The Gift That Changed My Life

It was the worst Christmas of my life.

I remember getting out of the cab with my luggage and seeing my husband.  I had just flown back from a six week contract doing A Christmas Carol out at the Pioneer Theatre in Salt Lake City, Utah, and was still reeling from his Thanksgiving proclamation he no longer loved me anymore.

He had basically refused to go into it over the phone, so here I was back home….praying this could be saved.

He greeted me at the cab, and every muscle in my body tensed.  As he helped me with my bags, I thought…could there be a miracle?

When I walked into our home and saw he had actually decorated, a surge of hope came up in me, but underneath was something far darker.

This may look like Christmas from the outside, but it was not reflective of our truth. Yes, there were lights and a tree….but they were covering up immense pain.

Actually, this was the real reflection……pretty lights covering up something that was, and had been broken for years.

I went into the bedroom, and curled up into a ball and began to cry.

 

With everything falling apart, we didn’t travel to see family, so on Christmas morning, we woke to each other, from separate beds.

Christmas day had always been a day of great celebration.

As a child, my parents would have my brother and I wait while the lights were turned on, and we would rush down the stairs to see what Santa brought.

There would be music playing, my parents standing by the tree with arms open, and Santa hats on their heads.

Christmas morning was always filled with LOVE.

This Christmas I woke up in great fear, anxiety and pain.  I prayed for a miracle.  I prayed that the day would end this nightmare, and we would have a happy home again.

Everything felt upside down.  We were exchanging gifts and all I wanted to scream out was,
Why are you giving me this if you don’t love me anymore??

My stomach turned with confusion and anger with everything he gave me.

Thankfully, there were other gifts there.

I opened one from my parents, and soon was holding in my hands beautiful black binoculars.

For years, I had gone on hikes with my parents and borrowed theirs when we were bird watching, so they had finally bought me my own pair.

So that I could see on my own.

I held them for a moment, feeling something very different building in me. A different view.  Turning them over in my hands and bringing them to my eyes, I realized I could see farther.

Farther than my small living room in Queens, and my immense pain.

 

Have you ever been in a really challenging situation in your Art?

Have you felt the dark cold of rejection, and loss?

What’s more, has this happened during a time when everything and everyone around you is celebrating?

It can be so difficult to put on a “show” or a happy face when inside everything is falling apart.

And we feel this deeply as Artists.

In fact, it affects our art directly, and our ability to attract our audience.

The holidays can be especially challenging as there is a pressure to be celebratory ALL the time.  So, what tends to occur is two extremes….
Extreme Jingle Bell Cheer
Silent Night Shut Down

Neither one is sustainable.  It’s the roller coaster. 

So, what do we do in these moments when our hearts are breaking? How do we continue in our work that is so personal and means so much?

 

This past week, I led my clients through a powerful Native American Medicine Wheel.

We began with our Successes, then made our way around the wheel to our Surprises, our Failures, and finally our Wisdom.

The wisdom was crucial, because it gave all of my clients the deep a-ha as to their next steps.  They left the call feeling empowered and excited for 2018.

What was most fascinating, was on the wheel, the wisdom comes OUT of the Failures.

We can only SEE the wisdom, when we take the time and space to see what didn’t work.

What is most key to this process, is a space free of judgement.

A space of love.

Do you have this?
Do you know how to create this for your Art?
Is anyone helping you with this?

That Christmas day, I had asked for a miracle, and it came.  It didn’t come in the form I expected, but as I turned over the binoculars in my hand, I was being given a new gift…one that had been sorely missing in my life.

The gift of sight.

Maybe there was a way to view this devastation and gain wisdom.  Wisdom that could lead me to action.  Lead me to a VERY different life…..one that wasn’t covering up pain.

In this life, the lights would illuminate everything.

 

OH MY GOSH!!!  He’s SO Beautiful!!

Staring in disbelief at a stunning Cooper’s Hawk just sitting in the tree above my head, I raise my binoculars to my eyes.

Taking in his long feathers, and golden stripes, I smile ear to ear.

Here, honey, take a look!

I hand my binoculars off to my man, watching his mouth open in wonder. I take in his beauty and form, and am overcome with gratitude for his presence and the love he has brought to my life.  Love I prayed for.  And my heart bursts with gratitude for this journey.

From failure to wisdom to action.

Five years later.

As my Zen teacher said to me back in 2013,
You are in the same room you were always in, but now the lights are on.

For this Holiday, I wish you the gift of sight .

Raise your binoculars.

What do you see?

Maximum Creativity

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My lungs feel as though they have shrunk and even taking a few steps is leaving me light-headed.

My inner dancer is screaming,  “I thought I was in great shape!”

Oh wait….I’m in the Andes Mountains.
I’m at 14,000 feet elevation.

That may have something to do with these New York City lungs so accustomed to sea level.

I’ve never been here before. This is a whole new experience.

 

Where have you found yourself in a new situation feeling exhausted and breathless?

Maybe:
* A new class where you are overwhelmed with information
* A new project that will highlight your work on a larger scale
* A new environment or studio
* Standing in front of a full audience with a dry mouth and knees shaking

How did this affect your Creativity and the QUALITY of your work?
How did it affect your overall PERFORMANCE and your ability to commit and complete your project?

So many times we find ourselves out of breath and dizzy as we up-level in our Creativity. We desperately want to claim the Spotlight and be seen, but those lights can be so blinding.

Thankfully, there is a way to dim them and still achieve our Dreams.

And it came to be while I was breathless, birding in the Abra Malaga Pass in Peru.

 

Last week I was in the majesty of the Andes Mountains, staring at vast landscapes, in awe of the expansive power, and raising my binoculars to view 181 different species of colorful South American birds. The temperatures were in the low 30’s and I had five layers on top, and three on my legs. I resembled the stay-puff marshmallow man a little, but I was warm.

And I was breathless.

We were birding along the Abra Malaga Pass and had stopped at a Highlander’s house to see birds and also to have a quick tea break.

The landowner, Maxima, came out with her grandson, in traditional Peruvian dress…literally.

And sandals.

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Did I mention I was in five layers?
And breathless?

Maxima brought us warmed potatoes, fresh from her farm, and her three dogs trotted around us, tails wagging. She spoke happily to our local guide, Lucrecia, in Quechua.

Our group stared, jaws open at Maxima’s open toes and bare legs, as we held our piping Coca tea and warm potatoes.

How was she not freezing??

After our snack, we ascended her property to view hummingbirds and endemic species. The mountainside rose at a sharp angle and we slowly made our way up, huffing along the way, towards a patch of trees.

My father was alongside me and said,
“Make sure you are taking deep breaths at this altitude.  We are adjusting and want to fill our lungs with as much air as possible.”

I realized in that moment that I had been breathing shallowly, and immediately placed my awareness further down, opening my belly and slowing my breathing.  I felt immediate relief.

“Maxima has spent her whole life here, so she has more red blood cells.  That is what allows her to breathe with ease.”

OF COURSE.

My upbringing was much closer to sea level, and my home is directly on the water.

But here is where the human body is incredible…..we can adjust. I may have begun the week feeling the altitude, but it didn’t last, and every breath I took in deeply was changing my body chemistry.

I looked at my many layers, and started to ask the questions,

How much are we protecting ourselves?
Do we really know what we are capable of?

The Highlanders of Peru are a sturdy and strong people.  I looked at Maxima and saw my limiting beliefs around cold temperatures being blown out of the water.  She didn’t have frostbite, because her body had adjusted to her environment. It had created more red blood cells.

And her name?  Well…..she was living up to it.  Tending to her family, farm, her chickens, and her pigs.  She was at her full potential, in tune with her environment.

Maxima.

 

So, how do we deal with ELEVATION in our Creative Life?

First, we breathe.  But, we breathe deeply.  Take the moment to come back into your body and give it the oxygen it needs.  Stress breeds on tension, and is destroyed by the simple act of coming back to your breath, and dropping out of your whirling mind.

Secondly, we adjust.  A new experience can be so exciting.  It can also be a shock to the body, and leave us breathless.  So, allow the time, and also recognize that your body will adjust with repetition.  Your Creativity will adjust with repetition, and your glorious gifts will find their audience with repetition. When you feel stuck, it’s temporary.

We have to put ourselves in the NEW environment to grow.  This is where our “red blood cells” form….at the higher levels.  This is how we climb.

Your work wasn’t meant to stay at sea level, and we are far more capable and stronger than we ever imagined.

Wouldn’t you like to know what your Maximum is?

So, take a hike with me, breathe deep, and raise your binoculars to the sky.

The change is already occurring.