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Apr 22
Monday
Arts and Poetry
Obstacles as Opportunities for Creation

[From the Shambhala Times team: Ms. Younger’s new book, Be, Awake, Create, will be available in June. To read an excerpt of the book, you can click here.]

The Beginning

Writing the book, Be, Awake, Create, has been quite a creative adventure with many opportunities to live the material I was writing about as I created it.  I hope that you will find the story inspiring for your own creative process.  It is a love story, for creating is an act of love.  Perhaps it has been my most challenging creation to date, as you will see in the story that follows.

photo by Rebekah Younger

It started with an innocuous email through my website from an editor at New Harbinger Publications in June 2016, inquiring if I would be interested in designing a contemplative coloring book.

By July, I had convinced him that what they really wanted was an interdisciplinary guided art journal, mixing mindfulness practices with art activities to wake up the reader’s own creativity.  It would be rooted in the Shambhala Art and creating material I have been teaching for years.

In the spring of 2016, I had moved into a shared house in the Oakland Hills, trying to rebuild a life now in my 60’s after being divorced and given a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease in the last quarter of 2015. I’d been self-employed as a creative for most of my adult life. My plan was to re-establish my interior decorating business in the Bay Area after making the move.  Not exactly an ideal time to take on a first book project.
Still, I felt, “this is it” as I contemplated the project, a feeling that has accompanied all the major creations I have done in my life. When asked at my business networking meeting what I wanted to manifest that Fall, I boldly announced my intention to write a book about contemplative art practices. Saying out loud what you want to create is a big step towards manifesting it.

Making the Commitment

By August, I had a description and first draft of a chapter outline for the book.  Yet the project would languish as both the editor and I were distracted with other projects until January.

I was juggling a full time job at a frame shop in San Francisco, a decorating project in the East Bay and medical appointments.  I was still trying to get my business off the ground too, even as I experienced more and more of the mental and physical symptoms of Parkinson’s.

A series of events spurred me into action.  Linda Ronstadt was one of the customers at the frame shop.  She has had Parkinson’s for years and is barely recognizable as the vivacious woman she once was.  Her assistant often ran her errands, but one day she came into the store, with just a whisper of her voice left and barely able to stand, she was still quite engaging.  I told her I had Parkinson’s too and as is always the case with “Parkies” the first question she asked was “when were you diagnosed?”  By then it was nearly a year for me.  I was looking at where this disease would take me, and it was frightening to see.  She had become a recluse, unable to sing and appeared fairly bitter about her fate, even with the wealth and companionship that could sustain her, something I could not count on.

If I was going to do what mattered to me, I resolved now was the time.  Spending the good days I had commuting to the Presidio to wait on the wealthy and their framing needs, just didn’t seem that important.  I enjoyed designing uplifted and harmonious interiors to create more contemplative spaces, yet I was not interested in politicking with realtors and ego driven design community to be successful in the hyper competitive real estate market.

With Trump’s election, teaching people to create rather than simply react to the world seemed vital.  I cut back my hours at the frame shop, revamped my business plan to begin coaching individuals and organizations in the creative process so they might actualize their own visions.  I began work on some line drawings for the book, even as my handwriting became more illegible and my line work shaky.

All In

By January 2017, I left the frame shop altogether.  By early spring I decided to apply for Social Security Disability, facing the reality that I physically could no longer carry the stress of trying to make a fulltime living as an independent entrepreneur in the Bay Area.  This was major, as I had always been able to live well on the income from my businesses. Yet, over the past decade it was a slow progression of letting go of that self-starter, independent identity. I was not retiring, I was being forced out by my body’s limitations. I was coming to terms with my deepest fears of chronic illness and how to salvage a solo life in a society that does not care for its sick. I have faced this reality to some extent since having cancer at age 30 and heart disease at 50, but those had the potential for cures and starting anew.  Parkinson’s only gets worse over time at an unknown rate of decline.

I was now juggling government bureaucracy, doctors’ and networking appointments and teaching classes in creating to publicize my coaching.  The book was one flicker of hope in a bleak future. Something I had never done before, but totally encompassed all that I had to offer at this stage of my life. A new chapter in my life still beckoned me to stay engaged.

Thankfully, my editor was still intrigued by the book concept, periodically checking up on me and offering encouragement. By the end of May I completed a sample chapter, with illustrations and layout design along with a complete book outline. He presented it for approval in early July. By August, I had a book contract and an advance to carry me through the end of the year.  It was official.  I was writing and illustrating a book on contemplative art practices that would be published!

To be continued…

 

REBEKAH YOUNGER, MFA, is a multidisciplinary artist with over thirty years of experience as a creative professional, entrepreneur, designer, and teacher. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums around the United States, as well as featured in magazines such as Ornament, FiberARTS, Threads, and The Crafts Report.

Younger is trained as a Shambhala Art instructor, a training in which art is viewed as a practice to cultivate an awakened mind and genuine expression beyond aggression. This program, based on the teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (a Tibetan Buddhist teacher of such creatives as Allen Ginsberg, Alice Walker, and Meredith Monk), explores the creative process as a meditative practice and a means of awakening to things as they are. Younger completed a Master of Fine Arts in interdisciplinary arts at Goddard College, with a focus on contemplative art, Buddhism, and photography/video/ installation. She lives in Chicago, IL, where she teaches photography, creating, and meditation.

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4 responses to “ Obstacles as Opportunities for Creation ”
  1. Christine Heming
    Apr 26, 2019
    Reply

    Dear Rebekah,
    Thank you for sharing this story with us. What strikes me is the power of your intention and your openness to the messages that came your way. Working as you have with life’s challenges is inspiring. Congratulations on completing the book. I look forward to more of your story.
    Christine

  2. Rebekah Younger
    May 7, 2019
    Reply

    Thank you, Christine for your kind words. The journey is what it is. What we do with it is what matters. I do what I can to make it count.

  3. Madge Rossinoff
    Apr 26, 2019
    Reply

    This is both a heart-breaking and incredibly inspiring story. Thank you Rebekah, for creating and telling us about your journey. I would love a copy of this book as soon as it’s available. How does one keep track of it’s progress and availability?

  4. It is available for pre-order now and you can find out where by going to my page, https://Rebekahyounger.com/books and click on the “Where to Buy” tab. It will be available in stores by June 1. At my site you can also see endorsements from many sangha members who received proof copies. Also I will be speaking at both the Chicago and Seattle centers and an open to other opportunities to give either a talk or workshop using my book.


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