Friday, April 27, 2007

Blogtour Chat with Eric Maisel

I am excited to have Eric Maisel, as my special guest today. He will be answering questions about the relationship between Ten Zen Seconds and the creative process:

Can you use the incantations and this method for any special purposes?

EM: As I mentioned, folks are coming up with all kinds of special uses. One that I especially like is the idea of “book-ending” a period of work, say your morning writing stint or painting stint, by using “I am completely stopping” to ready yourself, center yourself, and stop your mind chatter,and then using “I return with strength” when you’re done so that you return to “the rest of life” with energy and power. Usually we aren’t this mindful in demarcating our activities—and life feels very different when we do.

How do the incantations support the the creative process?

EM: Primarily by reminding a creative person that potential is just potential and that if you don’t completely stop, quiet your mind, announce your intention to create, feel equal to the upcoming challenge, take actual action in the service of your creating, and adopt the stance of a meaning-maker, someone who knows that she has a voice and that what she is about to say potentially matters, she will do precious little creating. Each of the incantations supports a piece of this “stopping and doing the work” process.

How would you address those that say centering is counterproductive to the creative process?

EM: There is a tremendous amount of “artist mythology” out there. Productive artists do a ton of work, they don’t wait for inspiration, and because they want to work for hours on end they have to master their inclination to run from the work when it becomes difficult, which it will at some point every day. It takes a centered presence to stay put like that, diving into the darkness of mystery and returning with poems, paintings, and symphonies, not an anxious, scattered presence. I would say that it is almost completely a piece of unfortunate mythology that centering harms artists—when they aren’t centered, they typically fall apart, grow depressed and self-destructive, and do poorer work.

Is there a way to experience this process in 'real time'?

EM: By trying it out! But my web master Ron Wheatley has also designed a slide show at the Ten Zen Seconds site ( that you can use to learn and experience the incantations. The slides that name the twelve incantations are beautiful images provided by the painter Ruth Yasharpour and each slide stays in place for ten seconds. So you can attune your breathing to the slide and really practice the method. The slide show is available at

  • Try practicing the ten zen seconds incantations.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Introduction to Ten Zen Seconds

Interview with Eric Maisel

What is Ten Zen Seconds all about?

EM: It’s actually a very simple but powerful technique for reducing your stress, getting yourself centered, and reminding yourself about how you want to live your life. It can even serve as a complete cognitive, emotional, and existential self-help program built on the single idea of “dropping a useful thought into a deep breath.” You use a deep breath, five seconds on the inhale and five seconds on the exhale, as a container for important thoughts that aim you in the right direction in life—I describe twelve of these thoughts in the book—and you begin to employ this breathing-and-thinking technique that I call incanting as the primary way to keep yourself on track.

Where did this idea come from?

EM: It comes from two primary sources, cognitive and positive psychology from the West and breath awareness and mindfulness techniques from the East. I’d been working with creative and performing artists for more than twenty years as a therapist and creativity coach and wanted to find a quick, simple technique that would help them deal with the challenges they regularly face—resistance to creating, performance anxiety, negative self-talk about a lack of talent or a lack of connections, stress over a boring day job or competing in the art marketplace, and so on. Because I have a background in both Western and Eastern ideas, it began to dawn on me that deep breathing, which is one of the best ways to reduce stress and alter thinking, could be used as a cognitive tool if I found just the right phrases to accompany the deep breathing. This started me on a hunt for the most effective phrases that I could find and eventually I landed on twelve of them that I called incantations, each of which serves a different and important purpose.

Which phrases did you settle on?

EM: The following twelve. I think that folks will intuitively get the point of each one (though some of the incantations, like “I expect nothing,” tend to need a little explaining). Naturally each incantation is explained in detail in the book and there are lots of personal reports, so readers get a good sense of how different people interpret and make use of the incantations. Here are the twelve (the parentheses show how the phrase gets“divided up” between the inhale and the exhale:

1. (I am completely) (stopping)
2. (I expect) (nothing)
3. (I am) (doing my work)
4. (I trust) (my resources)
5. (I feel) (supported)
6. (I embrace) (this moment)
7. (I am free) (of the past)
8. (I make) (my meaning)
9. (I am open) (to joy)
10. (I am equal) (to this challenge)
11. (I am) (taking action)
12. (I return) (with strength)

A small note: the third incantation functions differently from the other eleven, in that you name something specific each time you use it, for example “I am writing my novel” or “I am paying the bills.” This helps you bring mindful awareness to each of your activities throughout the day.
  • Please join me on Friday, when Eric answers questions about using this method during the creative process.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Ten Zen Seconds by Eric Maisel

I am pleased to announce that Eric Maisel will be stopping by as part of his blogtour to promote his latest book Ten Zen Seconds: Twelve Incantations for Purpose, Power and Calm.

Eric Maisel, Ph.D., is the author of more than thirty books and is widely regarded as America’s foremost creativity coach. He has presented nationally and internationally on subjects like personal creativity, creativity coaching, Zen and creativity, and mindfulness practices for the creative person.

Dr. Maisel holds undergraduate degrees in philosophy and psychology, master’s degrees in creative writing and counseling, and a doctorate in counseling psychology. He is a California licensed marriage and family therapist, a creativity coach and trainer of creativity coaches, a columnist for Art Calendar Magazine, provides regular segments for Art of the Song Creativity Radio, and teaches Ten Zen Second techniques through lectures, workshops, and teleseminars.

  • Stay tuned next week for more information.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Revolution Rock: The Story of the Clash

As pioneers of the British punk movement in the late 70s, the Clash are the ultimate creative artists. Their musical influences range from jazz to hip hop and reggae. Combining these influences they were able to evolve as artists and transform themselves from angry punk rockers all in black to funky ska artists and finally the militant performers of combat rock.

Recently, I had the opportunity to learn more about these versatile performers at an exhibition that covered their ambitious career. Featuring performance clips, handwritten lyrics, stage costumes and guitars displaying their creativity.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Radical Lace & Subversive Knitting

In the last several years, traditional arts have made a resurgence. I've been pleased that knitting and crocheting have been at the forefront of this movement.

Therefore, it was only a matter of time till artists started incorporating these materials and techniques into works that are innovative and thought provoking. It allows us to look at these art forms with new eyes and question our old assumptions.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

More Mail Art

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am taking a mail art class through a local arts organization. The first assignment was to create a self-portrait. Here is the collage I created of myself that I sent to the other participants.

After we received everyone else's self-portraits, we were then instructed to combine them all, somehow, to create a group portrait of everyone in the class.
  • Try creating your self-portrait.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Art Inspires Volunteerism

According to the National Endowment for the Arts, if you patronize the arts, no matter what your education level or income is, you are more likely to do volunteer work and give back to your community.

  • Look for volunteer ideas here.