truth or dare

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In Brene Brown’s book “Daring Greatly” she begins with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic.”  The speech is often referred to as The Man in the Arena speech because its message reminds the listener that the person who is brave enough to jump into the arena and make the attempt (at whatever it is they are trying to accomplish) is the worthy one – not the critic who sits on the sidelines delivering judgement and critical report.  “The credit belongs to the man who…strives valiantly, who errs…who at best knows in the end the triumph of great achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” 

I want to be that person.  The kind of person that dares greatly.  And lately, I begin to wonder if I’ve got what it takes.  If I’m cut from the right cloth that will allow me to dive in, again and again, despite the outcome.  Releasing your work into the world has a way of challenging you in brand new and unexpected ways – ways that can be more than uncomfortable, and often times, decidedly painful.  To be an artist, a writer, a sculptor, a film maker, a poet, a painter, etc…these pursuits demand an exposure of the internal kind.  We who embark on this path must be willing to stand naked before our audience while they judge us, our work, our talent; throw confetti or banana peels, shout praise or hurl insults, commend us or belittle our attempts.  It is what it is, I get that.  But this journey of releasing yourself, exposing yourself, does run the risk of making those who tell our stories, who paint the heavens,  who release granite into wonder, who send our ears and hearts soaring with song…less willing to be vulnerable…which thus limits the entire act of creating.

There is a tendency to view vulnerability as a weakness, a failing somehow, as though it is something we must hide from others, out of shame. I don’t see it this way, and neither does Brown.  Brown reveals how vulnerability allows a person to access internal strength, courage, and truth.  I agree, through my own personal experience.  I would add also, that vulnerability is a portal, the beautiful doorway that allows us to feel connection.  To be vulnerable is to be open.  To create is to be open and hence, vulnerable.  It is the artist saying “I am willing to show you myself” and the viewer saying “Yes, I want to see.”  And in the best of all worlds, through this exchange, a transformation takes place: a larger window from which to view and understand the world.  Connection is our tenuous, invisible, gossamer string that reminds us that we are each other, and that we are nothing without each other.  And the arts heighten and elevate this truth, removing it from the abstract, to a place of tangible meaning, and form.

Just recently, I self-published my first novel.  It was an accomplishment, and one that I took (and take) pride in.  But, to my surprise, a few weeks after publication, I began to feel something else.  The discomfort of feeling exposed. People I knew were beginning to read my book – a book that I lived with for nearly a decade, and…suddenly, it felt like a decade long naked chunk of me was out in the world ready to be dissected by anyone who cared to have at it, toss it to the wolves, tear it to pieces…or worst yet, say nothing about it at all. It’s been a challenge really, in truth, and I’ve felt a bit of myself slip.

To help me regain perspective, I re-watched Elizabeth Gilbert, of Eat, Pray, Love, and her brilliant and inspiring talk on TED about the creative act, and the pressure/fear of its demand.  There are so many examples of “genius” artists that have gone off the deep end – it’s such a common demise for artists that we’ve come to accept it as “normal” and hardly bat an eye when they take their own lives, or drown themselves in a river of toxication.  As a writer, an artist, I don’t want that to be my tollbooth, I don’t want that to be the carved path that my foot must ultimately trod.  Must creating be a painful act? (or for me, the release of the work into the world!) Must we scourge our souls to bring into light the depths of what it means to be human?  Gilbert explores this in a gracefully methodical way – and what she discovers is like a warm welcome light that can shine in our work spaces and studios and remind us that we are not alone, and that creating does not need to be our end.   I highly encourage you to click on the TED link above and watch her presentation…she is reaching out, to you, me, to all artists, throwing out a line of connection.

For now, I’m going back to what matters – the process.  Waking each morning, getting my kids ready and off to school, and coming home to meet the page. That’s my job, that’s where my focus needs to return.  I’m going to continue to do what I can to market my book, to get it out there, to get it read by as many people as I can.  But – I’m going to remove myself from expectations (as best I can) about friends and family that haven’t read it yet, how it’s selling, what people have to say about it, or not say about it.  I wrote the best book I could write, and now it’s time to move forward.  So that’s my truth :)  I am afraid my book will fail, that people I care about and love, will not love it…(meaning, love me?) and that is something I will try to learn how to let go.  I did my job, I showed up, for years, and I wrote, and I listened, and I wrote more….

…now it’s time to write again.  And perhaps, it’s time for you as well:)

 

a lovely word, a lovely sound

 

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Have you ever stood under tall sentinels such as these when a gentle breeze was moving through them, and listened to the delicate sound of the leaves dancing in the open air, gently sweeping against one another and limbs, making the heavenly music known as Psitherism?  (pronounced si-thir-ism).  I am sure you have :)  Its one of the great simple pleasures in this world, yes?  My parents have a crooked Aspen in their front yard in Minnesota, just up from the bluffs of the Mississippi River, and whenever I’m lucky enough to be back in the summertime, I lay down underneath that beautiful wood and listen to its sound, something deeply akin to magic.  It transports me and makes me feel a part of something much greater than the simple bonds of humanity.  We are all part of this great cosmic dance: insect, leaf, family, tree, bison, bear, river, sky, cloud, apple…you know what I mean.  And for me, this sound – this “psitherism” brings this unity into acute awareness, all at once.

When I was in Vermont many years ago during the height of summer, I was lucky enough to find a trail that cut through woods so strikingly similar to this picture above…it was my secret place, I didn’t share it with anyone, and made it a point to duck out every afternoon for a dosage of the peace, tranquility, and music these gentle giants so generously provided.  At times the music was a whisper, like chimes – and other times, when the whole tree would join the wind, the trunks would groan and call out as they swayed to and fro, creaking as if they were being tossed about on invisible waves that remained out of my reach.  Trees.  What they would have to tell us if they could only speak.  It was under those tall wooded friends in that Vermont wood that I announced to the wind that I was ready to get married…and married I still am :)

I like this word, Psitherism – the essence of onomatopoeia.  It whispers and shimmers as it moves across your tongue, just like the wind skimming off the gloss of leaves.  Makes me feel connected all the more.  I encourage you to go out and find yourself your own special grove of trees, and stand beneath them, beside them, and listen…perhaps even join in.

10,000 hours begins with a single second….

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Good Morning!  So today I begin the 10,000 hour challenge – please take a peak at the new Headline at the top of my home page, titled 10,000 Hours!  I will be logging in weekly with updates on my progress – and on your progress as well.  The more the merrier!  I would love to encourage you in your journey toward Mastering whatever it is that lights your heart.  For me it is writing…for you?  Please let me know!  I would love to share your process with others, to inspire, and encourage, and support – something we all need as we set off on a new, untraveled road.

My focus right now is on my second novel, which I am excited to re-connect with.  I am also in the process of getting back into teaching Yoga, which I used to do, and then took a break from while my daughter was growing.  If you happen to live in Los Angeles, come check out a class!  I will teach in a couple parks, and am also available to teach one-on-one in the student’s home.  Drop me a line if you are interested and we can discuss the particulars.

So – let’s climb that 10,000 hour mountain!  We do it by showing up, putting one foot in front of the other, and agreeing to not give up!  Perhaps you want to master baking, or bee keeping, or your health…whatever it is that is inspiring you to step up, and commit – let’s climb it together!  It makes the trail a little less daunting, a little more friendly, and enormously more do-able.  You won’t be alone…nor will I.

Join Me.

a new approach

 

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I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that                                                                   won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

Aha!  Perhaps this is where researchers came upon their theory of the 10,000 hours to success!  (“In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.”  (from Malcolm Gladwell’s highly acclaimed  book, Outliers: The Story of Success).  I can’t attest to this figure on a personal level because I have not yet spent 10,000 hours on any ONE thing…I have so many passions and so many interests – which presents the issue of being spread a little… thin.  But in truth, I would like to say that these various passions that I have dabbled in over the years, have allowed me to enjoy my life more, have fed me and added depth and complexity and enormous joy – as well as giving me a wide breadth of topics and interests that I can talk about with whomever cares to talk about them:)

BUT…(is there always a but!)  the sacrifice is, of course, this – I’m a “jack-of-all-trades, and master of none.”  And I would very much like to be a master of at least one.  So, I’ve recently decided I will step up to the plate and start climbing this mountain of hours in pursuit of becoming the best possible writer I can be.  Over the next couple days, I will come up with a schedule that I will do my very best to maintain over the course of this experiment…though it’s really much more than an experiment – it is a commitment, a dedication, an intention, a life path.  Once I begin, I will post weekly on my progress – and talk about the process, the highs/lows/insights/etc…and share bits of my work.

I encourage YOU to join me.  Together, we can offer each other community, support, encouragement, share our experiences…and keep each other going. :)

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In order to deepen the commitment on my end, and to see this process through to the finish (a writer writes, and then sends their work out into the world!) this is how I will construct this journey for maximum benefit. I will dare myself to Fail.  I do not mean fail in terms of gathering my hours, nor fail in terms of deepening my practice – but fail in terms of pushing myself to submit, submit, submit…even if I’m certain the answer will be no, or worse yet – I hear nothing at all.  Fear stops me, has stopped me, for far too long: “This story isn’t good enough to submit yet.”  “Nobody knows my name, why would they publish me?”  “I don’t have enough credits to my name” etc, etc,.   Perhaps you know this inner voice/critic too? :)  Perhaps this inner voice/critic stops you also, from Daring :)  Well I’ve been on close terms with this voice for FAR TOO LONG and it’s time to put it to bed.  By Daring myself to FAIL – I’ve got nothing to lose.  I can, and WILL, laugh at that damn voice! ha ha:)  And it will feel mighty liberating, and empowering.  My focus, my purpose, will be on strengthening my craft, and not allowing anything I write to lay prisoner in my drawer, or on my desktop.  Any story, poem, essay, or novel that I finish, I will submit to as many publications as I can.  Period.  And you out there – you will do the same. (whatever that means for the Mastery you are Building)

It has mattered to me more what people might think, than what I think about myself.  And that is a life zapper – an artistic life’s guillotine.  So – I aim to join the ranks of wonderment, to discover what Thomas Edison discovered – the 10,000 ways that don’t work…because after that – there lies a pot of gold.

Join Me.

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an inner life

” In 1996, people still read books and the city could support an extra branch of the legendary Strand in the Financial District, which is to say that stockbrokers, secretaries, government functionaries – everybody back then was expected to have some kind of inner life.”  – (excerpt from Little Failure, by: A Memoir, by Gary Shteyngart

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…hmmmm, an inner life.  What does that mean today?  Does the “inner life” in our present culture, still have a platform?  Does it have room, space, the silence, the desire, for it to be cultivated and grown like a beautiful seedling…?  My answer will always be yes.  A resounding yes.  For I believe that the interior life is, and ever will be, intrinsic to the human experience, to understanding what it means to live on our planet, within the walls and configurations of the societies in which we breathe.  And Art – well, Art is one of the supreme mirrors that we hold up to ourselves to see with greater clarity – to understand with less limitation – and to behold our experiences with expanded depth and humanity.  And indeed, art demands an interior life – to be created, and witnessed, alike.

Perhaps a year ago or so, I watched Martin Scorsese’s documentary called Public Speaking – a funny and smart look at New Yorker Fran Lebowitz, as she reflects and rants about our current culture.   One of the most fascinating moments of the film for me, was the old television footage of Gore Vidal as he moderated a civic and intellectual discussion/debate between William F. Buckley, and James Baldwin.  Their debate was rather vitriolic (and race centered), but the eloquence with which Baldwin spoke was so incredibly fine, so poignantly measured and eloquent – it was at once evident that Baldwin drew from a deep well of a vast and thoroughly examined inner life…enriched, I can only imagine, through literature, art, intellect, and internal exploration.

In my own life – the need for a well nourished inner life is perhaps, just after my family – the single most important, and tended to, aspect of my being.  It is the fountain from which the spring flows.  But I must say, I often feel…somewhat alone in this garden.  I am lucky enough to have many dear, and talented, and amazing friends that create incredible art, and live their lives with artistry, which springs from their rich fertile inner soil…but on a whole, as a member of our current culture and society overall – this “inner life” seems to have taken a back seat to living the highly public,  visible, exterior, external, image driven life that is sadly, and too often, void of depth or interiority.   Indeed, we all remember the last two elections when being an “Intellect” was deemed a negative thing.  To be an “intellect” was to be an elitist – as though taking the time to give thoughtful consideration to a topic of importance was self-indulgent, pompous, disdainful, or an act for which we should feel shame for showing off our intelligence and/or education.  Not long ago, on prime time television, Gore Vidal entered people’s living rooms through the television screen, and moderated discussions between intellectuals on issues of the day – issues that polarized our nation, our society, and reflected where we stood as a nation, overall.  The inner world was illuminated, was given the stage – and this was carried out respectfully, and with a certain modicum of dignity and respect.

The very meaning of Culture reflects the need for an inner life.  Definition of Culture in Webster’s:

* the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties, especially by education

* expert care and training <beauty culture>

* enlightenment and excellence of taste acquired by intellectual and aesthetic training

* acquaintance with and taste in fine arts, and humanities

Everything we do, every act, every thought, every word, every creation that we make and share with others, creates the envelope in which we are contained.  If this container is void of a cultivated inner life – void of self-reflection, void of cultural reflection, then it seems to me, we begin to live a Reactionary life, reacting to the maelstroms around us – rather than, taking a moment, giving pause, and reflecting long enough that we may respond with intention, reflection, and a guided expression that has been filtered through our inner sanctum.

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An inner life is developed, it is grown – it requires our attention and intention, the time to examine and explore our world, to question, study, dig  and develop our own unique, personal relationship with knowledge, beauty, intelligence, and the divine. We must take the time to Grow Ourselves, to Grow our Inner World.  For that is where the riches are.