the loveART blog


your playing small doesn’t serve the world

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In an interview this week with the Washington Post, Sir Ian McKellen says that his remarkable professional success came only after he revealed publicly that he was gay:

…he also credits the uptick in his show business profile with the growth of his comfort level with himself, a peace of mind that developed after revealing that he was gay in 1988 during a BBC radio program examining the Thatcher government’s policies toward homosexuality. “It all happened since I came out, ironically,” McKellen says of the Hollywood phase of his professional life.

The belief among some in his field that opportunities automatically get narrower after such candor is to him mythology. “I’m living proof the opposite is true. You get more self-confidence. You don’t have that bit of dishonesty,” he says, adding that acting “is about disguise. But it’s not about lying.”

At 70, Sir Ian enjoys the rare distinction of being both a world-renowned pop-cultural icon (with his roles as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and as Magneto in X-Men) and a leading classical actor on stage and screen, “one of a select few who has all but defined Shakespearean performance for our time,” according to the Post. The Shakespeare Theatre Company just honored him with their annual Will Award.

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He is also a very public activist for gay rights; his website has sections on Activism, Gay Rights, and Acting Is Activism, among other things.

The wordARTist finds it easy to believe that Sir Ian’s creativity was somehow unleashed when he permitted himself to be seen fully, in public, for who he really is. Furthermore, the wordARTist posits that by taking that risk–a large one, in the public profession of acting–he opened the door to taking other kinds of risks in his work, risks that have benefited him, and us, in visible and invisible ways.

Coming out of the closet means defeating one’s shame. And don’t we all hold back, in countless ways, a little bit or a lot, each day? I am reminded of the famous quote from Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Love (often misattributed to Nelson Mandela):

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Think about this now: in what dusty corners are you hiding some piece of yourself, restraining it from public view? It might be in your creative work; it might be in your relationships; it might be in the ways you pursue happiness, or don’t. Sir Ian is a beautiful example of what happens when we confront our shadows, shine a light on them…and then transmute them into a source of strength.

(Photos of Sir Ian McKellen from Photobucket.com.)

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spirits rising

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Item 1: In March 2009, 2,250 people stood in line at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., for half a day awaiting the privilege of paying $22 to see Elizabeth Gilbert speak. Gilbert is the modest and utterly engaging author of the smash-hit spiritual memoir Eat Pray Love, which has been translated into 13 languages and has 7 million copies in print.

Item 2: Oprah’s been inviting guests like Thich Nhat Hanh, Marianne Williamson, Byron Katie, Elizabeth Lesser and Jon Kabat-Zinn onto her tv and radio shows and Soul Series webcasts. When she launched a virtual “study group” (complete with syllabus and workbook) centered on Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, 450,000 people tuned into the first webcast. By the time the ten-week series wrapped, 20 million people had downloaded the programs.

These little things make the wordARTist‘s heart sing. They confirm my observation that the number of folks hungry for connection with Spirit is on the rise. And as we delve into ourselves to find, explore and deepen that connection, all sorts of good stuff becomes possible. Stuff like, oh, a stronger sense of community. An honoring of the mother earth. The eradication of hunger. Global peace. You know.

As my own small contribution to this heartening trend, I am offering two programs this weekend. Wearing my hat as the curator of the 2009 Summer Writers Series for SOMOS (the Society of the Muse of the Southwest), the preeminent literary organization in northern New Mexico, on the evening of August 21 I will host “Women in Praise of the Sacred,” a program featuring readings by award-winning poet and activist Dora E. McQuaid, chants and poems to Spirit by the short story writer, poet and artist Pat McCabe, and a special surprise guest. (A three-word hint: slam poetry champion.) The program starts at 7:30 pm and is at the new Taos Art Plaza, 223 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, downtown Taos.

And on August 22 and 23, Dora McQuaid and I will teach “The Alchemical Heart: Writing into the Sacred,” an intensive workshop we organized under the auspices of the Creativity and Consciousness Institute of Taos, a new University of New Mexico affiliate dedicated to education in the areas of creative expression and human consciousness. (Dora and I are both members of the CCI Board of Directors.)

Dora and I are excited to teaching “The Alchemical Heart: Writing into the Sacred” at the historic Mabel Dodge Luhan House, a fabulous 100-year old complex abutting Taos Pueblo Indian land, backing up into a sacred Penitente morada and dense with the creative spirits of D.H. Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe and other former denizens of Mabel’s infamous salons. Here’s a fun half-hour interview Dora and I did earlier this week with Jim Ball of Taos’ progressive talk radio station, KVOT-FM: Alchemical Heart & Women in Praise of the Sacred. (It starts at 19:48 minutes in.)

While you’re waiting for the (slooowww) audio clip to load, I’ll leave you with a petite writing exercise: What makes your spirit rise? List ten things.

Now go out and do one. Then come back, pour yourself a cup of tea (or something stronger) and enjoy the radio interview.

(Photo credit: Elaine’s Quan Yin, copyright 2006 by Diana Rico.)


for whom the bell tolls


Yesterday Dr. Paul Elwood, a renowned new-music composer, champion banjo player, and professor of music composition at the University of Northern Colorado, turned me onto the quirky little comedy Stranger Than Fiction. In the movie Will Ferrell plays a terminally boring IRS agent who discovers that (1) he’s actually the character in a novel being written by Emma Thompson and (2) Emma has plans to kill his character off. Faced with the certainty of his imminent death, Will makes radical life changes in the few days he has left.

Then this morning came the tragic news of the real death of Natasha Richardson, a passionate and gifted actress from a long lineage of passionate and gifted artists. Richardson died after suffering head trauma in a skiing accident. She was 45.

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Her father, the Academy Award-winning director Tony Richardson; her mother, the actress and activist Vanessa Redgrave; her grandparents, the great actors Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson; her husband, actor Liam Neeson–these people have given the world so much. The wordARTist is struck by the shocking suddenness of Richardson’s passing, especially immediately after having watched Stranger Than Fiction.

What would you do differently if you knew you were going to die tomorrow? Why not do that now? Hardly new questions, but ones that we do well to remind ourselves of in moments like this one.

(Photos of Natasha Richardson from Photobucket.com.)


are you holding suffering?

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Today the wordARTist is thinking about how hard we are on ourselves. How we beat ourselves up when we don’t put paintbrush to canvas or words to the page or notes to the instrument. How we take our little human mistakes and magnify them until we are overwhelmed with the certainty that we cannot possibly be worthy of love. 

Today, just for today, what one small kindness can you do for yourself? It doesn’t have to be perfect or big or difficult. Just kind.

Here are some wise words to help you on your quest.

May I learn to look at myself through the eyes of understanding and love. –Thich Nhat Hanh

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. –the Dalai Lama

There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. –Sylvia Plath

The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing. –James Brown

Suffering is not holding you. You are holding suffering. When you become good at the art of letting sufferings go, then you’ll come to realize how unnecessary it was for you to drag those burdens around with you. You’ll see that no one else other than you was responsible. The truth is that existence wants your life to become a festival. –Osho

(Photo: The Gardens at Hedgebrook, Whidbey Island, Washington, copyright 2005 by Diana Rico.)