One way to define love is “sustained, compassionate attention”. These words came from John Muir Laws, a naturalist, educator, and artist who inspires stewardship of the land by sharing his practice of nature sketching. When I read these words, I began to see the importance of my own art practice in developing sustained, compassionate attention for myself. I have noticed, in just a few years of deliberately making art daily, that my well of self-compassion has grown wider and deeper. And gradually, my capacity for compassion toward others — even the ones it would be easy to judge or dismiss quickly — has become more of a habit. Continue reading
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.
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
It’s freezing. All I know is it’s 11 miles out and back. The description on the website had said, “Participants must be in good cardiovascular condition. No single track/technical work. Climbing for sure.”
I should have known when I saw the fat tires on everyone else’s bikes.
Oh, how we wish that learning would take place in the comfort of our familiar homes! A cozy blanket, a warm cup of tea, our favorite music playing, and the knowing that everything as we have chosen and arranged it now surrounds us.
Learning for me always looked like showing up in a classroom, or privately in front of a teacher, and demonstrating what I knew. I would then get feedback in the form of a critique, the next challenge chosen by the teacher, or a score on a test that told me how much what I thought I learned matched what I was expected to have learned.
What I learned on my first mountain bike ride this weekend is that learning – the fresh, raw experience of aha!wow! that’s new! – can be extremely uncomfortable. It can happen when we are placed (or we find ourselves) in a situation we did not know we chose (but we did) and that every fiber of our being is wanting to fix, alter, escape, or resist. But there we are. In my case, “there” was a guided 11-mile ride on a closed access trail. Turning back was not an option without taking the entire group with me.
How was Experiment #4 for you?This week’s meeting was all about finding the intention that aligns the most with true desire, and then filling every cell of our body with that desire.
But not in the way you might normally think of desire, as “I want”.
This kind of desire is the experience of living as if your intention has already come true.
So if you “want” a new car, picture yourself in vivid detail enjoying every inch of that new car. Feel the leather seats, play with the sleek console, experience the punch of the gas pedal, see your hair whipping in the wind if it’s a convertible.
Now feel the sensation in every cell of your body as you imagine this scene.
THAT is the feeling of having a laser-focused intention. Continue reading
Here’s my definition of true self-confidence. I’m so over the days of being in a classroom and each of us painting our own “version” of what the teacher wants us to paint. We are told that this kind of imitation – producing something that looks “as good as” what we are told is a “masterpiece” – is what we should be striving for. That we should practice for mastery as it is defined by the experts.
I’m interested in the kind of self-confidence that comes from facing the blank page, the open space, the silence, the void. Where there is no map. Only your body, your breath, your instincts, and your wild-eyed awareness. Only by choosing to “go there” – to show up in territory that is uncharted for you – can you experience what I’m talking about here.
For me, it requires venturing outside my zones of mastery and wondering what it’s like to be a novice. I never sang, so I explored what my voice could do with sound. I never painted, so I played with brushes and paper and colors. I bring back the lessons of these experiences to the areas of my life where I may be stagnating in my attachment to being “good at it”.
When was the last time you stood at the edge of your comfort zone, and faced the open space?
When was the last time you took a step into that open space, truly not knowing where it would lead?
Each time you give yourself this kind of opportunity, you discover your relationship with fear, and you have the chance to see and accept yourself as you are. Continue reading
THIS was not a photo on my vision board. I was perfectly content to be performing, showing what I was able to do comfortably, easily, and predictably. I thought I was getting “good” at playing freely, improvising, and creating in the moment. The sound of Chinese Melodrama that matches the stacks of CDs we bring to every gig.
Then THIS had to happen.
By “THIS” I mean: We are at LunarBurn, a three-day outdoor festival and experiment in community living. In my mind, it’s a chance to show up and spread the love. We play our first set at the PermaPub, an intimate venue with couches, a bar, and all the impromptu live music one could ask for. We aren’t even finished with a song (Led Zeppelin’s “Over the Hills and Far Away”) near the end of our set, and a guy appears onstage. He has furry white chaps over his jeans, and a grey hoody. He appears to be maybe under the influence of some substances. But what do I even know about these things? I just thought he was a jerk for interrupting our set.
Here’s my, “Get off the stage, jerk!” look:
Yep, what you’re seeing is a whole lotta judgment flowing freely from me in that moment. First he wanted to play my violin. I’d rehearsed this response before, so it was easy to say, “Sorry, I don’t let anyone touch my violin.” Continue reading
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
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
So, for those of you who still haven’t read the whole book, and may even find yourself getting sick and tired of all the “Tiger Mom” and “Tiger Cub” stuff being thrown around the web, here’s something that might ease your suffering. Amy Chua wrote a column in USA TODAY entitled, “Here’s how to reshape U.S. education.”
First of all, it’s short and very readable in a few minutes, honoring our short American attention spans, a la USA Today.
Second of all, Amy “follows the rules” and wears her academic hat here, citing historical geopolitical examples, statistics, and all those other techniques that make our rational brains feel taken care of. She sounds smart, succinct, and very put-together. To draw a wardrobe analogy, she would be wearing a navy blue suit and high heels in this article, while in Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother we saw her with no makeup, maybe some running shoes, and her “fat jeans”. In other words, she wasn’t so pretty and polished.
Here, she only briefly hints at her own vulnerability, her own flawed human condition, by stating that she “learned her lesson the hard way” when her younger daughter (NB: the daughter who does not yet have a blog, and has not yet gotten into Harvard…she’s only a freshman in high school) rebelled. She also hints at the vulnerabilities of her attackers – you know, the parenting bloggers and other self-righteous jumpers-on-the-bandwagon who feel the need to polarize every story into a right-versus-wrong debate – by saying this about parenting in particular, and why it’s such a hot-button issue:
“We all desperately want to get it right and never know for sure whether we are. Perhaps it’s because the stakes are so high, and it’s terrifying to admit a mistake.”
Ultimately, in the final paragraphs, she boils down her point of view into a very tidy philosophical statement of “East Meets West”, imagining an ideal borrowing from the “best of both worlds” – the structure and discipline required in early childhood to establish a foundation of learning, and a gradual opening in the later teenage years to allow ample exploration of individuality and creative self-expression:
The great virtue of America’s system is that our kids learn to be leaders, to question authority, to think creatively. But there’s one critical skill where our kids lag behind: learning how to learn.
East meets West
If in their early years we teach our children a strong work ethic, perseverance and the value of delayed gratification, they will be much better positioned to be self-motivated and self-reliant when they become young adults. This is a way to combine East and West: more structure when our children are little (and will still listen to us), followed by increasing self-direction in their teenage years.
When I read these words, they sound familiar. I agree with them.
They were the ingredients I intended to bring into fruition when I started a violin school for toddlers in Silicon Valley back in 2004. With starry eyes and the willingness to put everything on the line (including a partner-level job in venture capital) for the creation of this dream, I set out to provide the ultimate combination of Eastern and Western philosophies. This was to be “more than violin lessons”. It was to be “lifelong learning”, using the vehicle of violin to teach discipline, teamwork, leadership, collaboration, listening, sensitivity, confidence, and mastery. Everything I could think of could be taught through the journey of learning to play violin and performing around the world.
I actually used the term “learning how to learn” in my parent seminars and recruiting presentations. Continue reading
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