An Artist’s Journey of how Art Builds Confidence to set you Free!

I was with my brother at a concert, when we saw a girl dancing freely in the front row. We were captivated by her confidence and free spirit. He probably would have married her in that moment if he was old enough. But he was too young for her, and instead somehow I got her card. It turned out she was a matchmaker and I was single… so I took a chance and had her set me up on some dates. Somehow a couple weeks later she suggested I take her sisters mindfulness class. Because I had nothing else to do on a Tuesday night, I showed up to her sisters apartment not even knowing what mindfulness was.

That was how I met Cathy Heller, one of the most inspiring people in my life– host of the wildly successful podcast: “Don’t Keep Your Day Job,” who has changed my life profoundly by helping me chase my creative passions.

Anyway, lets stay on track here…

Somehow at one of Cathy’s mindfulness classes, I mentioned that I had a fear of dancing. And Barb told me that she could help me overcome that. A week later, I found myself in Barbs apartment, and somehow after a mix of therapy, and meditation, and talking about all the reasons I don’t dance, she got me to start dancing like no ones looking!

I honestly cant even remember why I was a wall flower before I met Barb, but ever since that night in Barbs living room, dancing is what I will tell you makes me feel most alive! Barb has always felt that one of her jobs on this planet is to help others (specifically Girls and Moms) Open UP and Express Themselves in creative ways. Her life took her on a spiritual/ religious path which led her to becoming a religious Jew and a teacher. She is both an Educator AND an Artist. And now when she creates, she asks herself “is this whol-ly to me? Is it both something I feel represents who I am in a WHOLE-istic way? Is this something I’d be proud to show/share with my children and grandchildren someday? And if the answer is no, then I scratch it. But I’m pretty open minded about what I’d share with others. I just really believe that we can create or destroy the world with each one of our words and actions so I take them pretty seriously. We have to fail a lot before we can actually make art and educational tools we may be very proud of. So I let myself fail a lot too. Its a balance.”

I asked Barb if she’s always been this free, because if you watch her sing or dance, you’ll see what I mean, she doesn’t hold herself back at all!!!

“I’ve ALWAYS felt free to be my free spirited artist self. Here’s a pic of me at 2 years old. I was filled with light and wanted to share it with the world!”

I asked her to tell me about her experience with dance and she told me that she has always gravitated to it and it was the very first art form that she studied. It came very naturally to her. Her grandparents on her mom’s side were AMAZING dancers and she was always told that she could dance as well as them-that she had a natural gift for it.

When she was little, she danced three days a week-at least from 9-12. But the year she turned 13 she found a local theatre company for kids and she just put all of her energy into musicals. That was it. She had found something even more amazing than dance, dancing with singing AND acting.

Doing the arts was always a great way to distract herself from bullies-she had been bullied as a kid because she was always different and highly sensitive and the kids knew it.

Once she got into this very professional Kids theatre company, she didn’t care at all about the kids at school making fun of her and it was like that’s all they needed to stop doing so. She immediately started getting invited to sit with the popular kids at school because her confidence grew so much. She didn’t ever fully trust them but she liked sitting with them and also having a diverse group of friends.

She was 13 when she knew she wanted to be an actor when she grew up. And she was so lucky to get in to NYU to study how to become one!

For Barb, being an artist and being expressed was something that equalled confidence she always made it her business to be as expressed as possible and allow art to rule in her life.

Towards the end of her Frosh (Freshman-but more PC-that’s how they said it back then at NYU) year she was told by her parents that due to the fact that they were getting a divorce they couldn’t send her back for the 2nd year of school at NYU and she’d have to figure out college on her own. So she chose instead to go to an in-state school in Florida and finished up there, VERY much against her hopes and dreams. It was a real blow to her system because for the first time in her life she was dealing with major adversity. For the first time in her life she wondered if her dreams mattered at all and if they were worth going for. It was then that she started to develop a very nasty habit of doubting herself as an artist. Something that has come and gone for a long time but she has learned how to be with it. Artistic expression became a source of pain for her because all of a sudden she was worried that it would distract her from making money, supporting herself, and being something worthwhile to pursue. All along she had been told that people who took care of her believed in her and in her art as a career and something to focus a lot of her time on and now that was all gone. She was completely on her own financially and emotionally and it took its toll on her pursuing it whole heartedly.

She read the book The Artists Way and felt like it helped her get through that time and heal as an artist. But it would take YEARS to fully recover from this major blow to her free- spirited self.

Shortly after graduating college she moved back to New York City to pursue a life of working in the theatre and she got her first paid acting gig, but after 2 years of that she was feeling lost and lonely in the city. She felt like a burnt out free-spirit. And she was only 24! She was desperately seeking guidelines for her life. She was in dire need of a family and support. She found the Jewish community when she was invited to a Shabbat Dinner that changed her entire life. She made life long friends at that meal and I was introduced to one of herb Rabbis for life. And most importantly she found a “family”, a new community to share her highs and lows with and a set of values to call her own. She finally had some great tools and guidelines for living. She started studying Judaism full time for nearly two years-in Israel.

And, she found her way into making Jewish education a way of life which was so rewarding because it made her feel as though she was making a huge difference in the world.

After 2.5 years of doing just that she began to miss the artistic life she had always dreamed of. She decided to move to LA because she knew they had a very open minded Jewish community AND ways for her to still pursue acting.

And this is where she has been for the past decade.

She started Page to Stage Performers originally to teach kids how to express themselves via the performing arts but she realized shortly into it that kids needed mindfulness just as much as the arts. So she began teaching Mindfulness through a Jewish context as she was always working mostly in Jewish schools. Eventually she realized the moms of these kids needed mindfulness as well and so for the past few years she has been working with women as well as kids.

I had the pleasure of taking one of Barbs mindfulness groups for adults and it literally changed my life.

After meeting with her, I realized I’m not happy. That my life is not where I want it to be. I realized that I wasn’t happy where we lived, and that somehow my life had fallen off track and I had stopped being creative.

Literally, after our meeting ended, my thoughts started zooming, and a week later my husband and I decided to sell our house and move to the country where I am SOOOOOOOOOO much more happy and so much more myself!

She has been writing a book on Jewish mindfulness as well as teaching at women’s spiritual retreats as well.

She never stopped acting and writing. She mostly does voice over work but sometimes gets lucky enough to work in front of the camera. She does a cabaret show a few times a year and is always developing original funny content for the web. She makes mindful musical comedy pieces online, on instagram, and scripts for film and TV. They all always have a mindful Jewish theme and some comedy and music. She wrote a musical a few years ago and it did well in Hollywood. She went on tour with it and has been developing the musical as a screen play for a few years.

She never starts out writing stuff with “how many clicks can I get on this?” She writes and performs what speaks to her and what she feels the world needs to hear. She thinks about writing her screenplay before she goes to sleep and in the middle of the night. It’s always about how much the world needs to hear to “slow down and think about their choices and stay balanced”. She see a lot of unnecessary marginalizing of people constantly. She sees people being so cruel to one another just because they’re so self focused. She believes that she probably does it to herself because she sees it in others and we see in others what we have to work on ourselves. But she really does make a conscious effort to stop and talk to everyone and anyone in her path.

She told me that she is late to lunches a lot because of this. But life is so short. Sometimes someone just looks like they need a smile or a “How’s your day going?”

I think what sums Barb up most as a free spirit is the fact that she has never set out a new year thinking “How much money can I possibly make this year?” It’s always “what will be the most fulfilling choices I can make this year? How can I make the biggest differences this year whilst feeling it’s an adventure and excited to wake up each day?”

“I come from a family of high achievers and there have been times when I’ve compared myself and felt like a spec of dirt on the bottom of my shoe because I don’t own a home and haven’t had the pleasure of being married with kids yet. But I also am able to wake myself up and say “But I’m happy! And look at all of the cool stuff I did this year!” It’s not easy. We live in a society that praises Achievement and Awards and Big Degrees and lots of zeros after a name. But I truly believe it’s not about the amount of $ in our bank accounts but how many people we inspired each day that counts.

Maybe that’s why I also suffer from a little anxiety a few times a year thinking about my retirement. Not sure what it’s going to look like. I do have an IRA set up but it’s not flooded, yet.

I do believe that all of my choices will pay off because I listen to my gut. There were several times in my life when I felt totally out of alignment and I know the feeling of being in and out of alignment. It’s so important to know the difference. I see a lot of suffering around me because some people have no idea what the difference is.

That’s where the idea for the webseries Breaking Open came from.

It’s about a girl who notices wings growing out of her back as she’s turning into a butterfly almost against her will.We must take time to feel those differences. Even if it’s a little scary.

Life is messy and it’s never perfect. And the only person’s opinion we really should care about is our own. But sometimes it helps to have one person or a a small group of people you respect to bounce ideas off of.

At the end of the day the only thing we own are our choices. I learned that from my first Rabbi, Rabbi David Aaron.

I take time each day to dance, pray, and exercise. In that prayer I always ask for good guidance.

I still have sooo many dreams and fears and I hope to plow right through all of them, one by one.”

This post first appeared on Free Spirit Culture.

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