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One of the things I have been doing over the last few years when not writing, touring someplace, or off on some other adventure is working as a figure model. When I mentioned to a friend that I was looking for an interesting sideline, she made the suggestion and I felt that it fit very well into my life. I always want to spend more time where art is created. I am also a longtime nudist, so there is nothing strange to me about posing for an art class. It seemed like a fun and fairly perfect thing to check out.

Though I am comfortable without clothes, it is more common a situation in my life that everyone is nude – on my favorite beach, camping in clothing-optional space, or at some other naturist event. Being the only one who’s nude in the room did take a little getting used to in the beginning, but is no big deal at all now. Most art class’ protocol is strange and a bit frustrating. Students are generally not to speak to the model. That feels cold to me at times, and can be the least appealing aspect of the job. I’d rather be spoken to like anyone else in the room. When there’s an opportunity, I try to ask someone a question, show some sense of humor, and just keep an easy-going energy flowing as much as possible.

I feel my Zen sensibilities more strongly while holding a pose than in most other circumstances. In sitting or standing still for long periods, I find meditation. 20 minutes of posing divided by short breaks leads me to settle into stillness, to follow the breath. Posing is a time to experience my current reality. It is a profound opportunity to release the habit of hiding. It is like saying “Here is all of me, World, with my bundle of irrational fears, body image issues, joys, aspirations, ideas, boredom, peacefulness…” Whatever is going on that day and in that moment, there I am. Exposing the body combined with time to watch the mind is a powerful exercise.

I often simply notice and release thoughts in meditation mode. Sometimes I follow the seemingly significant ones. Here are some of the random thoughts that float through my brain while modeling:

Oh! Here come some titles for the dual CDs that I am working on this season. Need to write them down on break… The hypothetical book I mentioned in The Steve Forbert Chronicles really does want to be written… and it wants to be fiction. Research road trip? … How will I manifest time to create all that the muse is pouring through me? … Grateful to have the ideas flowing… Hmm, a sexy thought – Wow, if I were a guy that thought might have just become a lot more obvious! … Will I wear the gold sparkly spaghetti strap shirt out dancing on Friday? … Sad memory of an ex – We used to meet after my Philly modeling gigs sometimes… I really want to finish painting the basement… There is only this moment, right now. Sat Nam… Why the heck did I dream about playing pool and going boating with Hall & Oates?! …

I sometimes wish I were learning to draw, too, but listening in on classes has helped me to at least see so much more. I notice the light and the shadow and the planes that make up people’s faces. I am starting to imagine drawing without outlining, but finding the shapes that make up the figure. I get how it is important to see more deeply into how the body works and the structure beneath the skin in order to render something realistic. I take so many things as metaphor anyway, and these are useful additions to ways to find life lessons.

Lately, I’ve been learning quite a bit posing in Moe Brooker’s class @ Moore College of Art and Design. I can’t say that I would enjoy being in his class as a student. He dishes out some intense critique and hardly gives students a moment’s rest. If he wants someone to add the face to the drawing or redo the knees or a make the feet bigger, he means pronto. The door generally gets shut on you if you are a minute late. He doesn’t particularly care whether or not students like him, but he cares deeply that they become better artists. I suspect that even though it’s fairly clear some students can’t stand dealing with his class, they’ll be incredible artists one day and will thank him. I have the easy job in the class; I just get to stand there and observe the varying mix of intensity and comedy.

Moe Brooker often says that there’s no point in being almost anything. If you want to be an artist, be an artist. Don’t be an almost artist. In the past, I have resolved to stop almosting. I am inspired to revisit this, find my inner hard-ass, ferret out the almosts, and achieve.

One afternoon on Facebook, Preetamdas Kirtana posted something like “F*!k tolerance!  What if God practiced ‘tolerance?’  Practice love!”  “That should be a T-shirt,” I commented.  He said I ought to go for it – and so it is. => here   Thanks, Preetamdas, for the inspiration.  The Coexist movement is headed in the right direction.  I hope this bit of in-your-face yoga inspires many more to approach life from a place of love.

Last week, I was at Jack and Jenn’s working on the preliminary recordings for the next chant CD.  As the day to begin work drew closer, I felt as though I was cramming for kirtan.  I had to solidify ideas that had been floating along for months.  I needed to make decisions about instrumentation.  I wanted to strongly suggest to divine inspiration that a visit would be more than welcome.  “This is no way to approach bhakti,” I thought.  These sounds should emerge whole from pure love, unabated.  I was angry with myself for my process.  All music should be effortless, right?  I was angrier that I had been letting relationships and meekness and random distractions throw me off my game for too long.  How long ago had the trail branched off?  I realized that Virgo Obsesso, my inner critic, was at it again.  I noticed that sometimes I manage to coexist with the process it takes to live and grow and create.  Sometimes it feels farther off than that, and I barely tolerate my own mind’s changes.  Life is a meditation.  The point is to notice the straying, and return to center. 

Recognizing that the shirt’s message must first be realized internally – spiritually – emotionally – was a revelation.  Seeing this brought on an immediate shift.  There is time to remember the breath and time to extend compassion to the inner struggle.  Time to remember that music and art and awareness of spirit all show up where there is kindness to self.  All of us woo-woo types talk about “You have to love yourself.”  It was good to actually get it in that moment.  I’m sure I’ll forget again and remind myself.  Again.  As with any practice, the hope is that the cycle becomes gentler as we move along the path.

I am now quietly excited about allowing the new sounds through.  Seven new chants and spiritual songs are in the works.  Recording felt easy, as if it was happening of its own accord.  I love one song that I am so far calling “Blessed Be – Namaste.”  It is exceedingly simple and is a blessing that seeks to make a bridge where the Pagan and Hindu traditions in me meet.  The words and melody were sweet enough to show up the night before the recording session.  I believe that often the best thing one can do for anything musical or poetic is to get out of its way. 

Blessed Be and Namaste.  May we be good to ourselves and practice love in our travels.  May the reminders harm none and lead us back in those moments when love has been forgotten.

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