Thursday, December 13, 2007

And he said...

A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write -- if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What one can be, one must be.
Abraham Maslow

Monday, December 03, 2007

He said...

Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.
Ludwig van Beethoven

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Smaller big dreams

This simple photo has become a gauge for measuring personal growth over a period of months. Thanks, W, for capturing it for me. It's just starting to make sense how some of this year's experiences have perfectly positioned me for where I am now.


The quest for "my people" brought me to Maine earlier this summer to study with Deborah Henson-Conant (far right), a break-the-barriers harpist I have been following for over a decade. The workshop was intensely introspective, digging deep into how you want to show up as a performer, your relationship with the audience, and the nature of the work you want to bring to the world. Though very painful work at times (on so many levels!), it spurred the beginnings of a launch pad -- a foundation -- from (for me) virtually nothing. All the workshop participants, from all walks of life, became buoys for each other.

On my left (your right) in the hat is C -- I had the privelege of watching her receive an award at Lyon & Healy's Harpfest several weeks later in Utah for a performance she began crafting while we were in Maine. She showed up as her creative, authentic self -- she is a shining example of how great are the rewards when you expose your soul.

On my right (your left) is S -- we met in Maine and picked up and expanded upon our relationship in Utah. We consistently stayed up late discussing the details of the Jazz Harp Foundation that she and B had been formulating for months. At the official launch of the program at Harpfest, they announced their decision of my being the first member on the board of affiliates. We are working on expanding the foundation whose really beautiful tagline reads: "enriching the harp world with jazz and the jazz world with harp." More news soon on the very important work we are doing.

It was in Maine that I first exposed some compositions that I have been working on. There is nothing more terrifying than pushing out personal work into the world when any or all factors are present; 1) your personal / emotional world is a swirling chaotic nightmare, 2) you're in the company of other very accomplished musicians who know your instrument inside and out, 3) you're in the company of one whose work you have admired for years. Nevertheless, I received the validation I've desperately needed and never before experienced as I muddled through my presentation.


I have always wanted to perform with Deborah Henson-Conant --
pulling together final performance details.




Monday, November 05, 2007

Nova Madrugada -- 11/02/07 performance

November 2, 2007 Nova Madrugada performance at the Columbus Music Hall.


Columbus hosted the Percussive Arts Society International Conference (PASIC) the weekend of our performance, so we were blessed with the opportunity to have a number of attendees sit in with us. Two of them are pictured in the left of the photo, next to Columbus' own Debra Tucker, an amazing singer.


The remaining five, from left to right, are the regulars in our group, minus our saxophone player Mark Donavan -- Ron Hope (percussion) in the back, Roger Hines (bass), Stan Smith (guitar), me (harp), and Dan Thress (drums). Thanks to all who came out!



Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sparks will fly

Earlier this year the shop had to replace a good part of my car's exhaust system, and they were kind enough to reuse what they could... which of course included the catalytic converter that just last week decided to go bad. From my perch in the shop I watched as they worked to undo what they had carefully crafted just months before. A young man lit up the torch and tore into it. No goggles, no gloves, no mask, no headgear, no chainmail, no body armour. Did the bits of fire inches from his face and arms inflict any damage? Apparently not -- he stepped into the shop office moments later perfectly intact, able to have the necessary conversation with the visiting insurance agent about health coverage.


What looked precarious to me was perfectly safe to him -- he knew his limits. Digging in with vigor and certainty.


This past weekend my brother turned 30. I am curious about who might feel older as a result of this -- he or I. As an older sister I marvel at all he has accomplished; married with a house, a job in research secured quickly aftering acquiring his PhD, tearing out and now finishing a garage he built from the ground up -- all this just in the past year and a half. He has a thousand goals and goes after them with incredible energy and focus.




He's returning to music to balance his daily massive intellectual output. In honor of that, his wife and I carved and decorated a guitar cake from two 9 x 13" chocolate cakes, and she bestowed upon him all the equipment and resources necessary for getting back into the game. A guitar on fire -- greatly symbolic for my brother, I think. Look out.



The wedding I played that day was anything but fire. The minister said separately to both bride and groom, "S___, I think since the day you were born your heart was on tiptoe, whispering, where's S____?" (Yes, each had the first intials of "S"). There was no rush in this ceremony, no hurry, just perfect reverence for the experience they've waited a lifetime for. And candles. Thus the dark picture.


The barrage of harp pictures in this blog is part of a bigger project to overhaul my website. The vision remains in my head, waiting to be extracted. Just like the artwork whose deadline is this weekend. This Friday is our Nova Madrugada performance. Look out.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

A little night music

I used to live in a room full of mirrors;
all I could see was me.
I take my spirit and I crash my mirrors,
now the whole world is here for me to see.
Jimi Hendrix


The new Radiohead is out via download only. Listening to it makes one feel that by simply raising one's arms and heart, flying is entirely possible (especially Reckoner).

All wrapped up in one weekend, or rather, one night:
Maggie Green's CD release party
Elisa Nicolas' CD release party
A discussion about the future of Nova Madrugada
Brasiliera at Dick's Den
Running into G at Dick's after working together as volunteers for the WCBE NPR fund drive
Running into the folks from Limestone Vale
Running into the owner of Espresso Yourself Music Cafe
Talking real life with R

A night wedding at Franklin Park Conservatory -- starry lights and candles and jazz harp.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Yes, this is really happening


Today marks the last of my outdoor wedding harp jobs until next spring. This time of year in Ohio means the temperature could be... anything. I always prefer warm over cold, and today was a hot one with record temperatures. Finding shade to play in is not an act of luxury, it's a necessity for both the instrument and the performer. The first wedding was on the OSU campus -- can you tell by the picture? It was a scarlet and gray wedding, complete with the OSU marching band practicing somewhere in the distance and another sport's happenings being announced across the road. The music on the stand is opened to "Carmen Ohio."

The second wedding had an amazing sound system setup... positioned right over my shoulder. The dog in this ceremony behaved himself nicely. Oh the stories of ceremonies I've played!



In between weddings I had a Rice Dream Chocolate Pie.

Last night I attended a concert by Christine Kane, thanks to tickets I won from WCBE, our outstanding local NPR station. As soon as she started to play you forgot it was just Christine and her guitar. Since she has different tunings for each song, she uses the time between each to tune and talk about life. The audience was captivated. Why? Because she is real.

Somewhere in the middle of the concert I felt incredibly validated as a woman, as a performer, and as a creative, sensitive soul. In her presence, our life struggles don't look like struggles at all -- they are experiences loaded with opportunities to grow if you keep your eyes wide open. I get this in theory, but remembering it is another story. This is simply how it is. There is not "what am I supposed to be doing?" You are already doing it.

Christine also leads workshops (the ways I relate to this woman are seemingly endless). I visited the website of where they are held. Smack on the home page was... a blue heron.

Exploring her website further, I found this:
I am discerning and care-full about how I eat. It is a top priority for me, even when I’m on the road. For your average person, this is just too much trouble. For someone who has had an eating disorder, this is just routine. I keep up a regimen of regular health care, regular exercise, and I take more time than most people to prepare great meals and eat them in a relaxed environment.

There is a lot about this for me. Maybe for another post. An area I'm curious about -- Christine gives some very compelling personal arguments for giving up dairy.

And this:
I will probably continue other practices no matter what. I pay out of pocket for acupuncture. I pay higher prices for organic locally grown food. I take extra time for meals. In our speed and efficiency-driven society with all of its social expectations, this is not a popular route. So be it. I spent way too many years trying to keep up with all of this stuff and contort myself to fit society’s values. Once I created my own and stuck with them - miracle of miracles - I found happiness.

YES. There are so many places to go from here. I continue to have such revealing conversations with other women about finding our place in the world.

And all this ON TOP OF her incredible music!!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Mystic without a monastery

From today's newsletter by Caroline Myss:

"I believe that to be a 'mystic without a monastery' is a new 'soul's calling', in the same way that people were once called to the new spiritual path of Buddhism and Christianity. We've had fifty years of exploring this new age human consciousness movement, and it's not new anymore. It's middle-aged and needs to mature into a stronger and more dynamic spiritual and social force on this planet. Instead of making people withdraw from the world, to constantly seek their quiet little cabins in the woods and focus on their own healing endlessly, it's time for the generation of mature souls to emerge who can live in both worlds simultaneously - who can be of service to humanity and maintain their contemplative, private life."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Blue Heron

Every day I try to take an hour walk on the country roads around where I live -- it is the best remedy to qualm the anxiety caused by too many spinning thoughts and ideas and desires. In the middle of my walk, I am on a road that runs along the river, and I have finally achieved some sort of clarity about what's on my mind. I look up, though never at the same spot on the river. Almost always, standing straight and tall in the middle of it is a Great Blue Heron.

It's not as if the heron is a vivid blue, or is doing something to catch my attention. It is just THERE, right where I look, almost waiting for me, looking regal and tall and strong.




(Borrowed picture as I never have my camera with me on the walk).

Valid or not, this bird has become a sort of symbol of reassurance and confirmation. When I stop to gaze at it, for a moment we are both frozen there, and then it lifts it's giant wings and takes flight. The grace and power with which it does this is breathtaking.

Today I was driving home from errands and took another river road. Another perplexing thought was on my mind. I happened to glance over to the river and to my surprise I instantly picked out a blue heron, flying effortlessly in the same direction at the same speed I was driving. You can bet I am going to take action on what was on my mind at the time.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Spinning (again)

So much is happening so fast. I'm just hoping I'm absorbing it all.

I am mesmerized by the music of Bat for Lashes. I cannot believe I didn't go to the show last night. This woman lives her dreams every day (listen to "Horse and I") -- every haunting, moving, aching dream...

I'm reading the excellent book The Not So Big Life by Sarah Susanka (see blog link under "Other Blogs"). Susanka is an architect who writes about home as a sacred place, a location and space for personal expression, pared down to the essentials where every aspect of your surroundings is deeply meaningful. This book is rife with ideas about living authentically.

Today I had a conversation with CG about sorting through the amazing opportunities that life presents on a daily basis -- right now they are coming at me fast and furious. Am I making the right choices? She mentioned the work of Andrew Harvey, who suggests waking at 3 am and asking what makes your heart bleed, makes every part of you ache, what makes you angry -- this is where your life purpose lies. His idea of spiritual activism entails taking action now as the times almost demand it -- really do something versus, for example, meditating about it. We are so often told to go after the things that make you happy, your wonderful joyous dreams. We are taught to turn away from what touches the most tender part of ourselves.

Susanka includes a quote from Rumi in her book: "There is one thing in this world you must never forget to do. Human beings come into this world to do particular work. That work is their purpose, and each is specific to the person. If you forget everything else and not this, there's nothing to worry about. If you remember everything else and forget your true work, then you will have done nothing with your life."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Moonflowers

My experiment with moonflowers is paying off; these night blooms are a remarkable sight and I've not smelled anything like them. They sit right outside the bedroom window. They started like this --


And this is what they look like now -- I plan to plant a lot more next year.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Reignite

Yesterday I attended a Greenbuilding Expo here in Columbus. It didn't take long to realize this event was geared toward contractors and commercial projects vs. homeowners and residential projects like mine. Nevertheless, what I really wanted to do was to see and touch the products I am considering for flooring for the entire lower level of my home, now that the subfloor is laid and everything is level.

The toss-up is between bamboo and cork; the holdup on the decision is of course price, but also durability and quality of product. Reading so much on the internet does not help clarify. The other factor is whether to carry the same flooring from the teaching studio / great room and into the kitchen.



The three samples on the left are cork, the other six are bamboo. For now, yes, that really is the color of all the trim and baseboards in the house.

Luckily, I ran across a local green building supplier at the expo -- Greenovate. They are building a green home just down the road. I'm so excited they are so close and carry all the products I've been researching. I was able to see firsthand another product I've been reading about -- Marmoleum Click, a natural linoleum in a variety of colors. (Sigh). Yet another consideration.

A visit with L two days ago help me realize how I've started to stall out, and not just on the house. She recently returned from her first trip to Italy and is on fire with ideas on what next steps to take in her life. I am so grateful that she is sharing her fire with me -- I needed a spark to reignite my own.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Nova Madrugada

Last Friday night's performance was another liberating exchange of fiery energy. The location this time was the Columbus Music Hall, a refurbished firehouse near downtown Columbus. Musicians on the roster; Roger Hines on bass, Stan Smith on guitar, Dan Thress on drums, Ron Hope on percussion, Mark Donavan on sax, and Matt Adams on sax. Adams and I were in the same music classes at Capital years ago, and this was the first time we've seen each other and musically conversed since then. Scott Woods recited his amazing poetry, backed by any one of us he felt was appropriate for the poem's theme; he chose harp for a love poem -- ha.


These photos were taken from a phone -- all the other players are off to the right. Our playlist consisted of original compositions and a myriad of spontaneous inventions.

I love the surprise and pleasure the harp seems to bring both listener and fellow musician/artist.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Treasure unearthed

Who would have known, right down the road. Literally two miles away, over the river.

Limestone Vale is the home of the Lucey's, a vibrant creative family who owns a house I've long admired on a stretch of historic highway. It wasn't until yesterday that I learned they invite the public to congregate around a campfire and under the stars, as musicians play from an open barn on a stage equipped with an incredible sound system. Wine from a local winery, cheese and crackers and fruit, s'mores made on the spot...

Tonight's performance featured two musicians from the California Guitar Trio, Bert Lams (guitar) and Tom Griesgraber (Chapman stick). They performed their own compositions as well as stunning arrangements of Bach, Chopin, and yes, Bob Dylan.

Where is my camera when I need it??

A day like this can be so heavy with grief and fear. This night for me, spent this way, reminds me that life is beautiful and evolving.

A bat comes rocketing out of the barn -- it's trajectory appears careless and aimless. In reality it is guided by an innate knowing, an unfailing trust. In this gorgeous place I feel suspended in time and space -- what a gift it is to be among others so deeply in love with life.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Alfredo Rolando Ortiz workshop

This past Saturday, Alfredo Rolando Ortiz came through Columbus and offered a workshop and concert for local harpists. Our most gracious host offered up her fabulous home and delicious food, both of which were just perfect for this intimate gathering. Thank you, Kate!

Ortiz always does an excellent job of conveying the importance of a relaxed technique when you play the repetitive rhythms and bass lines of South American music on harp. Paraguayan harps have such a full sound, in part due to less tension on the strings; his technique allows the instrument's rich tones to fully resonate. He challenged us to look at our own technique but was careful to add that he's not advocating we change it. I love that he is all about efficiency of movement with the least amount of tension, and to be conscious at all times of what we are doing and how we are doing it.



A picture of our group -- a few attendees had left before it was taken.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Let there be (more) light


I got the windows yesterday. They're currently stacked in the back of my Volvo. This is a major step in my whatever-phase of home renovation, which is going surprisingly well. When you are in whatever-phase, though, you probably haven't defined what it means to be "finished," so the end isn't exactly near.

The window factory was about two hours away. You would think that driving for quite some time on a gray ribbon of a highway in 92 degrees would render me relieved to find myself on desolate, twisting, winding, roller coaster back roads. Surely the window factory is not out among the river people in their unique puzzle-piece shacks. Driving by these abodes it's impossible not to wonder why exactly is it that I need new windows when these places seem to need new.... everything. And then there is the window factory, right along the seemingly not-moving milk chocolate Muskingum River (the name of which I had to come home to look up). Armed with my windows, I drive past the river houses again, wondering who I would be if I lived here.

I've absolutely never been fond of roller coasters. I realized that is precisely the term that I've been using to describe my overall experience this summer -- er, year. At the crest, it is brilliant, clear, dry, obvious. At each turn, in every direction, other hills and crests recede in shades of greenish-blue, just past the even ordered rows of farmland. In the valley, it is damp, swampy, eerie, black. In these valleys the light is dappled, the growth is dense and jungle-like, and the scent of decaying earth is heavy. But it's here is where the real, uninhibited growth occurs, where all is fertile and things begin, wild and unhampered.

This is the room where the windows will be installed. It's my teaching studio, and I have been here for six years. This is a south-facing wall -- mirrors currently grace the exact space on either side of the mysterious chimney-ish outcropping where the windows will go. Once installed, the windows that have travelled over the river and through the woods will allow dappled light into a room and house to caress the places of breakdown and decay, ensuring fertile, uninhibited growth.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Belief

Your vision will become clear only
when you can look into your own heart.
Who looks outside, dreams.
Who looks inside, awakens.

Carl Jung

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Sunday, June 03, 2007

New or old

I am embarking on a new project a la Gabrielle Swain. She is a brave and wonderful artist and I think she is on to something with her latest commitment to self-exploration.

In keeping with this theme I am finally pulling together the list of seven that my dear friend J tagged me for weeks ago. I adore her 100 things post. The list of seven merely requires sharing seven random facts/habits about yourself on your blog, and then tagging seven other people to do the same. I have not yet tagged seven people -- watch out, you're on my list.

1. In middle school I went out for track because my good friend J was in it. Because she was throwing discus and shotput, that's what I did. Hilarious! I was not built for that -- she was. My niche was running at high speeds for short distances.

2. I was born with "trigger finger" in my pinky fingers, which meant my fingers would curl up tight due to inflammation of the tendon flexor sheath. I could straighten them with much snap, crackle, and pop, but it was painful, and they almost immediately returned to their curled up position. Not good for playing the piano. I had to wait until a certain age for surgery. My scars run along the heart line on each hand.

3. In my pre-teen and teen years I religiously listened to the radio; I gravitated to classic rock stations vs. the top 40. Soon I had my favorites and patiently waited until they came on so I could punch the record button on the tape player and preserve them for all eternity (ha). When I finally learned the titles and artists, it turned out what I was most excited about were Led Zeppelin tunes and I had no inkling who they were. Later in high school, classic rock was all that was played in the art room where my creativity was honed and nurtured by my all-time favorite teacher and mentor.

4. I learned to play the harp in college when I witnessed a woman playing one at an art gallery opening I was required to attend. I was majoring in both art and music at the time, and piano was my primary instrument. The conservatory agreed to set me up with harp lessons once they pulled their one and only harp from a professor's office where it was being used as a coat rack.

5. I became a vegetarian in high school when it was so not cool. Finding healthy, whole, organic foods was not as easy then as it is today. Even though my focus was on healthy eating (the only family member at the time devoted to it), I was the dessert-maker at home and I relished that role. As a young girl my very favorite food -- what I requested for birthday dinners -- was a big steak. Today my favorite foods are organic dry roasted salted cashews, Organic Valley feta cheese, and as-dark-as-possible organic chocolate.

6. I have kept journals for as long as I can remember. I am currently on journal #31, and I don't think this counts the Strawberry Shortcake journal with the special lock and key, or the ones made of ruled paper sandwiched between marker-decorated construction paper and stapled together. I have hand painted the covers of the last ten journals, abhor lined paper, and write very small. I have relied on these journals as reference guides to what really happened when my memory (consciously or subconsciously?) slips.

7. I was a painfully shy child, almost mute in the presence of others. I attended a private school where my class had a whopping number of eight classmates, which was way too many for me. In middle and high school I had experiences that brought mortality up close and personal, and delved into what now looks like a torrent of attempts to establish an identity. The result: sophomore homecoming attendant, senior homecoming attendant, newspaper write-ups for school murals, class VP, Student Council, secretary of NHS, Valedictorian. Just what was I trying to prove?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Interview with Eric Maisel - Ten Zen Seconds


San Francisco-based creativity coach and author Eric Maisel has been working with creative and performing artists for more than twenty years and has written over thirty books, many of which address the ups and downs of the artist's life.

His recent book, Ten Zen Seconds; Twelve Incantations for Power, Purpose, and Calm, explores techniques for reducing stress, centering, and remembering how you want to live your life.

Eric is engaged in an extensive blog book tour, and I'm excited to be a part of it! My interest in his work is personal; I've used his creativity coaching services and own several of his other books, including Fearless Creating, Van Gogh Blues, and Coaching the Artist Within. My interview questions explore only a facet of how this program works. Please visit the Ten Zen Second website for other blogs and interviews with Eric; more information about Eric Maisel follows the interview.

TH: How might TZS help to organize/prioritize the many ideas and actions that arise each day for a creative person?

EM: The Ten Zen Seconds technique is part of a program for increasing daily mindfulness and helping people learn how to create “islands of mindfulness” in their busy day. By practicing this program you begin to prioritize around meaning and learn how to put your most meaningful work and your cherished obligations higher up on your to-do list, rather than being continually yanked about by deadlines, crises, and day job/money-making responsibilities.

(View the twelve incantations of this program here).

TH: As artists, feedback from the outside world is crucial. How might those who are learning to not be completely dependent on outside sources for validation use it?

EM: The most important incantation in this regard is “I trust my resources,” which in this case you would interpret to mean “I trust my own judgments about my creative work and my creative life and I trust my ability to know what to do next and how to do it.”

The second most important incantation in this regard is “I make my meaning,” which reminds you that you must take responsibility for your choices, your work, and the way you live your life, irrespective of what others say or what others, by their silence, imply. We need others to buy our books, come to our concerts, buy our paintings, and so on, and so our audience must be cultivated—but they do not validate us. That we do for ourselves.

TH: How might TZS help artists remain authentic to themselves and not forego their own identity in order to please the outside world? Or, how might TZS help an artist maintain a grip on her own reality, vs. buying into that of someone else?

EM: The idea embedded in the incantation “I am doing my work” is that I have a solid sense of what I want to do with my life—or, if not with my life, at least with this next hour and this current day—and that it is incumbent upon me, in order for me to respect myself and earn my sense of heroism, to do the things I know that I ought to be doing.

We may not actually feel equal to this challenge by using incantations like “I do my work,” “I am taking action,” and “I an equal to this challenge,” but we begin to put the habit in place of honoring our vision for ourselves and maintaining a grip on the reality we want for ourselves.

TH: When engaging in meaning-making, sometimes artists find that the environment in which they were working may not have been healthy, and in some cases, toxic. How might TZS help an artist continue to create in this type of environment?

EM: First, by identifying which aspects of that environment, if any, can be changed and by then finding the courage to stand up and make those changes (which often means confronting others, including loved ones).

Conversely, if, say, you are working with a rude editor whom you need and whom you know can’t be changed, then you let go of the idea of changing your environment and move to incantation 2, “I expect nothing,” with real eagerness, learning how to detach from the toxicity of the interaction with that editor while still engaging with her.

To expect her to change when you know that she won’t is a common but profound mistake: instead, we detach from that need and, by detaching, reduce our experience of pain in our dealings with her.

TH: On the flip side, how might TZS help these artists find / build a supportive community that will contribute to their growth?

EM: Incantation 5, “I feel supported,” along with incantation 9, “I am open to joy,” can really help in this regard. If you know that you want community and better connections in the art marketplace but also know that trying to make those connections makes you anxious, then using those two incantations to promote an attitude shift and some anxiety management can prove really useful.

You want to change your mind about other people and begin to hold them as potentially valuable, rather than as dangerous, and as potentially on your side, rather than indifferent or hostile. Many of the incantations, among them “I am free of the past” (especially if past interactions now make you wary of future interactions), can help to build this new habit.

TH: There is a lot of talk about the Law of Attraction ("The Secret"), which focuses on visualization and outcomes. What is the difference between the Law of Attraction and TZS?

EM: I actually don’t know what “the secret” and the “law of attraction” are all about, but I doubt them on the face of it. We don’t attract earthquakes, military dictatorships, or the sun setting for all time—the idea that we can attract things (probably wealth, I would guess) strikes me as absurd as inventing gods who look like men.

I suspect it is a version of the oldest con game, namely one person telling another person that they can have something for free, with no effort, if only they will believe and fork over some money for the book, video, and the training program. But, as I say, I don’t know what these hot, new things are, so I can’t say how TZS differs from them. My hunch is that TZS, by promoting hard work, personal responsibility, and the letting go of outcomes, probably stands in opposition to any law of attraction.

TH: What might a TZS plan look like for someone attempting to come out of a creative rut?

EM: The first step is always recovering the belief that what you do matters, at least to you. You want to recover the sense that you are committed to your creative life and that you are willing to take responsibility for your creative life. To help encourage these feelings to return, you might try incantation 12, “I return with strength,” as renewed strength is one of the key ingredients to starting back up with something as arduous as “real creating.”

Another piece of the puzzle is reminding yourself that there is no perfect time to begin, that you are always in the middle of something, and that beginning is the thing to do, an attitude supported by several of the incantations, among them “I am equal to this challenge,” “I am taking action,” and “I embrace this moment.”

TH: Have you noticed any trends about who uses what incantations across gender, age, or creative path?

EM: The one constant is that women are much more likely to adopt self-help mindfulness practices than men, perhaps in the ratio of 10 to 1. It is not at all unusual for me to run a workshop that has 18 women in it and 2 men. In fact, this past weekend I facilitated a small Coaching the Writer Within workshop that 9 women and 1 man attended.

As to age, I think that cuts across the board, as does creative path, both in terms of creative discipline and accomplishment. Of course, I believe that these methods are great for everyone, including adolescents and older children—and men, too, if only they wouldn’t stubbornly cling to their refusal to ask for directions when they are lost!

TH: How might TZS work in conjunction with journaling, counseling/therapy, or other forms of self-introspection?

EM: In a seamless way, I think. Other methods of self-awareness, growth, healing and introspection have their important place in a person’s life but they are not typically available as a tool or strategy when you are driving along and want to center, are in a meeting and want to reduce your stress, have fifteen minutes at your disposal and want to work on your novel for a bit, and so on.

Most other methods and systems are not designed to promote mindfulness quickly and “in real time,” whereas that is the main function—and strength—of the Ten Zen Seconds method.

****
Ten Zen Seconds can be purchased through Amazon. To learn more about Eric's new projects as well as his creativity coaching services, visit www.ericmaisel.com.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Fire and light

I am not unlike the fire I lit in the firepit today where I attempted to burn away the bank statements and fallen branches and dead leaves from last year and weeds that have no other place to be. I love fire. But the pit smoldered and sputtered and smoke pillared and billowed and infiltrated the neighbors' yards. Layers of material needing to disappear only suffocated under each other, stifled pathetic little flames and sent out white gray warning smoke signals for hours making the pile virtually impossible to get near.

Next time I will burn quick and high and hot.



I removed the hateful humming flourescent light from the kitchen. There was nothing technically wrong with the 50" x 18" box of dreadful dead light for the one room where the most time is spent. But when it's on you can hear the humming upstairs, sometimes and indicator of whether or not someone is home yet, or whether someone is watching TV in the dark or passed out, or whether you accidentally left it on when you finally crawled into bed. There is nothing to put in its place, but there is a lightness in knowing the hum will never be heard again for any reason.

Listening to:
Radiohead -- You, Nude, High & Dry, Videotape, 15 Step, All I Need

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Fullness

Tonight is the full moon. My favorite. I am creating a space outside for moonflowers to climb underneath my window. Moonflowers bloom at night and are known for giving off an intoxicating scent. If all goes well, I will post pictures.

One of my best friends in the world had her first baby at the end of March. She grew so large and full, and now there is this extension of her, outside of her, and I love the idea that this little boy will know and so unconditionally love the wonderful woman that I am so grateful to have known since college.

Usually I send a crocheted blanket, but I'm pretty sure I had already sent them one a few years back, so baby Ethan got a handmade doll, fashioned in the Waldorf style. About 6" x 6" of squishable softness. Some Waldorf dolls don't have facial features, presumably so the children to whom they belong can use their imaginations about how they look at any given time. Because the Waldorf / Rudolph Steiner school I attended for only a few years in grade school shaped a lot of who I am and what I hold dear today, there will inevitably be more references made to it throughout this blog.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Start over

There is a thunderstorm blowing through right now. Which probably means I shouldn't be on the computer.

This is a real thunderstorm -- "real" means true bright bluish bolts of touch-down lightning followed by the sound of the sky shattering. It reminds me of when I was a girl living in Colorado, where the prevalent thunderstorms always felt like opportunities to start over. The driving rain would wash new gulleys in the driveway, or wash out the dirt roads altogether; the lightning might splinter a tree, or cause one to completely explode. If possible, I would park myself outside somewhere to watch; if my aunt was in town, she would join me.

Always, the intoxicating fresh and clean scent of sage hung in the air after the clouds and the lightning and the rain blew by. The storms wouldn't hang around in Colorado like they do in Ohio. The billowing purple monsters forged through the sky and the sun would come out again, and inevitably, UNFAILINGLY, the rainbow.

Full color, sometimes double, arching over the mountains, or over the house... run run run through the neighborhood to get the best view, over pitted dirt driveways and through scrub oak and sage.... we're clean again, shining with new(er) promise and hope -- see? There's the rainbow. Now we can start over.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Andrew Bird -

Flying

I've got Spinning Brain Syndrome, which I've realized provides enough thought-and-experience fodder to conceivably post an entry every day. So that's what I'm going to attempt to do.

This past month (April) I attended the Andrew Bird concert at the Great Southern Theater. This venue was a step up in size compared to last year's concert, and the glow of the gold walls and ceiling was ethereal -- the photo in the link doesn't do it justice. I had a last-minute balcony seat so was able to so clearly view Bird dipping and spinning and nearly tripping in his ecstatic state of improvising through and above those walls of sound with a single instrument (or two) and at least one octave and five looping pedals...

I've tinkered with a looping pedal and it is a humbling experience. Timing/rhythm is everything, and just one of this kind of tool absolutely tests to what extent you are really hearing the rhythms both internally and externally. Adding more than one pedal demands memorizing what loop is recorded where. And hitting it at the right time WHILE you are creating sailing melodies over it all is imperative.

A note about the violin -- the sustaining qualities of this instrument lend so well to the looping pedal. The decay of sustained tones on the harp is much more rapid; a quandary to which I've devoted a lot of thought. I was a pedal-to-the-metal pianist because I loved the effect the sustaining pedal had on whatever I was playing -- it made everything seem bigger, bolder, and that much more magical.

When you watch someone so enraptured by what they are creating, losing themselves in the rhythms and notes and sounds beating back at them through the sound system, they are allowing you a tiny peek into what it really means to be truly, fully alive. Bird is lost in the wash of sound yet aware enough to assign shapes and colors to those sounds and rhythms flowing through and around him, painting vibrant, pulsing, magnificent landscapes.

His blip on Letterman was disappointing only in that it seemed to lack the high energy of the live shows, and Bird sans violin -- blasphemy! Ah, but we get a taste of his whistling-that-matches-exact-pitch of whatever instrument he is playing, in this case the xylophone...

THIS (link above) was the most amazing piece he did in Columbus -- "Why?", by himself -- leaving massive gaps in his loops as ready-to-fill entry points for his seemingly random creative sparks of musical ideas and spoken word. This is a video from Bonnaroo, but imagine it performed in a darkened theater, with the echo on the violin magnified, single spotlight on Bird while he lurches and reels, always coming back to the pedals, poised and hovering with striped-sock foot, kneading and shaping the walls of sound...

If I could, I would follow this guy around on his tour for the mere reason of knowing every performance would be its own improvised masterpiece.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Nourishment

In times of great chaos, turmoil, and trauma, cooking can be a tremendous source of comfort and peace.

Many of you already know this -- I'm a little late coming to it. Chalk this up to my abusive love/hate relationship with food over the majority of my lifetime. It is a great accomplishment to now view food as a way of taking care of myself instead of a way to control, shape, contort, and escape from my body and mind. Healing = viewing food as nourishment and coming together, instead of as punishment and coming apart.

I'm not talking about eating a quart of ice cream when feeling down. I'm talking about feeling a suffocating swell of anxiety and panic and realizing; What can I count on? Well, dinner. At least dinner needs to happen. And you find solace and air in chopping potatoes for potato leek soup with garbanzo beans and frozen mixed vegetables, or fresh garlic and ginger for stir fry with tofu, or portabello mushrooms, spinach, and garlic with olive oil and a bit of feta cheese over rice.

Because, even when you are doubting where you are going and what you are doing, you deserve to be nourished. And sometimes with good, healthy, organic food. And yes, that includes chocolate.

You were born with potential.
You were born with goodness and trust.
You were born with ideals and dreams.
You were born with greatness.
You were born with wings.
You are not meant for crawling, so don't.
You have wings.
Learn to use them and fly. -- Rumi

And cook.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear

without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,

but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,

these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,

streaming through widening channels

into the open sea.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~

Monday, January 01, 2007

New thoughts, new year

Dear One,
Remember when you were small
Falling into your written name
Not from awe that it defined you
But that you exist in spite of it.
You are still that.
You are still,
Still are.


The preacher said
Almost off-handedly
"If you cannot be humble,
your marriage will not work."
The words sat beside me
in the harp hearse
flying through the blue-black night
over vast full fields
past tired Christmas lights
toward the stars.