Endless Source

Do you feel like your creative juices have dried up?

Do you feel tapped out and have no energy for new ideas?

I get it!

There is so much that is needed to be a successful today, and with the industry having less and less gatekeepers, then a lot more of the work lands on us as the drivers for our content.

There’s
social media
Blogs
Promotion
Booking
Networking…

It can be so exhausting!  I imagine you would really love some SPACE and TIME right now, so you could just relax and connect back with your muse.

You’ve probably noticed that when you are super stressed out and not getting a lot of sleep, she disappears.

So, how do you keep up with the demand of your audience, keep up with creating new and exciting work that allows you to stand out AND take care of yourself?

Because it’s not about burning the candle at both ends. But in the moment, it can feel like there’s no other option.
So, how do successful Creatives do it?

Twice a year. in my Zen community, we enter into Ango.

Ango means peaceful dwelling, and is a 90 day intensification of Zen practice.  During these 90 days, you make commitments to increasing your practice, participating in retreats, and taking up study around a theme.

Something that really resonated with me when I found Zen, was an integral part of the process is Art Practice.

And for this Ango, the Art Practice is the Illuminated Journal.

A poem from Zen master, Eihei Dogen
Seeing Form with the Whole Body and Mind
Hearing Sounds with the Whole Body and Mind
One Understands Them Intimately

My amazing teacher, Hojin, wrote to all the participants with these beautiful words of instruction and inspiration:

This is not a journal in the sense of a personal, reflective diary, but live recordings of what we notice. It is an invitation to a journey of intimacy into the world.  It is seeing, hearing, expressing with the whole body-mind as we experience our lives.

You will need a blank book of some kind.  Bring it with you everywhere.  Any moment can be ripe.  You can notice fruits, vegetables, mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, buildings, plants, lamps, the moon, bugs, your children, friends and strangers and the weather.  You can notice the wonders of textures, colors, and patterns.  How do we keep meeting and discovering what is right in front of us that we may never noticed?  Come closer.  Come closer still.

Your illuminated journal can join words, poems, delightful descriptions with images, collage cut outs, swatches of pure color.

The illuminated journal form is very immediate – there is no time to analyze, consider or second guess.  Let your life dash through the pages and leave mysterious tracks behind!

I was so excited when I got this assignment for Ango, and right away went to my journals and found this beautiful blank one given to me by my client and brilliant photographer, Caitlin Cannon.

On the front?
Some kind of wonderful

I gathered all my colored pencils, and placed them in a basket and put the journal in my office, and then just took each day and began to translate.

Not only are the pages filling, but I enter my day differently.

Do I still have many things I need to do for my business?
Yes.
Do they still get done AND I write in the illuminated journal?
Yes.

For years, I didn’t participate in Ango because I always felt like I didn’t have the time. It felt overwhelming with growing my business and seeking my life partner.

Then, this Spring, I participated for the first time and found it actually didn’t take up nearly as much time as I thought.  And the most important part I noticed, was how differently I felt BECAUSE I participated.

I felt more grounded.
I felt more at peace.
I felt more connected to my life.

And I never lack for new ideas.

Even though my Fall schedule is very full, there was no question as to whether I would participate again.

It can be so easy in the fast paced life to think that our time with the muse has to be hours, or has to be sacrificed.

But, what if it’s not about long lengths of time?
What if it’s just a practice and a way of being for each day?

Today is a new day.
One you have never lived before.

What do you see?
What do you hear?

Life is happening all around you.

Where is your attention?
Are you spending all your time in the future worrying about what might happen?
Are you spending all your time in the past beating yourself up for past mistakes?

Your point of power is the present moment, and there is inspiration all around.

You don’t have to go far, all you need is to just come present to what is right in front of you.

And see what trails it takes you to.

May be a new story
A picture
A new song
A new dance
A new work.

Even as I write this and look out the window, there is a whole world alive outside.
The curve of a leaf.
The intricacy of the stones in my patio.
The breeze through the trees.

When we tap into what is right in front of us, we are actually tapping into something way larger.  In fact, we are tapping into an endless source.

What a relief!

So, come alive and open your eyes.
The muse never left. She’s been in front of you all along.

Illuminate.
You have everything you need.

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