Shaking the Blues Away

Sometimes in life I think it is important to shake things up. It is so easy to settle into our routines and habits and life can become mundane and stagnant. Recently I had the opportunity to experience something way out of my wheelhouse. I wrote and distributed a press release and my compensation was attendance at the event I promoted. I had very little idea about what to expect. I did watch a documentary on the teacher, “Moving from Emptiness: the Life and Art of a Zen Dude.” So I watched Alok playfully guiding his students on film but I couldn’t imagine how I would participate.

The course was titled: Creativity and Healing through Zen painting. All materials were provided and we were instructed to Alok Hsu Kwang-hanbring our lunch and to wear comfortable clothing. I walked into a room with intriguing Zen Calligraphy paintings mounted on Chinese silk lining the walls. Each painting had a name and an explanation, a bit of poetry or the inspiration for the painting.

Some of my classmates were already there and others were arriving. They were all new faces to me except for a friend I had invited and my neighbor who had gotten me involved in the beginning. My friend was looking for a new spiritual group for continued support. He is a feisty man, age 82; he broke out of hospice care to reclaim the remainder of his life on his own terms! My neighbor and I hit it off from the beginning but hadn’t spent a lot of time together as both of our schedules are demanding.

The day began with what was titled meditation, but is was unlike any I have ever experienced. We began by literally shaking our bodies to music, this took place for at least 20 minutes, next we danced to other music…all Asian sounding to me…then we sat in silence and lastly we were to lie down on a yoga mat to continue the meditation. I was later told by a participant, “in India they do this every day!” I love to dance and don’t do it often enough, but the shaking was, well, it felt kinda’ weird. In the movie Alok said that Albert Einstein had stated that movement released the mind to be creative. So I went with it. I was shaking, rolling my shoulders, relaxing my body, but apparently I was not doing it right because the teacher kept commenting on my lack of ability. I didn’t know what to do or how to do it better. After the third time he came back to me I said, “You are picking on me!” He replied, “Yes, I am picking on you. The rest of your life will be the best of your life, but you are only operating at 10%!”

Now, I have had a pretty great life. I have had the opportunity to travel the world, I am a mother, I have had great loves in my life including three husbands! I am an author, I have been a columnist for major market newspapers and I was a national TV host. I have been the guest on nearly every talk show on television as a media expert on dreams. I have met nearly every famous person I ever wanted to. I have deep and beautiful friendships and generally good health. I am blessed with siblings and close family who I adore. I have soloed in airplanes, hiked the Grand Canyon, white water rafted, water and snow skied, and I could go on. However, recently I have been feeling as if I have peaked and am on the downslope of life. In fact the entire reason for this blog, Savvy at 60, is to discover and share ways to feel alive and relevant. The thought that the best of my life could be in my future planted a seed that is already growing! How to be more present and less “tuned out” is part of every decision I make. When Alok made that statement to me I said, “Sounds good to me!”

The painting portion of the workshop was interesting. There was very little instruction on how to do it. We were given three special brushes, a pretty box with a bottle of ink in it and little white ceramic plates to mix water and ink in. We each had a large piece of black felt and paper was provided a bit smaller than the felt. We were encouraged to get to know our brushes, “Say hello to them.” Alok said. He then shared a prompt, a bit of poetry, a Zen story or just an emotion and asked us to please paint it. Our task was to capture our own feeling of the essence of the prompt. At one point we walked outdoors, took in the beauty of the distant red rock view and then were asked to paint the wind. Nothing was figurative, all images were meant to be depicting our version of the heart of the suggestion.

I don’t yet know how my life will be different as a result of attending and participating in this workshop. But I know I am up for it! I met some loving and wonderful people at the workshop and I think we will stay connected. I know I’d like that.