Thursday, March 19, 2020

Separate to Connect, with Yourself and Others

Separate to connect. How can that be?

As a meditator, I’ve been taught by my extraordinary meditation teacher, Nestor Perez, and now, can practice the life-enhancing art of separating to connect. While separation may seem counterintuitive to being with the moment, to authentically connect with ourselves and others, in fact, it’s separation that allows us to do just that.

Here’s How and Why: Please try this:
What happens when you say to yourself: I am anxious. I am mad. I am scared.
In my experience, when I make such pronouncements, I fully identify with them. In fact, without consciously realizing it, I let these feelings have me, be me. I obsess over myself, my insufficiencies, my unworthiness. 

As a consequence, my self-confidence flags. I hide myself from others, fearing that I’m not good enough to be acceptable thus accepted. This false belief, that I am my feelings, separates me from myself, out of shame/blame, and from others. 

Now, say this to yourself: I feel anxious. I feel mad. I feel scared.

Take a moment and a few breaths as you toggle between these two sets of sentiments. I am scared...I feel scared...Do you experience them differently?

For me, simply adding feel to the second set of sentences, separates me from those feelings. They don’t have me; now I have them. I am separate from these sentiments. They no longer define me. I’m simply experiencing them.

Let’s go one step further. Say and let yourself feel: Feeling anxious. Feeling mad. Feeling scared. What happens when you remove I from your sentence? 

For me, the removal of I allows me to even more clearly delineate and acknowledge my felt experience, rather than identify with it. Separate but connected. Not captive, though potentially captivating.

Why is this practice of slowing down to consciously connect with your feelings while remaining separate from them so important?

First, as you separate your identity from your feelings, you create agency to ride the seas through and over those waves of feelings — gentle, or rough (particularly now, with COVID-19)— rather than be swallowed by them

Second, life is about connecting. Free of the false belief that you and your feelings are the same, imagine how vulnerable, how honest you can be to share and receive care around the feelings you’re experiencing! On what grounds can feelings, which we all experience, be judged?

Third, knowing that I am separate from my feelings is empowering. I have choice about how I want to respond to experiences and what feelings I want to bring into life. This takes practice beginning with one and then another and another intentional breath in and breath out. As Nestor teaches, prime my intentions, one breath at a time. Over time, and with practice, I’m more able to respond than react and as life-enriching, choose and share feelings such as calm, peacefulness and joy!

Separating in order to connect, with ourselves and others. Isn’t that what we all need and want? 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Marching Forward. Together. All of US.

 I marched on January 21st.

Photo by Dana Whitaker from
Exploring Morocco; Discovering  Ourselves
Because I'm choosing to look and act with forward conviction and constructive action. 
Because there is room for all of us. We are all in this. All of us. 
For my part, I'm committed to helping individuals become self-aware (as I try to be myself), conscious of what they value. 
Knowing oneself is centering and inspires self trust, two keys to moving forward. 
That's powerful. 
Imagine everyone believing in themselves. 
What positive energy and action we would create! 
From a self-trusting place, there is neither need nor room for fear. 
 Because we're living our truths. 
When people do that, we want for others what we have for ourselves. 
Safety. Respect. Connection. 

Ready to march?

What are your values?

My primary one is: Be open, no matter what! 

Friday, December 30, 2016

10 Gifted Learnings from 2016

As 2016 draws to a close, I offer you a gift. A gift not of physical substance, but of thoughts, feelings and actions over the past year of publishing a new book, moving out of my house, dropping my son off at NYU for his first year of college and taking a 3-month sola (but never really alone!) odyssey throughout Europe, that I have experienced, learned from and am so thankful for. Perhaps these will lend a spark to your inner or outer fire as they have for me. Blessed beyond words. 

1.   Take risks for things that matter to you. Even if they’re scary (like scaling a tower’s ladder or a towering peak!). Ask yourself: “Might I be sorry if I don’t do this? What might I gain if I do?” 

2.   Don’t wait for life to fulfill you; take 100% of yourself into whatever you do. That practice in itself is fulfilling. (Take yourself to your edge.)

3.   Smile at people. Sincerely. With your eyes as much as with your mouth. If they smile back, what an added joy; if not, no matter. Enjoy how your smile makes you feel. 

4.   Laugh everyday. It’s easy, particularly when you pay attention to life’s everyday happenings, and when you don’t take yourself too seriously. (Oh, that risqué country of Croatia and Kentuckian Austin and my Thanksgiving turkey offering in Barcelona, somehow stuffing ourselves and my suitcase and backpack into Rafaella’s tiny electric car, Miró chair)


5.   Treat yourself to something special everyday. It needn’t be costly or exotic. Or, it may be. Smell a flower. Eat an octopus,  Amada’s paella, Marc's and Sarah’s divine dinners, vino tinto, queso and jamon topped with foie gras with Ana and Davide, fellow CELTA certificate students.


6.   Stop. Throughout your day.  Notice. Your breath. Your surroundings. People around you. That will reconnect you with yourself and with all the marvel that is. (Like a sunset swim in Mallorca with my friend Elvira and experiencing Chagall’s multimedia exhibit in a 25meter high quarry carved out under the town of Les Baux, France.)

7.   Commit yourself to something, no matter what. For me, it's to be open, everyday. With great anticipation; but not expectation. (Like being encouraged by my Backroads pals, Tony, Karen, Jackie and Richard, to ride back up the long, steep hill we’ve recently descended, and making it to the top! Or, going on Meet-Ups where I met new, now life-long friends like Vandana, Greg and Hilda while foraging for mushrooms outside of Paris, and Karen (pictured with Hilda, left) who started a wine/food Meetup in St. Remy, Provence). 

8.   Be generous: listen to others, honor their thoughts and feelings as well as your own. Share your bounty. (Gaudi masterpieces)      

9.   Use your intuition coupled with evidence to guide you. (Jaume Plensa)(Ocean tornado) 

10. Say Thank You whenever you can. I thank YOU, Hvala, Gracias, Merci, Grazie, Shokran from the sands of Morocco's Sahara and CA (with my son, Jack)!



Thursday, July 28, 2016

CONNECT: Shoot. It's All about Capturing Your Essence Through Her Lens

This month I'm delighted to introduce you to a fellow photographer, NANCY ROTHSTEIN. Whether shooting professional head shots (she recently took mine), individuals or groups, what sets Nancy apart from others is her ability to connect, heart and mind, with her clients, thus capturing the true 'it', the essence of each person. 
Enjoy the following interview I had with Nancy.

DEW: Nancy, what inspired(s) you to be a photographer?

NR: I had my first camera at age 7, a Brownie box camera. My genetic interest surely came from my father; photography has been a deep, continuing theme of our relationship. I've always loved finding moments & vignettes to carve out from the sometimes overwhelming whole. The camera can both record and create moments of beauty. When I was younger, photography was a way to navigate & digest the world, allowing me to be engaged while also staying in an independent space of observation, somewhat protected behind the lens.  The camera still offers this protection.

DEW: What actually happens when you're in this protected place behind the camera?

NR: When I am photographing, I am more fearless in my explorations of the world. There's a zone that happens with photography. In the zone, I'm not afraid to stand in the middle of a busy street or lie down on a dirty sidewalk to get the shot I want. These days I see photography more as a means of connection and empowerment, and I'm inspired by the ability to connect with my clients to convey something true about them. That is truly gratifying.

DEW: As a fellow photographer, I know that, like me, your goal is to shoot people in their natural versus a staged (tight, uncomfortable) state. What techniques — besides your naturally open, non-judgmental demeanor that I experienced when you took my head shots — have you found to be effective? 

NR: To achieve a natural portrait requires a sincere emotional connection between the photographer and the subject. That may be very subtle or more obvious, and it may be lightening fast, but even understanding the timing of when to push the shutter requires presence and an awareness of the fleeting emotional expression of the subject. I think that you have to be open and connected in order to read those signs.  Trusting an organic process, being present, listening, being open, playing, experimenting, matching the energy of the subject and then skillfully nudging them toward opening....all of these help.  And love...loving each other as human beings is essential!

DEW: Depth of field (blur factor around a focused person or object) seems to play a prominent role in your head shots. What do you think that does versus keeping both foreground and background in focus? 

NR: I love using a shallow depth of field for portraiture because it allows the subject of the portrait to stand out from the background. Otherwise, when the subject and the background are equally focused, the eye will travel around the frame and be distracted by the small details. I enjoy "painting" the forms and textures of the background.  I can do this by manipulating the objects and then blurring them out to create the texture that I want and to control the way it frames the subject. I love the experience of looking around and translating what my eyes see this into a vision of the final image, understanding how that background will be completely transformed. If the background is part of the story, however, then it should be considered somehow. It may still be blurred, adding both an interesting textural quality and subtle reference, to architectural lines, for example.

DEW: Most of us find ourselves shooting or being part of a group or family photo. Can you share a few pieces of advice about how to both take and be in a ‘keeper’ shot? 

NR: Group photos can be boring. Often we are just lined up and squished together. I like giving each person their own space and letting them pose in the way that's natural to them. If each person, or couple, or family subgroup, is doing their own thing, then the look of the overall group becomes much more dynamic. Often these types of shots happen spontaneously, at a moment that wasn't optimized for photography.  For me personally I think finding the flattering light in the setting is more important than necessarily including some feature of the landscape. If you're at a place where the location is important to the group but using some iconic aspect of the location as the background puts them in horrible light, then I suggest take a snapshot of them in that setting, then moving them to the good light and do a nicer portrait to take advantage of the fact that everyone is together. To create more depth in the image and avoid casting shadows, keep the group away from the background. For example, if there are flowers, trees, a cool wall or a building in the background, leave a good bit of space between the group and the background if possible. 

DEW: Black and white or color: What drives your decision to choose one over the other?

NR: I think a lot of images work well in color and black and white but generally I choose black and white when the mood matches my intention for the image, and when there's the right amount of contrast. Sometimes color can distract from the forms in an image. For clients I provide color and black-and-white versions of all images. 

DEW: If you could photograph anyone in the world, past or present, who would it be, and why?

NR: That's a tough question.  I'm so involved with photographing normal everyday (fantastic!) people that I don't often fantasize about who I would want to photograph. I find it deeply satisfying to give normal people images of themselves that they love. If I had to choose my dream subject, it would be someone whose gaze offers some kind of inspirationhope, or healing to the viewer; someone who's able to remind us of our essential connectedness and move us to acts of kindness and courage.

DEW: On a personal note, can you talk about our process, when you photographed me for a professional head shot, and why the early photos weren't capturing the 'it' of me and then, how they did?

NR: In our session we initially came upon a subtle disconnect between what we were capturing and what you wanted to convey. This is normal; not bad or a failure.  A session is an organic process; you have to be open to finding your way together, learning to communicate with each other and find the way to draw out and capture the version of the truth that needs to be told at that time.  We are multi-facted beings; images can be truthful and be different, but for a client I need to tell the story they want told at that moment.  In our session, what we found was that there was a tension between your answers to my questions about how you wanted to be perceived and your own self image. We were getting images that were very aligned with the message we thought we wanted to convey (through your direct gaze and smile), but there was a missing piece. There is an edginess that's a part of your personality that we hadn't identified in our initial talk. So we spoke more about who you are in contrast with how you were feeling and looked in the photos. Once I understood that, we had to figure out how to convey both the open, approachable, connected you and the strong, adventuresome, edgy you. It turned out that including more of you, your head, shoulders and torso, was key, highlighting the strength and angularity of your frame and the muscular tension in your limbs. That way, we were able to visually achieve all that you are. 

DEW: Nancy, what a perfect ending! Of course, you used the pronoun 'we' throughout your final answer. What a mirror of your and commitment and ability to connect with your clients. That is why and how you bring out and capture the essential 'it'. Thank you for doing so for me! 

Portraits | Commercial | Fine Art                    
877-881-7221 Studio
510-384-9298 Mobile