire, turning down work and working towards my biggest dream.

But over time and with so many rejections, I struggled. While I worked in my profession, I couldn’t seem to step out of the ensemble or playing supporting roles. I started to doubt if I “had what it takes”.

And then I lost everything, my marriage, my home, my car….and I questioned if I was still an Artist. 

But even through the deepest pain, I kept dancing. And I returned to writing. The Artist was still very alive.

So I hired a coach, because I wanted more for my life, and I created my one woman show, my company ZenRedNYC.

I had felt marginalized as a woman in my profession. I had felt I was a dime a dozen, and had to compete to survive. I felt I had to “be what they wanted” instead of spending my time figuring out WHO I was.

I had thought my recognition would come from someone else giving the green light, whether it was a director, or a casting agent, or a choreographer. I never imagined I could actually CREATE it myself.

After my divorce, I was sick of trying to be someone else, or that image of perfection I THOUGHT was going to get me cast and bring me the roles I wanted. Turns out, I had the right idea as a young girl.

I reconnected with that eight year old and took a leap. I started saying what I really wanted to say, raw and real. And to my shock, when I was vulnerable and real, it actually brought people close, AND it opened them to do the same.

Beyoncé moved me deeply because she created this show.

She didn’t wait for permission.
She didn’t ask if it was ok.
She created it herself.

And formed a family around her that shared her vision.

“I’m so lucky and grateful that I’m able to take all these crazy ideas and actually make it into something that heals people; that may spark vision in people, that shows them to dream big, that shows them that they are limitless. It’s possible. If my country ass can do it, they can do it.”

And you can.

It can be so easy to get caught up in believing the gatekeepers hold the reins, but what if you are more powerful than you know?

What if the reins are YOURS to take up?

If someone gave you a permission slip TODAY, and you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you do differently?

Art has the power to change the world, one beautiful audience member at a time.  You possess this, because you made a choice to be an Artist.  You made the choice to CREATE. And maybe it’s not even a choice…maybe it just IS.

Because all we have is today.  Your greatest point of power is the present moment.

So, what do you want to say?
What is the show that is dying to be birthed?

Is it a book
Album
Blog
Exhibition….

As Beyonce says,
You are limitless.

Stand beside the great women and men who have come before you to make this moment possible.

Step forward and share your light.

“Tell the truth, to yourself first, and to the children.  Live in the present.  Don’t deny the past…and know that the charge on you is to make this country more than it is today.”
-Maya Angelou