Inspiration for restorative walk, perhaps – before your next creative endeavor.
Allow each step to be a conscious, next step – in some direction. Forward? Still? Play around with levels. Kneel, if that is available to you, see the lower levels of life. Look up, see the infinite expanse above us all.
I encourage you to bring your attention to an intention, in this moment: intent to notice the outside world, through your senses. I see…I hear…I smell…I touch…I taste…
I will repeat each of these phrases and allow you to explore them more deliberately.
Before that, a note, my friend, about being with your senses outside.
Roam, roam in a matter of fact way – getting so curious, about what you see, get curious about the details.
But again, notice in what I call a matter of fact way.
Quiet the volume on judgments, the way you wish something might be, quiet the volume on everything but noticing and soaking with your outside would, through your senses, with a beginner’s mind.
This practice, this practice will set your tensions and point of view free, free to roam.
Ah, I know you’re human. Those personal experiences, those personal thoughts, feelings, and sensations are bound to come up. But unless they are intense enough like a full bladder and need to be tended to ASAP, please, practice letting them go. Let them go. And return to each of the prompts I will remind you of…this very act of letting go will also pave new ways for you to travel, traveling the healthiest and freshet pathways of your mind when you want to. Intending to focus on something, allows you to focus better this time and next time and the time after that.
Go ahead, show up.
Keep walking, change levels, pause with the following prompts:
When you are fulfilled, head back inside. But keep this fresh imprint with you, that at any time, in any context – you may explore and marvel. All you need is an intention to pay attention, through your senses.
When you are ready, show up for whatever you choose to do next, refreshed.
Artistic angles, I refer to often, are available moments that combine awareness and expression. Awareness is simply what exists within and around us. Expression happens when we synthesize what we become aware of. Sometimes, the expression is literal or matter of fact. Sometimes, the expression is as abstract as your imagination allows…
Combining impulses, of awareness and expression, mindful art-making reveals itself. When we are aware and expressive, I suggest that you’re living your artistic angles out loud.
Bring attention to the thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations from within, right now. Jot them down for future inspiration:
Then, look outside of yourself. Notice the natural plus not-so-natural state of the things. Gather what you notice from your unique angles on life and the world. There is no wrong way to find inspiration in this way. Again, feel free to jot down notes for future inspiration:
The Natural World Around Me—
The Not-So-Natural World Around Me—
True artists construct from whatever angles exist, with whatever materials spread out within and before them. In true artistry, the true part involves recognizing then piecing together the artistic angles.
Angles spring from personal experiences (thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations), the world around us, and our imaginary universe. Some artists prefer one of these angles more than others. Their work reflects this. Some vary between the angles, and some flow seamlessly between all three.
Inspired by this excerpt from Reframe Your Artistry, published by Prodigy Gold Books – go onward and broaden your artistic angles, no matter the current confines.
As a young dancer, I had a career ending injury. Weekly visits to a top doc could not fix my situation. While I attended those lengthy appointments in Philly, I’d get teased for things like my fascination with the obituary section of Dance Magazine and the fact that I was from Phoenixville.
“Phoenix, Arizona?” a fellow patient asked.
“No, Phoenixville,” I said.
“I love Phoenix,” that same patient responded.
“She said, Phoenixville,” the medical assistant clarified. She followed with something like, “no one has heard of it. Very different than Phoenix.”
And they shared a chuckle at my expense.
I went back to reading, then. That is what I did.
When injury permanently sidelined me, at fifteen, dad asked me to take a drive with him. Drive: code for pep talk. We drove along Phoenixville’s main street: Bridge Street. He played Doo-wop. Maybe he also longed for a more hopeful time.
He said, “we are checking town.”
He pointed out the – then – shutdown Colonial movie theater where the Blob had been filmed. He pointed out the half-dozen places he’d worked.
He pointed out shops that his own father had owned during the ’50s and ’60s; soda fountains. One soda fountain’d close. Another soon reopened. The family business eventually moved a few streets down – off the main street – after hard times. I went into that triangular space a few years back. They were selling – appropriately – vintage furniture.
Our origins credit iron and steel production.
By the nineties, most Phoenixville storefronts were abandoned.
Town colors were gray and grayer, except if you were a fan of high school baseball – in which case you wore purple with pride.
I saw a very different Phoenixville than my father. It embodied my own internal dystopia, another thing I’d have to overcome if I wanted to make something of myself.
First chance I had, I did leave town. It came in the form of a letter of admission to a place more people may have heard of than Phoenix, Arizona. One word: Harvard.
Harvard exists in a lesser known community (as vibrant and equally full of schooling) – Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was everything I’d hoped to inhabit: eclectic, diverse, energetic, intellectual, dressed in indie books, vintage fashion, bustling cafes by day and novel bars by night.
I said I’d never move back home.
Then, life happens. And love clarifies where we belong rather than a place in which to come of age.
Here I am.
I fell in love with Phoenixville, this time around. Or maybe it was my original imprint of love. Maybe the way my dad had painted a vision, and I recalled in heart, Phoenixville – this go around – seemed to heal both personal and community loss via transformation as an artist’s haven.
“It’s bohemian balmy,” a classy friend, passing through, once referred to my beloved Artisan’s Cafe.
Phoenixville. One word.
Forty-five minutes west of Philly, minutes beyond the Main Line, and minutes enough to be all I’d hoped to raise a family: eclectic, diverse, energetic, intellectual, dressed in indie books, vintage fashion, bustling cafes by day and novel bars by night.
This is my town.
You will rise
The phoenix from the flame
You will learn
You will rise
Being what you are
There is no other Troy
For you to burn
Troy, Sinead O’Connor
I had a dream last night. An explosion set fire to buildings starting down around Bluebird Distilling, and I was unsure if the bookstore – a few blocks up, would be spared.
For me, the businesses that shot me out of bed, concerned for and motivated to write this post, are precious to me; like high schoolers might have felt about Nathan Honig’s soda fountain in the ’50s. I’ll never get to set foot inside his creation, but walking among the establishments at the corner of Prospect and Gay, I feel his presence, still.
I feel his presence, here, and I better understand how and what I value. Acknowledged roots generate creative ideas.
My engagement with Phoenixville – now – however, involves deliberate, independent thought:
The Farmers Market, with its family-friendly hospitality and easiestaccess to kale that does not require salad dressing drench.
Reads & Co, indie enough to house favorite books – and even my own. After our visits, my daughter begs to return, especially to resume her flight inside her reading rocket ship.
Nectar Yoga Studio, where my gritty guru – Kate Goodyear – (conveniently, also, my favorite muscle toning diva) – operates one of the most soulful places on Earth.
Refinery, with fashion sense way out of my league, except for the fact that the owner makes everyone feel like someone special and seen.
Vecchia, ah – sweet Neapolitan-style pizza, or vvvrrreeal thing, as Nathan Honig’s Czech accent would’ve revealed. Pizza by this creator and owner – Frank Nattle – is one of the best things to come from the local high school baseball team legacy (if you ask me).
Soltane whipped foam, in the shape of a heart, atop both my daughter’s hot cocoa and my latte. We drink our beverages and share an owl cookie after our monthly jaunt to the library.
Steel City Coffeehouse yes, my original jaunt into town, as a bohemian-wanna-be-artist-teen, and one of the original and strongest offerings to creatives drawn to authentic music and coffee. It’s also hosted some of my favorite off-beat artists over the years, including Jeffrey Gaines and Kevin Manning. The current owners continue to blossom this wildflower.
Then, of course, pragmatically speaking – there’s the local bank – Phoenix Federal, where my immigrant, refugee grandparents could set-up an account for me when I was a toddler. I bank there today, after trying out bigger brands, coming home to honest, reliable, and friendly.
I have wandered along these streets. I have wandered much further.
I think of the statement, now, “not all who wander are lost.” That does embody my spirit. Maybe it’s a Phoenixville thing – born of steel, transformed by art and food; wanderers. This moment in time, yet a blip, slight against this town’s eternal lifeline.
I developed a metaphor this week, for anxious clients. I described the tides of the current pandemic like bubbles of a bubble bath, moving from dense, fresh spigot then spreading out – before evaporating. For now, we sit in the bath. We aim to protect what is most sacred: our flesh. We reaffirm priorities. We pause. But, as bubbles dissipate, as they have in eastern parts of the world, so will we be fortunate to move forward, once again…
When it is time, move along the streets of Phoenixville. Watch us rise, once again, like our patron saint.
In the comments section or your own upcoming creative endeavors, I invite celebrations of home. Celebrate the shops, shopkeepers, vibes, and originality that makes your home and YOU, the best you can be. Keep their spirit alive now, and get ready to boogie with them, again, soon.
It’s been a whirlwind for most of us, in light of the concerns and precautions engulfing our world. I am sharing mindful wisdom that I am practicing. Trying to live and share, respecting boundaries and health, during these unprecedented times:
STAY INFORMED, BUT DO NOT FIXATE.
ascertain information from minimally biased sources
read news articles rather than social media blasts to slow down stress reactions
gather information in moderation, compartmentalized amounts of time rather than news streaming – constantly – on the television, like white noise
MAINTAIN A SENSE OF ROUTINE.
enjoy your morning coffee, exercise, and shower? bravo, keep that up…
consider a breathable, flexible schedule that spells out a few actions and engagements for the day
now, more than ever, carve out time for art making
if you are homebound, tending to loved ones, that is an obvious priority
respect the priorities and boundaries of others
if you are working from home, prioritize the essentials of the to do list – the rest of the world is doing the same, right now
take stock of what your true priorities are, practicing a priority A v. B column, and let go of the B column til our way of life recalibrates
with senses wide open, soak in extra moments with rapidly growing children or aging parents
be grateful – exactly where and as you are, right now
PERMISSION TO PAUSE, SLOWDOWN, HEAL, AND BE CREATIVE…
we are too busy during those other days of 21st century standards, pause
slowdown, that clean or that phone call or that evening story
allow stillness and joy via gratitude, to provide deep healing properties
create with novel materials already in your home (waiting to be repurposed), recreate your career, rebrand creatively….now, has never been, and you were made to BE, creatively in this moment.
adore this heart, formerly known as a shell, created at daughter’s awesome daycare
Super excited to learn that Jason Reynolds has been named Library of Congress’ current ambassador for young people. Inspired by an interview that I overheard, featuring him, this morning on NPR – I’m gonna share some how-to-be-YOU basics. Reynolds reignited my sense of purpose, describing that his mother nurtured his love of writing and that he hopes to do the same for other young people. His mother, he noted something like,
“she told me that my stories mattered because they were mine.”
Look outside of yourself. Notice the natural plus not-so-natural state of the things. Gather what you notice from your unique angles on life and the world. There is no wrong way to find inspiration in this way. Jot down notes for future inspiration:
The Natural World Around Me –
The Not-So-Natural World Around Me –
My Imagination –
True artists construct from whatever angles exist, with whatever materials spread out within and before them. In true artistry, the true part involves recognizing then piecing together the artistic angles. Angles spring from personal experiences (thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations), the world around us, and our imaginary universe.
Some artists prefer one of these angles more than others. Their work reflects this. Some vary between the angles and some flow seamlessly between all three. Take Wendy Whelan’s flow, for example. This longstanding principal dancer with New York City Ballet is also the subject of the documentary Restless Creature. In an interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, from 2017, Whelan was asked how she felt about embodying the “ballerina” and if for her, like the stereotype, fulfilling this role resembled ultimate femininity.
Whelan responded to Gross’s (brilliant, piercing) probe by saying her own traits as tall, thin, and athletic filtered into the work she produced. Her personal traits brought an angular influence to the art. Therefore, she concluded to hardly relate to feminine stereotypes. This stance evolved based on self-knowledge and the art world in which she practiced. This gifted artist has maintained an awareness of mind, body, and imaginary worlds to deliver art for over thirty years. At 51, Whelan continues to make art – after retirement from ballet, a major hip surgery, and with no less tenacity than her 17 year-old self. The art just looks different and has different intentions. Her roles demanded and continue to demand a high caliber of physical and mental awareness.
Without calling it that, mindfulness integrated her personal being alongside what choreographers, culture, and the rest of the universe asked of her. Even if you’re not a former ballerina type (and for the sake of biodiversity, I hope not), I want you to get clear about what personal and worldly and imaginary traits define your true artistry.
Do you tend to get inspired by your emotional states? Your physical structure? Your age? Your neighborhood? Your memory of childhood? Or, the invented kingdom sensed in your belly that, as you told your shrink, you figured everybody else probably had that too (um, yeah – that’s a personal reveal)?
I prefer the imaginary places. Maybe that is apparent to you after reading my philosophical blah blah blahs. My mind longs to go to places to which neither plane nor train can transport. I imagine kindness as a core currency and what makes us different makes us beautiful. Thoughts of global compassion fire me up. Imperfection is sexy. And I hope these angles come through as distinct elements of my art making.
Those elements are true to me and therefore belong to my true art making. Every artist will be different, as will every artistic moment or decade in a true artist’s life. But what makes mindful art original is the awareness of the creator to be able to identify their personal, community, worldly, and imaginary sources. With such awareness, narrow aesthetic values inherently erode. They are replaced by broader options, because no two people, no two places, no two moments in time could ever be the same.
GO ON, HEART YOURSELF…REFLECT IN SOLITUDE, OR I DOUBLE-DOG-DARE YOU TO SHARE YOUR ARTISTIC SOURCES WITH US IN THE COMMENTS SECTION.
(my kid is a master at the pause…and pause…and…you get the toddler point:)
excerpt from this blogger’s forthcoming book via Prodigy Gold Books: “Reframe Your Artistry,” on the topic of artistic renewal:
Unclog this moment from aiming for something. Opens your beginner eyes. Embrace what is. From that angle, sparkles and shine emerge. If you don’t want to get that romantic, pause and see life through a child’s point of view which provides a similar state of wonder.
Otje van der Lelij summarizes the tale of a student seeking feedback from a Zen master in her piece titled, “Why Life Looks Better with Beginner’s Eyes,” included in A Book That Takes Its Time. The student arrives to the master with a head full of scholarly information and opinions for which he wishes to gather more knowledge. After a period of mindful listening, the master responds by sending the student away, stating “…Your head is so crowded with thoughts and questions that there is no room left for my answers. Please go away, empty your mind, and only then come back here. First create some space in your head” (p.100).
Go, my curious pupil. Like that Zen student, go to that open space. Sort out junk, dump teachers you no longer have use for, and erase rules that no longer apply. In your open space, be the artist that you are. Frame your creations off-center or however else you light up.
Breaking News: Open Spaces Soon Available.
Take a Pause and Apply Within!
Dedicating time and energy to pausing, we expand productive energy. I’m not saying think like this all the time or go on a permanent pause (though I hear silent or knitting or couples retreats are quite delicious). I’m encouraging carefully curated moments to pause from thoughts, feeling states, circumstances, and routines, in order show up, renewed for an artistic moment.
Grow permission and ability to pause. Trust in your artistry and the universe, let go of the rest of life for a set amount of time. It is okay, even, to let go of any thoughts and ideas that emerge. If a creative idea is worth dedicated, active time, the idea will resurface.
The primary key to unlocking your artistry requires pulling back the cozy comforter and making art. Show-up, pay attention, and make art. Make art, any art, make art. It’s not about getting rid of anxiety or curing it. For those who struggle with either more general anxiety or Art Anxiety, specifically, the primary goal for both involves learning to live with and give less credit to our anxiety, rather than anxiety dictating our lives. We also do not want to repress or reject anxiety because it will show up in other ways such as excuses or inauthentic gestures. And remember, whenever possible, turn off the mindless social media and memory chatter. It fuels unproductive anxiety.
Move toward your artistic side, right now:
Re-examine an abandoned project or a portfolio with beginner eyes. Add material to the old material you have neglected or forgotten about.
Set a timer for five minutes. Play around with scraps, clay, newspaper, or non-recyclable-whatever-you-haves (better as art than landfill), and see where your imagination takes you. Place less emphasis on defining your project, and instead – focus on showing up to art making; be playful, curious, and directionless.