Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Find Your Big Magic

I recently finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert's book Big Magic, and here's what I thought of it:

Absolutely wonderful inspirational advice.

If you are pursuing any kind of creative passion, at any kind of level, read this book. It's such a refreshing take on the creative process.

In short, Big Magic is the ideology of freeing artistic endeavors from labeling or valuing them by external quantifiers, such as money, fame, awards, recognition, status, and the like, and admonishes to instead purse creativity for creativity sake. For the joy that it brings. Let the ego go, and let the heart take over. Stop worrying about what others think and how they see your artistic expression, and allow yourself to fall in love with your personal passion all over again.

I know there have been times in my belly dance career where I definitely felt this way. I felt pressured to land a new restaurant gig, make a troupe audition cut, or win a competition. I was valuing my art and my enjoyment in it based on what other people thought, based on what external value was being assigned to it. And you know what? It was a sure fire way straight to a dead end for enjoying what I was doing. It was killing my art, my creativity, my soul, and my spark. 

Gilbert is also a big proponent of keeping your day job, so that you can take the pressure off your art form as a means of paying your bills. I completely agree with this. There was a time when I wanted to be a full-time artist, but not anymore. By letting my day job cover my expenses, I have the freedom to selectively choose which people and projects I want to work with, and which I don't. The projects that light me up get the green light, and the rest get left behind without causing any financial anxiety. 

Gilbert also introduces this incredibly cute, but also incredibly resonate idea that creative ideas are these sentient forms of energy, floating around in space, just waiting to find the right human being so that a magical collaboration can be entered into. What is the trick to catch one of these magic ideas? You have to be listening. You have to be open with your receiving antennae on and tuned into the creativity vortex. That's how you find your magic.

If you are feeling stale, stuck, bored, or uninspired by the things that used to bring you joy, this is the book for you. If you feel shot down by rejection, pride wounded by criticism, this is the book for you. If you just need more magic in your life, this is the book for you. I highly recommend that all artists and creatives add this to their reading list.

I will leave you with this powerful quote from the book. "I have learned to watch my heated emotions carefully, but I try not to take them too seriously, because I know that it's merely my ego that wants revenge, or to win the biggest prize. It is merely my ego that wants to start a Twitter war against a hater, or to sulk at an insult, or to quit in righteous indignation because I didn't get the outcome I wanted. At such times, I can always steady my life once more by returning to my soul. I ask it, "And what is it that you want, dear one?" The answer is always the same: "More wonder, please."

Yes, more wonder. Free yourself. Free your art. Embrace wonder.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Show Must Be Paused

I originally had a different post intended for this month, but I think this topic is far more relevant and important.

Black lives matter. No echo of all lives matter needed. Just this: black lives matter.

(If that doesn't resonant as true or makes you feel uncomfortable, try reading this.)

I think recent events have highlighted for me that it's not enough just to be non-racist. To change the system we all need to do our part to actively be an ally. The active part is something I will admit to not having done well at in the past. So one of the first steps I'm working on, highlighted by this week's #blackouttuesday, is listening; amplifying the voices of the BIPOC community and muting the voices of the privileged who have had the platform for far too long. Privilege is a podium and it's time to hand over the microphone.

With that in mind, here are a few ideas of ways to educate, ally, and amplify:
  1. Listen to a podcast. Try checking out #TellBlackStories, About Race, Still Processing, or Code Switch.
  2. Read a book. Educational titles to consider are Black Feminist Thought, The New Jim Crow, White Fragility, or How to Be an Antiracist.
  3. Watch a movie. Pertinent choices include The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 13th, or Freedom Riders.
  4. Join a study group on racism. One group is being hosted by Daybreaker and the group will be reading through the book mentioned above, How to Be an Antiracist. The first meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 9th at 8:30pm ET. Sign up here
  5. Learn from this classic essay on white privilege by Peggy McIntosh.
  6. Follow a BIPOC thought leader or activist on social media. Some groups to add to your feed include the NAACP, Equal Justice Initiative, Antiracism Center, and Color of Change.
  7. View a TEDx talk on privilege and compassion.
  8. Get even more ideas on what you can do from this checklist.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Quarantine Dance & Fitness Resources

Quarantine, social distancing, shelter in place, self-isolating. Whatever you might be using to describe it, it's certainly dragging on at this point. While of course we want to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities at large, this extended stay at home can't help but bring up uncomfortable and anxious emotions. If you're feeling like me, you're starting to feel pretty trapped and stir crazy at home. But one thing that always helps me: movement.

Moving my body to music, moving my body to break a sweat, moving my body to get out of my head, moving my body to free my spirit. Even if physically I have to remain in the same place, movement helps transport me. Movement helps me cut back on the intensity of the cabin fever, focus my concentration, and generally pass the time. Thus for this month, I've compiled a list of resources you might consider engaging with if you are looking for something new in the dance and fitness arena to try at home.

  1. Studio Azul: a local Seattle studio, Studio Azul offers dance and fitness classes on both live classes on Facebook and on demand on Vimeo. Classes range from salsa and bachata technique, to barre and the sassy 305 Fit. There are a number of different commitment levels, including "drop-in" if you just want to try out one class. You can find the options here.
  2. Carbon38: online retailer Carbon38 offers two to three free daily workouts live on Instagram. Look for the daily post for the day's schedule. 
  3. Aziza: One of my all-time favorite dancers, Aziza, regularly offers online belly dance classes. She also offers one-on-one virtual feedback and coaching over Zoom. You can schedule both at Use the promo code MAY FLOWERS to get a 15% discount on private coaching.
  4. Datura Online: the jack pot of on demand belly dance videos, Datura Online, offers either monthly membership options, or pay to rent options, to access videos by belly dance favorites such as Zoe Jakes, Rachel Brice, Sadie, and Sedona Soulfire.
  5. Studio Tone It Up: the expansive fitness app from the Tone It Up girls, Katrina and Karena. The app includes fitness videos ranging from toning to yoga to HIIT to dance cardio, and even meditation. The app is free for the first seven days, and right now there are specials for 50% off an annual subscription and 25% off a monthly subscription. 
  6. Alo Yoga: another athletic wear retailer, Alo Yoga, offers online videos from popular instructors ranging from yoga to fitness to mindfulness. The first 14 days are free. 
  7. Mind Body Online: The ultimate virtual movement platform, you can use Mind Body Online to find all types of virtual classes, including dance, fitness, wellness, and beauty. Offered at all different times and all different price points. Just might be something for everyone. 

I hope within the ideas above you find something that brightens your day and brings a little joy to your heart. Stay safe. Stay sane. It's an incredibly difficult time, and we are each in our boat of mounting struggles, but I wish everyone well, and remember, that this too shall pass.