15 October 2013

Taking Risks When Failure is Not an Option

Imagine this familiar storyline from any number of sci-fi or action movies. An imminent threat, such as an approaching meteor, erupting volcano, spreading contagion, or growing super storm, has the fate of the world at risk

In the control room or cargo plane or reinforced bunker, a small band of special forces or scientists or everyday citizens develop an audacious plan to save the world. As tension mounts and they review their roles, the grizzled leader says something like "We get one shot at this. Failure is not an option."

I've decided to take that on as a motto for my studio, but for a different reason. The fate of the world doesn't rest on my painting. There is no life and death situation at hand when I step into my studio.

Instead, quite literally, failure is not an option. I can't fail in the studio. Oh sure, I can paint better or worse. I can get closer or further away from painting what is in my heart. But I can't fail.

In my studio, failure is not an option. It's just not possible. I cannot fail.

Sunday night I brought that attitude into my studio. I had been working on a small 12" x 12" canvas but was feeling meh about it. I had a pep talk with Kevin and remembered that I can't fail. I wanted to paint a giant eye on the painting. So I took a risk and did. And I found a new energy in both the painting and how I felt about painting.

Since then I have returned to the studio and have been actively pursuing risk taking, liberated by the knowledge that failure is not an option. It feels like soaring.

12 October 2013

Failure: A Corollary

There is true freedom that results from realizing that failure comes from holding back (and not from the attempt or the result). I can make choices based on the needs of the moment balanced with my long-term goals.

Take today as an example. It's Saturday and when I went to bed last night I had great intentions to make today full of painting, writing, and creating my business. But when I woke this morning I felt tired, a little stuffy, and low in energy.

So I made the conscious decision to nap in the recliner with one of our kittens. Usually, I would feel torn between the needs of my body and the need to meet my intentions. The disconnect between the two would cause tension and resistance. I might nap, but I would beat myself up about it. "You'll never achieve what you want if you spend all your time napping," I'd think to myself. And then after my nap I'd think "Well, you just wasted that hour. You'll never achieve your goals." These negative thoughts would spur negative feelings and I'd avoid the studio (which would now be associated with negativity in my mind) in favor of mindless Internet surfing or a silly computer game.

Today was different because after my realization I now feel free to pursue my goals without worrying about failing. I know they will take time to achieve so I don't feel the pressure to always work towards them (that pressure that seems to always lead to resistance).

I could take a nap with Torbie without fearing that it proves that I am a failure. A nap with a cat is just a nap with a cat--and not evidence of my unworthiness.

The corollary to knowing that failure comes from holding back is understanding that I can pause in response to the needs of the moment without facing resistance or deeming myself a failure.

I can return to the work when I am feeling better. I don't need to go through the cycle of pushing and resisting and pushing through the resistance while doubts flood my mind.

It is a a natural flow where I can respond to the needs of the moment, secure in the knowingness that I can always return to my path.

11 October 2013

What Failure Really Is

It's funny how the deepest wisdom resides in the gut. I mean, we can know something intellectually, but never truly understand it. It's the difference between reading something and saying "Yeah, yeah, I get it" and coming to a realization that strikes so deeply that you can feel it in your body.
Our bodies hold an infinite source of intuitive wisdom. The trick is learning how to sense it. Our everyday lives are so overfilled with stimulation that it can be hard to find time to be quiet, listen, and feel what our body is saying.  Learning to listen is so powerful because when we tap into our bodies' wisdom we connect with a deep-seated knowingness that has the capacity to change everything.

Last night I was reading and reflecting upon a question posed within the pages:

  • How do you hold yourself back because you fear failure?

Almost immediately I was struck with a knowingness that I could feel. Even before I had thoughts, I had a sensation that something changed within. So I paused, quieted, and listened to the knowingness of my body. And as I listened, I realized something.

  •  Failure comes not from the attempt nor even from the result. Instead, failure resides in the holding back that keeps us from ever trying.
In that timeless moment, something changed within. My body's wisdom told me that if I tried something and failed, well, it wouldn't matter. It wouldn't change the way I feel about myself. And if it changed the way other people saw me, that didn't matter either. Failure was just not a problem any more. It's the holding back--the fear of trying--that is the real failure

I have many dreams. Some dreams are even bigger than I've dared to dream. But now I see that my life--that all of our lives--are full of limitless possibility. We can dare to dream. More than that, we can dare to do. And all the while we are safe in the knowingness that the only real failure comes when we hold back from ever trying.

09 October 2013

How Do I Tell This Story?

Red Rocks
Four weeks ago I boarded a plane that (along with a rental car) would eventually lead me to Sedona, where I would join an intuitive painting retreat with my teacher, Connie Hozvicka of Dirty Footprint Studios.

Five days later I returned home a completely transformed woman.

I do not know how to tell you the story of the days in-between. I do not even know how to tell you how I have changed. All the beauty and healing I experienced happened in a space beyond words. I feel helpless as I sit here trying to describe it.

How can I tell you how it felt to paint under the light of the deep blue Sedona sky?

Or how it was I found myself only after I lost myself on a trail?

Or how it felt to spread myself on the red rocks and let the bright desert sun clarify me from the inside out?

And how it felt to have my pain and fear and suffering burn and leave naught remaining but a cool, celadon crystal in a pile of ash?

How can I tell you what it meant to meet my dear teacher and find her even more loving and wise than I imagined?

Or to connect with five other women so bravely willing to paint deep into their own hearts?

And to know that loving support and intuitive guidance was there in the circle, whenever I needed it?

How can I describe how in the midst of painting I felt my feet connect with the ground?  And how can I explain just how important that was to me?

Picture Or how it felt to breath in the clear desert air?  And then allow myself to exhale not just carbon dioxide, but the old stories that burdened my heart?

I feel so lost in trying to explain these things to you, which is deeply ironic because I think what I am most trying to say is that my trip to Sedona ultimately led me home where I found my truest self.