"You have this way of unzipping and letting us see your heart."--Meg Bowles, Curatorial Director of The Moth

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Monday
Jun182012

Introducing Hand Holds, and Work that Gets Done in Its Own Time

Read more about The Gift of This Moment Home Retreat Kit, and order yours today.

I think it's common when you're pioneering a new way to do things to compare your process to other, established and seemingly more legitimate ways It's Been Done Before.

Take launching, for example. Some traditional joints have the process super dialed-in, and the timing and execution of the way they introduce new work to the world feels elegant and effortless. I have to admit to envying the polish and shine of it. The established way felt like the legitimate way to do it.

So we had the best of intentions for an elegant launch. I had a whole wall of the apartment papered with a big 12-month calendar. We had hopes that all the new work would be done by April, and that videos would be completed and posted 10 days ahead of time. We had all kinds of good intentions in this department. From mid-September until our production season ended (we were hoping in April), we were looking at six major releases: Telling Your Story, The Care and Keeping of Creative Souls, The Iconic Self, Ritual and Rhythm: A Guide to Creative Self Care, Beauty Everywhere: A Portable Gallery, and The Gift of This Moment.

But my friends and I, as you may have gathered, do many things, of which these resources are just one part. We travel, we teach, we care for loved ones who fall ill. We are committed to our own growth and development, which requires our presence and attention, as well as time with our mentors, guides, and support people. Around January it became evident that keeping our schedule would require us to work in such a way that would be out of line with what we value. See, we can't teach about things like taking care of ourselves and being present with any integrity unless we are practicing them all along the way--and not just when deadlines are far away.

The primary piece of what my friends and I are committed to is not just making the work, but creating a new way to be in the world, even while completing our tasks. So we changed the schedule. We gave each project to come after a little more room to breathe and become. We took care of our souls and our bodies in the meantime, and kept our presence-promoting practices firmly in place. We imagined the introduction of a new work as not a one-shot opportunity to bomb the interwebs with ads and chatter, but as a conversation one simply begins, and invites others into, and expands collectively and organically over time. 

The work will be done when it's done became the new motto.

There is so much yet to be done (believe me, the long list is never far from my mind), because the truth is, this is only the beginning. I'm trying to remember all I've learned this spring as I head into my summer, which I hope will be filled with lots of rest and maybe some short film-making. When the long list haunts me, I say, The work will be done when it's done.

And it is.

Friday
Jun152012

Navigating the Crumbly Days

Yesterday Liz Lamoreux tweeted about how the day after a launch felt even more vulnerable than the day before. It hits all of us at different moments, in different ways. We reach for different words in an attempt to explain what we're experiencing. Phyllis Mathis says, "This work costs something in soul." Liz Lamoreux says, "Putting from the heart work in the world feels like giving a piece of your heart."

It's a very specific kind of vulnerability to put not just your ideas into the world (Top 10 Ways To Blah Blah Blah) but work that holds the essence of who you are, the stories you carry with you always in the cavern between your ribs. The moments that made you who you are and continue to form you as you journey with them by your side and in your pocket.

You leap, and land. You say, See? That wasn't so bad. You're still in one piece. But then later--a minute or an hour or a day or two after--suddenly you feel all wobbly in the knees like your legs might give out on you. Your body doesn't feel like the solid structure that carried you off into the leap and absorbed the weight of your landing; now it feels like cookie crumbs shaped into a person-shape, held by plastic wrap. You worry that if someone bumps into you or looks at you unkindly, even for an instant, you might collapse into a pile on the ground. You put on clothes before leaving the house but it doesn't matter, nothing makes the naked feeling go away.

All those weeks and months of trusting yourself and what you knew you needed to do to say to make are suddenly drowned out by loud inner shrieks of the hysterical person on prison break in your mind. No one cares! No one wants this! It's going to make no difference!

The people who know you in your trusting and brave moments don't always know what to do with you when in the grip of crippling doubt. People forget to tell you that you're doing alright and that they love you and that it all matters deeply because they take it for granted that you know. And some days, you do. Just not these days.

I wish there were magic words we could speak to each other on these days that chases the doubt away like a very powerful spell. Or that we could wrap ourselves in some protective cloak. But the only magic and cloak I know is to wrap ourselves in love--the deep abiding love of those who are ever-present safety net whether we fly or fall. To try to take it in through our ears, our eyes, our skin. To ask to be embraced, held, listened to while we say the crazy thoughts out loud so we can hear ourselves how crazy they really are.

It is only because of this safety-net kind of love that I can ever take a leap at all. Everything begins there for me, and on crumbly days like today I remember that everything ends there, too.

Phyllis Mathis has been this kind of friend to me for over a decade. I'm so honored to have her as my guest on this week's podcast, as we talk about the way we are formed inside of friendship and conversation. Everything I do begins and ends in these deep soulful connections, but it's a relational form that feels on the brink of extinction.

Give it a listen and think about a safety net you could weave or strengthen in your own life, and the courageous leaps you could make as it holds you.

Wednesday
Jun132012

Give Yourself The Gift of This Moment

photos by Liz Lamoreux

Some days it's the way the importance of what you're up to in the world sweeps you out, as if into a tide.

Other days it's the way the breeding inbox and never-ending details tap incessantly on your shoulder.

Or the way the future breathes down your back. And then you blink and turn the calendar and wonder where all those weeks and days and hours and minutes went. You wonder what you missed noticing and forgot to tuck in your heart and carry with you.

You wonder who you could have been if you let those moments change you instead of chase you.

Sometimes it's helpful to get tired of things like hype and speed and hamster wheels that promise you so much but in the end leave you spit out and spent with calendars heavy on scribbles and light on memories.

photos by Liz Lamoreux

What if you didn't need a sabbatical in Tibet or a hike through the Himalayas to turn the ship around? What if reflective living was as simple as a moment in front of a mirror, a snapshot and a line penned on a napkin, or a book of holy heart words tucked in your bag the exact minute you need them?

What if it was a gift you could give yourself, that arrives gently at your door?


The Gift of This Moment Home Retreat Kit by Liz Lamoreux

Finally it's here: a collection of invitations, reminders and practices to keep you grounded, awake and clear so you don't miss your deep wisdom or your hidden treasures--those moments of seeing and hearing and embracing that first change us and then travel with us forever.

Give yourself this gift and receive:

  • The Gift of This Moment: Practices for Reflective Living, a professionally recorded and beautifully designed audio CD featuring Liz Lamoreux's heart-felt stories and an introduction to her 3 Practices for Reflective Living.
  • Seen: A Mirror Meditation Journal, a 30-Day companion for reconnecting with the person who knows you best--You. Paperback, 40 pages, including 18 invitations, notes and check-ins. Featuring line art by Liz Kalloch.
  • In This Moment: Field Journal and Photo Album, your reminder to see and to notice, to root yourself deeply in the present. Carry with you, cherish, remember. Hard cover, double-wire bound, 86 pages, including 27 writing and photo prompts.
  • Five Days in April: A Poetry Collection, for the times when your own words fail you. Paperback, 40 pages, including 20 soulful poems by Liz Lamoreux.
  • Breathing from the Heart: Guided Meditations, five downloadable mp3s of professionally recorded meditations by Liz, whose training as a yoga instructor infuses and informs this journey.
  • A Breathing from the Heart reminder sticker: place where you need it most.
  • A custom-designed, 2.25" pocket mirror in a sheer organza bag: reconnect to yourself wherever you are.
  • Here and I am Beauty temporary tattoos from Chickadee Road: adorn yourself with the reminders you most need to stay present to your practice.
  • Rejuvenate. Reconnect. Retreat. Black mini tote bag to hold together all the parts and pieces, plus your keys, your phone and other on-the-go essentials.

The Gift of This Moment Home Retreat Kit: All you need to rejuvenate, to reconnect and retreat, any time, any place. No plane ticket required.

$135 USD, ships free worldwide

Early bird bonus: order by June 30th to be included in The Gift of This Moment Facebook group hosted by Liz, with other moment-savoring souls.

 


Tuesday
Jun052012

On Ugly Ducklings and Beautiful Swans

This is the final episode of The Emerging Icon Series. If you'd like to start from the beginning or let your friends in on the action, subscribe here and receive an episode a week in your inbox (12 episodes, all around 3-4 minutes each). I'll open up the comments today--if you've enjoyed this series, let me know.

The conversation continues.

I'm expanding the conversation of emerging to include the wisdom and stories of my friends and colleagues, now available as the Retrospective podcast. Subscribe in iTunes, where you can rate and review the series (all of which make a tremendous difference).

 

Are you ready to dive in deeper?

If you're ready to really pull into focus the forces that keep you quiet and hold you back, then the Finding Your Voice home study course is your next step. Designed as an interactive curriculum, it's self-paced so you can enjoy your bursts of velocity and also take time to simmer and absorb when that's what you most need. Reclaim your power--your voice--and unearth the courage to put yourself out there, over and over again.

Monday
Jun042012

What Happens When Artists Rule?

There's a school of thought that says when making and then selling something, people don't care about how or why you make it the way you do--they just want you to answer the question, What's in it for me? It's likely true for some people, probably a personality thing, but I am a values-oriented person and I can't imagine I'm alone in this. The how and the why matter immensely to me--it's why I buy organic and free range and free roaming food and support farms with humane practices. I pay more money for these items, and not just for their superior flavor and nutritional content. There is a kind of work in the world I believe in supporting, other values-oriented people I believe in sustaining.

Maybe this is why each time a new release draws near, I'm always compelled to pull the curtain back and let you see a glimpse of how we do things and why we do them that way. The curious among us can read on.

Almost everything we make has official and unofficial titles. For instance, something that might be called, say, The Gift of This Moment may have an unofficial or working title like, How to Feel Less Fucked Up and Alone. Maybe we'd sell more if we just stuck with those unofficial titles, I don't know, but I do know that they help us keep our eye on the ball during the making. To remember what we're up to and why. 

Similarly, the official tagline you'll see on a Jen Lee Productions banner right now reads, Hold the possibilities in your hands. And that is part of what we stand for, for sure. But an unofficial tagline has been keeping things clear behind the scenes in the making: Artists rule.

Like many things we create, I started down this path of independent media production because I was frustrated--frustrated with the ways we have undervalued wisdom and allowed systems to flourish that diminish creators and wisdom-keepers. I dreamed of a way to make things that would pay artists more than mere cents for the culmination of years of living and cultivating and researching and developing. A world where authors would get to name their own books and get to be a part of the process of making and shaping and designing their work, where they don't lose creative control to vetoes from the marketing department or a big-name bookstore that threatens not to carry their work unless they change the title.

We all know that what we really respond to are authentic voices, but I don't believe projects we run through such severe interference emerge with that authenticity intact.

What's the remedy? Letting artists rule. The work is the way the work should be, even if we're hours from going to press and we decide no, those interior photos really don't work in black and white. If they must be in color to retain their power and beauty, then in color they shall be.

Some content is well-suited for book form, and in those cases it becomes a book. But the concern and consideration that most drives me is transformation. I'm not asking, What will people buy? I'm asking, What way of interacting with this content will be the most transformative? The greatest shortcoming of books is that we are passive in our posture towards them. We generally hope that they will do something to us: entertain us, inspire us, give us the magic recipe we've been missing to have the life of our dreams.

But my journey has been more heavily influenced by a deeper kind of work--one in which I am interacting with the material and really reflecting and seeing things that I can no longer not see, things that change everything forever. It was while doing a writing exercise in The Artist's Way--not while reading it--that I had a realization that ultimately culminated in our move to New York City. It changed the direction of my work and our lives. A few months after arriving, someone was visiting me and saw the book near my bed. Oh, I read that book once, she said. I think I'll go back and 'do it' after I retire.

I almost had to sit down. What if I had just read that book, like it was any other? What if I had waited until retirement to take the time to listen to myself and hear what I most want? She had read a book and thought, That's nice. I had really interacted with it in a way that shifted my life's trajectory.

This story is not ever far from my mind when I'm writing home study courses: work that is active and invites you in to play with it, to experiment, to wrestle with the more difficult parts. The same ethos drives the home retreat kits. Yes, being in person, presence-with-presence is the most transformational way to interact with the material. But what if the logistics of that are out of reach? What's the next best thing?

When we began talking about Liz Lamoreux's new project, we quickly learned that the solitary nature of some of her practices for reflective living were not well-suited to the group format of a live retreat. At first I thought we would make a binder and CDs, as we had for Finding Your Voice and Telling Your Story. Our companions for the journey had powerful, rich experiences with them, and we knew how to make them--it would be a breeze.

But we weren't far into our discussions before I could hear that the binder would not be a good fit for this project. What we needed instead was a meditation journal, a separate poetry collection, and a field journal and photo album. We needed an audio CD with Liz's teaching and stories to walk our companions through the practices, and some audio meditations would be helpful, too. And that is how we build a project, piece by piece, form following function and not the other way around.

It's not inexpensive to make exquisite things in small batches, compared to what it costs to manufacture something you see for sale in Starbucks or Barnes and Noble. But in our case you know that your funds support the artists directly, that they receive more than mere cents from your purchase. Much of the work we offer is free, but every now and then we come up with a way that we can give you the best of what we have to offer in a form that allows you to give your support in exchange. We have not produced a resource yet that was not years in the making--years that we would not have had to pioneer these frontiers and then be your guides along the way if our financial circumstances did not and do not continue to allow it.

What happens when artists rule? Dreams come true. Next week (6.13.12) we release our latest project featuring the warmth and wisdom of artist, author and teacher Liz Lamoreux. We're in the dreams coming true business for artists and visionaries, and we hope you'll celebrate this one with us.

Friday
May252012

The Nameless, Faceless Abyss

Hula's photos on exhibition with others at The Impossible Project hulaseventy.blogspot.com

I remember years ago, before I was online, teasing my husband (a computer guy) about the "imaginary friends" from his IRC channel (this was before chat rooms). I knew they were real people, out there, somewhere, but even though he knew those guys for years and felt close to them, when he referred to them by screenname in casual conversation it just lacked the weight of reality for me.

And then when I started writing in this space (circa 2005), it was really a subversive act for me. The code I lived under then was a lot like: Be [nearly] invisible and make us look good. There were things I wanted to say I didn't believe in anymore in regard to groups we were involved in, but there was no one to tell and it wasn't good to get caught trying. Then there were many things I didn't believe anymore. The nameless, faceless abyss of the internet was for me then a place I could send what thoughts I could eek out--out of my head, into the ether.

I saved my most personal stories for the stage. For many people, THIS would be their idea of a nameless, faceless abyss--but not me. I may not be able to tell you on any given night who is in those rooms, but I can tell you who isn't, and sometimes that's just as important.

But here in this space, it's been hard to keep ahold of my sense of who is in the room. The nameless, faceless abyss is not so helpful when you stop hiding and start hoping that someone is listening. Hoping that when you choose courage, it matters, and that the "mattering" will counterbalance what it costs you.

When I got the idea for the new 2012 Catalog, it was such a strong intuitive hit that I felt compelled to protect it from my reason. I wouldn't even calculate the cost of it, or give that reason-voice any ammunition to shoot the idea down. I couldn't even tell you why I thought it was important--I just kept insisting that it was, and that we wouldn't understand why until later.

And then requests came in, and I started handwriting each address, and I felt some place inside of me exhaling. I wasn't in here alone. And with every house number and street name, you--my "imaginary" companions--crossed some threshold in my consciousness and I could start holding the reality of you. You have names like Mallory and Deanna and Pen. You live on streets with names like Foster Avenue and Sycamore Square Drive. I imagined the catalog showing up at the post office in towns called Granite Canyon, Wyoming, or Wilmington, Delaware, and also making its way across oceans to India, the Netherlands, throughout Europe and Australia and New Zealand.

I had no idea how much I needed to know at least a fraction of who is in this room (and that anyone is here at all). Maybe we all need these reminders of one another's reality and humanity, these moments when we pause to imagine whole lives unfolding behind every avatar and screenname. I'm seeking more of these personal connections all the time, and I'm so thankful when you reach out and say: you're here. We're together. And it all matters.

(Now you can get new posts in your inbox: subscribe here.)

 

Yes, he's funny. But the side of Andy Ross I love most is when he's thoughtful and true, as he was in our latest conversation for Retrospective. You can listen here, or in iTunes. Andy is a comedian, writer, storyteller and the host of New York's popular live show, Real Characters. He is also the World's Greatest Wedding Dancer.

Wednesday
May232012

The Trade-Off of Caution and Humility

The book I mention in this episode is Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis.