Tag Archives: improvisation

Surrender and Loving It ‘Til You Know What It Is

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I am in a large group of women artists who have driven up to the ridge of a mountain range and then down a very windy road to a secluded artists retreat program in northern California. All I want to do is stare at the dreamy landscape, watching how the golden green hills go back and back and back, disappearing finally into a fog bank which hovers just above the sea in the distance. I want to watch as the wind blows, the fog clears, and the misty outlines of the hilltops begin to glisten in the midday sunlight. I want to sit and sketch it, and fill in the colors I am seeing, and try to capture the dreaminess, the haziness of it all, the lack of precise outlines which gives it that quality of mystery that makes me want to keep staring.

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But we have a schedule. There are ranchers and herders moving us along in this schedule, ensuring that we are on time. I help myself to a large lunch – two servings each of lentil soup and kale salad with some fruit on the side. My idea of a perfect meal. But my stomach feels slightly full after all that, and I am ready to rest and digest.

Having forgotten the schedule momentarily, I’m jarred when it is announced that we now need to move into another room for a “movement activity”. Continue reading

Where are you reaching FROM?

IMG_3415A few weeks ago, on August 20, I read the news that BKS Iyengar, the renowned Indian yoga teacher and founder of the Iyengar Yoga tradition, had died at age 95. Immediately I was brought back to the many memories I have as a result of his teachings. My first California yoga teachers were trained in the Iyengar tradition. In their classes I was exposed for the first time to silent meditation and chanting. I remember as a student just managing to tolerate these first few minutes of ritual as I waited for “the real yoga class” to begin. What could these Sanskrit sounds possibly have to do with my physical strength, flexibility, and fitness, which is why I did yoga (or so I thought)? Continue reading

How is your relationship with Not Knowing?

Not Knowing is most intimate…” – Zen saying
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This is a note for you. You are such a good student, when there’s a teacher standing in front of the class, and other students surrounding you, all learning to do the same things. You are a stellar worker, always taking responsibility for your job, above and beyond the call of duty. You take instructions quickly, correct your mistakes diligently, and do everything you can to get along with others. You are smart, capable, successful, but still feel there’s something missing from your life, even though you can’t quite name it.

So what is it? What is that missing thing?

I don’t know.

But I’m willing to bet that your relationship with Not Knowing could use a little tune-up. A little checking in and refamiliarizing. Continue reading

The Journey of Yoga and Healing Sounds – Class at Prajna Center in Belmont

The air is thick with the scent of lavender, heavy with the warmth of bodies at rest. A single strand of white lights twists, dances, curls along the floor where it meets the rising wall, hinting at the outer boundary of the otherwise darkened room.

I rise from a state of complete rest, quiet inside my body, after a Restorative Yoga class with John. I am curious about what sounds I will invite into the already perfect silence and stillness enveloping me. I set up my sacred space, an altar to my joy, my circle of support, my ability to love and to transform, to play and to create.

I settle in to the energy of these objects on my altar, which bring me peace and freedom even as I step closer to the edge of vulnerability in the open space.

The sound of the shruti box calms me, grounds me with a gentle yet firm foundation. It is both undulating and constant, a launching pad into the infinite as well as a soft place to land and be nurtured.

I invite sounds from all who are in the room. Immediately we are one – a chorus. Singers who don’t need to know the song, who simply listen and offer what comes naturally from within. A sigh, an exhale, a melodious note – it doesn’t matter. We are in this space together, experiencing this magic together. We enter the practice as one. Continue reading

Be Careful What You Wish For…

Last year I made a vision board for who I am and how I feel when I express my creativity. I had devoted 2010 to my Core of Peace, and I was setting a new intention for 2011.

I didn’t know exactly HOW my creativity would be expressed. But by making the vision board I connected with images and words that captured how I knew it would FEEL to be in that place of expression.

I let go of the HOW, because I didn’t – and couldn’t – know at the time what the exact steps would be.

I breathed deeply into the feelings of my own creativity, and allowed images to attract me without needing an explanation or a meaning or a concept. They were just images that I loved, for no “reason” at all.

Here is the vision board I made:

I have it as the wallpaper image on my laptop, so every time I open my computer, the images enter my consciousness. Most days, I don’t sit and deliberately stare at every image on my screen, but I know they are there.

I haven’t thought about that vision board in many months. I have gone about the business of living, of staying in my Core of Peace, of letting some things go, and picking up other things, of planting seeds and watching them grow, all the while noticing that I cannot force growth to happen any faster than it already is.

Last night I looked at it again.

It was with a sense of amazement that I noticed how many of the images had actually come into my reality during 2011. In other words, my visions had come true! Continue reading

Solving the Puzzle of the Universe

A few days ago I solved the puzzle of the universe.

It came in a box. There were 500 pieces and a neat image of the final product – what the solution was supposed to look like.

I had a partner while I was doing it. We didn’t discuss how we were going to tackle the problem, we just started working on it, each in our own way. There were no words. Things just began when they began, and ended when they ended.

I noticed that I wanted to follow some instructions that were somewhere in the back of my head about “how to” solve a puzzle like this.

Start with the edges and corners,” was one set of instructions.

Find the colored pieces first,” was another.

I tried both of those, but the puzzle was just so big, so complicated, with so many parts, that I quickly got frustrated with each of those approaches. I made a tiny bit of progress, but immediately got stuck following those two paths. Continue reading

Confessions of a Closet Musician

I still feel jealous whenever I see a musician performing onstage. I know, I call myself a “life coach” so I should be more evolved than that. But I’m not. I do know, however, that noticing my feeling of jealousy is a juicy nugget of treasure to show me the thoughts that are keeping me imprisoned. So I start to do the work.

Even now, that I am actually living a life of sharing my music in the world, there is an old, fear-driven part of my brain, which hasn’t quite let go of its hold over my essential self, that is yelling in my ear, “You’ll never make it in this world as a musician! It’s just too hard to make a living! You’ll never be respected! You’ll have to work too hard! It’ll never be worth it!

Ever notice that the people who say these things are the ones whose lives have actually proven these beliefs to be true? I haven’t found a successful performing artist who has said, “Forget it. It’s too hard. For all the effort I put in, it’s not worth it.” (On the other hand, for some reason, I’ve met plenty of doctors who’ve said this to me.) The reality – the truth – is there are many examples of people whose lives prove these beliefs NOT to be true.

What’s the difference between these two groups of people? Is it talent? Is it luck? Is it genetics? Is it a mystery? Continue reading

Studying Creativity Scientifically: A Surgeon Studies The Brain On Improv

Special thanks to my fellow life coach Amy Williams for sharing this with me.

A very cool TEDx talk by a surgeon combining his passions for music and the brain:


Essential Self Extravaganza

As 2010 came to a close, I realized that over the past year, I have had the opportunity to become part of three brand new communities (without even changing my physical address). As I embarked on life coach training, certification in music and sound healing, and improvisation as a violinist in the local “open mic” scene, I was welcomed into three totally new worlds for me.

As I crisscrossed the Bay Area and the internet interacting with these distinct groups, it occurred to me that no single place brought together people with such wide-ranging interests. What fun it would be if someone could create a space and purpose for gathering that would allow the expression and sharing of all these creative souls! I realized that I could be that person!

I was inspired to create the Essential Self Extravaganza. The name refers to a central concept of Martha Beck’s life coaching approach, which guides us to find and follow the voice of our essential self, versus the social self we so readily construct as an identity to show the world and “fit in” with the rules of our families, religions, cultures, professional group, or demographic.

I had had enough of the typical “holiday party”, where the focus is on the display of our social selves. The typical conversations starting with the question, “So, what do you do?” or “Where are you from?” were familiar to me, yet no longer of interest. Instead of complaining or lamenting about these kinds of parties, I decided (in the empowerment I am growing into) to host my own gathering – the kind of party I would want to attend myself. Continue reading