Out of all of the ways my seat has shaped and continues to shape me, I have sensed its ripples most through gratitude, mindfulness, and lightness.Read More
Acts of meditation take many forms—creative, written, movement, quiet breathing, dream journeying, visualizations, compassionate acts, and thoughts. As someone who has been cultivating meditation practices for several years now, I strongly advocate fluency and fluidity in allowing your meditation practices to shift as they need to. While it is important in our present-day world of distracted behaviors to refine your meditation techniques and maintain a certain dedication to their presence and stillness in your daily life, it is also crucial to listen to cues that require you to practice differently.
For a few years, writing was my primary outlet, and in the last year or so, painting and journeying have become more prevalent in my daily practices. Writing is not forgotten at all but refocused at this time into other outlets. Instead of questioning the shift, I wish to share expressions of my brush as well as the pen while they are flowing through me.
Personally, painting or drawing meditation time is a time when I feel completely free. I do not worry about product or technique or subject matter. I treat the act of composing on paper or canvas as an extension of my journeys, dreams, emotions, and energy. I paint and move from my body and gut rather than directly from my head. Sometimes what comes out surprises me! It could be an image from a visualization I had months ago or a visceral reaction to today’s news. What is clear is that the body is processing, and I am enjoying the release. Time passes, space opens up, and I feel grounded.
We decided to begin a visual series of my selected loose-and-quick painting/drawing meditations on our Instagram. We will also feature some of these mediations here on MindBodyBrew to continue my regular contributions to the blog. Sometimes the visual will connect with a quote or a story or a nugget of wisdom, and sometimes the images will speak for themselves. We hope you enjoy this new multimedia approach to our beloved blog! –TaraMarie Perri
Blue and Green
Summer is blue and green. Look around you: water and sky, trees and distant mountains, grassy fields and rivers. The cool, bright hues of summer blues and greens will soon give way to the warmer hues of fall. Dip your toes in a river or the ocean, or take a nap in the tall soft grass under a huge green tree. Appreciate nature's wise support to cool off your summer fires, allowing you space to breathe outdoors before fall's work begins.
Painting meditation by TaraMarie Perri. To follow the full series, follow us on Instagram: @perriinstitute.
The following post was originally published on November 17, 2013. As we find ourselves once again nearing the busy holiday season, this post becomes relevant to return to. Katherine Moore has been teaching for The Perri Institute for Mind and Body since 2013. You can find her running all over New York City, working as a teacher, choreographer, freelance dancer, and writer. Relax with her at Steps on Broadway on Friday nights at 6:30pm for restorative yoga.
It is at this time of year that I tend to feel especially tired and overwhelmed. Various projects and work commitments seem to move at lightning speed, and everyone I know (including myself) seems to be in some show or hosting some event at opposite ends of the city that make it impossible for me to attend all of them. Meanwhile, the holiday season approaches at breakneck speed, and as usual, promises to be both a lovely, yet hectic time of year. I find that my thoughts have left the present, jumped to the encroaching New Year, and before I know it, I’ve convinced myself that the year is over and I haven’t done half of the things I meant to do.
This, of course, is not true. Many, many, many days are left in the year – many days that can be used productively or leisurely, as I deem appropriate. In my life, I find that it is my creative endeavors that suffer the most when I become overwhelmed and over-booked. As a “sometimes” choreographer, my motivation lacks at these times and inspiration seems hard to find. Even as I thought about what to write this week for this blog, I found myself coming up empty, distracted by other commitments and worries.
What I try to remind myself at these times is the importance of ritual and practice in the creative process. Research has long shown that talent alone does not produce the best work. The most successful artists of any genre excel in their field due to discipline and the constant rigor of trial and error, in addition their natural talents and inspiration. Creativity is a practice that needs exercise to blossom.
The next book on my reading list is Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, by Mason Curry. Curry spent over six years compiling information on the daily habits of the world’s most successful artists, composers, and writers. In an article for Slate, Curry writes:
“This doesn’t mean that inspiration doesn’t exist, or that some work is not more inspired than others. It merely means that you should work each day regardless of whether you feel the urge to; it is the process of working itself that will give rise to new ideas. And with steady application, you can expect to hit inspired patches from time to time.”
When I was going through the MBD teacher training and first setting up a regular yoga practice and study patterns, one of the most striking changes I felt in my life was the upswing of creative, critical, and connected thinking. The rituals of practicing, writing, and weekend sessions somehow allowed the varied facets of my life to fall under one umbrella that felt more connected and therefore, more fruitful. After all, a literal translation of “yoga” in Sanskrit can mean “union” or “yoke”.
I understand the teachings of yoga to be just as much a creative pursuit as writing, choreographing, composing, and similar endeavors. The yoga practice allows us to make connections between our bodies and our minds, between nature and art, between science and the shape of our hands on the mat. It has been said that good art is art that makes connections between ideas we wouldn’t normally expect. While yoga isn’t “art” in the sense that we don’t end up with a finished product, I think that the creative thinking involved is closely aligned with the artistic process. Practicing and teaching yoga gives us the ritualized time and space to think creatively about the world and make connections about our experience in it.
I think where I’m going with this is that those moments of feeling empty and uninspired, especially when we’re snowed under with other work, are perfect opportunities for more practice, and that practice will yield creative thought. Yes, sometimes we have to take a break, step away, and return to our work refreshed, but sometimes we can use that emptiness, that writer’s block, to our advantage. For any trainees out there who are feeling overwhelmed with all the things you think you don’t know, for any teachers who are feeling uninspired, take some time to really be in that void of not knowing. Take yourself back to being a truly empty cup. Get to know that place and then, infuse it with practice.
I think I’ll leave off with one of my favorite quotes by Ira Glass:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
– Katherine Moore
The following post was written by Katherine Moore. Katherine has been teaching for The Perri Institute for Mind and Body since 2013. You can find her running all over New York City, working as a teacher, choreographer, freelance dancer, and writer. Relax with her at Steps on Broadway on Friday nights at 6:30pm for restorative yoga.
This past Monday night, Liz Montgomery taught a class for the Fall Seasonal Series that emphasized transitions, new creative pathways, and making choices in our practice. This class really struck home for many reasons, one of them being that I currently have a very limited practice (in some ways) due to a shoulder injury. Right now, downward dog is not an option for me.
I've been working with my practice in this way for about a month, and while it is certainly challenging and frustrating at times, for the most part I've actually found it kind of fun. Normally of a serious mindset, I have always loved how classes with The Perri Institute teachers offer many opportunities for play, risk-taking, and lightheartedness, which are not areas that I normally gravitate towards. Being injured has made accessing these qualities not only easier, but even more essential in order to continue my physical practice. While I miss certain poses that are not accessible to me at the moment, I'm getting a huge kick out of finding new variations, playing more with my props, and in some ways, being a little free of the normal structure and flow of my typical practice.
I am so thankful that through my training in yoga and dance, I have had years of practice of being placed in unknown situations where the only option I have is to be open and available to whatever comes my way. Years of studying dance improvisation and composition have taught me how to build a larger framework out of a blank slate, with only simple idea as fodder. For me, teaching and practicing yoga feel very similar to the creative process I use in choreographic settings; it's all dedicated time and space where I can draw connections and make meaning between seemingly disparate ideas, and then grow from there. Without these experiences, losing the ability to fully use my arm might have been much more dramatic and frustrating than I'm currently finding it. Because of my experience in the unknown world of creative choice-making, I am able to still fully participate in my practice.
This, and Liz's class on Monday, reminded me of how important it is to teach creative choice in our classes. The lessons we learn from breaking up our routine and trying something new are so critical to how we carry our practice on the mat into our everyday lives. Unless you work in a creative field, the average person rarely gets the opportunity to explore this type of creative thinking, but it's this type of thought that actually makes us more engaged in our society and relationships. Being able to take risks, trust yourself in new situations, and put new ideas into motion are essential traits of the movers and shakers who make change happen in our world. The ability to imagine a life ahead of you that is safe, satisfying, and interesting, while perhaps different from the life you’re currently living, is also necessary for mental well-being and stability. The role of the imagination in our lives is nothing less than essential.
I am constantly reminded that access to art, beauty, and nature help people think in imaginative ways, and then I am reminded that this access is a privilege not shared with many. Across the country, music, art, and dance programs in public schools are being cut and underfunded. The lucky students are exposed to creative arts throughout their formal education, but after embarking on a career path, most people leave those experiences behind. In my dancing life I teach creative movement to untrained adult movers, particularly the elderly, and I can see clearly how magical and transformative that experience is for them, even when it is difficult. Giving adults the opportunity to imagine and invent, to experience creativity via their physicality, is just as important as experiencing it in childhood. I could say more about arts education and community engagement, but my point here is that the day-to-day grind that many adult people experience in their jobs, and sometimes even in their family and social circles, rarely allows for creative experience, which is why teaching creativity in our yoga classes is so important.
People come to yoga for many reasons: for physical health, for mental well-being, for rest, for study. This actually gives teachers room to introduce creativity for all, regardless of why a student is there. Teaching creative choice is naturally easier with a room full of experienced practitioners who are comfortable with themselves and taking some chances, but I might suggest that it belongs in all levels as long as it is taught mindfully and safely. I will be using the fall season to investigate ways of teaching creativity in my classes, and I would welcome any suggestions from our community. Some ideas to start:
- Ask your students to find their own transition from a standing sequence back to Downward Dog. (Thank you Liz!)
- To shake things up, use something other than Downward Dog as your "home base." Try sequencing from Tadasana, Child's Pose, All Fours, or even Upavesasana or Malasana (what?!) and keep coming back to it as you develop your theme.
- Offer variations from the traditional Vinyasa for students to choose from instead of the normal sequence (For example, instead of Plank, Chaturanga, Upward Dog, Downward Dog, try Plank, lower the knees to Child's pose, roll up to sit in Vadrasana, roll back down to plant hands and find Downward Dog). You may need to add a breath cue or two, but if you teach it clearly and with the same intention as the traditional Vinyasa, your students will be able to follow.
- Give choices in terms of imagery. Sometimes we need to support our students' energies by teaching specific imagery (ie. cooling water dripping down the shoulder blades on a 95 degree day in August). But what if you offer energetic choices occasionally? For example, "Imagine the center of your heart space. What is it's texture? Color? Tone?" Your students will probably come up with very different ideas. Ask them to notice if the image has changed by the end of class.
- After teaching a sequence several times, and if you sense that your students will be comfortable with it, ask them to move through the postures on their own. Encourage them to keep moving through postures, even if they forget what’s next. They can pick!
- Instead of only offering variations to challenging postures, offer variations based on energetics or focus. For example, offer Crow as a way to experience the balance of the spine, and offer Side Crow as a way to experience the spirals in the spine. Before Savasana, offer a choice of restorative postures: Restorative Fish for heart opening, Restorative Child's Pose for inward looking.
I have always wished for a living situation whereby I could have a home in multiple locations around the world so I could jet out of NYC for a change of perspective or to sample an alternative slice of life. Spending time immersed in a different speed, flow, and terrain can be nourishing to body, mind, and creativity. Different than traveling, the idea of having a home in another place is a not just a romantic notion that many artists crave. Famous visual artists and writers have been doing this split-location living for years. Their bios often read: “Fabulous Artist lives and works in Cosmopolitan Worldly Location A and Rural Grounding Landscape B.” My short list to complement New York City: New York state’s Hudson Valley, London, Spain, Morocco, the northwest coast of Ireland, and anywhere in Italy.
For the last couple of years, I have been spending time away from my New York City life to teach, write, and research in an unexpected location. I was pleased to learn that Iowa City is not all corn and farming. In fact, Iowa City is often described as an oasis in the Midwest, liberal and artistic, home of the University of Iowa research community and the famous Writers’ Workshop.
You can imagine the differences in scenery without me outlining them here. I have found that one simple indicator for where I am comes from where I look. In NYC, I appreciate the majestic skyline that reminds me daily why I moved there 17 years ago to begin my dance career. I often look way up to see the sky above the towering buildings as I pound the pavement in my heels. In IC, like much of the Midwest, the sky and earth are separated by a smooth, uninterrupted horizon. I appreciate that you can simultaneously see both sky and earth just by looking ahead. Trees, rooftops, and wind energy towers punch out their negative shapes against sunset skies, and the moon and stars are clearly visible. For me, NYC is extroverted activity and effort. IC is staying grounded and establishing ease. The sky/earth relationship seems to dictate these energies.
My central home will always be NYC, but performing the “Artist’s Split” with the cooperation of Iowa City suits me just fine, and brings the balance I require for my life and work. London and Italy, you’re next! What will you bring into the mix?
We’re wondering…what is your Artist’s Split short list?