Being & Becoming

Cultivating Inspiration, Creativity, and a Life on Purpose


Being Afraid, but Doing it Anyway- Anxiety, Love, Music, and Mindfulness

Me, playing guitar with my new friend, Eiffel Tower in the distance.

Me, playing guitar with my new friend, with the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

A couple of weeks ago, I had an exciting and terrifying rendez-vous with one of my goals.  My boyfriend and I had seen a concert in Pigalle (the neighborhood that houses Moulin Rouge), and then walked up to the highest point in the city (Monmartre), where the famous Sacre Coeur church presides over the city.  Many other people had the same idea, and were gazing off into the city lights, drinking beer, or making out by the telescopes.  There was a group of people surrounding two guys playing flamenco guitar on the church steps.  I listened for a few minutes, and really dug it.  A little later, as I was looking out into the city, I heard the guitarists (now finished) speaking in English.  I approached them, thanked them for playing, and we began chatting about flamenco.  At one point, one of the guys asked me if I played; I paused, and boyfriend immediately shared that I did.  The guitarist smiled, pulled out his guitar, and told me to play with them.  I stared blankly at it, smiled, said “no, no, I couldn’t…”, but he insisted, and enthusiastically shoved it into my hands.

For a moment, I stood frozen as a wave of anxiety washed over me. I had been practicing a lot, but I was not ready to play with seasoned, professional flamencos.  But, I knew in that moment that it it was extremely important for me to play, no matter how I felt.  Predictably, the complex rumba strumming patterns I’d spent hours practicing fled from my memory, and my cold hands couldn’t move fast enough. I could have panicked, but I didn’t. I decided not to be formulaic or fancy- i just soloed along with what they were playing.  I let go of ideas of how I should sound.  I just stayed in the moment, listened to the sounds, and focused on my guitar.   I connected, I stayed in key, and kept with the mood of the song.

I knew I did not do my best, but I f*****g did it.  I played flamenco with professional musicians in front of a beautiful landmark overlooking the entire city of Paris.  A few years ago, I would not have gone through with it.  Just the act of playing- even though I felt nervous and not ready- was a huge step.  I embraced the role I didn’t believe belonged to me, in a city I never thought I’d ever see.  What else could I do if I really felt confident and owned the idea?

I told my guitar teacher about the experience, asked him what I could do to prevent myself from “freezing”, and we spent the entire lesson talking about  living a meaningful life.  “Be a flower, not a weed,” he told me.  “The secret to playing music is love.  All you need is love.  You must give love away.  It can’t be about you. Weeds take and take.  Flowers open up for the word, give pollen to bees, they share.”

Anxiety and fear are always, by nature, about trying to protect the self (even if this anxiety is directed toward other people.  More on this in another post).  If I’m worried about the act of “screwing up”, I’m, by default, not putting my all into what I’m doing.  I’m not helping anyone by being closed-off- I’m taking shelter, holding the beautiful things I’ve learned in in an act of self-preservation.  I’m not giving my love; I’m locking it away.  Anxiety is a complex and tangled weed to get rid of, and even when you think you’ve totally trimmed it, little bits of it find a way to grow back and continue draining attention from something else.  Sometimes it makes me feel like a weed, too.

The Bhagavad Gita talks a bit about attachment to goals and anxiety.  Arjuna, the subject of the story, is pretty freaked out about an impending war and paralyzed by indecision and his anxiety. Krishna, his charioteer (and also; secret god) engages him in a discussion about dharma (right action, or that which one is meant to do). He says,

“You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself – without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat.”

Easier said than done, Krishna.  But, that’s why yoga is a practice and not a performance.  On and off the mat, we have opportunities to practice non-attachment to our goals.  This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have goals, dreams, and aspirations.  It means we should honor exactly where we are, and be totally present to the process.  Being present to the task and not worrying about the outcome of action seems to be the key to truly connecting, understanding, fully-engaging with, and mastering our work.  Paradoxically, it also seems to be the most direct path to reaching the goal we are no longer fixated on.

Next time someone asks me to play guitar atop a city, I’ll slow down and connect to my yoga practice.  I’ll take a few deep breaths and remind myself why I play- because the sound and the act of playing makes me feel more alive than anything, and I want others to feel it too.  Then, I might just be able to be like a flower.

What about you, readers?  Do you ever feel held back by fear or attachment? Have you let love overcome fear?  How did you do it?


Intuitive Painting Class Give-away!

Painting by Flora Bowley.

Painting by Flora Bowley.

“Often, the fear of not knowing what to do or the fear of doing something wrong stops us in our tracks and keeps us from starting.  If we let go of this fear, we can open ourselves up to a much larger world of expression, a world where anything is possible.  I believe that there are no mistakes in the creative process.  Everything that happens along the way- every dab of paint, every emotion that arises, every brave new choice- is an important ingredient in the final offering.  Working from this perspective leaves no room for fear to slip in… there is no wrong way.  There are no mistakes.  There is only a wide-open playground beckoning your artistic muse to come out and play”- Flora Bowley

On February 10th, I’m beginning artist Flora Bowley’s “Bloom True” online painting course.  You may recognize her art on Papaya products (especially if you’re from Philly and shop at El Quetzal).  I would love for you to join me in this course!  I’m giving away a voucher to take the class FOR FREEEEEE (worth $273USD).  All you have to do is comment on this post and share why you would like to take it, and how you think it could help you live your passion.  Those who respond will have their name (literally) placed in a hat, from which my boyfriend will pick the winner.

It’s all online, and you can do the exercises on your own time, at your own pace.  Check out for more information on the course itself.  I’ll be selecting the winner on Saturday, February 8th, sometime in the afternoon (so there’s still time to pick up painting supplies if you need ’em), so submit ASAP!

I’ve done something similar to this before- below, I’ve shared my experience.

My first time intuitive painting was with Damini Celebre, who holds intuitive painting classes in the Philadelphia area.  This was during a time in my life filled with big, challenging changes and tons of uncertainty.  I was working at a very high-stress job where I had to maintain emotional stability for the sake of my clients, and wasn’t really allowing myself to think about my troubles, let alone feel what was going on internally.   Damini had us lay on the floor before painting, and she began to play a drum while leading us through a meditation to connect to our intuition.  She encouraged us to listen to intuition, not the mind, and pick colors based on impulse, not detailed planning. The first round of painting was channeling water, and the second was air.  I found myself making very conscious decisions, deciding that it had to be “tree-like” and working to “correct mistakes”.


I can’t remember exactly what Damini said to me, but something made me realize I was being way too disconnected from my instincts.  For the next element, fire, I left go more, let myself feel the colors I wanted to bring forth.  After painting for a while, she came up to me and asked, “Does it feel complete?”  In my mind, there was a resounding, “no”! I took a big paint brush, dunked it in black paint, and began to streak it on the canvas, blending some, but letting some drip down. I began to fling paint on.  I felt extremely satisfied by this.

Feeling fire.

Feeling fire.

The final element, earth, was where I really connected.  As I was painting, my motions became very rhythmic, my brush flowing, blending waves of different color together.  Damini asked me what I was doing, and I told her, “I have to make it blend”.  She smiled, and asked me why they had to blend, and what part of my life that might reflect.  I then had a “HOLY SHIT!” realization moment- my life was so uncertain and chaotic, that I desperately wanted to smooth out anything that I could control-I wanted everything to be in sync, and harmonious.  I was trying to correct it: the colors, and my life. I then began flinging more paint of varying colors at the canvas, diving into the experience of chaos.  I ended, however, by painting a big, black line vertically on the paper.  Everything was nuts all around it, but this big, stable pillar was holding something up.  My mind? My sanity? The stripe was, and is, incredibly soothing to me.  I realized I needed more grounding in my life, and made an intention to make time to take better care of myself.

Grounding in chaos.

Grounding in chaos.

I don’t know that I would have come to this realization through words.  Color and spontaneous allowed for a much more unconscious discovery; it brought forth things that my conscious, verbal mind was very good at encrypting.  We ended with a closing ceremony honoring ourselves and our innate wisdom.  I’m very excited to begin the intuitive painting process again, and I hope you’ll join me!


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Perfection is the Enemy of Progress

For most of my creative life, I’ve fallen into something I’ve named the Perfectionistic-Anxiety Cycle.  I’ve experienced it with almost anything I very deeply care about doing.  Maybe you’ve experienced it, too- it is as follows:

1.Start a new thing.  This could be a homework assignment, an instrument, a NEW YEARS RESOLUTION, anything. It’s really exciting, and you can’t wait to dive right in.  HOORAY NEW THING.

2. Consistently practice the thing…for a little while.   

3. Life gets in the way; practice falls by the wayside.  Maybe you’re tired from work, maybe you already practiced yesterday and feel a day off won’t hurt.  Either way, time starts passing by.

4. Eventually come back to the practice, but notice that you’ve “fallen behind”.  Maybe you’ve forgotten things, noticed a gap in your knowledge, or have some impending deadline that you do not think you’ll be ready for.

5. Anxiety about performance ensues.  “I screwed up! It’s too late! I’ll never be ready in time for the deadline!”  This can come in nagging little droplets, or like a raging monsoon drowning your hopes and dreams.

6. Pull further away from the thing to reduce anxiety.  “It’s okay, I didn’t like thing that much anyway.”  This is also a time where hours of activities designed to distract occur, i.e- spending several hours browsing the internet.

7. Begin to engage with a new thing, feeling that *this time* it’ll be different- a fresh start.  

…And it repeats, ad infinitum.


I was always perplexed about why I did this with the things I loved most.  For a while, I was convinced I had ADHD.  It was only during my time studying psychology in graduate school that I realized that it was anxiety.  I was so anxious about doing the things I loved well that I would rather not do them at all if I felt I my efforts were not doing the art/goal justice. I’d rather do nothing than fail.

But that’s the thing. If you wait to do something until it’s perfected, then you’ll never do a damn thing.

Our goals, visions, and resolutions can be big- as they should be! But if the steps to reach them aren’t small and manageable, its far less likely that change will be integrated into our daily lives.  I have shared this idea with many of my therapy clients, but only recently have really been putting it into practice.

1. Still have your big goals, but let go of attachment to their outcome (yoga blogs on this forthcoming).

2. Break the goals into small pieces that can easily be attained interwoven into your daily routine. An example of this-

Big goal- Play guitar on stage in front of other humans.

Smaller goal- Practice guitar every day for an hour and have fun doing it.

If this goal is still not being met, break it down even further:

Even smaller goal- Play guitar for thirty minutes a day.

Still coming up short?

Smallest goal- Pick up the f*****g guitar up and maybe move your hands on it at least once a day, even when you’re feeling anxious and discouraged, and even if you feel it doesn’t sound great.

So, the smallest doesn’t seem terribly ambitious, does it? BUT, if you make the task so simple that it becomes routine to just hold the the guitar every damn day, the likelihood of beginning to practice increases.  Building habits, especially ones you ENJOY (but continuing even on days when you’re not so into it) are key in growing your skills.  Especially if you are completely immersed in the activity without focusing on the outcome/future.  Worrying about perfection takes energy away from the thing you’re trying to perfect.  If you practice mindfully and consistently, you may wake up one day and “suddenly” be skilled at your thing.

So, readers- have you experienced this cycle?  How do you handle it?  What is the thing you want to perfect? How would you further break down your goals to make them more attainable?

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Why am I Doing This? / The Art of Becoming

 Aside from the obvious reasons why one might want to move to Paris (beauty, chocolate, art, poodles, functional public transportation), I’ve come here to perform a giant experiment.  It’s pretty simple- I’m going to see if devoting my life to the things that matter most (and make me feel most alive) will help me become the person I want to be.

Many of these things I write about below absolutely could have done at home. But, as a perfectionistic procrastinator, I recognized the opportunity to move to Europe as an opportunity to eliminate my recurring distractions and excuses for my avoidant behavior. Here, I have the time to do the things that matter most to me. Now that I’m settled in, I could not successfully argue otherwise.

I do not want to waste this opportunity; So, I’ve written down exactly what I want to do while abroad- . How I will live, what I will do, and what I want to become. This is my plan to live my passions.

In the next year, I plan to…

4) Take advantage of my location and explore the world. My wanderlust and desire for new experiences has been steadily rising for years. I want to wander through the markets of Marrakech, get bundled up and see the Northern Lights, dip my feet in the Mediterranean from multiple different countries’ coast lines. I want to find new inspiration and ideas.

The very first time I stepped into the Mediterranean sea. January, 2011.

The very first time I stepped into the Mediterranean sea. January, 2011.

3) Research and experiment with ways to cultivate creativity through different media. I want to become an expert on ways to unleash creativity. In my work as a clinician, I always felt that unleashing creativity and using creative endeavors as a way to facilitate sublimation could help people in pain find agency, accomplishment, and emotional freedom. I often wish I studied art therapy. This will be my independent study. I will be the guinea pig, but I invite you, the reader, to experiment along with me.

How could painting make you a better writer?  How could dancing make you a better musician?

How could painting make you a better writer? How could dancing make you a better musician?

2)Deepen my understanding of yoga through practice, reading, and reflection. I also want to integrate more creative development into my teaching.

Photo by the talented Joe Longo.

Photo by the talented Joe Longo.

1) Devote time EVERY SINGLE DAY to practicing music, and become proficient enough to play on stage without issue. This is the single most important reason I’ve left everything I’ve established;this means so much to me, that in the past, it was easier to not devote time to it than devote a smaller amount of time and risk failure. Though I have a larger goal, the main emphasis will be to do it every day- to be with it, with out attachment to the outcome. 

It's flamenco and/or psych-rock time.

It’s flamenco and/or psych-rock time.

So, readers, I invite you to publicly state the dreams and passions closest to your heart- to put it out there, to allow your vision into the mind and hearts of others, and we collectively witness and support one another as we move into action. I would be honored and excited to read what you would like to become.