The Artist’s Practice

Can I get real ?  Overwhelm really sucks, doesn’t it?

Wouldn’t it be nice if Overwhelm was like a one shot deal where you experience it, and then it never returns?

Because when Overwhelm sets in, everything pretty much STOPS.

That feeling of joy in your process? STOPS
Creative Flow? STOPS
Inspiration? STOPS
Receiving the reward you desire? STOPS

Your whole head swells in mass confusion to a point where the ONLY type of input seems to be solitaire on your smart phone or binge watching the latest Netflix original.

And in the aftermath, you hear that voice in your head saying,
You did it again…
You’ll never succeed
No one wants your Art anyway
You can’t handle the spotlight

And there we are right up against a HUGE wall with flashing lights saying,
YOU ARE NOT ENOUGH

And how does this feel?
Is this helpful?
How is this working for you?

As my Zen teacher said to me,
Overwhelm is a kind of insanity.

So, how do we get sane and get off the crazy merry-go-round?

 

I’ll share with you, I have been feeling Overwhelm very deeply lately.

In the past four weeks, I’ve moved out of my apartment, moved out of the city where I’ve lived for over 19 years, set up a home, gotten engaged, and went through buying a car for the first time in my life.

Just a FEW life changes at once!

To say I needed some quiet time is a massive understatement.

Why? Because I could feel myself shutting down……..

So, I spent last weekend completely unplugged at a retreat on Manifesting Compassion at Zen Mountain Monastery.

When my teacher looked at me and a whole room and said,
Overwhelm is a kind of insanity

I felt it.
Intimately.

I thought of all I had on my plate, all that was important to me right now,
My relationship with my man
My clients
My tribe
My new home
Planning my wedding
Starting to try for a family
Learning how to be a car owner and take care of it
My health
Yoga and dance
Finding a new network of friends in NJ

SO much…..have you ever looked at all that is on your plate and wanted to go running for the hills?
So, what’s the answer?
What do we do when it’s all there and ALL important?

Sitting there intently listening to my teacher, he summed it up beautifully,
Let things stand in their place, one step at a time.

Practice the ground you’re walking on.

I frantically wrote these words down in my journal, my pen moving as fast as it could to fill the page.

What did this mean for me?

 

After the teaching session, we had dinner and an hour of silence.  My fiance was helping out in the kitchen, so I decided to go for a walk outside.

There was a light snow on the ground, and a path of stone steps leading up into the trees.I felt restless, and started to climb.  When I reached the top of the path, I felt torn.  I wanted to sit down, but didn’t see a place, so I descended again to a bench at the foot of the path.

I felt like a world was swirling inside me…dark and unknown.
I stared at the rising mountain in front of me, and watched birds land in the trees, their evening calls floating across the grounds.

And I checked in, asking
What am I feeling?

And what arose was,
I feel detached.

Instantly, I felt relief.
I felt something loosen.  The overwhelm started to lessen.

I heard my teacher’s voice saying,
Suffering can only arise in the GAP.  Get inside it.  Let things stand in their place, one step at a time. Practice the ground you are walking on.

I had detached in the overwhelm because I didn’t know how to move forward. I had stopped.

I’ve been given everything I asked for; an incredible man, a home, a car…..but what was not fitting was ME. It was my overwhelm, my frustration. In truth, it was me actually LIVING it.

It was hearing everyone’s congratulations and feeling ashamed at my overwhelm.  Why wasn’t I happy and at ease??

There was NO way I could know WHAT I would feel at this point in my life with all these changes UNTIL I was IN it.

Practice the ground you are walking on.

The answer lies in where you are now.
The ground you are on NOW, not before.

The former me, the single New Yorker isn’t helpful here. I’m changing, and the WAY I move forward, and end the Overwhelm is to practice where I am NOW:

Practice being engaged
Practice being a new homeowner
Practice being a car owner
Practice being a NJ resident

Not from OUTSIDE, but INSIDE, in the now.

One step at a time, with each standing in its place.

I was detaching because I was trying to approach these changes from who I WAS.
What I forgot is that change is constant, and who I was yesterday is not who I am today. I am becoming with every new experience.

And I can take a moment, take a breath now, and relax the perfectionist that wants everything neat and tidy. I can just practice…that’s ALL. Just practice…..what a relief.

And this is where Compassion comes in.

Because we are all human. We all do this.  Welcome to the party!

Compassion is your answer to Overwhelm.
There’s a reason you are shutting down.  Most likely you are trying to do way too many things at once, and you probably believe it all has to be perfect.  It all has to look a certain way.

But as you grow, as you receive acclaim, you are changing.  You won’t know what it’s like until you get there. ALLOW for this.

Practice the ground you are walking on.

Because this is where you create.
Not yesterday.
Not tomorrow.

Here.

 

So, check in.
What are you feeling?
What are you detaching from?

And let each thing stand in it’s place, ONE step at a time.
Release the perfection and what you felt it was supposed to look like. Come back to a beginner’s mind. All you have to do is practice.

Allow for the miracle, and watch your Art soar.

Overwhelm Relief For Artists

Do you sometimes look around you at all you have to do, and just want to go running the other direction?

Do you see a huge MESS in front of you, and just feel frozen?

Sometimes, it just feels easier to just binge watch the latest Netflix original, than to actually clear the clutter, because the question that always rises screaming to the top is…

What the HECK do I do first?
Where do I start?

This is ALL important, and ALL of it has to be done.

And yet, you feel completely unmotivated, shut down, and stressed.

Overwhelm comes in, has a party, and steals your precious time.

Projects go by the wayside, deadlines are missed, and you feel like you are just chasing your tail with your Art.

If only you had a magic wand….
Then you could just wave it, and everything would just go away and be magically done!

Sounds like a unachievable fantasy, right?

Perhaps not……

 

Last week my kitchen was a disaster site.

I moved into my new house with my man on Sunday the 25th, and then on Monday, my mother and I attacked the kitchen.

A phenomenal cook, the kitchen is really her place of genius.  Also, my mother is incredible at setting up systems and spacial awareness.  She can look at a space, and knows exactly what can fit there.  During this past move, I commonly referred to her as a packing ninja, and that still may be too soft a term for her talents.

I had my boxes from Astoria with my whole kitchen, and it was time to meld with my man’s, which had pretty much been a bachelor’s kitchen, so there was going to be a LOT of reorganizing, donating, and throwing out.

This was a HUGE project.

First order of business?

Take everything out of the cabinets and drawers.

Next, create piles.
Keep
Donate
Trash
Question mark as to whether to donate or trash

The peacefulness of the kitchen was replaced with absolute chaos. And this chaos spread over a very large space.

It looked as though every cabinet had vomited it’s contents onto the counters, chairs, dining AND living room.

Next we took out post it notes, and decided where everything was going to go.  We categorized and stuck the post it notes on each cabinet door and drawer to know where things would go.

With every cabinet door wide open, and white sticky notes everywhere, I could feel that moment of overwhelm hitting me.

Standing in the kitchen, I could feel myself starting to freak out, the tops of my large Uhaul boxes yawning wide open as if to demand,
Where are you going to put me, Nikol??

And a panic rising for HOW LONG was this going to take?
What was the best way to do it?
Could this just be DONE now?
What about all the other unpacking?

And then something magical happened.

I thought of you, and I knew what to do to overcome the overwhelm.
I knew exactly how to quiet the craziness in my head, and actually step out of feeling stuck.

 

My clients come to me all the time from a place of overwhelm.  It’s so common, we all do it!
And every time I meet them the same way,

I allow them to get everything OUT of their heads and hearts.

Then I chunk it down to ONE step.

ONE thing.

When it’s just swirling around in our minds, it can feel like you are going crazy, much like me believing my Uhaul boxes were yelling at me.

In the process of getting everything OUT in the open, then there is a powerful opportunity.

Your opportunity to prioritize.

Ask yourself, what is most important?

As Artists, we are idea machines.  It’s never a problem of creation, it’s what the HECK do we do with it, and what will actually help me to receive the acclaim I desire and allow me to make a living with my art.

So, take out a piece of paper, and write down everything you need to do for you Art.  Just let it all tumble out, messy and in any form.

Now,

* Categorize your tasks according to marketing, production, networking, etc.
* Within each category, ask what needs to be in place FIRST for each of these lists.  For instance, you will need content before creating a promo period for your next project.  Or you may need to do research FIRST to begin your newest crowdfunding.
* Get super clear on WHAT your end goal is.  Write this down.  Be very specific.  This could be,
Self publish a book
Book summer tour
Do a FB Live promo campaign
Crowdfund new album
Set up website for online sales

** And this is the most important…..ask yourself, What is My Vision?
What is most important to me as an Artist?

Look again at your tasks, and align them with your vision.  If your vision is to perform on global stages, but you have a task that’s associated with building a local network, place this to the side, and instead put your energy towards tasks that get you seen by more, whether that is international connections, or by building up your online presence.

Much like the piles I made with the kitchen, you are deciding what to:
Keep OR Trash

I have a very strong vision for my new home, one where the kitchen is a vibrant place of creation and health that will not only feed me and my man, but the family we are creating together.  Because of this vision, setting up systems and flow are paramount. It also meant that any kitchen tools that were unsafe were going to be thrown out or donated.

Connecting back to my vision really helped in that moment of overwhelm, once I remembered to chunk it down to ONE step.

So, I chose ONE cabinet and started to put things in it.
Then when that was done, I chose ONE other cabinet.

One step at a time, all towards my vision.

And my mother and I were able to get the kitchen set up in two days.

My panic for the amount of time lifted the moment I chunked it down, and connected back to WHY I was doing this in the first place.

 

So, what are you working on right now?

Once you lay out all the steps, and eliminate what is no longer necessary, what is left?

And what is ONE thing you can do today?

Chunk it down, and watch the magic unfold, much faster than you thought possible.

Turns out, you are powerful.