Almost inevitably, when I meet someone new and we begin a discussion about art and creativity, there comes a moment when my new acquaintance asks the question; "Are you an artist?" With no intention of being evasive, or enacting idle Socratic exercises - although I do love intellectual gymnastics! - I feel the urge to answer their question with another question: "How do you define artist?"
Creating a business of my own has been a continuous evolution; from writing a blog during my travels to online sales of handcrafted products and art, to style and creative consulting and always back to writing again. I have spent almost five years trying to focus; seeking an elevator pitch, a coherent vision, a succinct branding statement.
Among Alan Watts' descriptions of characters encountered in the flowering of northern California hippie culture during the 1960's, one catches my interest. He describes one couple who lived in 'elegant simplicity'. They had a beautiful home; almost sparse but luxurious, with very few possessions. Each and every item, from the most mundane to the most profound, from their can-opener to their art collection was carefully curated and of the most exquisite quality. That vision struck a deeply resonant chord for me and it is the image that returns whenever I contemplate my own life design questions. Yes, I think that may be what I am reaching for here - elegant simplicity.
Have you ever had this experience? You're doing something you love; painting, dancing, playing sports, when you suddenly realize your internal dialog has shut down and nothing exists except for your focus on an act of creation. This is the flow state, when creative force flows directly through us, unfiltered, into the world.
Many people would have said I had already found my cool...
I had a cool job in the designer fashion industry. I wore designer clothes to work. I ate most of my meals in expensive restaurants. I traveled to New York and LA for my work. I lived in a cool loft apartment. I went to cocktail parties in galleries, museums and penthouse apartments. And all of that stuff certainly was cool...but I wasn't. I didn't feel it. I wasn't living my cool. How could I? I didn't have any idea what my 'cool' was.
The infinite is in love with the idea of incarnation in time." Joseph Campbell
"You are so brave; I would be afraid to do that!" This is always a strange moment for me because people have said it to me more times than I can count since I went 'walkabout' in 2012. Because it never really felt as if it I was doing a brave thing. It was simply something I had to do...
As we begin a journey to the North Carolina ocean for the week, this to Kerouac's first wife Edie from a Massachusetts native son sharing his awareness; who as a leading inspiration for the Beat Generation, found his influence from places like Jazz and Buddhism. That is cool...
And then I noticed something. A sense of...disquiet? A sense of longing... yearning.... I was having 'if only' thoughts.
Really? On this beach? This morning? In the middle of this amazing odyssey? How can this be? What am I looking for? If complete contentment is not here, not now, then when? What will it take for me to be completely happy?
Since that moment 18 months ago, I have been pretty much without a plan. But being without a plan is not the same thing as relinquishing control. I have only recently begun to understand that I spent more than twenty five years being the mother of all control freaks.
It goes something like this: ‘Each person who is willing to conform to society's rule that we should work our lives away, may some day achieve our own kingdom.’ That kingdom is described in the social lore of today, as a place where ‘we will have all of the material possessions we desire, we will have leisure to enjoy them, we will be generally loved, worshipped and adored, and we will be happy.’
On the day before Thanksgiving, just one week shy of a year, I rent a loft, have my POD delivered and hire a couple of guys to empty it. In celebration, as I sit on the floor waiting for the movers to arrive, I smoke one last cigarette and throw them away. Okay well, actually, I put them in a ziplock bag in the freezer, just in case I want one later... But it will indeed turn out to be my last cigarette.
The train steward knocks on the door. To my surprise, I have been sleeping...sort of. With all of the control I have relinquished and all of the ways I have surrendered, I have yet to surrender to deep sleep in a moving vehicle. Well, to be specific, I cannot sleep in airplanes, busses, trains, or automobiles. I can sleep in a boat. Like a baby. But I digress...
Grace, surrender, and abundance, three themes I have had a lot of time to consider during the past couple of weeks... What causes us to go where we go, to do what we do? When we consider this, we are usually thinking about something we believe we have done intentionally, of our own volition. And yet, looking back over the sweep of our lives, how many of us can say that we actually planned to end up where we find ourselves?
Yes, that's me, wrapped in shawls, lotus sitting on the cushioned floor of an enormous white tent, singing bahjans (spiritual chanting) with 200 other people, tears running down my uplifted face. And that was only the fourth day...
"Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday."
The unmistakeable, piercing roar of a jet engine, thundering toward us, flashing silver, along the runway, past us and then climbing almost vertically into a cloudless blue sky. I am jumping up and down, screaming: "That's my daddy! That's my daddy!"
Well, perhaps it began with an email: "Dear Rebecca, returning to Bangkok next week on my way to visit Angkor Wat. There is a retreat there that looks interesting. What are you doing? Do you want to come along?"
Then there are a few people one meets and knows friendship will last a lifetime - in our hearts even if we never meet again, and a rare couple who change direction and travel a short distance along the road with you. These are genuine treasure!
Booking travel through an agency in Asia is an exercise in patience, forbearance...and an act of faith. Once you have booked and paid your money, you get an education on the limitations of business efficiency and transparency. And there is no such thing as recourse. You don't speak the language and no one wants to claim responsibility for mistakes or misunderstandings.