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

Sweet Farewell

I wanted to tell you, I’m leaving.

Looking around my apartment, I’m envisioning packing up.  I’m thinking of everything that is coming with me, as I plan to move in with my man,  and begin a new life.

The decision has been made.  After 4 years in my special sanctuary in Astoria, I’m beginning the process to re-locate.

And the question that is arising is,
What am I bringing WITH me?

And what about you?

Have you ever gone through a big move, and packed up your things?
Have you ever gone through a big change and found yourself asking the same question?

I imagine as you are looking at all the items, and boxes, and lists, it can get really overwhelming.

If there was a way to strap everything to you,  maybe then you would have it all.

But, I imagine that would be really heavy, and cumbersome, and weigh you down.

Change can be hard enough, right?

How do we make it easy to navigate change and have everything we need as Artists?
How do we move forward without all the cumbersome weight?

 

Four years ago, I woke up in my hide-a-bed.  My brother was sleeping next to me, and I felt a sense of hope.

Today, I was leaving my married home for good. 

The new owners were taking it over, and my family was here to help me move my things to a friend’s for a month while I waited for my new apartment to open up.

I had barely slept, and had spent the last day breaking down every hour or so as I packed up my life.  Two of my closest friends had come to help me, hold me in between each wave of emotion, and physically help me to place tape on each box.

Today, we were taking all these boxes to a storage facility.  I had gone through and taken what I needed, and stayed true to the agreement.  I had survived each trigger, and now was going to walk out of this space of pain and loss.

I felt an extra bounce in my step, and hopped into the shower, smiling at my parents and brother, so grateful they were here.

When I came out of the shower, my mother looked at me, white in the face, and said,

Someone broke into your car. Your car door is open, and everything is gone.

I literally dropped to the floor in my towel, and had a nervous breakdown.  What had been in my car, was all the things I was taking to my friends house,

shoes
my audition book
my checkbook
my belts
clothes
legal documents
my meditation altar
my dance shoes

Even my underwear…..

All gone, just like that.

In the face of my divorce, losing my marriage, and now I had been robbed.  All of those things I had cherished were gone.

We called the cops, and somehow I made it through that day, and tried to wrap my head around the magnitude of change and loss that was occurring all at the same time.

This was my lowest moment.

The next day, at my friend’s, I sat in meditation, and saw a black lake in front of me.  I walked to the edge, and thought,
I could just dive in
I could lose myself forever in here

But, something held me back.  And I walked away from the edge.  I didn’t dive in, and instead turned back towards my life.

The strongest words I said in the face of my divorce came ringing back true and strong,
I want to survive.

What I never imagined was the GIFT of losing so much that day.  I was forced to provide for myself and go shopping that following week for very basic things, and the simple process of doing this brought to light the most empowering evidence,

I am capable.

Even more so, I was showered with gifts from friends and family who knew about my robbery.  One friend sent me a bag of clothes, and my aunt mailed me a box full of belts.

I rebuilt my altar, made a new audition book with songs that I actually wanted to sing, and found new shoes to fit my feet now.

The most amazing part was, my insurance reimbursed me completely for the $4K worth of goods stolen.

And I realized, I am provided for.

And there were things that didn’t need to come WITH me to my new life, post divorce.  Certainly not my underwear…..

 

So, take stock.

Grab a piece of paper, and write in the middle of the page,
MY CREATIVE CAREER

Now, create a Mindmap, drawing out from the center all the things you are working on right now.

All the things you think you need to have WITH you to succeed and receive the acclaim you desire.

Come back to center and ask this question,
What lives beneath all that I do as an Artist?

1) Are all the things you are doing and holding on to in SERVICE to that vision?

2) Or are you weighed down with boxes and items that are from your past and keeping you stuck?

Sometimes, it the action of releasing that ALLOWS for the new to enter in.

We create from our hearts.  This was never meant to be heavy work. But it does require courage, and inspired action.

 

This week I was on the phone with my mother, and talking about the upcoming move and starting to plan.  She suggested the most brilliant idea, and this woke me back up,

Make a list of what you are leaving BEHIND.

Oh yes…that’s right.

That moment on the floor was one of the most horrible for me and for my family to witness, and yet it opened a well of strength and reserve I had never accessed before.

The strength to let go.

And the belief that I actually had everything I needed.

This was a huge turning point for me, and allowed me to start building a creative life that was far more aligned than the one I was living before.

So, what lives beneath all you do?

Get intimate with this, and place it somewhere you can SEE everyday.  Come back to center.

Come back to your vision, and place your energy towards what will actually bring you the success you desire.

Make a list of what you are leaving behind, and release sweetly.

You create the life you want.

 

 

Photography by: Caitlin Cannon