The Magic of the Pause

Do you ever feel like there are just NOT enough hours in the day to get everything done?

So much is involved in being an Artist today, and it can feel overwhelming keeping up with social media, promotions, your friends and family, and then there’s the actual CREATION part…

You have this finite amount of time to
write the chapter
paint the canvas
choreograph the dance
plan out the show
edit your footage

So, what happens when you go to sit and actually DO your Art, and nothing comes?

Your mind is racing a million miles a minute going through a laundry list of To Do’s. You find yourself literally listing out groceries instead of being able to create.
Inspiration has gone OUT the window…

It can be so frustrating, right?

This is the FUN part!  This is the part we live for as Artists….so why does it dry up?

And more importantly, what can we do in that moment so we can actually create our best work and actually deliver to our audience?

How can we connect back with our Muse and feel that glorious flow again when we are so stressed OUT?

 

Last weekend I went to one of the most delicious and affirming workshops.  Led by master writing teacher, Christian McEwen, she led us in a one day retreat titled,
Learning to Pause.

In front of us, she offered a thick pad of drawing paper surrounded by colored pencils, pastels, and wax crayons.  One by one, we each tore a crisp sheet from the wire binder and were instructed to fold it in half.

On the left side, she wanted us to draw what a Frenzied State looked like to us.  Then on the right side, she wanted us to draw our state of flow and ease.

I had picked many colored pencils for the right side, but when I thought of the Frenzy, there was only one pencil that made sense…..
black.

The left side of my paper was colorless, marked by strong black circular shapes forming a huge exhausted eye, the lack of sleep and wrinkles in hard lines. I found myself drawing arrows pointing down, and black tear drops.  This was frenzy to me.  Black, colorless, heavy……a giant dragon eye drooping under the pressure.

Then, I picked up the colors and drew my place of inspiration.  Waves of water, rays of sunlight and energy, pulsing over smiling lips, and spirals in vibrant blues and purples.  Nature in all her glory, opening me.

I was struck by the stark contrast, and then Christian spoke about what happens in between.

Because this is the REAL question, right?

We all experience the tired black dragon, the darkness and hard lines in our life.  How do go from the frenzy to the flow?

The answer lies in the fold of the sheet we were drawing on, the crease we had formed from one to the next….

The answer is in the Pause.

It’s when we can stop all the insanity, and just connect back with the world around us.

Take a moment right now, and connect to your five senses.
What is the environment around you? Take in the details around you.
What do you smell right now?
Whirl your tongue around your teeth. What do you taste in your mouth?
What do you feel on your skin?
Close your eyes, and open your ears.  What sounds are around you?

And what happens in that moment when you place your attention on your single sense?

You come present.
The whirlwind in your mind takes a break.

And it’s in this break, this magical pause, that you re-set.

And in the re-set, the Muse comes in.

“Art is the means we have of undoing the damage of haste.  It’s what everything else isn’t.”
-Theodore Roethke

 

We can so easily forget how important a moment of pause is to our livelihood as an Artist.  This class was a huge reminder for me. I literally walked in 10 minutes late, breathless from booking as fast as I could to the workshop doors.  I felt self conscious, embarrassed, and frustrated.  This workshop was about Learning to Pause, and I was in a frenzy to get here!

Clearly I needed this……

Christian gave us 30 minutes to go outside on the Brooklyn street and noticed up to 8 things, writing a free form poem or short writing.

This felt like a huge gift.  I walked out, and found myself falling in love with so much on the street….a plastic cup, a worn out Toyota, a house sparrow chirping noisily in the tree….I realized inspiration was ALL around me.

And 8 poems emerged….in only 30  minutes.

Why?

I was taking the pause.  I was coming present.  There was no rush, AND I was open to take in my environment. All the other To Do’s fell away, and the Muse came in.  In fact, she had never left.  Now I was actually open to see her, walking alongside me on the concrete of Brooklyn.

J.K. Rowling conceived Harry Potter on a stalled train.  She was forced into a pause, and one of the most popular characters of our time was born.

And the beauty is, we all possess this ability.

And I want to be clear, this is not about disconnection or distraction. I’m not talking about binge watching or playing candy crush.

The pause is coming back to your actual experience NOW. It’s bringing your senses back on line; getting out of the monkey mind of your past and future fears, and actually taking IN your reality.

So what is that for you?
What is your moment of pause?

When you think of a sheet of paper with Frenzy on the left and flow on the right, what nourishes you?

Take out a piece of paper, and write these down.  Place them somewhere you can see them, and re-visit.  Place them by your instrument, or in your studio, or on an inspiration wall.

And now, give yourself permission to take a pause, today, and for this next week.

We need to return to the basics.

 

The Muse enters in when we take a pause.

So look up.
Smell.
Taste.
Touch.
Feel.

Your life is a miracle.

Take in the wonder around you…..then express what is most alive in you.

 

 

Photography by: Caitlin Cannon

Festival of Light

Festival of Light

Shoulder to shoulder, we looked up to the brick face of the Manhattan Bridge. Shapes bounced off in varying degrees of color and light, growing and expanding with each installation. A giant ball of equations grew past the boundaries marked by the bridges’ walls, and several columns of white beams shot skyward to an endless darkness above.

Dumbo, Brooklyn was transformed into a playground of color for the first annual New York Festival of Light last weekend. I felt a childish wonder gazing upon all the installations, and the creativity. Though crowded, I felt at ease in this community, taken in by the art and excitement of a new experience, and the shared energy and appreciation for the event.

We followed the masses into the Manhattan Bridge tunnel for a show, creeping slowly, herd-like, to replace the large crowd that had just been there. It was body to body and all heads turned towards a small stage.

Standing on the stage, motionless, was a man dressed in a full-body suit of reflective squares. Every inch was covered by small mirrors, from toe to finger to head, and he stood, feet placed in parallel, hip distance apart, fully still.

The music began, and lights turned to shine onto his suit. I could see his breath leaving the fabric in small puffs of steam rising from his metallic face, creating a halo of illuminated air. He slowly raised his arms, moving deliberately, mindfully, as beams of light shot out from every orifice. From his center, lines of white grew in every direction, beginning thin, and growing with intensity. As he made his way to face upstage, turning on his axis, the lights changed and he had a sea of stars in front of him. He gently shook, and the lights bounced off the back wall, the brick, and the ceiling of the tunnel, as though he controlled the very cosmos he had created.

Returning to his front, the lights intensified to create a blinding white shape, encasing him, glowing like a pillar, and the question arose in me:
Was the light coming from him or being reflected?

What is our inner light?

What do we receive that nourishes us and how does that manifest in our energy?

I’ve experienced the visualization of a “light bath”, closing my eyes while seated, and seen a light pouring over me, my shoulders relaxing, and my breath slowing.  I have felt this energy through the top of my head and allowed it down my spine, into my feet.

I have also felt my heart beating, and heat rising, emanating out of me from within.  I’ve visualized a “ball of light”, under my hand at my belly and felt it grow with each breath until it has covered me, forming a beautiful protective ball with the tiniest holes so that only what serves me can pass through.

In both, there has been a connection to a source of light, whether external or internal, but both have processed through my body and resulted in the simple power of trust. Trust that I have everything I need, and this is a reminder I come back to again and again.  Lightness has a pair, and it is easy to forget in the dark that one doesn’t exist without the other.  Even more so, what we emit can affect those around us.  When the choice is before us, what do we connect to?

I had the joy of dancing in a fabulous video project called “Public Displays”, under the direction of Mike Kirsch.  It was shot on the Upper West Side, with six men and six women, and was based on the simple belief, “Everyone should hold hands with the one they love.” The tone was playful, and the music infectious, but the message was powerful.

In offering the visual of kissing, holding hands, and being public about this, lines disappear around gender, and relationship bias.  Quite simply, the statement is human, and the ability to be in public and show affection with whoever you want is the gift, and a commonality we can all share.

When I picture the beams of light surrounding the performer on the stage under the Manhattan Bridge, or I feel my palms pressing into my fellow dancers’ hands around Riverside Park, I remember sitting and feeling my heart and the growing warmth of my belly.

Art can be an incredible vehicle, expressing our depths, and our stories.  It can expand off a brick facade, or move people to action through dance. We can embrace, and we can offer, all under the same glorious light that flows from within and from all around. While there have been many names under this definition, I think I’ll keep it simple, as I raise my arms or wrap my fingers in kind:

Love.

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