Browsing Tag


Stand Still & Listen

Jay and I applied for the same conference (coming up this weekend). He was invited, I wasn’t, and today I’m feeling sad about it, as if it is the Only Conference In the World, aka, the Only Chance to Make Cool Friends or Have a Career in the Arts.

I want to be picked! I want to be with My People! I don’t want to have to hold political office (Roberts’ Rules! Group Decision-Making!) in order for people to value what I do! How unfair!

But here’s the Lie: That’s the only way to get picked: be some way I’m not.
And here’s the Truth: They wanted what Jay offered. 
And also: They didn’t want what I offered, but that doesn’t mean that no one does.

I’ve never been to this conference. I don’t even know if it’s made up of My People maybe, maybe not. Is it only my ego, then, that’s bruised?

It’s such a weird, weird balance: making art, dancing with inspiration, sharing it, and hoping someone comes to the show. 
(Hoping everyone comes to the show! That those who didn’t come regret it bitterly and beg for an encore performance!).
As if the only way to truly be loved is to be Loved Too Much. To be Clamored After.
That doesn’t sound like a very artsy, introvert-friendly lifestyle.

So, what do I really want?
I want the flow and exchange of delight with my audience, with My People
I want to know that when I have something to share, there are people who will get it, love it, connect with it– an impossible guarantee.
I want to trust that I can follow the Muse and be paid well, not live precariously on promises and wishes.
And I want to be just right for this job– more Capricious Zephyr and less Executive Suit that I am.

I feel sad I didn’t get picked, because the Lie says: I’ll never get picked. 
But that’s not how cause and effect work, and it’s not at all how Magic works.
I feel tired because the Lie says: I have to do it all myself, I can’t rely on anyone else to see the value I offer. (I didn’t get picked for a conference? I must– obviously!– start my own conference!) 
How exhausting.
And I feel embarrassed because the Lie says: Professionals don’t get so upset about not being picked, so I must not be a Professional.
Maybe “Professionals” don’t, but Humans do. Kids do, and I like them more than pretty much anyone else– because they’re honest and open and they know Magic.

Ennis’s school’s philosophy is “Go slow to go fast.” They have no homework at first. They build up to it. They truly master the foundations of learning, they connect with their own creative curiosity without shame. They aren’t in a rush to prove something.

(The Lie says: I’ve had plenty of time to go slow and it’s taking too long and if I don’t hurry up there won’t be any opportunities left.)

When I read The Highly Sensitive Person for the first time, I had a vision of myself on my elementary school playground. I was running, running, running to try to keep up with the pack of kids, and I was exhausted. I could barely do it. (And I certainly wasn’t having fun). Everyone else seemed fine; the pace was no problem. Every time I caught up to them, they ran off, rested and ready to go. (I had a real-life experience just like that on a canoe trip once, and it’s amazing I ever picked up a paddle again).

But I realized that surely not everyone could be running full-tilt across the field. Surely I wasn’t the literal only one who wanted to explore the secret little nooks and crannies of the playground. 

And when I stopped running… there were the others like me– My People. The other kids who didn’t think a breakneck pace was fun. The others who wanted to whisper secret messages through the PVC tubing, crawl under the decking, or set up camp in the tire tunnel. 

There were fewer of us than the mass of bodies that ran as a pack… but how many playmates did I need? How many do any of us need? Wasn’t it better to have one or two or three companions who saw (and loved) the world as I did? 

(More recently, I’ve heard Seth Godin describe this as finding your Minimum Viable Audience).

It still feels scary to stop running. To stand still. Even though I like the view far better this way: all the details visible, the colors distinct instead of being a blur; I like the quiet crunch of gravel under my shoes, the echoes of distant voices, the stillness like a lake within my body. 

So, do I still hope I get picked? Always!
But do I want to play every game, sprint every race? No. I don’t. 
Sometimes we say “No, thank you” ourselves, and sometimes someone else says it for us.

On Monday I taught the first of three “Build Your Own World” classes to a bunch of 9- to 12-year-olds. I can say without hesitation that they are definitely My People. I basked in their presence, I left inspired and energized. There was no posturing, no second-guessing, no fear, no shortness of breath. Just mutual delight as whole universes were created between us.

Maybe “Who picks me?” is really the same question as “Who do I pick?” And the thunderous chase can’t catch the answer to either. 

Maybe I must stand still, legs trembling and breath held, and– ear to the pipe– listen to the words whispered within.

Compliments Are Not the Goal

Compliments aren’t the goal. They aren’t even proof that something good happened. Compliments just show the audience’s awareness of what happened.

When I perform, I know when connection happens; even on an off day, I can feel it. If I get too attached to or interested in someone else’s praise after a show, it’s easy to think that praise is the goal, the point.

But praise is a mirror: I saw it too!

The point, the connection in the moment— that happened whether anyone gave a standing ovation or not. Compliments might say more about a culture than about a performance.

That said, everyone needs mirrors. (Mirrors and Models). Just be aware of who you are using as your mirrors. Other artists with a facility for your art form? A mixed age audience? Your favorite audience? Pay attention to the variety of mirrors, and of whose feedback is most helpful at different stages of the process.

I See You

You are good.

You are enough.

Don’t worry about how everyone in your town or your school does it.
You have great ideas— you must follow them. Be curious. Discover things.

If you’re somewhere where you feel alone, I’m sorry. I understand. As you get older and get to make more choices for yourself you get to choose where to make your home. You get to seek out and choose the weird-cool people, the ones who get your jokes, who are interested by your curiosity, who give you fuel and inspiration.

Be proud of yourself. That’s never been a sin. Don’t shrink from who you really are. Reach up, reach out, send roots down deep. Create your own ecosystem. Make a beautiful world for yourself and invite those who will treasure it as you do.
Know when fear is in the body, when it’s in the past versus when it’s from the present. Let it flow out of you through your feet, out through the palms of your hands, let it disappear like fog and mist from your breath.

You can do magic.

You can see more than what is visible at a glance, more than what is believed in or accepted. When you look for magic, you will find it.
The people, both real and imagined, animal and human, who you admire are reflections of yourself. Be proud of them and proud of your own goodness, your own cleverness, your own strength, your kindness and tenderness, your faith, your courage.

Be generous with yourself. Adore yourself the way you do puppies and kittens and baby horses. Marvel at your existence. Put down the shame you carry. Put down the lies that keep you small.

We are here to delight in beauty— and there is always beauty. We are here to breathe, to be present, to connect and to notice. Whenever it feels right, share that noticing with someone else— with a person, with a tree, with a ghost, with the air around you. Say, “I see you, and you are beautiful.”


I see you, and you are beautiful.

Love Letter no. 2

This moment is exactly right.

This is exactly the place you are meant to be, with all the feelings that swirl around you.

But you are not those feelings. You are deeper, more, less than; you are complete. You are a planet and they are stars, they are moons, asteroid belts that orbit, drawn by the weight of your being.

But you are not these feelings. You are not this turmoil.

You are steady. You are constant. You are the rock.

You are ever-changing and ceaseless as the sea, as the lift of water vapor into the air and the cascade of rain onto the land.

You are the photosynthesis in the leaf. You are the golden heat in the sun.

You are greater than you see, most days.

You are very great.

In the boundless universe, in the limitless multiverse, every point is the center.

You are the center.

You mistakenly think you are the cause, the fault, the failing, but you are not. You are yourself. If you could learn to see in and around and through yourself, your body, your story, your lifespan, you would witness a mandala. You would see the spiral of a rose. You would open your mouth with an aha! that has been ever on your lips, waiting to be spoken.

In the greatness of life, in the vastness of mystery, you are exactly right, exactly in this moment, and we thank you for it. We are so grateful you are you. We are so honored to cross paths, like comets in space, our purple spangled tails colliding, merging, dividing again.

There is nothing wrong here. You are doing the job that has always been meant just for you. You are taking part in a dance that, seen from a great height, or viewed under a microscope is pure love, pure trust, pure beauty.

Feel the lift in your arms. Feel the stillness in your middle. Feel the twinge in your feet, the poetry on your lips. Trust it all. You are safe in your complete inhabiting of yourself.

Love Letter no. 1

Where you are is just fine. Allow yourself to be loved, exactly as you are, precisely in this moment. Let the lines around you blur, feel yourself slide into everything else. Feel yourself merge back into your true nature: feel the relief of not holding yourself separate and distinct from the world for a moment.

Who you are in this moment is fine. Who you are right now is good. You are kind and loving. You are wise. You are connected to a wisdom that is ceaseless, whispering always like wind in the grass, like waves on the sand.

And when you are busy, distracted, heartbroken, angry, you are also good and fine then; you are also wonderful and dazzling, glorious, completely loved.

There is nothing that can separate you from Goodness. There is nothing that can divide you from your soul, from your core, from the essence of your being. Even when you feel you are so, so wrong, so far off course, you are still at home in yourself. You are the ship. You are the waves. You are the depths below.

It’s all going to be okay because it all is okay. Let your focus slip. Let your gaze go to that other realm. Put out one small feeler and taste on your tongue the constant, the bottomless power of Trust.

Trust in your greatness.

Trust in your connectedness.

Trust your self.