Monday, March 31, 2014

Blisschick Redux: Creativity Midwife, Chris Zydel

(This interview first appeared on Blisschick on August 19, 2009, and I was just re-starting the interview series after a hiatus. Original interview begins below photo. And a little note: Chris is still someone with whom I have the most delightful interactions.)

And what better way to start than an interview with this true WildWoman, Chris Zydel, creativity MidWife extraordinaire!

To get a quick feel for what she does, watch this beautifully produced (short) documentary, right here.

You can find her site here, her blog here, and you can tweet with her here.

Describe the PrimaryBliss of your life. How did you come to know that this was your PrimaryBliss?

My primary bliss is really anything that has to do with creativity and the creative process. I myself am constantly creating, whether it's through my art or writing or cooking or gardening or the way I dress or designing workshops or classes or creating my business. I am continually surprised by how thrilled, fascinated and captivated I still am by the whole creative process. I never get tired of it. It's the core of what drives me. It gives my life meaning and satisfaction and pleasure and yes, bliss!

In addition to my personal creativity, I also derive an enormous amount of delight from other people's creative efforts. I love going to art museums and live performances and reading really good writing and buying beautifully made jewelry and listening to all kinds of music.

Even if I don't particularly LIKE something, cause it's just not my style or taste, I am still really appreciative of someone else's creative efforts, and it makes me so happy to experience someone else's creative contribution to the world.

And finally, I get TREMENDOUS delight from supporting and encouraging other people to fully express themselves creatively. It fills my heart with such gladness to be part of someone else's full creative blossoming.

It took me a while to really get that creativity WAS my primary bliss, because, like a lot of people, I was confused by thinking that creativity meant that you had to have a certain level of artistic aptitude. Which is all wrapped up with notions of talent and sophisticated technique. I got all caught up in thinking that I had to be "good at" creativity in ways that I just couldn't be. That I had to be something that I wasn't. I forgot that creativity is not about what I produce but it is the compassionate acceptance of who I am. I forgot that creativity is really about allowing my life to be my work of art. I forgot that creativity is about being true to who I am and having the courage to shine and express my own unique gifts. I forgot that creativity is really, at it's core, an act of love.

What types of choices and sacrifices did you make to be able to craft this bliss-filled life?

One of my favorite books is a novel called Breakfast With Buddha by Roland Merullo which is the story of a normal kind of a Western guy, who gets tricked into taking a cross country road trip with a spiritual teacher . The guy is a nice guy who's a food writer for magazines and he's into the "good life"... making enough money, being successful, having a family and of course, delicious food.

So this odd couple stays in different hotels as they travel, and of course, the food writer wants to eat at all the best restaurants. And the spiritual guy eats hardly anything at all, and when he does, it's incredibly simple fare. The food writer asks him at one point why he lives a life filled with so much deprivation. And the spiritual guy kind of laughs and says "What deprivation? I do what I do because it's the sweetest most amazing pleasure that I know!"

So a lot of times people will look at me and my life and say things like "You work an awful lot! How do you do everything that you do? You are just so busy. I could NEVER do all of that!" Kind of assuming that my work is somehow a burden or unpleasant or something that is difficult.

But I LOVE what I do. And I love all of it. I love the classes and workshops and the relationships with my students and I actually totally get off on the marketing, and I love that running my business means that I get to be creative in so many varied ways. So yeah, maybe there are things that I don't get to do, things that I have sacrificed, although to tell you the truth I can't really think of what those things might be. It's not like I really SUFFER from not ever watching TV!!

How does your PrimaryBliss radiate out into the rest of your life?

My entire life is devoted to the creative process and that is reflected by being part of an ever growing sense of creative community. My life partner and husband, Tim, is the most creative person that I know. And HE is constantly creating. So our home is one big art studio. In fact when we bought our house the reason that we decided to buy it was that it already had an art studio built into it!! I am also surrounded by amazing creative people like my friends, my students, my colleagues, and now, this incredible online community of creative bloggers like yourself. So I am constantly being inspired and motivated by my community's creative efforts. It takes a village to foster true creative freedom and creative flourishing. So my creative bliss involves helping to create ever widening circles of creative community support.

What are some other activities that also give you this sense of bliss? Things that make you lose track of time?

Being out in nature is a big one for me. I love hiking in the mountains and in the desert and when I am there I totally lose track of time. The beauty and the aliveness of the natural world is where I get in touch with a tremendously powerful sense of the sacred. These places are my refuge, my temple, my church, the holy of holies. I know that the rocks and trees and streams and the earth itself are totally alive and I experience them as guides and mentors and healers. I talk to them all the time and feel completely supported and loved by their ancient and abiding wisdom. Two of may favorite places on the whole planet are the East Side of the Sierras which includes the high country of Yosemite National Park and the red rock desert of the Southwest, particularly Abiquiu, New Mexico which is where the painter Georgia O'Keefe lived and painted during the latter part of her life.

What is your daily or weekly spiritual practice?

It's funny cause whenever I come across this question I always get a moment of panic and think "Oh my goodness, but I don't HAVE a spiritual practice!" Which never made any sense to me cause my connection with spirit is core to my life. But I realized that what was panicking me was thinking that my practice had to look like something obvious, like formal meditation or daily chanting or prayer, that you make time for like you do for exercise. You know.... I'm going to sit in meditation for 30 minutes every day and then I can check THAT off the list!

But then, I remembered that I never do ANYTHING the way I'm supposed to, so why should this be any different? As I thought about it more I realized that there are a few things I do pretty religiously....which I guess constitutes a spiritual practice.

I'm also an astrologer, and when you look at someone's astrology chart, you can often see where they feel the strongest connection to spirit based on where the planet Neptune is located. My Neptune is in the house of relationships and it is also deeply connected to my Venus, the planet which is symbolic of the goddess of creativity and love.

Which is another way of saying that relationship and my creative process are my spiritual practices. I use my creative process as a way to learn to listen to my internal guidance in the form of my muse. Part of my practice has to do with the willingness to surrender to what my creativity is giving me at any given moment, to not second guess myself, to recognize that my creativity is really none of my business. What comes through me is not something I have any control over, and if I try and control it, I kill it.

I try and listen, really listen, to my intuition cause I know that it's one of the ways that spirit speaks to me. So that's kind of like prayer. And sometimes I even do what it tells me to!

I also experience my creativity as an opportunity to tap into a sense of the sacred and as a conduit to spirit. It's very clear to me that I have the most fun and I do my best creative work when I just get out of the way and let whatever wants to come through, come through.

Often when I am writing or painting, I have no idea where something is going until I'm part way into it. I might start writing a blog post, for example, and think that I'm going to be writing about one thing and then realize that spirit has other ideas! So it's my job to just surrender, to not fight what's coming or try and manage what's happening and force it in some other direction. When I do that, I just end up being very, very miserable.

It's also an ongoing opportunity to practice letting myself be enough. Which is huge for me. There's that part of me that is always comparing myself to someone else. I want to be different. I want to be better. I want to be more skilled at drawing or more articulate in my writing or have a better color sense or be more popular. And all I can do is be who I am.

So part of my practice is to do the best that I can do and then leave it alone. It's practicing reigning in the judging mind that always wants me to feel less than or ashamed or inadequate and keep my attention on the flow of creative energy itself. Because when I do that I have a way more fun. I try to remember that God/Goddess really wants me and really ALL of us to be creative. It's as natural to who we are as breathing.

Another aspect of my practice is a commitment to a life of open heartedness and compassion. I love that quote by the Dalai Lama where he says "Kindness is my religion." I make it a practice, and it really is a daily, moment by moment practice, to treat every person I meet with the utmost kindness, respect and generosity that I am capable of. And to try and remember to see past all the personality craziness that we are saddled with into the essential divinity that is truly who we are.

Now, goddess knows, as in any practice I fail at this more often than I succeed. But I do try to be very aware and conscious of when I'm NOT loving and compassionate. I really resonate with the concept of ahimsa which translates as harmlessness or non-violence and comes from the Hindu belief that God is in everything and so everything is sacred. Which means that if I want to stay on god's good side it's always a good idea to act nice and not spread my crankiness or crummy karma around!

So if I can't always be actively loving, I at least try to behave in ways that won't make things any worse than they already are. And like any practice, there are certainly days and times when it is easier than others. Probably my biggest challenges come when I'm driving. And then there's my completely annoying next door neighbor. And some unnamed family members. So, OK, it's NOT easy. But that's why they call it a practice. And of course, I have to try and include myself in this "do no harm" practice, which is often the hardest thing of all.

What music is your bliss?

Wow.... now there's a question! Is there a limit to the word count of this interview?? All I can say is that I have more than 9,000 songs on my iPod. And way more CD's that have yet to be downloaded! I like all KINDS of stuff and have different favorite things at different times.

Right now I'm really digging on the albums ( calling them that is showing my age here). Raising Sand by Robert Plant and Alison Krause, Short, Sharp Shocked by Michelle Shocked, Electric Arguments by the Fireman ( who is not so secretly Paul McCartney) Jaya Bhagavan by Tina Malia and Shimshai, Remembering Through Resonance by Fabeku Fatunmise, and StreetcoreStrummer and the Mescaleros.

I also love anything by Emmy Lou Harris, The Be Good Tanyas, Wade Morrisette, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Dead Can Dance, Lorenna McKennit, Bruce Cockburn, Jai Uttal, Regina Spektor, Tom Waits, Buddy and Julie Miller, Gabrielle Roth & The Mirrors, Patti Griffin, PremBaaba Maal, Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, Jean-Jaques Goldman, Dar Williams, Leonard Cohen, Snow Patrol, Martine Locke, Townes Van Zandt, Joe Strummer, Rodrigo Y Gabriella, Blind Boys of Alabama, Ry Cooder, Lori B., Shabaz, Eva Cassidy, B-Tribe, Amos Lee, Steve Earle, Ray LaMontagne, Sheila Chandra, Sinead O'Connor, Indigenous, Ligabue, Solid Air, Moodfood, Shearwater,The Wailin Jenny's , Bob Marley, UB 40, Lyle Lovett, Krishna Das, Deva Premal, The soundtrack from the Buffy The Vampire Slayer episode "Once More... With Feeling", Eddie Veder singing absolutely ANYTHING at all, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, The Ramones, Keith Richards ballads, Maniko, Judea Eden, Chrissie Hynde, Tibetan Singing Bowls, GONGS make me swoon!!, anything that my musician husband writes.... I KNOW that I'm leaving out all KINDS that I totally adore but I think that I'll just stop here.

Name books or authors/poets or people who are your bliss, who influenced your bliss.

OK. Now answering this question is going to be as bad as the music question. If there are two things that I spend WAY too much money on it's books and music. And turquoise jewelry. But thank goodness you didn't ask me about that!

So here's another ( what I consider to be) short list: Walking On Water, by Derrick Jensen, Anything by SARK, Life, Paint and Passion by Michelle Cassou, The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, Anything by Mary Oliver, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit, by Brenda Ueland, No Plot? No Problem! : A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Beatty, What We Ache For: Creativity And The Unfolding of Your Soul, by OriahShantaram by Gregory David Roberts, A Path With Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life, by Jack Kornfield, Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Compassion by Marshall Rosenberg, There is Nothing Wrong With You: Going Beyond Self-Hate, by Cheri Huber, Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies & The Truth About Reality by Brad Warner, Comfort Secrets for Busy Women: Finding Your Way When Your Life Is Overflowing by Jennifer Louden, Yoga and the Quest For The True Self, by Stephen Cope, Breakfast With Buddha by Roland Merullo, Soulcraft: Crossing Into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche by Bill Plotkin, Balancing Heaven and Earth: A Memoir of Visions, Dreams and Realizations by Robert A. Johnson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types by Don Richard Riso, Destiny at Your Fingertips: Discover the Inner Purpose of Your Life & What It Takes To Live It by Ronelle Coburn, Breaking Open The Head: A Psychedelic Journey Into Contemporary Shamanism by Daniel Pinchbeck, The Canyon Of Remembering, by Lesley Poling-Kempes, The Wisdom Of No Escape and The Path of Loving Kindness by Pema Chodron, Sweat Your Prayers: Movement As Spiritual Practice, by Gabrielle Roth, My Stroke Of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey, by Jill Bolte Taylor, Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism and The Inexplicable Powers of The Human Mind by Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer, How Much Joy Can You Stand: A Creative Guide To Facing Your Fears and Making Your Dreams Come True by Suzanne Falter-Barnes, Wild Heart Dancing by Eliot Soble, Free Play: Improvisation In Life And Art, by Stephen Nachmanovitch, In Search Of The Beloved by Steven Levine, The Power Path: The Shaman's Way to Success in Business and Life by Jose Stevens, Anything by astrologers Steven and Jodie Forrest.

What advice would you give to someone who feels they have not yet discovered their PrimaryBliss?

There are two things to look for: One, pay attention to what makes you happy. Follow your heart, even if it doesn't make sense. Oftentimes, ESPECIALLY when it doesn't make sense. I think that most people actually KNOW what their primary bliss is . They just talk themselves out of it because they think they shouldn't want what they want. Or they don't deserve to have what they want. Like the poet Mary Oliver says in her poem Wild Geese "You don't have to be good....You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves."

The second way is to follow the "back door path" that is related to some not so pleasant feelings. For example, notice what scares you, what the critic gets all over you about and what you envy in other people. If you find yourself really being attracted to and fascinated by something, and then the next internal message you hear is " Oh boy, I could NEVER do that. That's too hard, too much, will never happen, etc." you are probably on the right track.

Do you have a favorite quote you would like to share?

One of my favorite quotes is by the late great actress Ruth Gordon, and I THINK this quote actually comes from the movie Harold and Maude:

"Never give up, and never, under any circumstances, ever face the facts!"

And here's three more:

If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.

-Katherine Hepburn

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.

-Meister Eckhart

It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.

-e.e. cummings

That back door path that Chris speaks of? Yep. That's the one this Chick is exploring right now and it is surely uncomfortable but I am moving forward anyway, and with guides like Chris, how can we go wrong?

If you want to explore more deeply how to create an at-home dance sadhana (spiritual path) practice, you could join my super secret Facebook group, Inferno of Awesome. This group is invisible until you're added. FIRST, make sure you are my friend on FB, and SECOND, ask me to add you.