Courage

First BE.

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I have a dear friend who is an amazing painter. She’s been an artist as long as I can remember (we were toddlers together).

Her artistic sensibilities delight me, inspire me, and influence me. I own a number of her paintings. They feed me every time I look at them.

She’s what I would call, a real artist.

Here’s a secret: I’ve been wanting to paint for a long time. For decades.

Back in the late 80s, this same friend and I made huge paintings one afternoon on her deck on Cape Cod. I didn’t know what I was doing but that didn’t stop me from having a ball. I loved everything about it—the paints, making new colors, exploring design, the feeling of the brush on paper.

Painting comes up every time I fantasize, every time I free write–this urge to paint giant canvases in a light-filled studio, this longing to feel invigorated and exhausted by the act of courageous, mysterious, creative discovery, this desire to get lost and be surprised by what comes out.

Guess what? I’m not waiting anymore.

I made a commitment to embrace this yearning despite all the mind chatter that erupts from time to time.

And more than that, I’m calling myself an artist.

I’m even calling myself a painter.

It feels pretty audacious, grandiose at times. Saying it makes me feel shy, giddy, nervous, excited, powerful, young, tiny, huge, and sometimes full of shame.

But I’m claiming it anyway.

I’ve been doing an embodiment practice with my coach, Josh Pais.

Now, I’ve always said that the body is the way. It holds our answers, our wisdom, our guidance.

I believe that the body never lies (while the mind lies all the time).

But we can’t access the information unless we are willing to inhabit our bodies and open to what’s there. RIGHT NOW.

And now.

And now.

Doing so is exhilarating. And scary.

It feels exciting. And dangerous.

Life is in that danger–in the tingly feeling we get when we feel our most ALIVE.

I don’t know about you, but I want that.

One of my favorite feelings is the feeling just after having done the ‘scary thing’–after I’ve made that call, had that conversation, stood up in front of that group, posted that writing, took that class, tackled that stack of papers. I love that feeling!

Every time I face and move not just through but WITH the resistance, the heavy-don’t make me do it-I’ll do it tomorrow-I can’t-how about if I just sit on the coach and eat potato chips feeling, things shift.

Embodiment is available to all of us, all the time.

It’s free.

It’s FREE-ing.

So, let’s go back to what I said about my painter friend, about her being a ‘real’ artist.

What does that mean? What makes an artist REAL? Is it the kind of work?

No. There are a host of different styles and aesthetics.

Is it the amount of money she makes? No. Van Gogh died destitute.

I say it’s the willingness to honor the calling.

That’s not up to anyone else but us.

Might there be some ‘real’ thing you want to be that feels off limits, dangerous grandiose, not possible, unrealistic, too late?

Name it.

Claim it.

As Josh says, most of us believe we need to Do in order to Have so that we can Be that person we long to be. But really, we get to BE that person first. Being propels us to the Doing and then the Having naturally arises.

Be.

Do.

Have.

Now, Go!

Education

Gather those who get it.

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I’ve made mistakes as a mother, as my son will surely tell you. 🙂 
 
I’ve taken him personally. I’ve yelled. I’ve repeated myself. I’ve been petty, controlling, sarcastic, defensive. 
 
I’m super glad no one’s been following my every parenting move with a video camera because there’d be some pretty choice moments that could easily have been featured in the ‘what not to do’ breakout session at a parenting convention.
 
Let’s just say, I’m fully human in the mom department. 
 
But you know what? I’m also fully myself. And bringing my full self to my job as a mom has been the most meaningful experience of my life. 
 
I’ve fully shown up. I’ve trusted my gut. I’ve gone out in the world with my son on my hip and cut a path through the tall grass.
 
I’ve said Yes when I meant Yes and No when I’ve needed to say No. And there was a lot I needed to say no to– No to convention, to doctors, to educators, to therapists. No to people who meant well but didn’t have all the information or the ability to see beyond the typical, the every day. No to people who didn’t understand, couldn’t understand, wouldn’t understand. 
 
My son graduated from high school last week. I watched him walk to the podium in his cap and gown to speak about his time at this small, alternative, independent school, and felt all the feels about the last 18 years. 
 
He spoke with humor and ease and warmth and clarity, this young man who took 4 years to sleep through the night, who got kicked out of pre-school, who constructed elaborate scotch tape boobytraps all over the house to “keep us safe”, who was homeschooled for over a decade, who couldn’t really write until high school even though he taught himself to read at 3. 
 
Part of my job was to hold him until he found his legs, and stand by his side until he got his bearings, and get out ahead to clear some of the debris so that he could see where he needed to go. That meant paying attention to who he was so I could bring what mattered most into focus and let the rest fade into a blur. 
 
It’s was a constant, never-ending, always-changing feedback loop, a process of tuning in, scanning and assessing, reassessing and adjusting. Sometimes it’s been easy, a no-brainer, a slam dunk. Sometimes it’s been far trickier, muddier, like, I think it’s this way…I think I see a dim light waaaaaaay at the end of that tunnel. 

But through it all,  I’ve never once thought, Huh, I wish I had done more of what other people wanted me to do.  I wish I hadn’t listened to myself. I wish I hadn’t done what I knew was right even though it was hard or scary or meant I had to do it alone.
 
I’ve always known that my highest calling was to do right by my kid because doing right by him was (and is) doing right by me.

And that, ladies and germs, is the heart of the matter, the whole point to this one and only chance we get here in our complicated, flawed, and spectacular lives: doing right by ourselves. 

Whether you have kids or not, it’s the same:

Trust your intuition.

Honor your truth.

Forge your own path.

Gather those who get it.

Shed those who don’t.

Mindset

Open the channel

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When I’m cold, I put on a sweater, sit by the fire, get under a blanket, close the window, turn up the heat.

When I’m hot, I take off the sweater, move away from the fire, cast off the blanket, open the window, turn down the heat.

When I’m tired, I rest, I nap, I sleep.
When I’m hungry, I eat.
When I’m thirsty, I drink.

So simple!

When I’m curious, I question, I explore.
When I’m sticky, I wash.
When I’m late, I step up the pace.

La la!

When I’m sad. I binge Netflix.
When I’m lonely, I compare.
When I’m scared, I run or hide or micromanage—WAIT A MINUTE.

Something’s not right.

Where did I go off-track?

OH.

When I have feelings I don’t like, that feel dangerous somehow.

That’s when I tend to habitually grab for something to protect myself. I numb or attack (or retreat) or scramble to regain control.

It’s very human, this habitual response.

The thing is, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t address the underlying issue. Frankly, it makes it worse because it stops me from telling the truth, from putting myself out there.

So, what is happening in those moments? Two things:

1.  A set of physical sensations.

2. A set of thoughts about the past and/or the future, often about how awful things (I, you, they, it) were or about how awful they are going to be–a bunch of panicky mind chatter. Quite frankly, it’s often abusive.

Now, what if I accept that # 2 is going to happen at times, like, for the rest of my life? What if I (dare I say) embrace that as something my mind does when it’s unsure and simply turn my attention to #1, my body, and open to what I find there?

What if I understood that the name of the game is not improving my thoughts but expanding my tolerance for the physical sensations I’ve labeled as ‘bad’ so that I can do all the new, interesting, untested, exciting, expansive things I want to do. and stop letting my mind stop me?

What if these sensations are not bad but rather, as Josh Pais says, simply energy, molecules vibrating at different speeds? When we allow them to be there, they move (and so do we). When we resist them, they get stuck, (and so do we).

Think of a beautiful old faucet that makes a horrendous screeching sound when you turn the handle. You know this faucet. You know its quirks. You know that if you keep turning the handle, the water will flow and the sound will stop.  It doesn’t scare you anymore. That’s just what this faucet does.

You don’t stop.

You don’t take it personally.

You open the channel and drink. And grow

Courage

NO.

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This is an actual picture of me after reading the news on my twitter feed. 

Some people might say, don’t read about it! Don’t listen! Don’t pay attention if it makes you upset! 

That’s no answer. 

I’m all for self-care, for titrating so I can stay resilient. 

But tuning out is not an option. 

Ignorance isn’t the path to anywhere worth going.

Information feeds my optimism.

Clarity informs the map I use to get around. 

Listen: Permission is the most important thing we can give ourselves, permission to listen, to honor what we hear, to want what we want, to start, to keep going, to finish, to be bad at something, to be good at something, to learn, to make mistakes, to change our minds, to be seen, to be heard, to not know, to absolutely know.
 
Permission.
 
Permission rests on choice.

There is no freedom without choice.

We must give that freedom to ourselves first. And then we must have the courage to stand for everyone else’s.

Fear

What if they see that you don’t know?

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Before I did the solo show, I noticed some part of me was feeling intense judgment and even shame about not knowing how to do it, how to write and perform a solo show.

As I was feeling this, I was also aware IN MY HEAD that of course I didn’t know how to do it–I had never done it before!

That didn’t stop the internal voice from wanting to grab this ball and run around wildly. 

It said: Oh My God, Kyra! I can’t believe you don’t know how to do this! After all this time, after year after year of never writing or performing a solo show and STILL, you don’t know how to do it! 

That part cracked me up: the year after year of NOT DOING IT and STILL not knowing how to do it. Lol. 

My inner voice is sometimes like a radically misinformed little kid, confidently spouting hogwash to its gullible little sister: NYA! It’s true! Nobody likes you! And hummus is made from the pee of chicks!

There was also this: I noticed the intense desire to be seen, to have a voice, to share my story in front of people. I thought of starting the show with: Is there any way you can all watch this without actually looking at me? 

Do you relate at all? 

Is there any part of you that longs to be seen AND would rather not have all eyes on you?

Is there some part of you that says, What if they can tell that I don’t know what I’m doing? What if they notice I’m not 100000% sure of myself? 

Here’s what I have to say: Good.

Let them see. Let it be real. Let them see your courage. Let it fill them with their own. Let it make them sit up and pay attention. Let it make what you are doing that much more gutsy and valuable. We want the truth. We crave authenticity.

Who wants to see a polished performance except for say, the guy performing the bris and every other person using sharp object on your body?

Let’s all let ourselves know what we know and not know what we don’t know until we know it.

Creativity

Yes, this is my butt.

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A few years ago, I took a picture of myself every day for a year. I’m sure you’ve heard me say this once or twenty times. 🙂

I bring it up a bunch because it was a turning point for me. There was what I believed before I did the FeministSelfie365 and what I believed after.

Before, I believed that my years of inaction or incomplete action or not bold enough action meant I might as well throw my heart and soul and vagina out the window and try to build the rest of my life on a steaming pile of rage and regret and deep deep sorrow.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHA.

Sigh.

It’s true.

I didn’t believe this 24-7.

At the time, my son was going through a sort of Chernobyl style puberty and my nervous system was MASSIVELY FRIED. I felt stuck and scared, captivated by the critical task of keeping my son alive but also, (is this okay to say?) BORED. There was this huge yearning to bring my gifts to the world and extreme confusion about how to do that.

I mean, I NEED THAT, to feel real, alive, whole. Without it, I am out of touch with an essential part of myself. Without it, there is an emptiness that can only be filled by stepping into the unknown and then stepping back with what I found.

Do you relate?

If so, then you are an artist.

Yes. You are.

Maybe you already know that. Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you are now internally sifting through all the definitions of ‘artist’ to demonstrate how this term doesn’t apply to you.

Don’t.

It does.

I know. I’ve been there.

After I did the FeministSelfie365, I believed that the only thing that mattered was the present moment, not the past, not the list of things I wish I had done or tried or stuck with, not the story of where I’d be at this point if only I had (fill in the blank).

I wish I could say it’s been smooth sailing since but, you know, I am a human person and therefore, flawed. I forget and fall into comparison and envy, not-enoughness and If-only-I-hads…

But then I remember spring, the spring that comes every year and also the spring inside all of us, all the time. It is the sleeping seed and we are the aquifer. The present moment is our eternally shining sun.

Happy Spring to you! How will you open to what is trying to be born?

Creativity

Claim what you CRAVE

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I love to make things–to draw, paint, cook, garden, rearrange the furniture, write, craft, talk, joke around.

In my soul, I know I am an artist.

When I say it out loud, I feel like a fraud. Even writing it here feels grandiose.

This is my imposter syndrome. (Hello Imposter Syndrome. 🙂  You can stay on the bus but you don’t get to drive.)

We get to call ourselves whatever we want because we’re the ones inside ourselves, we’re the ONLY ones here and so only we can to know what’s true, what’s in our hearts and souls. We don’t need the external trappings to know who we are. We can be adventurers without having climbed the Dawn Wall of El Capitan. We can be writers without hardcover best sellers. We can be artists without a list of galleries that carry our work.

These days, I’m actively working on claiming my creative identity. It’s my new practice. It’s pretty simple. It only takes a few minutes a day.

I stand, close my eyes, and imagine how it would feel to live in my creative power–not the specifics like I make such and such amount or have this or that sort of team, but rather: how would it feel in my BODY if I were a thousand percent connected to my creative exploration and flow?

Here’s what happens:

I feel strong, grounded, curious, excited, open, willing to be wrong, flexible, resilient, sort of kick ass. I feel healthy, comfortable in my skin, my clothes. I imagine I’m wearing cool boot/shoes that make a satisfying click on the ground as I walk. I am invitational, inclusive. I am doing collaborative projects that interest me, things that I want others to know about, to join in on, to be part of. I feel energized and tingly. I feel grateful, clear, playful.

It’s AMAZING. 

Then I open my eyes and look around the room. I hold my arms up and out, like I am embracing a gigantic ball. I say (out loud), I’m Kyra. I’m an artist. Welcome to my space. 

It feels exhilarating. And dangerous. 

Isn’t that crazy? Claiming my own identity feels dangerous. Literally dangerous. 

And isn’t that wonderful? Claiming my own identity feels exhilarating. Truly energizing and expansive.

This exercise comes from Josh Pais and his Committed Impulse method. Check him out. He’s an incredible actor, teacher, and coach. 

I love it. It not only feels good, it is changing the way the atoms are moving around in my body and all around me. It’s changing (if you’ll allow me to say so) my vibration, lifting it to a higher frequency. This isn’t woo woo. Our emotional states produce measurable vibrational frequencies. 

I love it because it’s very much in line with how I help clients claim what they crave: 

1. Start at the end. Goals are great but we forget that what we are after is not so much the THING but what we image the THING will make us feel. The good news is, we don’t need to wait. We can have the feeling right now. 

2. Take tiny steps. Martha Beck says, if you aren’t getting where you want to go, try taking smaller steps. Tiny steps get us there faster because they are manageable and therefore sustainable. As we take them and continue to take them, we build momentum. We become our own evidence.

3. Bring the fear with you. Our fear stops us because we believe it’s a sign that we’re not okay, we’re not ready, we’re not enough. None of those is true. We don’t need to get rid of it in order to move toward what matters. We get to bring it along.

So (you know what I’m going to ask, right?), what do you crave? Can you set aside a few minutes a day this week to start at the end? What would it feel like to be one thousand percent there, right now?

Try it.

You don’t need any special gear or any amount of $. You only need a small patch of earth and your courageous heart.

See what happens. And let me know!

The TAO of You

There is no Nanny…

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I used to say, I wish I had a big-bosomed Irish nanny to burst through my door and make me get to what matters. She’s not mean. She’s matter of fact, no-nonsense, practical in her methods. “That’s the way, love,” she says as she pulls the curtains aside, opens the windows, lets in fresh air. “Into the shower now love, that’s it, that’s it now,” she coos as she drags me from the bed, puts me under the running water, picks out my clothes. She nods through all my objections not getting into the fight. She hums softly as she puts my one foot in front of the other, getting me out the door, getting me where I long to go.

It has taken me years, YEARS, to get that it’s up to me to feel the uncertainty and discomfort that will ABSOLUTELY come up each time I take a risk, a step toward creating something new, toward becoming someone new, toward telling a new story of who I am.

It has taken me years to realize that there is no nanny. There is only me.

You know what I mean. I’m not insane. I wasn’t actually waiting for a nanny, but I was waiting, without know it. I was waiting for permission. Is it okay? Am I good enough? Will I get kicked out? Will I shake up the scene too much? Am I allowed? Will I break the rules? Will people be mad at me for telling? For daring? For breaking free? For leaving them behind? 

I have been afraid. I have let that fear stop me.

I am not doing that anymore.

I am here to take up space. To say what I want. To ask for things.

I am here to claim my ground–not anyone else’s. Mine. My own lush piece of earth that has seasons and buds and blossoms and decaying matter teaming with nutrients. There are graveyards and gardens and deserts and forests, dry riverbeds and powerful oceans. There is everything here on my patch of earth.

We all have that patch of earth.

I can’t go back in time and fix what did and didn’t happen. I don’t need to. 

My solo show is about finding my SHINE. It’s about creating a map to guide me there. That’s why we’re here, all of us, to find our shine so that we can illuminate a piece of the world, for ourselves, and for each other. RIGHT?

How do we do it?

First we need permission. We give that to ourselves.

Then we need help. We call the nanny, the friend, the teacher, the housecleaner, the therapist, the coach, the consultant, the contractor, the spiritual advisor, the gardener, the nutritionist, the mentor, whomever. Find the people to help us create the path that makes sense to us, that works for each of us

We can’t learn without help. We can’t get better without being bad. We can’t truly be happy unless we are allowed to go after our SHINE. 

What’s your shine?  I can’t tell you. But you know.

You know it when you feel it, when you see it, hear it, remember it, imagine it.

Close your eyes. What do you see?

Courage

Don’t Tell Me The Moon Is Shining

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Later today–maybe as you are reading this, I will complete Level 2 of my solo show class by standing on stage in a tiny theatre in New York, presenting my piece in front of an audience. This is something I’ve wanted to do for years. Years I tell you! 
 
I first signed up for Level 1 over 7 years ago. At the time, I planned to move right on to Level 2 which ends with a presentation (what I’m finishing now) but it didn’t happen. Life got in the way. 
 
Maybe. 
 
Or I got in the way because it felt too scary or too hard or I didn’t have any idea what I would write or if I had anything worth writing about, or anything that anyone would want to spend 20 minutes watching.
 
Last fall, I signed up for Level 1, again. Helpful! I appreciated the refresher, the new teacher, the new group of interesting classmates. Then I signed up for Level 2.

Now,  I’ve done some scary things in the last 7 years. I’ve learned some pretty juicy things through being coached and coaching others. 
 
But guess what? It felt scary. I didn’t know what to write or how to do it. I thought, who am to get up in front of people and ask them to look at me and listen to me for 20 minutes? Who am I to claim this space?
 
What if I fall flat on my face, blank on every line or fart really loudly, like one of those long sing-songy ones that goes up at the end like a question? What if I stand there with my metaphoric bare ass hanging out doing something I care about and I bomb? 

And then you know what I thought? BRING IT ON SISTER!
 
You know why? I can’t lose! Either I will get up there and walk into the center of that fire and discover it doesn’t annihilate me like some part of me thinks it might, or I’ll get up there and hit it out of the park or I’ll get up there and some other in-between thing will happen but ultimately, it won’t matter because I will stay right there with myself, no matter what.

THAT is the triumph! Staying with myself! Not ‘leaving’ because of some thought or sensation that I believe is wrong for what I’m doing.
 
I did one little thing at a time.  I wrote 10 minutes a day. That was doable, sustainable. If it ended up being more (which is often was), great! 

I showed up for class. I read what I wrote. I got feedback. I went home and cut things, added things, discovered things. I went back to class (Wash. Rinse. Repeat.) bringing the uncertainty, the fear, the doubt, and the excitement, the interest, and the fun. 
 
Come on, I said. Everybody on the bus! Let’s go put on a show! 

What’s happening over there in your life?

Is there something you once wanted to do? Something you once started? Something you still think about? What might it look like to pick it back up, turn it around, feel where its warm, see where it shines.

We are all here to claim our space. We stop ourselves when we believe we’ve lost our chance, when something precious feels out of order or shattered beyond repair.

Pick up that broken piece. See how it still catches the light. Listen. What wants to happen next?

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass.” –Anton Chekhov

Courage

Rock Falling Area

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I’ve been through some stuff.

You have too. 

I know some things now, because of it. 

You do too. 

Would I prefer not to have endured the first thing in order to learn what I learned? Part of me wants to say, YES GIVE ME SUNSHINE AND WILDFLOWERS, STRONG ARMS AND WIDE-OPEN HEARTS but then again, if I can’t see a shadow, I’m not in the light.  

I could talk about the path my life has taken in two ways—kind of like describing one side of the road where the mess, the rubble, the road kill, the gaping holes lie, and the other side where I’ve made something new not because I’m a superficial Pollyanna in a plastered smile but because I am a motherfucking spiritual warrior with the battle scars to show for it.

The other day as we were driving along a mountain pass, my husband said, OH, I GET IT. Those Falling Rock Area signs are not urging us to drive with our heads sticking out the window, craning up to spot the boulder as it tumbles toward us.  They’re to warn us that just around the next bend—BOOM—a chunk of something might be smack in the middle of our path.

Look, I’m not a ‘things happen for a reason’ kind of a gal. I’m a ‘life has darkness and light and when the darkness comes we can use it to transform’ kind of a gal. Those dark things can be scary, sharp, heavy, and they can also be crucibles, an intersection of elements coming together to make something new, something useful, something that might better illuminate my or someone else’s path. 

So, now I know a little bit about recovering from a sudden divorce and a broken heart. I know a little bit about struggling with years of infertility. I know a little bit about raising a non-typical child. I know a little bit about loneliness, about overwhelm, about dreams left on the side of the road where I watch them in the rear-view getting farther and farther away. 

Think for a minute about what you’ve been through, what you might be still going through.

You’ve raised a child on your own.

You’ve survived abuse. 

You’ve lost someone you didn’t think you could live without.

You’re overcoming a health crisis.

You’re living with someone who’s fighting for their life.

You have a chronic condition.

You’re in the tall grass of parenting a child who has needs that makes a Rubik’s Cube look like Tiddlywinks.

You’re grieving.

You’re aging.

You’re at the cusp of a new life that hasn’t yet come into view.

You know things. 

These things you know are gifts and we need them. We need you. 

Not because you’ve lived a life of sunshine and wildflowers. Not because you’re always strong or you always move through the world with a wide-open heart. 

We need you because you made something from what dropped in your path out of nowhere, that thing that blocked your way and filled the sky. 

We need what you found in the dark.