Vision Page (out loud) Sunday 10.30.16

Three spiritually-based practices have transformed my life: meditation, asking, and vision pages. You can learn more about the Vision Page process here and in this bookito

The intimacy of a Vision Page allows you to explore any subject, no matter how painful. And any dream, no matter how small or grandiose. It’s just you and the page.

This of course is a public version . . . to open me up. And maybe to inspire you in your own celebration and creation process.

OK OmJah

Here it is, I’m going public with this. May this be the beginning of a worthy series.

What am I celebrating this week?

— Oh sweet Yeezy I’m so glad to be finished with the art trips. As much as I savor the enforced solitude for its thoughtiness, for its burbling up of new possibilities for my life, I’m ready to be home. To hang with family and friends. To rev it up for the season at the gallery.

— It’s an odd thing to celebrate . . . but I’m thankful I was here when Dad broke his hip. He’s a difficult cuss . . . refusing ambulance and hospital . . . but my having arrived home the night he fell and smashed his hip allowed for an intervention that eventually got him to where he could be cared for properly.

Even the strains are appreciated. The lifting him up while he groaned in pain, the awkwardness of getting his underwear and shorts on, the tight dance to pivot him to a rolling chair, the same sequence to get in and out of my car a couple of times between his condo and doctor and, finally, the ER.

— I’m appreciating my family, especially my sister who orchestrated it all via phone calls, paving the way.

— I’m loving typing this while my son tootles away on the piano.

— Strangely, I’m jazzed by the challenge of losing our gallery director just as our selling season begins. Julian has stepped up into the position seamlessly, demonstrating what a strong team we have.

What are we creating?

— The Rhythm. The easeful way. That way forward each day propelling me in a relaxed yet focused manner. The way that encompasses gallery, impactful creative work, real connections, and physical bouts of activity.

And breaks! Lots of micro breaks.

Now that I’m back I’m seeking my rhythm again. Let’s make this a surprisingly effective yet transcendentally chill rhythm. You know I’m done with struggle. But I’m excited by inspired effort. By wei wu wei.

— NotesForCreators.com . . . May this overhaul of the Freaky Beautiful site into Notes For Creators enliven the message here. May it become a resource for millions of creative spirit junkies.

— A smooth election with a result for the greater good. I’m just putting it out there : -)

— A superlative season, yes. Dog love, yes. Days full of meaningful interactions, yes. Making a difference, yes. Laughter till I hurt (in a good way), yes. Yes, yes and yes.








 

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Russell reading

This is one of my forever friends.

Russell and I have known each other since college. He was my RA in my freshman year — I’m pretty sure I was a consternation to him. Me and Gil. He busted us more than once over excessive enthusiasm. What everyone else probably calls rowdiness.

Today’s post is simple. A celebration of reading.

Two qualities stand out about the people I admire:

1. They are voracious readers. Can you imagine Lincoln or Obama or Gates or Buffett without their in depth reading?

2. They are thinkers. They ask questions. They take notes. They act on their thoughts.

Take a look at Russell . . . I imagine he started with book in hand sitting in the divan at the end of the bed . . . and became so engrossed he slunk down and back . . . adjusting throw pillows as he went.

THAT is reading. THAT is letting yourself flow into a narrative. THAT is how it’s done.

Are you reading something more than short digital bursts?

What are you reading that’s pulling you in? What are you reading that’s amplifying your spirit?

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Did you have a good hurricane?

I was able to make it all the way to Atlanta from South Florida as I fled the hurricane. Because I rose early in the deep dark. To head out of town while everyone else still slept.

A friend who waited till the last minute spent 6 hours on one stretch of highway later in the day.

A business acquaintance from Charleston called me near the end of the drive. His business was now in Hurricane Matthew’s crosshairs . . . he had no shutters, wood panels had long been bought up at Home Depot, he carried no insurance for a warehouse full of clients’ furniture he was shipping for them.

He was frantic. He could lose it all. This business he’s steadily built up over a couple of decades.

Buffers

The people who are far more successful than I am tend to be better at buffering.

A buffer is a shock absorber. That thing built into your system that absorbs impact when it comes.

It looks mundane, even tedious, maybe even a leech on your time.

Like planning. Like insurance. Like preparation.

Shocks come. Whether your road is punishing or merely bumpy often has to do with the buffers you put in place.

Meditation is my favorite buffer. I’m a mental jackrabbit. And not in a good way. My brain just loves to poing from one thing to another.

Poingety poingety poinnng–

Daily meditation morphs that rabbit into a lap dog. Still frisky at times, but willing to settle in with a thought, a focus. Able to hold an idea through to its fruition.

Exercise is a buffer. You ward off shocks to your organism far better.

Saving is a buffer. God don’t I know this one! I’ve learned this from both ends, from failing in one instance when I hadn’t saved enough . . . to surviving barely in another because we had a buffer in our bank account. Unlike many of our competitors who went down.

Connection is your greatest buffer. Spiritually and relationally. When you’re connected to your greatest resource, nothing can break you.

You’d  be surprised how often your people connections will save you. With an idea, with assistance, with belief in you when you no longer have it for yourself!

I thought of buffers as I drove in advance of the hurricane, heading north. I’m thankful for the buffers we’ve built up . . . and I’m wondering what other buffers I need to put in place.

You’ve heard of the six-month emergency fund. For a business I recommend one year . . .

Two years is my ideal. We’re slowly working our way back to that place since the Crash. Everyone else calls it the Great Recession. For me, for us, it was a spectacular unspooling crash.

And what helped save us were the buffers. The buffer of family. The buffer of friendship, even if it often meant offgassing the woes. Of finances. Even though they didn’t last as long as we ‘d expected. The buffer of spiritual connection helped the most day to day.

(Moral: don’t put your buffer in the stock market, you may end up with 40% of a buffer right when you need it the most.) (Oh happy days, learning these lessons : )

Whether you had a good hurricane experience or a bad one may have come down to one factor: The buffers you put in place.

It’s never too late to buffer it up, one bitty bit at a time.

 

 

 

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You’ve got to get messy

You’ve got to get in, you’ve got to get messy, if you’re going to create something good.

Full immersion and damn the chaos.

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Jewel: On growing up in bars

Singer and songwriter Jewel grew up in Alaska, performing in bars with her father from the age of 5, when she learned how to yodel and became a draw:

Singing two nights a week and having a front-row view of the mating rituals of drunks and barmaids was another adult education in more ways than one. I have always had a poet’s heart, and I felt honored somehow to watch unnoticed as people lived such raw lives in front of me.

…..

So many characters and faces that will forever be engrained in my mind. The smell of stale beer and vomit as we did our sound checks before the doors opened. As I got older, my favorite places to sing were biker bars. The bikers were always protective and sweet toward me.

When I was about twelve, playing at the Trade Winds biker bar in Anchorage, a man was outside foaming at the mouth, overdosing on PCP. Angel dust, I remember a woman whispering to me. When I saw the red lights flashing through the window, I set my mic down silently mid-song and walked from the stage to the bathroom so I wouldn’t get kicked out for singing in there underage. I knew the routine.

A couple of the biker men saw me do this and nodded to their women, who silently followed me to keep me company. The bathroom was long and narrow, and I remember the women coming in, drink making them warm and wordy. We sat on the toilets, the doors all flung open, and two sat on the sink counters, all of us looking at each other in the long mirror above the sinks.

The stalls on each side of me were occupied by women weathered and road weary, bleached blondes, brunettes, and one redhead, all wearing acid-washed jeans, tank tops, and leather jackets. Slight variances on the same theme. My stall in the middle, startling in contrast. A twelve-year-old wearing a long-sleeved shirt buttoned up to the very top button, showcasing a whimsical and heartbreakingly sweet pattern of kitty paw prints in beige. Long honey blonde hair straight as sticks tucked behind my ears, posture erect as I visited with the ladies, glad for their company.

The brunette on the sink wore fringed boots that hung off the edge of the counter.

“You sing real nice, kid. Real nice.”

“Thanks,” I said, enjoying the compliment.

“You know, my old man is finally gonna make an honest woman of me. The son of a bitch,” she said, to several chuckles from the other stalls before she continued. “You guys should sing at our wedding.”

I knew not to accept gigs on my own, and so I said, “My dad handles all of our bookings, but I’m sure we would love to sing at your wedding.”

In most bars I felt invisible, but it was always the bikers who kept an eye on me, sensing my vulnerability the way only other outcasts can. Bikers had their own code of ethics, which was palpable to me even at that age. With time I learned to be street-smart and to trust my instincts elsewhere in barrooms. I had to.

When I was about nine, a man in Alice’s Champagne Palace placed a dime in my hand, folding my small fingers around the cool silver, and said, “Call me when you’re sixteen.”

Another time I was walking to the bathroom, and as a man passing by caught a quick glance of me, he said casually, “You’re going to be a great fuck when you’re older.”

I learned to let my energy expand only on stage. Offstage and between sets I stayed small and drew little attention to myself. My dad made rounds and visited with patrons, and I would entertain myself by looking in a Michelob beer mirror, learning how to move each muscle in my face.

In fifth-grade science class we were told about involuntary muscles, and how we couldn’t move them, so I set out to prove that wrong, starting with my lower eyelids. I mastered moving my ears in all directions, isolating my lower eyelids and each nostril separately, and each quarter of each lip independently.

I loved to observe people. I watched love and life play out in a million ways, but one of the best things I learned was this: You don’t outrun pain. I saw men and women in those barrooms all trying to outrun something, some pain in their life—and man, they had pain.

Vets broken and drifting, abused women, abused boys who had grown up to be emotionally crippled men. I saw them all trying to bury that pain in booze, sex, drugs, anger, and I saw it all before I was able to indulge in many of those behaviors myself.

I saw that no one outran their suffering; they only piled new pain upon their original pain. I saw the pain pile up into insurmountable mountains, and I saw the price people paid who buried all that pain, and along with it their hope, joy, and chance at happiness. All because they were trying to outrun the pain rather than walk through it and heal.

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How do you get that creative space you want?

Virginia Woolf famously wrote a book about it: A Room of One’s Own.

About the importance of a solitary space for creative work.

Be you writer or coder or artist or indie biz person, you want your space. That space that is yours and no one else’s. That space to do your work. Your fab work.

Before I had a creative space I had the tiniest version of it you can muster: A lap desk.

Then a real desk. If old and battered. A cheap used desk is better than no desk at all.

And eventually over the years that desk moved into its own space.

But first I had a lap desk I used while sitting on my futon in the small-as-a-tiny-house apartment I shared with my friend Gil in New York City.

He had a loft bed in the bedroom — what we nowadays call a walk-in closet — and I had my futon underneath.

But it was glorious, our little 380-square-foot apartment in the dark dungeon of a Hells Kitchen tenement. A lot of creating went on there.

Even more living. We were in our twenties. That time of life where you slosh from one apartment to another meeting up with other young soul sparks like yourself, where you spill through the streets raging for experience and getting it.

You’ve got to start somewhere. I’ll bet more beginnings began on beds than anywhere else.

Yeah, I know you want to take that sentence somewhere else — I say take it there, you guttersnipe — then come back here to this.

That girl sitting on a bed plunking a guitar who grows up to be Jewel.

That kid spreading notes of verse on his bed who grows up to be Walt Whitman. Or Walt Disney.

That future starter upper lounging on her bed right now coding away on her laptop.

Beds are big dreamboats, large enough to sprawl on, large enough for any fantasy. And just the right size for any position you want to contort into while scribbling drawing musing humming those first notes thoughts marks life questions that morph into life quests.

How do you earn your creative space?

By creating in whatever limited space you’ve got right now.

(You have more than you think.)

Using what you have sets you in motion for bigger n better. My home office attests to it.

Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize for Literature sings to it. Off key.

 

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Interview thyself

Lordy Mama life has gotten complex (again).

Are you like this? You take on too much, your filters get clogged, your systems break down . . . you enter a fog of neural bombardment.

This happens to me periodically. It’s happening right now. I’m not keeping up with what I consider essential. I’m awash in unattended soft priorities . . .

I know only one thing to do each time this happens. I go to ground. I have to get silent for a lengthy period of time . . . with all my notes and obligations and tasks and goals surrounding me.

And I sift.

I sift and rethink.

What really is essential?

Am I living my vision? Am I living what is most meaningful?

What must I tweak? What must I change? What am I willing to do differently or not at all?

I ask myself questions like these and write down answers. Sitting in extended silence draws out what is essential to a life. Writing down the questions and the possible solutions clarifies my way forward.

If you too are experiencing a similar overtaxing of the mind and spirit, schedule a morning with yourself. Or an afternoon or evening.

No distractions. Certainly no digital companions chirping away at you.

Get a pad and paper. And ask yourself questions. Interview yourself! At length. Take time to sift. Allow space for unexpected responses to emerge.

Be frolicsome.

Be serious.

Be you.

If you take this time I guarantee you will uncover the You you most want to be. And you will find renewal. The steps along a better path will suggest themselves.

After this, what?

Rejoin the fray. Jump back into the adventure. It’s yours, live it your way.

 

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Don’t be that guy

Don’t be that guy who speeds up when someone signals they need to get in the lane.

There are a dozen ways we can subtly improve the society we live in on a daily basis.

They all start with simple considerations.

 

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My monk life on the road

Not even two weeks ago I returned from an art trek to the Southwest. In a week I’m embarking on another road trip that will take me through the South, then slingshot me to Niagara Falls near the Canadian border and back.

Have you ever wanted to burn the impurities of modern life from your psyche? 


Living like a monk on the road will do it.

Here’s how I live on the road:

— Awake early, generally by 6 am.

— Out the hotel room door within 15 minutes.

— Drive for an hour or three and then have breakfast. If I’m in West Texas, feel queasy for the next 24 hours. If I eat twice in West Texas, the next day’s a goner too.

— Drive again

— Meet an artist and talk shop. What’s cookin’? What is their process like? How do they work? Who do they love? (If I’m feeling impertinent, I lob in all sorts of questions about love and romance, lust and yearning.)

I saturate myself silly with their universe . . . I admire the hell out of their creative space, because I am a junkie for all things expressive.

Like this:

 

That’s the clay artist Dawn Renee laughing it up in her Arizona studio. It might have been something I said, but I’m pretty sure it was the heat.

You hear this all the time: Dry heat is better than regular heat… 

But I don’t buy it.

My friend Gil Vega was the one to point this out. That we had a scientific method for determining whether people preferred dry heat to wet heat. In the form of our gym — the one we went to for years in New York City.

Every night after a workout the steam room was overloaded. You practically had to take a number to get in. It was like a popular night club. Always full. Next door was the lonely sauna. The infernal cubicle serving up dry heat that would crackle the inside of your nose hairs. There was always plenty of space in there. In fact, it was isolating in the sauna. The party was next door, in the steam room.

(Or the hot tub — the really wet heat.)

— Then you know what? Drive some more.

— Somewhere there’s a nap. Because I live for them. Short and power packed. Like this sentence.

— I pull over for a mid to late afternoon meal, my second and last meal of the day.

— Then, this should be no surprise by now, it’s a road trip after all, I drive some more. Drive till the sun extinguishes itself on the horizon.

— Of course, every hour I’m taking quickie exercise breaks. The kind that start in the East (yoga stretches) and end in the West (pushups; knee bends).

— It’s an invigorating rhythm. Drive, break, drive, break, drive, break . . .

— I bring audiobooks and lecture series to listen to . . . but the great enormity of my time is spent in silence. Feeling the road thrum beneath me. Feeling the experience of it, steeping in it. Watching. Rapturous.

No matter where I’m at I’m ravenous to watch the landscape unspool before me.

(Except Texas. I don’t know anyone who likes driving through Texas. Not even Texans.)

— I check into a hotel. My hotels are much classier now. I even pad around in bare feet sometimes.

Not so in the motels and road joints I stayed in during the crash years. There’s not enough pumice stone in the world to slough off the amount of skin you’d have to cleave off for sanitary purposes were you to tread across those fetid carpets.

— To save time and hassle, I hand wash the clothes of the day in the sink and hang them to drip dry.

If I’m out west then they’ll be rock dry by morning. I could step right back into them if I so desired. Back east I have to hang them in the van near where the sun comes in through the back windows. If I’m lucky they’ll be ready within 48 hours.

(Dry heat versus wet heat again.)

(This time dry heat wins.)

— I bring 3 sets of clothes, rotating, rotating, rotating throughout the trip. Keeping it simple frees me to the experience.

— I might then go down to the gym. This trip I did something new . . . and I liked it. I watched a talk on my tablet, very TED like but not an actual TED.

I enjoyed the experience so much I surfed YouTube for more — and walked over an hour on the treadmill. Big, lunky strides to get the sitting out of my haunches. So I could go sit some more.

— Back in the hotel room I take up my laptop. And I create. I write. I write to you here. I write on a project. I respond to emails. I own a gallery and that biz is impatient. All businesses are. I whip responses back like the road ninja I am . . . so I can start the next day fresh, without a backlog.

Then I squeeze out a little bit more. I type up notes I’ve jotted throughout the day. I type up fancifulness my blottoed mind is coughing up. I’m tired. God I’m tired. Finally nothing works anymore. Not my fingers, not my imagination.

— If neurons are still firing, I take up my Kindle and read.

— Did you notice? No TV.

The last two nights of the past trip I let myself loose and watched 3 back-to-back Big Bang Theory episodes. Each night. But nothing nada for the previous two weeks.

— Finally, like a monk, in the dark, sitting erect, I meditate. I fall into that playful and pregnant vacuum, that void where all things light up.

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