How To Refresh Your Soul

After an exceptionally busy time creating and performing over the past nine months, along with some volunteer projects, I’ve come to a break.  Now the real challenge begins! I.e. time to pause, look inward and, ideally, figure out next steps.

This kind of time can be so scary for artists, for all of us.  No map, no “right” answer readily apparent.  What if inspiration, or even a clue, doesn’t appear?

Then I remember that all of the sages across the centuries have counseled essentially the same thing.  From Hafez, who advised, “Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive.” To Howard Thurman, who many centuries later urged: “Don’t ask what the world needs.  Ask what makes you come alive and go do that.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Sure.  But how do we tell what makes us come alive? The body knows.

As I wrote here, “All of the flares our bodies send off to signal excitement–goosebumps, tingling skin, warm glow of delight, quickened breathing, giddiness–beg us to pay attention.  They’re all cues from our primal selves that we are on the right track to vibrancy….”  And as Martha Graham said, “The body never lies.”

We just need to listen. And if we do, we generate a spring of vitality that can keep refreshing our souls.

So I am going to take a few moments, reflect, be still…and open up to possibility. Soaking up the wisdom of Joseph Campbell:

Wherever you are-if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.”

Will I see you there?

 

 

 

 

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A Sense of Belonging: Santa Hat Chronicles

“…[F]or most of history, we didn’t live in families.  We lived in small communities that gave us our sense of safety and place in the world….The blessing and the tragedy of modern life is that we don’t need our community to survive anymore.  When we lose that, we lose a sense of who we are.“~Sebastian Junger

Junger’s insightful observation in a recent interview about community and personal fulfillment (“O, The Oprah Magazine, January 2018, p.85) brings home for me, once again, why I am wearing this Santa Hat every day I go out into the world.  To foster community.

Sure, it’s a tiny gesture.  But the disconnect Junger identifies in our culture can use every ounce of re-weaving it can get.

He describes our modern lives as ones of living in our separate houses, leading our separate lives.  Lacking the connection that another keen observer, Dr. Brené Brown, substantiates is so essential to our well-being:

“…[O]ne thing I learned in my research that I am just so clear on….Love and belonging are the irreducible needs of men, women and children….connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment…

Each time people open the shutters on their eyes in response to this Santa Hat–in mirth, surprise, play, wonder, memory– folks reveal their souls.  Just as I reveal mine, by wearing this symbol with the intention of spreading  joy, possibility, love.

The woman leaving the shopping mall who is stunned with surprise, then bursting with hoots of enthusiasm.  The older gent working the night shift at the pharmacy just now, who teases and banters.  The college students I pass, pensive and anxious about exams, who look up, do a double-take then break into a wide, appreciative grin.

We don’t need a Santa Hat to connect.  I think because our communal lives have been significantly riven, the genial symbol of the Santa Hat eases the momentary, but essential, connections in our day to day lives.  Not for everyone and not every time, but for many people and often.  And together we are weaving, in the words of John O’Donohue, a golden web of belonging.

What about you?

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Fear As A Springboard

Fear itself made her daring.”~Ovid

I bought this book for a friend recently, then had second thoughts about whether it was a good match for her.

When I opened the journal this morning before I packed it up to return it, the book fell open to the brilliant words of Ovid.  They really struck a chord, reminding me that the fears we have are only the beginning of the story.  What we do with our fears once we recognize them is where the story becomes interesting.  And vibrant, if we so choose.

I’m keeping the book for myself!

It offers an abundance of inspiring quotations and prompts to encourage us to identify our fears, face them and then soar.  Or at least take a first step out of our comfort zone.  Exciting and terrifying, taking that step, or several of them, leads us into the frontiers of our souls.  Unfamiliar, uncertain and, yes! Full of possibility.

The introduction reminds us of the shining example of Eleanor Roosevelt, who displayed enormous courage by facing her considerable fears and developing the courage to transcend their limitations and, indeed, soar.

In case we need another reminder that there’s  no time like the present to begin, however modestly, the book provides numerous spurs, including the words of Robert Burns:

Now’s the day, and now’s the hour.”

Just do it.

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An Invitation For Playfulness: Santa Hat Chronicles

The night clerk stocking shelves calls over to me with a big grin on his face, “Hey, Santa, I’ve been really good this year!”  He proceeds to joke with me about how he hopes I’ll be  rewarding his behavior at Christmas.

Similar to the waitress at the cafe who jokes with my son that if I am Santa, he must be an elf, right?  And later, after forgetting to bring my tea, apologizes and with mock alarm exclaims, “Oh, no!  Will you still visit me on Christmas Eve?!”

And the elderly lady, a cashier at the college cafeteria, whose eyes twinkle as she teases me good-naturedly.

With all of these folks who I may or may not cross paths with again, light-hearted banter follows their playful remarks.  Brightening the day, even briefly, for all of us.  Making me wonder when it is we lose our playfulness?  And why and how?

Play invokes the imagination, sparking creativity.  Helping us expand how we think, how we do things, how we view the world.  It seems astonishing that something as full of vitality would be relegated to the sidelines for most adults, dismissed as immature or inconsequential.

I am fortunate that one of my dance mentors frequently urges us to approach the movement playfully.  What a huge difference it makes! We dancers open up, take risks, explore new ways of executing the movement, which seems fresh, easeful and more alive.  As do we.

As I’ve said innumerable times, we don’t need Santa Hats and other props to inspire playfulness.  All I know is that every time I wear mine out in the world, someone responds playfully.  And for one moment, amidst all of the stresses and challenges we all face, we connect in merriment.  Ahhhhhhhh……

You will find truth more quickly through delight than gravityLet out a little more string on your kite.”~Alan Cohen

 

 

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Precious Cracks: A Message Of Resilience

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended.  Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.“~ L.R. Knost

A friend told me that this quotation in my post the other day reminded her of the Japanese art of Kintsugi, the practice of joining fragments of shattered pottery with precious metals that not only salvages the piece, but also enhances it.  She sent me a lovely article which explains that because pottery breaks so randomly, each item’s gleaming cracks are unique, as is each rejuvenated object.

The author wisely encourages us to follow this practice with ourselves and our “cracks,” learning from and highlighting them.  They heighten how each one of us is unique with our own inimitable treasures to share, many of them garnered through challenges.

What a vibrant approach to living!  Bouncing back from loss, pain, and other difficulties and transforming them alchemically into gold.  A practice wholly contrasted with one that is so often followed in which we reject things and parts of ourselves that are injured, broken, discarding them when they may carry even greater possibility than previously.

Kintsugi reminds me of the stunning words of the poet Rumi: “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”  In this season of love, may its light fill you, heal you and glow through your precious scars.

 

 

 

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Practicing Resilience: Life Lessons from Dancing

The multifaceted, community event I have been helping to organize for the past 3 and 1/2 months was beginning to unravel the other day.  The day before the event :).

As a series of phone calls, emails and conversations in person left some well-laid plans in tatters, I was reminded that all of the planning in the world can’t forestall things that were happening, like people getting sick or having emergencies; people being uncomfortable with change; competing events happening at the same time.  And a whole host of other challenges that hadn’t.  Not yet.

On the way to dance class, I felt the knot in my stomach grow as I reviewed what we could do to compensate.  A mental image suddenly flashed of an athlete or a dancer gracefully bobbing and weaving.  That picture seemed perfectly apt and made me feel more capable of dealing with the challenges.

I realized that the wholly familiar image of a person shifting both swiftly and agilely reflected the practice we dancers engage in all of the time.  Sure, there is the fundamental practice of moving, of shifting the body and its parts in a comprehensive way.

But more important, there is the ongoing practice of adapting to the ever-changing variables of the music, the environment and the physical, mental and emotional status like injury, fatigue, illness, emotional issues.  When we dance we are in a state of constant improvisation, which is, of course, a mirror of everyone’s life all the time.  We just have the crazy illusion of control.

 

In my experience, the most vital dancers–and people–are the ones who craft a response to situations with whatever ingredients they have.  They recover from setbacks quickly, embodying resilience and pushing the limits of what’s possible.  They practice recovering, becoming better and better at it.

Got an injured knee?  Okay, how can you work around, and with, that?  Falling behind the tempo? How can you make it for lost time?  The list goes on and on.

Same for living.

As in, got a community event for anywhere between 20 and 200 people with many moving parts that is unravelling from the original plan?  Okay, how can you make it work?  My dance practice showed me how….

 

Bottom photo courtesy of Nikki Carrara © 2017; Sculptures, middle and bottom: Gil Boro, Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds

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Mending With Light: Santa Hat Chronicles

After a rocky day, I get up, grateful for another go.  Hopeful.

As I clear dishes from the table, I decide to glance at the newspaper, which I have held off on lately.  The spate of suffering and hostility staggers me.

I sit back down, overwhelmed by all of the world’s troubles.

Finally, after gazing out on the marsh, a small voice reminds me to do what I can to make things better in my tiny corner of the cosmos.  The Santa Hat, worn with my intention to spread goodwill and cheer, to spark conversation, connection, a twinkle in someone’s eye, in someone’s day, seems breathtakingly infinitesimal.  Yet, this is something I can do.  Lighten someone’s day, even ever so slightly.  And each tiny sparkle each of us offers the Universe adds up to a whole lotta shine :).

We don’t need hats or other props, of course.  But my experience over the past decade and a half of wearing this red hat is that this icon is a visual cue, a reminder of the world’s light, its playfulness and imagination, its abundant possibility.  I have heard time and again from strangers, acquaintances and friends that seeing my hat, and perhaps connecting through it, has reminded them, has been meaningful.

I get up from the table, stride past the dirty dishes and laundry, grab my Hat and run out onto the day. Hopeful.  Resolved at least for today to hold space for the good, for the light.

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended.  Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.“~ L.R. Knost

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