Doubt, Faith and Resolution

 

Photography by © Beth Ortman Studio

Photography by © Beth Ortman Studio

I am very interested in the idea of vocation. I think of vocation not as a job but more like a career. I have been a User Experience Strategist for over 16 years (in a simplification, I make websites more usable) and I am also an artist. No matter what I do for the online world of websites, navigation and usability efforts, I will always make art. The ultimate question is, "What are we meant to contribute to?". How do I align and organize my job and art output into my vocation? Is this possible or do I merge the two somehow? I am the only thing holding both concepts together, so is this even a valid question?

I am always searching and seeking for the optimal "Flow" as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks about it in his work of creative psychology and research. When I am in the studio making art - whether it is a struggle to sit down to do the work or whether I jump out of bed anticipating a day of making something, I find myself in this flow and there becomes an ease in the work. I lose time and I am not 100% able to say I alone am doing the work. I find it to be a coming home of sorts. Over and over.

In the Bhagavad Gita, at the scene in the beginning of the Great War, Krishna tells Arjuna that "Doubt afflicts the person who lacks faith and can ultimately destroy him." I was struck the moment I read this. Even out of the context of this book (which I have not read, so my context has been outside of the book), I had a welling up of questions come to the forefront. What is faith? What is doubt? Is faith tied to religion while doubt is tied to skepticism? Or is faith an internal move to trust in one's instincts and doubt allows for reviewing of all outcomes and setting the path for getting things done? Can you strip the concept of religion away from faith so that it becomes an internal compass? Does it come down to a judgement of what is successful? I just launched a book last week, "Zen and the Art of the Sunrise" to a spectacular wall of silence. At the same time, I have been overwhelmed by the support of friends and of people I don't know that have faith in the book and have gone out of their way to share it and become a part of it. Now I have to look at what this book is for.

I have put the book "out there" and all of a sudden I am faced with the faith that it will do its part. That does not mean I am not utilizing social sites and pushing it and hoping for it to do well, but it also means that I have come face to face in the mirror with faith and surrender. Surrender is an active state of being, not of giving up. I have to have the knowledge that I was in the "flow" when I created it. I have to have "faith" that it will find the person that needs it the most and that all of this will happen outside of my knowledge. In other words, outside of my ego and my desire to be "seen". I have to understand that I need to surrender it to what is next and that may be nothing. But I did my part in its creation and so I am back to faith and doubt and the swirling of these two states in my head.

I have no answers and this week has been a roller coaster of emotions and questions. This coin of happy/sad has flipped back and forth for me. In the end though, I released this new piece of art into the world. I am proud of the book and I think it will make people feel a sense of hope and it supports the seeing of nature - and in these times that is a necessity.

My book on Amazon: "Zen and the Art of the Sunrise" -->

 

Some additional great reads to pursue:

Stephen Cope "The Great Work of Your Life" -->

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi "Flow" -->   and   "Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention" -->

Lewis Hyde "The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World" -->

 

A State of Flow: One of my pieces of art in progress:

 

 

There is a Certain Calmness with Doing the Work

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I find it interesting that my job title is User Experience Strategist. At least that is what I do to earn a living. I consider my "career", or life's work, to be an Artist. In my “day job” I make websites more useful. I help clients complete their visions and goals and help their customers have an easier time navigating the websites. I find the title User Experience Strategist can also help in my desire to be a full time artist - my desire to live from my creative space. After all, we all want to be a participant in a web of our own User Experience.

Recently, I was inspired by a talk with Jared Leto at the New York Times as he spoke of his multi-faceted career (link below). He spoke of all of the different things he had his hands in, from running media companies, to creating, directing and producing videos/films, making art, acting, making music, and finally, touring with his band, 30 Seconds to Mars. The list seems to go on. He is a true renaissance man for sure. But more than that, and the most inspiring piece of the interview for me was his openness about his doubts. When he questioned himself – where he thought he was and where he wanted to be, if his audience would get his direction, his creations, etc., he said (paraphrasing here), that in his times of doubt he did what he knew he could do. He sat back down, amongst the crazy thinking, and created.

There is power in going back to your golden thread of what you are here to do.

For Leto, it is making music or art. It is the core of what brings his other enterprises to the surface. For me it is making art and all of the process, seeking and discovery that goes into it. It is just a part of who I am. I recently returned from a month long trip to California and I have a deep desire to return. I fell in love with Malibu. I live on the beach here in south Florida and it has been my teacher so it is no surprise that I was pulled into the ferocious beauty of the Pacific Ocean. Since I left my job almost two years ago to do my own thing and consult, I have reconnected with a personal freedom that has been a huge source of energy. That energy comes in waves of good and overwhelming doubt. So I sit and do the work. Sometimes it is this blog, sometimes it is fixing my website, but mostly it is my art. It centers me. Makes me find my still point. And it gives me a sense of forward momentum. When I think I don’t deserve Malibu, or success in my art or the other myriad thoughts of doubt and incompleteness, I sit and do the work. And sometimes that is enough.

I wanted to share these thoughts and his video as I am battling my desire to head to Malibu (living in the future) and learn what s/he has to teach me there and my need to be fully present. Each day brings a new layer of finding the dynamic between wanting to claw your way to “success” and living fully present in the now and being open to what is next – actively surrendering. Somewhere in between there is the calmness in doing the work.

One more thing to note about learning who I am. My friend says I should be more Sasha Fierce and I think I am more Lou Reed with a sprinkling of Ziggy Stardust. So maybe Sasha will show her way but I like the edge lyrics of Reed and the ironic flash of Ziggy. I am a Jersey girl, after all.

~b

Video of Jared Leto and Times Talk --> Click Here