Momentum

Oh, for the sake of momentum
I’ve allowed my fears to get larger than life
And it’s brought me to my current agendum
Whereupon I deny fulfillment has yet to arrive

And I know life is getting shorter
I can’t bring myself to set the scene
Even when it’s approaching torture
I’ve got my routine

But I can’t confront the doubts I have
I can’t admit that maybe the past was bad
And so, for the sake of momentum
I’m condemning the future to death
So it can match the past.

-Aimee Mann

Keep moving.
Keep going.
Don’t stop.

This was what was playing in my head over and over again. 

I had my routine.

Snooze once or twice in the morning. 
Take a shower and listen to the radio.
Do some light stretching.
Warm up my voice. 
Set my hair in hot rollers and put on my makeup. 
Pin my hair into place, pack up my backpack with my audition book and dance shoes, and then grab my headphones and blast music into my ears as I walked out the door. 
Drown out the outside world, and then come home at the end of the day and watch 2-3 hours of TV.

Day after day.
Audition after audition.
Dance class, voice lessons, on camera classes.

Callback…..don’t book it.
Callback…don’t book it.
Callback….don’t book it.

I had come to New York City to be on Broadway, and come close SO many times, and yet it remained elusive as each year went on.

I worked in every other venue there was, Off Broadway, National Tours, National Commercials, Regional Theater, and yet…this was my ceiling.

I was so frustrated.

But I couldn’t stop.
I had to keep going.
I had to go to the next audition and the next, and keep up my classes, because that was what was going to GET me there.

There was great momentum behind me, and I wasn’t going to slow down.  Time was swiftly passing by.  I was approaching my late 30’s and freaking out.  And what was playing over and over again in my head was a record saying,
You should have BEEN there by now.

My marriage was falling apart, but I had to keep going.
I was drinking too much, but I had to keep going.
I was trying to get pregnant and it wasn’t working, but I had to keep going.

Until it all fell apart.

In one year’s time, everything I knew of my life changed.  I went through a divorce, was robbed twice, lost a dear friend to a heart attack, and was in two car accidents.

I didn’t work in my profession. There weren’t any Broadway auditions.  No one was calling, and even if they did, I was a mess.

I remember going in for a regional production and having to sing the classic ballad, My Funny Valentine.  The words choked in my throat, and I barely made it through the song.  The casting director knew I was going through a divorce and came out after to give me a hug.  Everyone in the biz knew, I was so embarrassed, and I thought,
Will I be able to sing again?
Will they ever hire me again?

The momentum of my life came to a screeching halt, and something radical came in.

Silence.
Quiet.

I started asking for help, and found Zen Buddhism which taught me that,
Change is constant. Nothing is permanent.

I started to meditate, took the headphones out of my ears, and truly took the time to ask,
HOW did I get here?
What led to this?

I stopped snoozing my alarm, and found I actually had time.
Time to understand the WHY and HOW of my journey.
Time to face my doubts and fears, and actually transform them.

And time to wake up and make new choices.

I realized I had been condemning my future to look JUST like my past, by not stopping and actually asking the question,
Why am I here?

And when I finally had the support to ask this in a loving way, and had skillful guidance to move forward, my life transformed.

I started singing again, and sang the best I had in my whole career.
I booked a ton of work.
And the industry now saw me for ALL of who I was, and most importantly, they saw me for my strength, not the ordeal I had gone through.

The fear that I would never “make it” literally disappeared, and in it’s place was just inspired action and creating a new life that fulfilled me.

I stopped chasing the dream, and instead woke every day to create it.

So, what is your routine?

What have you decided will just “always be”?

Complacency can be deeply destructive, and rob you of your confidence, and the longer we try to shove our fears and doubts under the bed or into the closet, the larger they become.

They don’t go away until we acknowledge them.

And that begins with the single most important tool you can cultivate to create change,
Compassion.

We first have to FEEL the disappointment in order to transform it to powerful action.

We can’t skip over this step, because it’s always running underneath and playing out in subconscious ways.  It’s playing out in your small audience, in colleagues who are untrustworthy, in low-balling your prices and never asking for what you are actually worth.

So, what if this momentum is purely driven by your actions?
This is great news, because it means you have the ABILITY to stop it.

You have the ability to CHANGE your actions.

You have the ability to make different choices.

What if your future could look different than your past?

Start by acknowledging it and allow it to be a teacher.  Allow your past actions to point to what hasn’t been working, and most importantly, accept this with compassion. This isn’t about making you wrong or bad.

There is no problem here.
You are just waking up, and that’s when you access your power.

Today is a new day, one you have never lived before.

With compassion and skillful guidance, stop and ask,
How did I get here?

The answers are within you, as is your greatest power.

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography

Knowing When You’re Ready

Do you feel ready for incredible success with your career?
Do you feel stuck on how to get there?

Do you look at where you want to be and feel you are doing everything you can, but are just not making your way up the ladder to the success you want fast enough?

Sometimes, it can feel like you are staring up an endless flight of steps that seem to go on forever.  I imagine that can be overwhelming!

And there is so much TO DO to actually “get there”, right? There are all these steps you know you have to take, all these things that have to be in place BEFORE you can stand confident and truly claim your dream!

It’s that place you see in your mind where you’ve MADE IT!

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just leap ahead and just get there already?

I get it.  When I first moved to NYC and started auditioning, I wanted to book my Broadway show right away!  And when I didn’t, then I knew it meant I wasn’t “ready”.  So, I took classes, and lessons, and kept working at my craft, believing that if I worked hard enough, then I would be ready.

Sound familiar?

With each rejection, a deep belief started to form, as I watched my peers book their Broadway show, which was,
I’m not ready.

So, I held myself back, and went back to what I knew…doing the same hard work and just HOPING it would change.  Staring at the endless steps, I just kept going.  What I didn’t realize was that I was stuck on the same step again and again.

When everything did change, it certainly wasn’t the way I thought, and I realized there had been a HUGE piece missing.

When I went through my divorce and lost everything, I found myself meditating for the first time in my life.  In the midst of such chaos and grief, it truly saved me.

The beginning instruction for Zazen, the Zen form of meditation, is to count your breath.  When a thought comes in, you see it, release it, and then go back to 1, counting up to 10.  When I first began, I cried almost every time I would sit, and the counting was a lifeline.  It gave me a structure to come back to, and a way to deal with the constant panic and heartbreak I was feeling.

I found comfort in the counting, and my mind started to calm.  While I watched other practitioners and formal students drop the counting, I just kept with it.  I wasn’t ready for that!

My life was changing, I found my true voice as an Artist, found full time work I loved, and then met my now life partner.

And every day, I sat to meditate, and counted my breath.  1, 2, 3……..some days I went back to 1 many times, and others I made it to 10 easily.  I stayed on the step of counting my breath, because I believed that was where I needed to be.

Last weekend, I went to a Half Day meditation sit.

We had the opportunity to have face to face teaching, and I jumped up right away.

What typically happens is you enter the small room, and sit in front of the teacher and say your name and what your practice is, so I entered and said,
My name is Nikol and my practice is counting my breath.

And before I could then ask the question that was burning in my heart, my teacher looked right at me, and said,
How’s that going for you?

Caught a little off guard, I stammered,
Oh! It’s going well!

And then he asked,
Do you have a daily practice?

I answered quickly,
Yes!

My teacher smiled and said,
You’d be surprised how long it takes some people to make this a daily practice.

I was about to reply when he dropped the smile and said,
I want you to drop the counting.  Don’t try to control it.

My eyes widened, and I was a bit in shock.  This was NOT what I expected was going to happen today.  I didn’t think I was ready to do that! 

So, after the teaching was complete, I grabbed my cushion and returned to the Zendo, where everyone was sitting and meditating.

I could feel a panic rising in me.
No more counting.
Wait….that means that I’m JUST with my breath?
I was terrified.

I started to cry, and sat back down.  I saw the thought, let it go, and then something magical happened.

In the place of the counting was just SPACE.

SPACE.

And I realized I was relaxing on a level I hadn’t before.
Because there was NO counting. There was no structure.

Just my breath.

And I realized how the counting had become a crutch.  It was actually holding me back.  I had been on the same step again and again for the single reason,
I didn’t think I was ready.

Thank goodness my teacher knew I was. Because without his guidance, I would STILL be on that step, and probably wondering why I was having so much trouble relaxing.

Growth doesn’t happen in comfort.

Much like the minute we take off the training wheels, or take off the floaties and swim without help, it allows us to see we are actually CAPABLE.

I remember Broadway choreographer Patti Wilcox saying to me in class one day,
I want you to always take class standing in front from here out.

She saw something in me, and she knew I was ready.  Without her guidance, I would have stayed in the back for years.

I’ve heard so many people say to me,
I’m not ready.

But the truth is, confidence comes from the new action you take.

You can only see to your limitation, so the vital ingredient here is a guide, someone who knows your dreams, who is tracking your efforts, and is skilled in what is necessary for you to grow.

Growth doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and it definitely doesn’t happen alone.

The largest lesson I learned in my face of my divorce was to ask for help.  But not just ANY help, help from specific guides who got me,  and who could really help me. I would never have decided to launch my business and successfully go full time without a coach.

And I would never have dropped the counting.

The part that is the largest miracle is I’ve been struggling lately with how to release more control.  This was actually what I wanted to ask my teacher about.  And even before I could share that, he offered me the action that would give me exactly what I needed.

Turns out I was ready.

And what about you?
What step have you felt you’ve been in for years?
Do you have a guide?

What if you are ready to go to the next level?
Is someone seeing you as capable and offering guidance?

We don’t grow alone.

Your success will unfold when get out of your own way, and you come back to being a student. 

We do this together.
You are far stronger than you think.

Surround yourself with guides that see this in you.

And then take the next step.
You’re ready.

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography