Your Artistic Fairy Godmother Grants You Permission

“Dream and give yourself permission to envision a You that you choose to be.”

-Joy Page

This past week, I have been devouring Elizabeth Gilbert’s Podcast Magic Lessons. Although there have been no new episodes since 2016, I easily have listened to half of them in the past week. What is interesting about these episodes, is artisits of all sorts contact Liz with their creative dilemmas. Poets, comedians, writers, dancers, graphic designers all inquire her with their current stuck points in their creativity.

Godmother Liz will listen with an empathic heart. Often times she has felt their pain, because their issues are universal. How do you have the courage to share your work with a bigger audience with the possibility of not being embraced? How do you shift your creativity with age to bring you pleasure versus a paid audience? Can we welcome rejection and failure with open arms? Is it possible to quiet our own inner critic (or as Liz calls him inner terrorist) to allow creativity to flow ? Can we allow ourselves to make bad art?

Liz then offers personalized homework for them to accomplish in a span of weeks or months. In between the follow up conversation, Liz contacts leaders in the field to pick their brains about solutions to their creative struggles along the way. Dissecting creativity is so interesting to me. Not just the method of how to create art, but how to continue creating art despite barriers we or society place on ourselves. What is offered to these callers, is wisdom gained through years of experience, mishaps, and pain.

There was one particular episode (Episode 208 Leap Into the Fire), which stood out for me. The caller’s name was Hope, a poet from Ohio. Perhaps I have a kindred link to her, because that is my hometown state. Hope has begun performing her poems at open mic nights, but have not yet branched out to poetry slams or sent her poetry to journals for publication. What was stopping her was fear of failure. The expert Liz called in was infamous life coach Martha Beck.

Stepping into our fear was made parallel to the metaphor of stepping into the fire. Beck stated, “Go into a fire, if it celebrates you or warms you, more power to you. Find the next step that’s frightening and go into it. If it scorches you or burns you or it consumes you utterly, then you find a kindness that is so great that it can encompass the burning and from that kindness your poetry will start to ring to other people’s suffering and that’s art.”

Beck discussed with Gilbert the low and difficult times we face as humans. Sometimes it is at our most darkest moments, we are “left crying in a fetal position on the bathroom floor.” It is from this dark point that we start to unravel the self love and kindness, which is necessary to step into this next phase of our lives. If you are willing to walk toward what you fear, you will gain strength even in failure. And if that raw suffering and bravery is expressed through your art, people will relate.

We all have been there at those darkest moments, and people forget this. People believe they are suffering solo on their misery. But artists remind us, we are not alone. They help lift us up through their wings of song, dance, books, poems, paintings, jokes, or whatever the modality may be.

The metaphor was explored even deeper. We fear the fire because we feel it will not only deeply wound us but kill is. Beck adds, “Everytime you go into the fire, you come out with a new life. And it’s better than the last one.” We must die to give birth to a more fierce, courageous, and creative self. This happens continuously, if you are willing to take the chance.

What Liz and her creative gang are doing are giving people permission to walk into the fire. Take the chance to create.

Liz reminded Hope of the freedom she has to share her poetry with the world. For generations, the women in Hope’s family didn’t have a voice due to their role of being overburdened with having numerous children to care for or due to a lineage of slavery. Liz stated she reminds herself frequently to take the chance for the women in her family who never had the opportunity or voice to have a presence in the world. “That’s a tax I am willing to pay to be a woman who presents her soul’s work into the world. In honor of those who never could and those who still can’t. “

I highly encourage you to listen to the entirety of the podcast. Reflect on what your fears are currently, whether creatively or simply in your life at this point in time. What’s stopping you from taking that step?

And now here’s your chance, leap into the fire.

Link to podcast episode :

Patience: the companion of wisdom

Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears. Barbara Johnson

As I warmed up to teach yoga today, I felt slightly hyped up and a need to release stuck energy. I played Fiona Apple in the background. Generally I practice and teach with no atmospheric music. Therefore listening to fiery Fiona as a warm up probably acclerated me to high gear too quickly. I flowed through some quick sun salutations, a pincha mayurasana (forearm stand), prep for handstand, and I felt warmed up for sirsasana (headstand). Perhaps I got a little too excited, because as I positioned myself into headstand something went wrong. I cared more about getting my feet in the air, than the transition into it. I felt the moment when too much pressure was placed at the top of my head instead of the majority that should be on my forearms. Yoga injury in the making. Automatically, It limited the range of movement in my neck.

I am a yoga teacher, I should know better. But I am still human, and got ahead of myself.

Because I am a yoga teacher, I am not free from injuries. They still occur. Perhaps there is a greater awareness at the moment it happens. I knew right then, this was bad and to slowly transition out of the pose.

I have the knowledge of how I can prevent or deter this, as I encourage my students to take it slowly. St. Augustine once said that “patience is the companion of wisdom.” Today I was lacking that wisdom.

I take responsibility for my injury, but I blame it on feeling rushed. There were little things that were exciting me. My car has been fixed after a week of being in the shop. My Cambridge Satchel purse has been mended after three weeks of being sent away. My energy is returning after having a weekend off. But today I needed to slow it down.

Errors, injuries, and missteps occur when we are impatient. Injuries serve as a reminder to our bodies that we must transition with intention. Each minuscule movement is felt with every turn of my neck.

This is the second time I have done this in a headstand, although it has been several years. This neck tweak is also a reminder that I need to allow myself the privilege to slow down and take care of myself. I have been on the go for weeks, serving others. Perhaps it is time to go inward. Self soothe. Reach out for help. A trip to the acupuncturist is most likely in my near future. Physical ailments are our bodies way of talking to us that we need to decrease the pace of our lives.

Injuries also heighten my awareness of other people’s physical limitations. My empathic radar is on high beam. When people’s faces may grimace in my classes from a slight movement, I am there. It serves as a reminder how to honor where our bodies are at today.

It may be helpful for you to take some reflection time after your next injury, however big or small. What are the lessons I can take from this? How can I hold compassion for others at this time? How can I offer compassion and love to myself ? Breathe in the opportunity and space that has been made available for you to slow down.

The two most powerful warriors are patience and time. Leo Tolstoy

Comfort in my artist friends

“Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.”-Pablo Picasso

Yesterday I went to visit Banksy. No I don’t know who Banksy actually is or how many people may constitute Banksy. But I visited Banksy’s work, and I felt comforted in that. I feel the same way when I visit any artists’ work.

It’s like getting coffee with an old friend. There’s an ease and familiarity that exist when I visit a favourite artist’s piece. I have seen this person’s work in various museums, art galleries, or walls throughout the world. It always delights me when I go to a museum and see a Rodin or a Picasso. I travelled numerous miles and they are waiting for me in the gallery.

I may be a stranger to a country, visiting alone, and not being able to talk to a soul due to language barriers. But these pieces of art can communicate to me. I’m not alone when I am with them. There are certain artists I connect with more than others…Rodin, Picasso, Dali, Kahlo, Banksy. These would be my five closest friends. They seem to speak to my soul a little louder. Although I have never taken an art history class, I still find joy in recognizing artists’ work that I am only vaguely familiar with. There is such pride when I can name a Monet, Degas, or Cezanne.

If i visit a gallery alone, I will actually take time to sit down and simply gaze at the pieces. My journal will be pulled out and it’s our time to reflect together, dream, or simply be. Being surrounded by greatness therefore inspires greatness in my life. And I want them in my environment.

Museums can be draining for me, not because they are boring but the opposite. There is so much there, it blows my mind. And therefore it’s nice to simply pick a few pieces to converse with.

My questions I may ponder with an artist internally are …

What were you thinking when you did this piece?

What did your creative space look like?

Who was the muse? Who is my muse? Who am I a muse for?

Who was in your creative support system?

What else am I missing here?

The questions no doubt are endless. And the images stay with me for the week. After seeing an admirable piece of work, there is a tiny nudge that seems to push me to create something. I don’t always allow space to listen, but today I hope I do.

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”-Thomas Merton

Angels in Disguise

“Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.”

This quote entered my head this morning, after a stranger drove by and gave me friendly Sunday morning smile. Initially I was unclear where I had heard it, or why it was arising right now. But it began to make sense.

It is strangers that comfort me in some of the most difficult times. The other day my car completely broke down at work, it would not shift to reverse and the electrics on the dashboard went blank. Someone assisted me for two hours, ensuring I got the support required , transported me with where I needed to go, or reminded me who I may need to call. He wasn’t 100% stranger, I had seen him before. But he was a stranger to me. The process of getting a car fixed, towed, and an appointment at an auto shop took at minimum four hours of phone calls and days to complete. It was insanely stressful, but so beautiful how this stranger and then later other colleagues assisted or showed how they cared.

I am always surprised who assists in times of need. And aren’t we all called upon that from time to time to be there for other humans?

We don’t always recognize the magnitude the smallest gesture we make to anther can do. A smile can go a long way, as does holding the door, or being present when having a brief conversation.

Throughout the day it is easy to get caught up in thinking only of ourselves…our issues, plans, lists, worries. We are so preoccupied with our own internal worlds that we forget we have the potential to be there for another. Taking the time to be there for another is a valuable skill we all are capable of.

How can you express this to another today?

Ps the quote was taken from the upstairs walkway at the Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris.

Gaze towards the open door

“If God closes a door AND a window, consider the fact that it might be time to build a whole new house.” -Mandy Hale

I heard this quote above from a recent podcast (see the link below). A listener contacted the host questioning why God is closing doors on her. The discussion centered around how our life purpose may not be what we think. Yes, there are struggles in life, but if we are aligned with our life’s purpose, doors will open.

The problem lies in if we are focused on specifically one door instead of many.

Sometimes we may become too attached to what that life purpose looks like. We may be using microscopic vision for what our “job” must exactly be, or the city we must live in, or the partner we must have. In reality, perhaps we need to broaden our horizon through a wide lens camera. The essence in how we serve others may look different in reality, than as it appears in our heads.

Or maybe you have grown out of your current situation.

Who is to say that we are supposed to stay at this one specific job/city/person for a lifetime? It fit for that specific amount of time. We learned the lessons and skills from this experience, but perhaps this must end to allow another opportunity in.

The podcast offered another quote by Helen Keller, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

These words of advice have been ruminating in my head, because I have friends who are currently undergoing transitions with jobs, cities, and relationships. At our most difficult times, these changes are forced upon us. We may look at the experience differently of we are the ones taking the initiative to change, but when we have no choice, we feel powerless.

But we can reclaim the power.

I often ask myself, am I too attached to my dreams that it keeps me from appreciating the possibilities? Being so attached to the ease and joy of my current life keeps me from dreaming bigger. Sometimes we need a push to catapult us to the unthinkable. What does the lay of the land look like outside our comfort zone? Are we willing to allow ourselves to peak at it?

Below is a link to the podcast of 48 days:

Communication Breakdown: what to do when you don’t have WiFi

My WiFi has been down the past week in my home. I’ve tried to not let it bother me, as I thought it would remediate itself. I had also gone away for the weekend. My hotel also did not have WiFi. My DVD player stopped working. Also did I mention I have no cable ? What was i to do with extra time? The world was giving me a major hint. Take a break from technology. Stop trying to fill my world with background noise, and simply be present. This is easy to do for one day, but days? I finally caved and called the internet company, they sent out a technician today. The result: two additional weeks without internet.

Although this maybe a great tragedy among some, I will survive.

In the meantime, I have been focusing on tasks that have been put off for months… cleaning the leather of a purse, paint my toenails, going into town to sort out business with the city council, writing thank you letters. It’s easy to simply drown out the world. Accumulate more stuff , more useless knowledge about television shows, movies, or random facts online. But we just become inundated. We don’t even realize what we have, because it’s covered up with things that are unnecessary.

We are always in a rush, but for what? We want to be constantly occupied, but why? I had heard on a recent podcast the importance of allowing ourselves to be bored. Boredom breeds breath and creativity. We need space to create. We need to wonder. So many times if we don’t know an answer to a question, we are quick to find the response on google. But what about living in the unknown?

This weekend when traveling, one of my favorite travel purses broke. I was frustrated but not attached. I wanted to throw it away, but instead brought it to the store I purchased it from. I showed them the damage, they encouraged me to bring it to the flagship store in London to see if it could be fixed. I mentioned I planned to throw it away, they looked at me in surprise. “No! See if it can be mended.”

Concurrently, today I finally allowed myself the time to clean under my bed. What did I find? My dog’s teddy bears, excess bed pillows, and this amethyst ring. It’s not an expensive ring, I barely recalled it. I never even knew I lost it. I have so much stuff, I wonder if I even value it? And so today as I waited for the WiFi repair person to come to my house, I will to continue to clean, discard, and wonder.

Purses, rings, information…there are numerous things I (we) have excess of. It’s been said we are overloaded with information, but are lacking wisdom. We have access to so much stuff, that it lessens the value of what we hold. But can we step back, release the grip on wanting more and simply appreciate what we have?

Additionally, I have been allowing myself to talk with old friends. There are occasions we fill our lives with acquaintances, and free time at home is spent binging on Netflix. Since I didn’t have access to this, I was able to reconnect. I feel this is an ongoing process that I need to continue to remind myself of….what matters in my life.

Sometimes the world forces us to pause, and take stock. Even if it is simply though a WiFi breakdown, anything can be viewed as an opportunity to pause and reflect, before you proceed.

The 4-year-old wisdom in us

Listening to a podcast interview of Yo Yo Ma, the world renowned cellist, I had a flashback. At the age of 4, he dropped the violin classes and went for cello. Through a negotiation with his parents, he wanted to play an upright bass after seeing it in the Paris Music Conservatory. They compromised on a cello. At the age are we closest to knowing what we innately want? I recalled one of my earliest memories of wishing on a star to become a ballerina. I had this wish, but did not take any action steps. To this day I never have taken a ballet class in my life. I did not start taking dance classes until my 20’s when I was in graduate school.

I’ve always enjoyed dance, and at various periods of my life have felt quite compelled bu the beauty of it. It was in my blood, but certain dances pulled me more than others. Belly dancing, Salsa, and African Caribbean dance overtook my heart more than hip hop, hula, or modern dance. For the past several years dance has not been a frequent part of my life, but these past 7 months I have taken up flamenco and burlesque. They have not consumed my life, but they have been assisting to bringing me closer to my authentic self and heightening my confidence levels.

Both of these dances require a fierce attitude of Assertiveness and strong intentionality. One does not walk, but strut. These dancers demand attention for their presence in a room. Facial expressions are representative of the internal monologue that must play in one’s head of being sexy, strong, and untouchable. It’s reminiscent of this line I read from a book that you must dress as if you want to be f*ck#d. Not just for the sole fact that you want others to desire you, but for you to desire yourself. You are worthy of this. And to be a flamenco or burlesque dancer, this mentality must become a mantra in some ways.

In both of these dances, the posture one takes is a very Wonder Woman-esque. It’s like exactly a power pose that Amy Cuddy discusses in her Ted talk. Standing in this position for two minutes a day will build confidence. And I can concur it does.

As previously discussed in an earlier blog post, I had my first dance recital ever for flamenco. Although it wasn’t as glorious as I thought it would be, I was proud I did this. Upon waking this morning, I recalled a dream in which I was dancing burlesque with other family members, friends, and colleagues. There was no instructor, but I was coaching those who were apprehensive in their movements to take this Beyonce-esque mentality. The rest of the dream was very celebratory, as if we were all at some massive wedding. But there was no bride or groom, the reason we were gathered together was simply to dance. The power and confidence of dance was now invading my dreams.

And so as I listened to Yo Yo Ma, I thought of all this and started to tear up. How did I know at the age of 4 what brought me joy? Why have I kept this out of my life for so long? What has been keeping me from having dance be a stronger part of my life?

It saddens me a bit. Were our childhood dream jobs really that ridiculous? Was intuition greatest at our youngest age and our earliest memories? Why and how did we forget our loves? It’s as if our childhood passions were replaced with more realistic and “responsible”career paths that would lead to financial independence. To want to be a dancer wasn’t really a logical option, and therefore my family and I never invested money or time into this hobby.

I am nearing the end co completing the Artist Way. I thought what would continue to line my pages and life over the past few months is writing. Although writing is there, what has been arising is my fascination with the lives of Picasso and Frida Kahlo , and dance. I have begun to dance everyday, even if it’s just when I put butter on my toast in the morning. Dance has become such a focal point in my life now, and is infiltrating other aspects.

Below is a link to the podcast with Yo Yo Ma that was aired recently on Krista Tippet’s On Being.