Mountain-ness

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Pelvis series, Red with Yellow 1945

Dear Georgia,

Reading about you in New Mexico has brought this thought to mind, which I heard first from Chogyam Trungpa – We don’t have to be afraid of who we are – a theme I now see evident in your life story, your way of creating.

who paints the sky seen through a pelvis bone? you do.

I have begun using this word since I read about you painting the mountain until it became yours. The word is mountain-ness and I have been using it in relation to the way I am in the world. When I meditate in the morning I say – now I will practice my mountain-ness. It’s kind of like steadfastness but also carries an element of guardianship. When I practice my mountain-ness, I am able to root down into the earth and stay still even when the weather is really wild. And the weather gets really wild lately, both internally and externally.

Internal weather is emotion and creativity and energies that come and go, sometimes sweet and real and sometimes hidden and sneaky and sometimes like a rusty can lid seeming sharp and dangerous. I tend to think that if everything is going good I should just feel good. But good is only a portion of it, the feeling responding memories, tug of war tapestry of what it is to be human is the rest. I resist all of this. But when I practice my mountain-ness, I am the guardian of all of it. I say yes. Hello. I will sit down with you.

This practice makes me feel less afraid of who I am.

This is what I see in your paintings.

I see you sitting down and creating an experience of experiencing.

Does that make any sense?

Love,

Alice

 

 

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Lost & Found

AliceAsMarilynTiger (2)

Dear Friends,

I am very excited to open the door to Room Two this week but first I want to spend a few moments looking back at Room One and Marilyn. It feels necessary.

I have been away from the project for about five months. I went on retreat shortly after the installation and then came back to a whole host of domestic things large and small to take care of. I went back to my natural hair color mid-September and haven’t read a single Marilyn article or book since August. This has been a welcome break. After more than a year soaking in the story that was Marilyn and transforming myself physically into her all the while; it’s good to be me. I have been taking my time coming back to the blog too because I wanted to allow the experience to settle in before attempting to describe or label it in any way.

Last week, I was able to articulate some of the experiences when writing a blog post for the Shambhala Times. (You can read the full post here) I wanted to share some excerpts, and then wrap up Marilyn/Room One with some well-deserved thank you’s.

Last summer I lived twelve hours as Marilyn Monroe.

I started at 9:00 am in front of a live audience and a video feed which was broadcasting across the country. By 9:15 am I was completely panicked. I couldn’t pick up the handle, the phone, the truth, the fullness of it. I had no way of managing the situation, no place to hide.  Furthermore, I created nothing, I had nothing to show…just the space, me, her, and the invited audience. I had no plan.

As was her custom, Marilyn arrived late, meaning that I was this weird herky jerky thing for the first hour, not sounding nor moving at all like her but also not entirely like me either. Sometime after 10:00 am I put on Frank Sinatra and start to dance around the room, and suddenly she arrived in full force, wild, angry, sad, lonely, manic, loving and so vulnerable. Emotions arrived suddenly like giant waves and then were gone.

In the emptiness I am hyper-aware that all my usual ways of coping – making a cup of tea, snacking on something, checking Facebook – none of these things are available to me. I have stocked the room with three record albums, a record player, three books, some personal papers, champagne, and about four outfits. I quickly explore these things in the first three hours, reading from books, listening to the albums and getting dressed and undressed as I get in and out of bed restlessly.

Throughout the whole day I am haunted by the questions: What if this was my last day? How would I spend my time? There is this itchy feeling of waiting for time to pass, yet knowing that time is short. At one point I ask the audience “How do we make this time matter?”. They are quiet, eyes wide open…my partners in silence.

It’s sad joy to live in this world, knowing that I will have to let go of everything. I always resist that truth by building up my identity, my schedule, my agenda, my goals, never letting go enough to just be seen and loved by others, always proving something. In that twelve hour space and time with Marilyn, I experienced all the messiness and beauty of being human, all the expectations, the neediness, the wanting to be loved, the mystery and the itchy terribleness of staying there all the while, with just these three albums, these three books, this cactus and this champagne (which wasn’t even real, by the way, so there was no escape there either).

I think this is what Marilyn offered as the gift of her lifetime…or at least this is what she gave to me. The most beautiful things that life has to offer: sensuality, beauty, sex, and playfulness. And the messiness of being human, the not being able to hold it together, the addictions, the drama, the holding on too tight for too long, the self-hatred and closing off from others. The waiting for time to pass, waiting to get it perfect, the forgetting about the preciousness of this experience and feeling overwhelmed by all there is to accomplish. And the moments of complete surrender, where life is only what it is and that is good enough.

thankyou

There are so many folks that helped out in ways large and small, and I am going to include everyone I can think of since this really was such a community effort. I’m sure I will forget some folks, and I apologize in advance. First, I want to thank my husband Sean. He offers so much time, patience, editing skills, laughter, and heavy lifting to this project. Here is a picture of him heavy lifting with Natalie & Alicia the night before the performance:

IMG_3704IMG_3707

Special thanks to the Fabulous Four, who made the set-up, performance and take-down a total dream. Lisa Blandford, Natalie Panaia, Shelley Ray, and Alicia Vogl Saenz.

Fabulous Four

Thank you to Jmy at Pieter for making it possible in that beautiful space.

Thank you to Kathy Gronau for publicity.

Thank you to Rachelle for being my hair and make-up guru.

Thank you to Greg Schreiner and Scott Fortner of Marilyn Remembered.

Thank you to Siran Babayan & Drew Barillas from the LA Weekly.

Thank you to these exceptional women:  Jude, Sonora, Cynthia, Alicia V-S, Alicia T, Katie, Shelley, Erica, Vicky, Jenny, Sharon, Anne, Debra, Amy, Laura

Thank you to the Indiegogo contributers who made things a lot more financially possible:

Dustin, Ava, Eric, Janice, Jared & Annie, Heidi & Ben, Elke, Kirstin, Natalie, Nicole & Dan, Shannon, Sharon, Matthew, Alicia T, Barbara, Jenny, Valerie, Suzanna & Philip, Sulai, Patty K, Annie May, Debra & Malcolm, Patrick, Alison P, Aunt Kat, Katie, Mary Beth, Cousin Anne, Mike & Amy, Shelley, Jessica & Jennifer (PPC), Beth & Truax, Jude, Lynn, Tammy, Joseida, Lee

Special thanks to Janice of Success is Sweetest and Ellen of Bohemian Bookshelf for engaging and inspiring me.

Thank you to Mykl & Mary Lynn, Guy Blume, Margaret Kemp, Mat Keel, Julie Civiello, Lisa Oxley, Jason Elias and Philip Lasker for asking me how it’s going, listening, and advising when asked.

Thank you to the Shambhala Los Angeles sangha for support and friendship.

Thank you to everyone who participated that day (near and far) and sat with Marilyn for a time.

And thank you to my family, each of whom continue to inspire and encourage me.

Eating Seagulls

Marilyn scale

iwanttobethin iwanttobethin iwanttobethin iwanttobethin iwanttobethin iwant iwant iwant ohgodiwanttobethin

When I started this project, I had a secret fantasy about something. I dreamed that as a result of committing myself 100% to this transformation I would lose weight. This is a common dream of mine lacing through my whole life and narrowly evading me.

In Buddhism this is called the realm of the hungry ghosts. The hungry ghosts have gigantic bellies and little tiny mouths. They can never seem to fill their bellies, and they are always ghosting around looking for just the thing. Not surprisingly, this is called a hell realm.

In January, I went for an annual physical and found my BMI to be in the overweight category and my cholesterol to be a little high. I was not losing weight for my art – I was gaining it.

This started yet another round of trying to find the perfect combination of food and exercise that would melt the pounds away. I have cut out a lot of meat and dairy to lower my cholesterol. I feel great about this because factory farming is terrible for the environment and animals deserve happy free lives too. I also went back to my favorite yoga class and increased my vigorous walks with the Finn puppy. And in March? Still the same. No change.

I look at Marilyn’s body in pictures and wonder why I can’t capture that.

I look at my beautiful strong under-appreciated body and wonder if there is another way.

What is going on with me and food? Why am I snacking away in front of a movie, or making multiple trips to the kitchen while surfing the internet. Finn knows the habit and he trails right along beside me because he knows I may drop a chip in transit.

On those nights when I don’t make the trip back and forth to the kitchen, I feel something is missing. It feels like life is dull if I am not trapped in this drama of being good/being bad/eating/drinking/more/less. It’s not so much the food I miss, but the torment of it all. That might sound weird, but it’s true.

So today I walked outside at work and ate a seagull.

I didn’t eat the seagull, but I ate the sight of the seagull swooping down to land on the building. I ate huge and wondrous mountains on my morning walk and three coyotes that passed by. I noted the life in between the food, and those feelings of blah. I acknowledged my glee around eating. God, I love to eat.

As of today, I am still holding the dream that in the four months before the performance I can slim down. I am holding in mind that this is four months of my life not eternity. I am decreasing my food intake, increasing exercise and reminding myself to notice that I am not in the hell realm but very lucky to be alive. I am buddying with a friend who also wants to lose weight, listening to a hypnosis app, and telling people about my goal. I call this the everything plan…do all I can so at least I know I tried.

The good news is that I have so much more time and energy since I’ve been exercising and leaving out the extracurricular snacks. I’ll update you about my progress. I have 17 weeks to go.

Here’s a brief video from the front lines.

The Buddhist & The Showgirl

This week has been a mish mosh of thoughts about art/celebrity, impermanence and health as well as this question about how to get started and how to write about a creative process.

In my questioning, I looked to True Perception, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s book on Dharma Art for guidance. I was completely surprised (and pleased) to stumble upon Marilyn Monroe’s name on page seven. Here is what Trungpa has to say about Marilyn and the art process:

“If you want to become an artist and you want to have the best of everything, you can’t just have it. You have to start by paying attention to reality. You need to learn to eat properly, to cook properly, to clean your house or your room, to work with your clothes. You need to work with your basic reality. Then you go beyond that, and you begin to have something much more substantial. And beyond that, you actually begin to produce a master artistic world altogether. That is the same as in my tradition of Kagyu Buddhism. It is long and arduous; you can’t become suddenly good at something. Of course, it is possible that overnight you come up with a good gadget, a good idea; the next day you patent that and begin to manufacture it, and suddenly you become a multimillionaire. That could happen. But we do not regard that as a true way of doing things. We are bypassing a lot of training, discipline, and reality. And often, when people produce a good work of art in that way and make a lot of money suddenly, they end up committing suicide, dead. Just like Marilyn Monroe.”

Although Trungpa is simplifying the events of her life and death, I think there is value here. Trungpa is encouraging us to have a grounded experience of life, which can serve as a platform for launching into the imaginative, vulnerable and shifting experience of creating art. He goes on to say:

“We have to be honest, real, and very earthy, and we need to really appreciate things as they are. They are so beautiful and wonderful already, but in order to appreciate that, it takes time and discipline – so much discipline.”

As I seek to understand Marilyn through research, I see that she did not have that grounded kind of platform to launch herself from (and crash back down to sometimes). A platform made up of everyday experiences, friends that you can show all your sides to, and building a trust in oneself. When I think about the why of this project and particularly why Marilyn Monroe, I think that maybe she has appeared in my consciousness because she has things to teach me. And maybe this is her first lesson to me, by way of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche: Do the dishes. Appreciate things as they are. Value the friendships you have. Allow the quiet.

I did more cooking and cleaning than usual this week, by the way.