How to Find Calm in the Chaos

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Calm is possible in the Chaos.

And the way there is probably the opposite of what you would expect.

In our Creative lives, chaos can come in so many forms, and often feels like we have no control.  We pour our hearts into our work, and rejection can feel so personal.

I hear so many artists desire:
consistency
security
stability

So, it’s no wonder we begin to grasp tightly to the familiar, to what is known, and start to hold our work closer to our chest.

If putting ourselves out there time and time again was only bringing disappointment and rejection, why would we continue? We’ve been traumatized by the waves of rejection, so better to take a back seat.

But, are you truly getting what you want?
Are you where you want to be in your Creative Life?

Maybe there is a better way…..

I recently sat wide-eyed in a dark movie theatre, fingers reaching eagerly into my popcorn bag as I awaited Pixar’s new movie, Finding Dory.

Before every feature presentation, Pixar always shows a animated short.  Though short in length, these usually hold enormous depth. There is a reason they win the Oscar almost every year, and a reason billions of theatergoers globally support their work.

It’s humanity at it’s best.

As the opening scene began on the new short, Piper, my whole body filled with glee.  The film was about a sandpiper.  I’m an avid bird watcher, and I turned to my friends besides me and whispered excitedly,

This is made for ME!

What I didn’t expect was how TRUE that was.

Little Piper was afraid to come to the ocean’s edge. His mother coaxed from the shore, and finally Piper joined his mother to learn how to forage clams on his own.

Unfortunately, a giant wave knocked Piper over, and soon he was ruffled, frozen, and petrified back in the safe grass.  He had been taken by surprise and he didn’t know what to do in the chaos of the waves.  He didn’t know how to swim.

His answer? To stay on the shore.

But, Piper’s food source was at the ocean’s edge.  He couldn’t survive or grow in the grass.  The clams were in the ocean.  So, now he had a choice.

Gingerly stepping towards his fear, Piper was bowled over by a minute crab, running directly into the waves. Shock and disbelief widened Piper’s eyes, as he watched the small crab dive head first into the abyss.

How did he do that and survive? Well, the crab had a secret.

When the waves approached, he would just burrow himself in the sand.  He would ground himself, so the waves didn’t take over.

Piper tried this, and as the waves crashed over him, he opened his eyes in the midst of the chaos….and you know what he saw?

Beauty.

It was gorgeous beneath the waves. It was actually calm and peaceful.  And food was everywhere. What he thought waves were, was replaced by a new experience, one he felt free and empowered in.

Piper began to grab every clam in sight, gleefully pulling them up on shore.  He filled not only his belly, but the bellies of his whole Sandpiper family.

And his former fear? Washed away.
His chaotic mind telling him he had to stay in the grass? Calm and clear.

So, where are you hiding in the grass?  
Where have you decided the waves are too much in your Creative Life?
When your mind begins to spiral, do you know how to ground and find your floor?

It took a tsunami for me to learn this lesson.  As I stared up at the movie screen, I remembered myself, gasping for air in the midst of complete chaos.

I remembered feeling like I was drowning in the face of my divorce, my heartbreak, and losing the life I had built for 19 years.  But, like little Piper, I too had a teacher who gave me the most powerful visual during that time.

Imagine yourself on the bottom of the ocean floor, looking up at the waves, and simply repeat,

This does not reflect on me.

This visual and mantra saved me.  It offered the beginning tools to silence, to stillness, and ultimately to my Zen practice, which grounded me. And you know what I saw from my ocean floor?

Beauty
Calm
Peace

I knew the only way was THROUGH.  The answer was actually IN the waves, not on the shore. I was not the chaos.  I was only observing it.

So, I ventured again and again….and I was fed, I grew, and so did my Creative Life.  Not only did I create a whole new life for myself, my performing transformed, and I took the risk of becoming a CEO.

I would have NEVER found that on the shore.

I would have never found you.

As Creatives, we are alive in that moment we are willing to try something new.  But we don’t leap headfirst with eyes closed and no awareness, we dive in with tools.

And it is in that moment of waves crashing over our heads, that we can ground and truly find what we have been wanting all along.  Look for the teacher, and open to the beauty of what you are really capable of.

Come take a swim…the water’s amazing. Piper and I can’t wait to see you there.

 

Now I want to hear from you!  How can you ground in the waves, and create a new experience? Share in the comment section below.

Stepping Into the Snow

Snow Drift Magic

I think the blizzard is over.

I turn the keys in my lock and step outside to a wall of white. There is still a wind blowing small flakes around, and I’m bundled with tall boots, hood, scarf and gloves.

This is the first step I’ve taken outside in over 24 hours, and in excitement I get out my phone and begin to film the wonderland.  My steps leading to the street have turned into a magnificent slope, arcing up as a solitary drift.

I step forward and watch my leg become engulfed to my knee. Beneath my foot is the first concrete step.

The only way I know it’s there is to feel it.

So I take another step, smiling with each deep footprint and slowly make my way up to the street.

For a Saturday night, it is so quiet. The street lights are reflecting off the newly made winter hills, twinkling on all angles.

I remember my childhood, sledding with my brother, gloves soaked from endless snowballs, and hot chocolate steaming between my fingers.

Hours before, there was a travel ban issued for all of New York City. Broadway was shut down, and millions of us watched the wind whipping snow sideways from our windows.

The city shut down.

In the quiet, I wonder if I’m the only person out on my street. It is midnight, but I just couldn’t help it.

Then I hear noises across the way, and see neighbors coming out of their homes, laughing and gingerly stepping into the large drifts.

Turns out being home-bound wasn’t the only shared experience.

They wanted to step into the snow as well.

And you?

Do you need to see the concrete beneath you to move forward?

Snow days used to illicit shouts of joy! There was play, hills to sled down, snow ball fights, and endless running outside. We were in the present moment, forming the snowman and crafting the ideal snowball for battle.

We lived for THAT moment, because it was a break from what we felt was ordinary, the grind, or what we felt was expected of us.

Imagine if you approached your creativity this way.

Imagine if you emerged from the storm and the shut down and looked at the steps ahead only for WHERE they are leading you.

We all have our stories to share and our expression only manifests when we allow it too.

We can wait until all the snow is plowed, or when we feel safe, or can afford better snow boots, but the truth is we will continue to make excuses, and live in a past failure.

The storm will continue, even though the snow has melted.

So, how about remembering your creative joy?
How about taking that first step, and plunging in?

Most likely, you will look up and see someone across the street who wants to share in your experience. And it could be that you emerging from your home gives them to courage to do the same.

Turns out they enjoy hot chocolate too.

 

Today I ran an errand in my neighborhood, and walked among several piles slowly melting in the afternoon sun.  They previously blocked pedestrians’ path for a few days, but now the concrete was exposed for clear footwork.

As I came up to the street, I saw two snow piles, and right down the middle, a path leading to the crosswalk.  A small stream of water was flowing to the gutter, and the way was clear.

I thought of you, took a picture, and then walked forward.

It was always there, even under the snow.
Snow path