Monday, September 20, 2010

Holy Days
I was raised Roman Catholic. This means, that religion aside, I enjoy ritual. Maybe 'enjoy' is not the right word. I should say rituals tap into a part of me that goes untouched through the normal course of events.
When I left the Catholic Church, as a teenager, it wasn't a matter of drifting away. I had attended with belief and purpose, and I left with belief and purpose. But I was young, and I realized after a while, that I felt like an orphan. It was as though the Church was holding God captive, and without going into a Catholic Church, I couldn't get to Him (as God was called in that time of my life).
I grew out of those beliefs, of course, and even though my reasons for leaving the church remain, I have fond memories and deeply embedded experiences of the rituals. These days I live by a phrase from Gibran's The Prophet: "My daily life is my temple and my religion". I create my own rituals, alone or with friends.
Then, last week a dear friend gave me a special gift, a ticket for Yom Kippur services in the Kehillah community she attends. I had no idea what to expect except that I had been forewarned that the service would be three hours long. I was quite excited to attend.
Maybe I should mention that I have long suspected that my family, especially on my mother's side, had converted to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition, when thousands of Jews were run out of Spain, tortured, or burned. Those who missed out on one of those options, converted to Roman Catholicism. So part of attending a Jewish service was a way to see what had been taken away. Aside from all that, I have long felt that everyone should celebrate a day of atonement. Let's face it, we all need it.
I found the service to be beautiful, meaningful, moving, and spiritually uplifting. Everything had relevance. And there were candles and historical ritual, a meaningful sermon, and best of all music. The cantor, a beautiful woman with a wonderful voice, smoothly led the congregation through some very complex melodies.
It was not just a time to think about forgiving ourselves but also a time of contemplating the very nature of forgiveness. It was also a time for asking about the nature of the wrongs we commit. How about the failure to stand up for what we believe, is that a wrong against our self or against our community? And if we fail to give words of support to a colleague or a loved one, is that person the only one diminished?
I came away asking myself those kinds of questions. And the experience made me realize that there are many ways to be spiritually connected to the community we live in. Spiritual practice, in fact, is not just about how we feel about God, it's about the energy we put out into the place where we live. It doesn't happen on Sunday or Saturday or any other specific day of the year. Every day is a holy day if we make it that.
I am grateful to my friend, and to the Kehilla community for making this Yom Kippur a special event in my life.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Creative Surrender

Anyone who has read my book, Freeing the Creative Spirit, knows that my approach to the creative process encourages spiritual centering and awareness. When you think about it, creativity and religious or spiritual belief have a lot in common. For one thing, they are both dealing with invisible forces. Both require a commitment to creating a better or beautiful world. Creativity, like spiritual faith, has an appreciation for the past as well as the future even though the paramount concern is the present moment.
Is it any wonder, then, that so many people lose faith in their capacity for creativity? I mean, spiritual seekers can go to weekly worship services, or study with meditation teachers. They can read sacred texts like The Bible, The Torah, or the Upanishads. The faith in creativity, however, has to be self-sustaining.
The greatest testaments to creativity are experience and evidence. Evidence is not necessarily a studio full of paintings or an archive of films, it can be as simple as looking at the hair on your head. The body shows us that creativity is our natural state. The body is constantly creating and discarding. It is part of the transforming universe. The body doesn’t create art directly, but it teaches us that art is only one form of creativity. The body creates hair, water, carbon dioxide, and some bodies even create children. And it does all that without permission from the ego.
When it comes to the creation of art, the ego is the ogre that stands in the doorway. If we can be in charge of our own ego, we have at least a fighting chance of succeeding. Unfortunately, too many of us suffer from an ego that has been influenced, maybe even abused, by other people. If we could get that ego to stand out of the way, most of us would have a far greater enjoyment of our creativity.
Often the ego latches onto a religious or spiritual practice and uses it as a crutch. This can be dangerous. And when the ego latches onto creativity, we lose all autonomy in the creative process. We start trying to please people, always looking for compliments. Our creativity becomes a process of creating a product, not original, authentic expression.
The key to adult creativity, is just like the key to spiritual happiness: surrender. When we are toddlers we have no control of anything, so surrender comes naturally. Consequently, human beings in the toddler state, play day in and day out. Watch toddlers with their food: they play with it! This is where we all began. If we can surrender that ego, we can return to that naturally creative state at chosen times.
I’m not suggesting that you play with your food, but I am suggesting that you surrender your ego from time to time. Whether in prayer or in creative play, the ego appreciates a vacation, and the rest of you will too. Creativity becomes a healthy past time, lowering blood pressure, calming the body, and engaging the mind away from worries and social and financial demands.
Creativity can be meditation, a time of prayer. Try it! It may not come easy at first, but making it a practice can help teach surrender in small doses.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Makeover Issue

Have you seen the latest issue of O Magazine? It’s the Makeover issue. The whole thing is about transformation.
Women know a lot about makeovers. Every season we’re supposed to learn the latest fashion thing, and purge our wardrobe of the current style no-nos. If transformation were that easy everyone would be in their “higher self” attaining unimaginable superhuman feats.
Real transformation, however, is not as easy as changing shoes. God bless Oprah for her courage to take the weight issue out of the shadows of shame. Yet many still struggle with body image. We each have to deal with our own issues. What’s yours? Money, work, addiction, procrastination, guilt, revenge, temperament, self-doubt?
The first step toward transforming anything is naming it. The second step is determining to be in charge of your life. Any shift you make is a victory. It will empower your decision to persevere. One of the most rewarding things about being a coach is expanding the perception of a client. Those ‘Ahah! Moments’ when the client has a new insight give me goose bumps.
I don’t believe in creative blocks in art or life. I believe the ‘block’ is a locked gate. And the key is hidden somewhere nearby.
One of my ‘issues’ is not being able to promote myself. I was taught that saying anything good about yourself is bragging. The Catholic Church taught me modesty in all things. Frankly, those two teachings are not good business practice! So in the spirit of helping you with your transformation, I’m using some Oprah-style courage to tell you I’m a terrific life coach, and I’d love to work with you! Let’s find that key to your locked gate. Give me a call!

Adriana Díaz * Creative Life Coaching*

510 530-4182. Tell your friends! 510 530-4182

As Oprah concludes in the back of the recent issue: Reaching your potential is more than an ideal. It’s the ultimate goal.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Get Some Perspective

It’s easy to understand why perspective is important to a painter or a photographer, but how does perspective play a part in daily decision-making? Recently I read a quote from Irish author Anne Enright that offers wisdom about perspective in writing and life. “All description,” she said, “is an opinion about the world. Find a place to stand.” Perspective is the geography of politics, ethics, and values.
“Find a place to stand” tells us to “take a stand”. We ask the question ‘where do you stand’ on gun control, the death penalty, or abortion, for example, to learn someone’s perspective. You may be very clear about your opinions on the larger issues of life, yet feel unclear in deciding whether or not you would really go through with cosmetic surgery.
Issues arise that stop us in our tracks, because we can’t discern a clear personal perspective. Someone who’s out of a job buys groceries with a perspective of cautious spending. The perspective of limitation guides each decision. Someone with cash to spare, however, buys food from a perspective of desires, abundance and freedom.
What do you want? What are you working toward in your life? Before you take steps toward making it happen, solidify the foundation of your actions by taking the time to know your perspective. What are you risking? What values are attached to the goal you seek to achieve? Are those values in line with what you stand for? Take a look at where you’re standing, literally and figuratively; imagine two separate decisions and try to see three years beyond the possible actions. That distance gives you a chance to see the “bigger picture” and the possible influence of time.

Think you might need a coach? Curious about the coaching process? Give me a call at 510 530-4182. I’m happy to take questions and talk about what coaching could do for you. Just three months of coaching can set you on a new path armed with a fresh understanding and tools for decision-making and evaluation.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Watching Paint Dry

All over the East Bay artists are working busily to prepare for Open Studios. I am one of them.
Unlike the old stereotypical image of the artist as a Bohemian living in a garret on the outskirts of society, the twenty-first century artist has to be a hardworking, dedicated individual, developing her/his art in a world parallel to work and relationships.
When we get into the studio, we have to lock the door of our mind in order to engage in the love affair that is art-making. We try to remove ourselves from all the pop culture images, slogans, and values in order to "think outside the box", a phrase that has become,itself, a cliché.
What does it mean, to think outside the box? For me, (I can speak only for myself because every person's process is their own) it means sinking into a place of no thought at all. My fingers join my eyes in seeing, and my eyes join my fingers in perceiving the visual and sensual materials with which I work.
Then there is the leap! The daring act of marking a clean surface. The audacity of putting a hole into a canvas in order to attach wire and bits of fabric. I scribble and scrape, spray water, attach objects. I enter a state of creative inebriation. . .if I'm lucky.
Then there comes the moment when the artist must let the materials do their own thing. Yes, time to watch the paint dry.
This is not an idle time. It is a time of practicing restraint. A period of meditation and study. I look around the studio and play "what if":What if I sanded it next? What if I rub in some crayon? But I do nothing but watch.
In Freeing the Creative Spirit I wrote that creativity is a process of making something happen, then letting something happen. Every now and then I realize that life is just the same.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Face Without Lines

I did the drawing on the right as another meditation on age and beauty. It's titled: "A Face Without Lines is Like a Book Without Words".
I've always loved the elderly. My grandparents were my special guardian angels. They taught me about my ethnicity and the original language that has nearly been gutted from my family by anglo-American culture. I know that my experience was very unusual, especially in the U.S. where most kids don't grow up around their grandparents, and I'm still grateful for that opportunity. I'm realizing now, that they also taught me to value aging.
Women, of course, are more sensitive to cultural prejudices against aging than men. After all, there is a tradition in Hollywood to cast the youngest starlet as leading lady opposite an aging actor. Richard Gere, Harrison Ford, now George Clooney: all seem to have a phobia about love scenes with a woman their own age (on or off screen).
The only bias not considered politically incorrect, in fact, is derision toward age. Sure, it's against the law to say that a person is fired or not hired because of age, but it's not against the law to do it, as long as it's done for another, permissible, reason. Listen to advertising. Products for hair color, and especially make up and face creams openly warn us of the debilitating signs of AGING. With so many people of all ages looking for mates, AGE is the single most marginalizing or discrediting feature. It's true our culture hates fat, too, but body size is alterable, age is not in our control.
If humans didn't learn through experience, if we didn't change and evolve over time, we'd live in a world of Barbies and Kens. How would we destinguish ourselves from the masses? Youth, itself, would lose its meaning. What I advocate is a culture-wide multi-dimensional understanding of beauty. Why should we idealize skin with the light-reflective quality of ceramic glaze?
Imagine a world in which the title of my drawing were printed on billboards and in print ads across the Internet. "A face without lines is like a book without words." Lets believe in that. Let's encourage our daughters to get smarter, wiser, and more compassionate.
I remember discovering Confucius and Radhakrishnan in college. It was as exciting as science fiction. My face was young and fresh, but my mind was excited by what is ageless in the world. Then, reading Jung's Memories, Dream, Reflections for the first time, I realized that the mind itself was a vast universe.
Developing my skills as an artist took me deeper into the study of line, and that's when I understood what makes the aesthetics of visual humanity most interesting. Line can be read like words. Some lines are dark, gouged by time into canyons of anger or hatred. Some lines are playful, they develop through the habits of laughter and play. There are worried lines, sorrowful lines, loud lines, and quiet lines.
Each of us has our own book imprinted into our faces and our bodies. I think it was Lincoln who said, 'Anyone over forty is responsible for his face'. Our habits write our story. Take a look in the mirror; don't be afraid. Read your story. What will be written there tomorrow?